A PROTECTIVE MOTHERS ALLIANCE NEWSLETTER
Dear Protective Mothers and Allies, welcome to the fourth edition of The Guardian of Truth (GOT). In this issue, our very own co founder/director Janice Levinson will be put “Under the Microscope” where we get the opportunity to take a tiny glimpse into her soul.
We have a heartfelt poem, written by Makayla Ramirez age 12 the daughter of one of our administrative assistants during the time that she was the source of a heated custody battle between her protective mom and her dad. This strong and beautiful young lady expresses her love and admiration for the trials and sacrifices that were made by her mother on her behalf.
Once again, our co-director of “Hear Us Now” Karli Singer shares her most intimate feelings on what it is like to be separated from a loving mother. Karli’s Korner takes us on another walk together through an emotional journey which looks at family court abuse through the eyes of a young child...and so much more.
As our family of advocates continues to grow, unique situations for protective mothers and their children are revealed. We have been recently made aware of the challenges and obstacles facing protective moms who marry immigrants. These moms encounter so many questions that other moms do not. The most basic question is, "Exactly why did this man marry me?" The emotional twists and turns that these mothers experience is slightly more complex than that of the typical protective mom.
Green card fraud wrapped in a protective mother's nightmare tosses these protective moms into a maze of just one more unsupportive and broken system. A system in which they must attempt to navigate for the safety of their children. We at Protective Mothers Alliance continue to have our collective eyes opened to the plight of protective moms everywhere in various unique situations around the world. This has only served to strengthen our resolve to fight family court corruption no matter what aspect or form that it may take. As a family of advocates, PMA stands strong and united for the sake of children and protective moms everywhere.
Janice, Lundy and the PMA Team… A family of advocates.
PMA continues to grow!
We have Chapter Leaders in LA, CO, WI, NY, GA, VA, MD, MA, FL, PA, TN, KS, MI, ID, TX, MN, CA ,WV, SC, Canada, Australia, the UK and Italy. If you want to join our fast growing family of advocates, please contact Janice Levinson @ email@example.com or by phone 941-822-5592.
Protective Mother and Child Reunion:
Gold Ribbon Campaign
“The beautiful memories that we have of our beloved children are golden and can NEVER be erased from our hearts and
PMA is promoting our ongoing Gold Ribbon Campaign in an effort to reunite protective mothers and their children who have been separated by the family courts. We encourage all advocates and their allies around the globe to wear gold ribbons and to tie gold ribbons around trees to symbolize the effort that protective mothers and their allies are making to reunite children with their protective moms.
CONTEST- WHERE'S THE GOLD RIBBON??
Do you remember the popular books called Where’s Waldo? In the spirit of Where’s Waldo? PMA has launched our Where’s The Gold Ribbon? contest. Somewhere in this beautiful graphic created by our talented artist has hidden a single gold ribbon. Your job is to find this Gold Ribbon and once you do, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The first one to successfully find our Gold Ribbon will win a gift certificate to a popular family restaurant.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!!!
In this special report, PMA shares with all protective mothers, advocates and supporters a unique situation that one of our many callers found herself involved in. Sit back and allow yourselves to enter the world of our anonymous protective mother as she attempts to maneuver through uncharted territory for the safety of her child.
A fairy tale turned nightmare....
My story may ring alot of bells to some Americans who have married an immigrant. We are all aware of charming narcissistic men . But charming narcissistic men with an agenda and hope for "the good life" in the U.S are a breed unto themselves . These men prey on your giving, loving heart and, charm you into falling in love with them. They convince you to marry them by telling you their sad tall tales, and then they tie that tale up with a big bow of guilt. But it is only when you become pregnant with their child that the nightmare really begins.
This is my story:
A Fairy Tale Turned Nightmare:
I met my ex husband at a train station in Europe while on a vacation/business trip. We exchanged glances as we passed by each other. He immediately approached me respectfully, introduced himself and politely inquired if I needed help.. He was so charming!
I instantly felt safe and comfortable with him, feeling like I had known him for years. I explained that I couldn't figure out the train schedule. He helped me find the correct train, and escorted me there. He even waited with me until it arrived. At this point he gave me his cell number, stating that if I was interested in getting together with him to give him a call. He wrapped his arms around me, pulled me in close, gave me a big, warm hug and I was on my way!
I was smitten! Within a couple of days I called him to arrange a time for us to meet. From that moment on we became engaged as a couple, and I became overwhelmed with a euphoric feeling. One night that burns forever in my memory,was the time that we went out for a romantic dinner. He tenderly shared with me the sad, and horrifying story of how he left his country. My heart just broke for him. I felt closer to him then ever before. At that moment my love for him was so strong and deep, that I just knew that I found the man of my dreams, my soul mate. I was happier then I could ever remember.
I spent the remainder of my trip with him and then returned to the U.S. We kept in touch through phone calls and e mails, with an account that I set up just for him.
During this time he asked me if I could come out to visit him in December. He offered to help pay for my flight, and I told him that I would look into the cost. When I discovered how much the flights were, I realized that I would most certainly need financial help from him.
During a phone conversation about my visit, he sounded very upset and impatient when I revealed to him that my trip might have to wait until after the holidays. Obviously, because of his reaction, I felt very hesitant to ask for the help that he offered. When I finally had the courage to remind him about his financial offer, his response was in contradiction of the original offer. He told me that if I paid for the ticket I wouldn't have to spend a penny while I was with him.
Reluctantly, I agreed and finally purchased a ticket. As the days drew closer for us to be together, my hesitation melted away and my excitement to see him again took hold. With great excitement and expectation, I flew out on Christmas Day and stayed for two weeks.
During my stay he tearfully explained his difficult situation,and how he was living there without any status .He was very upset and started to cry very hard. Moments later he asked if I would marry him. Surprised, yet happy I said yes. He wanted to instantly get married while I was still there with him. I explained to him that I was not ready yet, as I felt the need to get to know him better.
A month later, after I returned to the states , I had found out that I was pregnant. Cautiously, I phoned him to tell him the good news. I was thrilled to discover that he was very excited. I thought how perfect life is! Sadly, it was only a matter of time before I started to see the red flags waving in front of my face, that existed from the start, yet not noticed by me before.
to be continued...
As PMA's Co-Director of Public Relations, I Cara Wilson had the opportunity to interview Janice Levinson. We all know Janice as the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Protective Mothers Alliance. She is a passionate advocate and a great friend to many. Like our very own Lundy Bancroft, I have the privilege of working very closely with this incredibly selfless woman, mother, and friend. Join me as I take the opportunity to get to know a lady who is relentless in her quest for reform and still remains grounded, humble and in touch with herself and those around her. Truly she is an example to all and force to be reckoned with.
CW: Alright Janice, are you ready?
JL: Yes, it’s weird being on the other end!
CW: What’s your favorite word?
JL: I probably should have prepared for this hmmm…. May I give you two? because it‘s a cross between two.
JL: Hope and Love
CW: What’s your least favorite word?
JL: I think I have an idea but I want to mull it over…
CW: We can always come back…
JL: Sure let’s do that…
JL: I got it! It just popped in my head….oppression, yeah that’s the one.
CW: What turns you on creatively, spiritually and emotionally?
JL: Hmmm a lot of things… my faith, observing people giving of their time and generosity in helping anyone in need. A simple answer is music… I love music…all types. Observing or participating in the birth of a baby.
CW: Ah, that’s sweet…
JL: And…observing or participating in the joy of a child/children. And … Protective Mother Alliance of course . I think that’s about it.
CW: What turns you off?
JL: Manipulative people
CW: That’s it?
JL: No, deceitful people, rude people, meddlers and gossipy people…did I say vindictive?
JL: Definitely put that in there…Vindictive people!
CW: What sound or noise do you love?
JL: My favorite sound in the whole wide world is the sound of all 3 of my children‘s voices. It just delights me, especially when I hear them say that they love me. Next is the sound of a newborn's first cry as they enter the world , also the sound of children giggling.
CW: What sound or noise do you hate?
JL: The sound of a Jackhammer and any loud construction noises.
CW: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
JL: A surgeon
CW: Any type in particular?
JL: Not really, I would be fascinated with cutting people open ,fixing them up and sewing them back together. Or a midwife.
CW: What profession would you not like to do?
JL: I wouldn’t want to be a toll booth collector. Anything boring and repetitive. I like a challenge. Yes, a tool booth collector would just about do it for me.
CW: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
JL: “You did a great job , I love you, come on in my child. Yes animals DO go to heaven and here are all your pets waiting for you. Oh , BTW George Clooney is on your 3rd door to the left.”
CW: Why the left?
JL: I don’t know, I just envision it that way and besides my animals are on the right.
CW: What’s your favorite color?
JL: Purple , any shade
JL: I just always loved it since I was a little girl. My room was all shades of purple and I even had a stuffed animal that was purple
CW: Do you remember the animals name?
JL: I believe it was Sparkey.
CW: What’s your favorite food?
JL: Lobster any kind of shell fish…I love it…
CW: Alright moving right along…
CW: If you could live anywhere,where would you live?
JL: I would have to pick somewhere in Italy or the South of France.
CW: Why there?
JL: Both Italy and France are beautiful countries. They have always been family/child oriented cultures, with very warm friendly people. Also my ancestors are from there.
CW: What is your dream vacation?
JL: I would have to say anywhere in Europe. Since I live near a beautiful beach, I can’t say I have the need for a beach vacation anymore. I’d love to experience another culture and taste new foods and have new experiences.
CW: If you had a magic wand to do anything with, what would you do?
JL: That’s an interesting question…I would wipe out hatred, oppression, war, discrimination poverty and abuse for everyone, but especially towards women, children and animals . I would bring in peace, love, harmony, and equality for all.
CW: Very nice.
CW: Why did you begin this journey as an advocate?
JL: Because I know first hand through my own personal experience what protective mothers go through when they fight for the safety of their children and fight to hold onto the relationship that they have with their children. I don’t ever want another mom or child go through this excruciating pain. There really are no words to describe the agonizing pain, destruction and suffering that family courts do to the loving mother/child bond as a protective mom fights to keep from losing her children.
Of course, another large part of my motivation is for the children. In many ways these children are suffering more than the mothers because they are still living with the abuse. They don’t have adult coping skills and it’s our job as adults to protect our children. The fact that family courts and the professionals that are supposedly put in place to protect children are miserably failing our children, is the deepest tragedy that I have ever encountered in my life.
CW: What motivates you?
CW: That’s it?
JL: That’s it LOVE…pure and simple.
CW: Well Miss Janice, our readers will thank you as do I and we’re done. I must say, some of your answers I would have never expected. I was amazed and inspired.
JL: Thank you. It was fun.
Join us next time when we put Dr Mo Hannah “Under the Microscope”! If you have any questions you would like to ask Dr Hannah email us at email@example.com.
" A turtle travels only when it sticks out its neck" - author unknown
Lorraine Tipton, Administrative Assistant/WI State Chapter Leader PMA
PROTECTIVE MOTHERS ALLIANCE SUPPORTS LORRAINE TIPTON
On 10/14/09, Judge David Miron, Marinette County Circuit Court, stated that a disabled mother, Lorraine Tipton (formerly Fetterly) may be jailed for 30 days, on contempt of court charges. This contempt is due to the fact that her 11 year old daughter refuses to visit her abusive father, Craig Hensberger.
In fact, the forty one year old mother is facing another contempt charge. This charge involves the father's intention to claim the child on his 2008 taxes, even though the IRS sanctioned him for claiming his child “EIC” from 1999 to 2007 unlawfully. This contempt charge would force the mother to potentially face another 30 days in county jail.
Mrs. Tipton, never married the father, Craig Hensberger, and left the abusive relationship in 2005. Since then Mrs. Tipton has moved on, married and put her life back together. Regardless, Mr. Hensberger continually has taken her back to court, three times in 12 months, regarding the 11 year old daughter's refusal to visit her abusive father.
You may recognize the name of Craig Hensberger, as the father from the news story highlighted in Fox 11, NBC 26 and other local newspapers. This story entitled "Fishy Tale" broke in March of this year. The father, Craig Hensberger, caught a fish weeks in advance, kept it alive in a fish tank and succeeded in fraudulently presently this fish to three different fishing tournaments in one weekend. The daughter won these tournaments based on her fathers hoax.
For more information on this news story, please click on this link.
But Craig Hensberger’s crimes do not end here. Previously in June 2005 this father was arrested for his second DUI in less than a year with his daughter as a passenger. In another incident the child disclosed sexual abuse about her father in 2006. Once again instead of helping the child, CPS, Aaron Krzewinksi (Guardian Ad Litem) and other court professionals placed her back into the hands of her abusive father.
CPS finally did substantiate the abuse in 2008 but the father found a loophole and was granted an administrative appeal by Oconto County Family Court Commissioner, Frank M. Calvert.
Previously, in 2007, Mr. Calvert recused himself from any proceedings regarding Mrs. Tipton due to his role as Guardian Ad Litem in her divorce/custody dispute with her ex husband.
On May 21, 2008, Mr. Calvert held a hearing, in which Mrs. Tipton was not notified. This ex parte hearing unsubstantiated the sexual abuse and attacked the character and credibility of Mrs. Tipton.
The most interesting fact on this case is that this is a “Paternity” case and the mother had sole legal custody until her former abuser, Craig Hensberger, forged her signature on a court stipulation in 2002.
The stipulation gave him “50/50” custody and forgave back child support that was owed. The Oconto District Attorney, Jay Conley, told Mrs. Tipton that “even though we know who the likely suspect is we have no proof”. Because of this the District Attorney refused to investigate and/or file charges.
The refusal of the District Attorney, Jay Conley, to investigate and/or file charges prompted Mrs. Tipton to get her own hand writing analysis. The forensic hand writing analysis expert confirmed that it was not her signature. When she presented this evidence to the District Attorney these findings were minimized and ignored with Mr. Conley stating, "This only proves this is not your signature"
PMA Looks at the News:
U.S. Father Arrested In Japan
A Tennessee father has been arrested in Japan while trying to reach a U.S. consulate with his two children who had been abducted by his ex-wife, Nashville's WTVF TV reports. Japanese police, who do not recognize U.S. family court orders, took Christopher Savoie into custody just outside the gates of the consulate in the city of Fukuoka.
In August, Savoie was awarded full custody of 8-year-old Isaac and 6-year-old Rebecca by a Tennessee court after his ex-wife, Noriko, whisked them off to Japan. The court also issued an for her. WTVF says Savoie picked up the children Monday as they walked to school, according to friends and a witness. He then raced to the nearest U.S. consulate to try to get passports for them, CNN reports.
WTVF says Japanese police were already there, blocking the road near the consulate and arresting Savoie after he jumped from the car with the children and rushed to the gates.A witness told the TV station that the consulate would not open the gates. The U.S. State Department has refused to comment, citing privacy issues.
CNN says Savoie has been charged with the abduction of minors, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.
Hero-SHero of the Month: Amy, Ducan and Jack Liechenberg
In this months edition of GOT, Protective Mothers Alliance had decided to make Amy Liechenberg and her beloved sons Duncan, age 9 and Jack, age 7 our Heroes-SHero of the month. These two young children payed the ultimate price in family court corruption. At 7pm Sunday, March 29th, 2009 after a long exhaustive search their young lives came to an abrupt end at the merciless hands of their father, Michael Connelly who also ended his life. Amy was indeed the epitome of a protective mom who fought endlessly to try to get the help of court officials and police to ensure the safety of her 2 innocent children. Like the plight of so many protective moms, multiple violated restraining orders and cries for help fell upon the deaf and corrupt ears of family court officials . Now this incredibly brave, and loving mother is left to pick up the shattered pieces of her new life as she grieves the loss of the greatest love she ever knew, the love between a mother and her children.
Please click on the link below for the shocking and heartbreaking story.
Karli wants to share what she felt as a child, separated from her Mother. During the years of the custody battle which kept her away from her Mom, she kept a journal to record her thoughts. This is the second in a series of excerpts from Karli's journal. She was very kind to share this with us, so let's take a walk together as we venture along an emotional journey through the eyes of a child...
click on link to see journal entries
page 2 http://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=2&ik=9e14726e6e&view=att&th=124462f774b68355&attid=0.2&disp=inline&realattid=f_g0ohke4s1&zw
PMA is delighted to have on our team a small handful of brilliant, competent, compassionate attorney’s who lend their knowledge and experience to our organization in several ways. In light of this, we have designated a spot in GOT just for them. This spot is called, Attorney’s Insight. In this months issue, one of our famed attorney, Barry Goldstein, submitted his fascinating news article, "How do you know custody courts are sending children to live with abusers?". This is part one of a two part series you will not want to miss.
HOW DO WE KNOW CUSTODY COURTS ARE SENDING CHILDREN TO LIVE WITH ABUSERS?
TEN WAYS TO KNOW THE CUSTODY COURT SYSTEM IS BROKEN
by Barry Goldstein
Mothers and domestic violence advocates have been complaining for many years about problems in the custody court system that have resulted in large numbers of children being sent to live with abusive fathers while safe, protective mothers are denied any meaningful relationship with their children. Courts have tended to dismiss the complaints by referring to the mothers as “disgruntled litigants.” As more concern about the problem has been expressed and more research performed, the mothers’ complaints have been confirmed. Later this year (2009) a new book co-edited by Dr. Maureen T. Hannah and Barry Goldstein, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY will be published and end any doubts that there is a pattern of mistakes made in the custody court system. These mistakes have caused thousands of cases to be mishandled and placed the lives and well being of battered women and their children in jeopardy. The book includes chapters by over 25 of the leading experts in the United States and Canada including judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, sociologists, journalists and domestic violence advocates. Although these experts come from different disciplines and approached the issue from different directions, there is a remarkable consensus about the problem and the solution. The up-to-date research and information now available makes it clear that the present practices can no longer be justified and the custody court system must create the necessary reforms to protect the safety of children and protective mothers in domestic violence custody cases. This article will discuss ten reasons we know the custody court system is broken and must be reformed.
1. Mothers’ Complaints: The problem this article seeks to discuss are cases in which a mother who has been the primary caregiver and makes allegations of domestic violence and/or child abuse loses custody to the alleged abuser and receives supervised visitation or no contact with her children. These cases have increased since federal laws designed to increase enforcement of child support orders were passed. Male supremacist groups have encouraged abusive fathers to seek custody as a way to avoid paying child support, to pressure his partner to stay or punish her for leaving. The courts and the often inadequately trained professionals they rely on, glad to see the involvement of fathers in children’s lives often fail to recognize the tactic and motivation. Courts tend to look at each case separately and so fail to see the patterns of mistakes in these cases. Demonizing their victim is a common strategy employed by abusers so a court could believe there was something profoundly wrong with an individual mother to justify the extreme outcome. When experts look at the pattern of these cases it is evident that the unusual circumstances needed to justify a particular outcome cannot be as common as the results would suggest. Women and children make deliberately false allegations of abuse between one and two percent of the time, but the court decisions support the myth that such deliberate false allegations are common. Furthermore, domestic violence allegations are painful and embarrassing to make and require the victims to speak about uncomfortable issues and questions. Research demonstrates that allegations of domestic violence and child abuse make women less likely to obtain custody. We can’t know that an individual case was improperly decided without careful review of the case, but we know the frequency of outcomes that give custody to alleged abusers cannot possibly be based on objective facts.
2. Available Research: The modern movement against domestic violence is only about thirty years old and there was little research available when it started. We now have extensive research to demonstrate common mistakes courts and the often-unqualified professionals they rely on use in domestic violence custody cases. Studies show that while evaluators believe they are considering domestic violence in their investigation of the family, in fact most fail to do so. We have many studies proving widespread gender bias against women in the approaches used by the courts. Evaluators regularly use psychological testing that has little or no relevance to the issues before the court and is gender biased. Psychologists testifying before the courts rarely inform the judges that their results are based upon probabilities so that factors in the case that would reduce those probabilities can be considered. Most important to the present topic is research that considers the accuracy of the actual court decisions. Most custody cases (over 95%) are settled more or less amicably. The problem is with the minority of terrible cases that continue to trial and beyond. Courts often think of them as “high conflict” cases, but in reality these are mostly domestic violence cases. Research studies vary somewhat on the percentage of these cases that involve abusive fathers, but all agree the majority of such cases involve domestic violence. I believe the studies that found 90% of these contested custody cases are caused by abusive fathers because unqualified professionals frequently miss domestic violence. In any event, contested custody cases should be being decided overwhelmingly in favor of protective mothers because most of the fathers are abusive, but 70% of the cases result in custody or joint custody to the father. This does not tell us an individual case was wrongly decided, but does demonstrate that a large percentage of cases are being decided in a way that is harmful for the children.
3. Battered Mothers Testimony Project and Research: Several states including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona and New York City have done studies based on questionnaires filled out by protective mothers. These surveys have demonstrated widespread problems in the custody court system, many common mistakes and outcomes that fail to protect battered women and their children. This is admittedly not scientific research as the participants are volunteers rather than randomly selected (much of the “research” cited by male supremacist groups comes from interviews with alleged abusers, but is often treated as if it were valid research). Sociologists, Sharon Araji and Rebecca L. Bosek went several steps further for their chapter in DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. They performed a similar study in Alaska and then compared the results from the various states that interviewed protective mothers. The authors found the responses similar across the several state surveys. They then compared the results of the surveys filled out by protective mothers to scientific research performed by a variety of researchers using accepted scientific methods. Significantly the findings from the protective mothers are strongly supported by the scientific research. In other words, the complaints by protective mothers that have been so often dismissed as coming from “disgruntled litigants” actually have substantial validity.
4. Courageous Kids: If a court system wanted to determine the validity and value of psychological evaluations, it would look for research that examined how the recommendations and approaches used by the evaluators worked out in the lives of the children. Without such research there is no way to determine if the time, money and results for evaluations are useful. In fact there is no such research and I would certainly recommend obtaining such research if evaluations were to continue to be used in child custody cases. The closest we have to such research is the Courageous Kids Network. The Courageous Kids are young adults who were forced to live with abusers by the decisions of the custody court. They are now old enough to have escaped their abusers and are speaking out about their experiences. The stories are painful to hear because they had to survive such awful abuse, but life affirming as they overcame the obstacles to support each other and help change the broken system. These heroes have spoken at judicial trainings, legislative hearings and domestic violence conferences. Their presentations are effective because it is all too easy to discredit protective mothers, but hard to discredit the children for whom the courts and the professionals are supposedly trying to help. Remember these children were forced to live with and be influenced by the abuser. In most cases they had to endure “therapy” designed to support the abuser and discredit the protective mother. There are many psychological, safety and other reasons to discourage such children from coming forward and speaking out. The fact so many Courageous Kids have spoken out demonstrates the courts are getting large numbers of cases tragically wrong.
5. Review of Bad Cases: The authors of the 25 chapters in the book have carefully reviewed hundreds if not thousands of these cases. In their book, FROM MADNESS TO MUTINY, Dr. Amy Neustein and Michael Lesher reviewed over 1000 cases. The Truth Commission listened to the testimony of 17 women and reviewed records from their cases. Many other experts have studied domestic violence cases where the alleged abuser received custody and the protective mother received little or no contact with her children. In these cases we have found widespread mistakes, bad practices, use of myths and stereotypes, the failure to use up-to-date research, gender bias and outcomes that place children at risk. The legal system works on the assumption that once a case is decided or facts determined that the findings are established and any further consideration should be based upon the assumption the court decided the case properly. This assumption will lead to misinformation and inaccurate research because there is strong evidence that most contested domestic violence custody cases and certainly those that result in custody to the alleged abuser are wrongly decided. We are particularly concerned with the growing court practice of retaliating against protective mothers and professionals trying to help them for exposing court mistakes in these cases. Frequently a mother’s refusal to believe an abuser is safe after the court fails to recognize his abuse is used to justify severe and extreme limitations on her access to her children without regard to the harm such rulings have on the children.
6. Parental Alienation Syndrome: PAS is a bogus theory created based on the personal biases of Dr. Richard Gardner. His books were self-published and never peer reviewed. It is used only in domestic violence custody cases to prevent or shorten investigations of the father’s abuse. PAS assumes that if a child expresses negative feelings about the father or doesn’t want visitation, the only possible explanation is that the mother alienated the child and the solution is to force the child to live with the abuser and have at most supervised visitation with the protective mother who has been the primary attachment figure for the child. PAS is not recognized by any reputable professional organization and does not appear in DSM IV, which contains recognized diagnosis. Dr. Paul Fink, past president of the American Psychiatric Association wrote a chapter for the book in which he demonstrates the invalidity of PAS. Dr. Fink points out that Richard Gardner made numerous statements complaining that society takes child sexual abuse too seriously and that sex between adults and children can be appropriate. This explains why PAS is so often used to give custody to fathers who have sexually abused their children. Dr. Fink points out that psychologists are starting to lose their licenses for using PAS in evaluations. They are, in effect diagnosing something that does not exist. Thousands of the cases in which alleged abusers won custody was based upon the discredited PAS or PAS by a different name. Any case in which “evidence” of PAS was allowed was likely wrongly decided.
7. Gender Bias: The Truth Commission recommended that rather than training professionals with general domestic violence information, all professionals should have training in Gender Bias, Recognizing Domestic Violence and the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. This is because they found that many of the mistakes made in these cases were caused by a lack of understanding of these basic concepts. At least 40 states and many other districts and communities have created court-sponsored gender bias committees. They have found widespread gender bias and particularly in domestic violence custody cases. Among the common problems were blaming victims for their abuser’s behavior, burdening women with higher standards of proof and giving fathers more credibility than mothers. Other research, including the chapter in the book by Molly Dragiewicz has made similar findings. In one New York case the court gave custody to an abuser and denied the protective mother any contact with the children after the evaluator used and the judge supported a certainty standard for the mother and probability standard for the father. Few litigants could win a case when faced with a certainty standard. At least 15-20 different judges were asked to review this clear example of gender bias (the different standards were stated in the evaluator’s report and repeatedly challenged in the transcript), but every judge failed to correct this obvious error. Lynn Hecht Schafran wrote a brilliant article “Evaluating the Evaluators” that illustrates the problem. The article describes a new psychologist asked to perform an evaluation on a young family. She went to the father’s apartment and found it a complete mess with no food in the refrigerator. She wrote the father lives in a typical bachelor apartment. She went to the mother’s apartment and found it to be somewhat messy, but not as bad as the father’s. She had food in the refrigerator, but not as much as preferable. The evaluator wrote the mother lives in a messy apartment with inadequate food. The evaluator had a supervisor because she was new and the supervisor asked if she saw what she had done. The evaluator could not believe she had engaged in gender bias and quickly corrected the report. The article is valuable because it demonstrates that professionals acting in good faith (including women) can easily engage in gender bias without realizing it because of the sexism and stereotypes so prevalent in our society. How can anyone reasonably believe the courts are reaching fair decisions in domestic violence custody cases when gender bias is so common?
8. Failure to Recognize Domestic Violence: Many of the mistakes custody courts make have to do with failing to recognize domestic violence. In fairness some of the problem is caused because victims or their attorneys fail to present the necessary evidence. Unqualified professionals often discount allegations of abuse based upon information that represents a normal and reasonable response to his abuse. In the book, Judge Mike Brigner writes about training judges in domestic violence. They often ask him how to respond to all the cases where women are lying about domestic violence. When he asks what they mean, they cite cases where women go back to their abuser, withdraw petitions for a protective order, fail to file police complaints or don’t seek medical care. In reality there are safety and other explanations for women’s response to domestic violence and none of these examples should be used to assume her complaints are false. At the same time they use information of limited value to discount domestic violence, professionals fail to use helpful and relevant information to understand the pattern of domestic violence tactics. Too often the professionals are interested only in physical abuse. They fail to consider a variety of controlling and coercive tactics. They don’t understand the significance of a woman’s fear of her partner. Domestic violence advocates are the only professionals that work full time on domestic violence issues. The advocates receive more training and have more knowledge of domestic violence then the professionals relied on by the courts. Domestic violence agencies have very limited resources so they are forced to screen clients before providing services. Accordingly when a woman is receiving services from a domestic violence agency, it is a strong indication that she is a battered woman, but many professionals fail to consider this information. Although seeking custody to pressure a mother to return or punish her for leaving is a common abuser tactic, few courts consider why a father with limited involvement with the children prior to separation suddenly demands full custody. Similarly unqualified professionals often fail to consider evidence that a man believes his partner has no right to leave is a strong indication of his motivation in seeking custody. How can courts be expected to decide domestic violence custody cases appropriately if they don’t know what to look for when determining the validity of domestic violence allegations?
9. Effect of Domestic Violence on Children: Every state has passed laws designed to promote greater consideration of the effects of domestic violence on children. Some states require domestic violence to be considered in making custody and visitation decisions and others create a presumption against custody for abusers (although often the laws or the courts require a level of proof or create other restrictions that limit the effectiveness of these laws). Prior to these laws, when a protective mother asked to limit the father’s contact with the children because of domestic violence, the judge would ask some version of “Does he also abuse the child?” If the answer was no, the court treated the father as if he was just as appropriate for custody and visitation as the mother. The change in laws was based on overwhelming research that children witnessing domestic violence were harmed as much as children directly abused. The research found these children to be at substantially greater risk of a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors when they were older. In other words, domestic violence is a serious form of child abuse. We have found, however that courts frequently place greater reliance on other custody factors that have far less consequences to the safety and well being of children. In fairness, the courts are not solely to blame as legislatures have passed laws like “friendly parent” factors and failed to make domestic violence and safety the primary factors in custody determination. There is no research that “alienating” statements or attitudes by one parent to the children has the kind of serious long-term harm of domestic violence and yet many of the cases reviewed focus far more attention on alleged alienation. When mothers respond normally to their partner’s abuse with fear or attempts to protect the children, courts frequently treat this as the most important issue in deciding custody. This is a common example of what was discussed in gender bias reports in that the mother is held responsible for her reaction to the father’s abuse instead of holding the father responsible for his abuse. This type of mistake is at the heart of the common mistakes made by custody courts and does not serve the best interests of the children. If children are having problems as a result of the father’s abuse, unqualified professionals often blame the divorce and separation instead of his abuse. They often recommend cooperation and interaction between abuser and victim that is the opposite of what is healthy for children, but often benefit the fathers’ cases. When children appear to be doing well, inadequately trained professionals mistakenly assume this means the abuse allegations are false. Some children respond to abuse by trying to be perfect and take on adult responsibilities. Many years later the harm of the father’s abuse comes out in debilitating ways. Similarly children will often behave well with abusers and act out with their mothers because they know she is the safe parent. This is often misunderstood and courts reach the false conclusion that the father is the better parent. As long as the courts fail to understand the long-term harm to children of placing them with abusers, the courts will continue to make decisions that ruin children’s lives.
10. Extreme Results: If a court were to give custody to a protective mother and limit the father to supervised visitation because of his domestic violence, it would be following the recommendations of up-to-date research. In other words there is a scientific basis for such an outcome. The researchers weigh the harm of restricting the children’s contact with their father and the harm the father is likely to cause with unrestricted visitation and the message sent to the children by awarding normal visitation with someone they know abused their mother. Instead what we are seeing is alleged abusers receiving custody and protective mothers having supervised or no visitation. Obviously, in these cases the courts are assuming the mother’s allegations of abuse are false. They justify the visitation restrictions by their concern the mother will continue to believe she was abused and say negative things about the father. Where is the research that the harm to the children of hearing such statements is greater than the harm of being denied a normal relationship with their mother? Even in intact families the children often hear negative comments about the other parent. In other words, these extreme court decisions are based upon the belief systems and biases of court professionals and not up-to-date research. Many children have been denied any contact with their mothers in these cases. Ironically fathers are often granted custody based on the belief they are the friendlier parent and will promote the relationship between the mother and children, but he proceeds to terminate all contact once he has control. Many courts that jumped all over mothers for requesting the court restrict the father’s access have done nothing in the face of the father preventing visitation or other contact between mother and children. Rapists and even murderers frequently receive some supervised visitation and yet mothers who sought to protect their children from an abuser are completely cut off from their children. The extreme outcomes faced by protective mothers are unsupported by any research, but demonstrate serious flaws in the custody system.
Creative Writing from one of our Administrative Assistants and Co State Chapter Leaders' daughter: Makayla Ramirez, Age 12
She went through hell without even knowing
To Mary Morgan for her brilliant, insightful article ; "What NOT to say to a Non-Custodial mother":
To Lorraine Tipton for her courage in the face of family court corruption
To Amy Leichtenberg for her strong love and devotion to her sons and for being forced to pay the ultimate price in family court corruption
To all Protective Moms for your unlimited and unending love for you children!
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