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Page history last edited by Doreen Ludwig 5 years, 11 months ago

This is not a website.  This is a place to store documents proving welfare funds court litigation and that Pennsylvania is administering pro-abuse child custody litigation.   To see website go to www.MACCAbuse.org

 

SECTION I:  HHS Custody Programs

  1. “Access/visitation” is just another name for custody 
  2. HHS is directly funding court litigation
  3. “Promising Practices identifies a collusive relationship between the Custody Court and OCSE
  4. HHS Court programs fund punishing Mothers
  5. TANF pays for Court litigation
  6. For-Profit Access/Visitation Program Practitioners are Integral to Custody Litigation. 

 

SECTION II:  Custody and Support in Cases of Abuse

  1. Abusers are more likely to seek custody and to take the abuse to court  
  2. House Concurrent Resolution 172 

SECTION III:  Trade Associations And Therapeutic Jurisprudence

  1. Trade Associations Maximize Profit By Increasing Business in Family Court
  2. Therapeutic Jurisprudence
  3. Professional Academy of Custody Evaluators (PACE)  Pre-Agreements
  4. Deprogramming Children

 

SECTION IV:  State Responsible For Protection

SECTION V:  History of Fatherhood Access/Visitation/Marriage Promotion HHS Programs SECTION VI:  Resources for Understanding Abuse

 

 

SECTION I:  HHS Custody Programs

 

  1.  “Access/visitation” is just another name for custody.  The only way to increase “access” is to increase “custody.”  In most States “support obligation” is awarded in proportion to “custody.”  That is why access/visitation (custody) for Fatherhood and Marriage Promotion are programs under the Office of Child Support Enforcement.  Historically, these two programs were designed by and for, men who want to maintain their control, power and authority in the family unit.[1]  Taking protections for Battered Women out has resulted in pro-abuse program development.  Many Batterers are financially controlling and resentful of giving support to women and children NOT under their control.  Child Support departments running Fatherhood access/visitation encourage men to get custody in order to reduce support obligation, or punish Mother’s who leave by requiring support to be paid to Father.  Marriage Promotion becomes an indirect consequence because access/visitation litigation forces women to return to the Father in order not to lose custody.

 

  1. HHS is directly funding court litigation.   “Child Access And Visitation Programs:Promising Practices” Contract Number 105-00-8300, Task Order 22, OCSE, ACF, DHHS, highlights programs run under the Access/Visitation archetype.  This 160-page report contains a wealth of proof that States are using custody litigation in order to affect support in the name of Fatherhood.  Nowhere in this report is there any indication that these litigation programs include Mothers.  Neither are there programs that do NOT rely on litigation.  The text of this report explains the programs in depth as opposed to the appended chart.   

 

  1. “Promising Practices identifies a collusive relationship between the Custody Court and OCSE.  Exhibit A-2 proves funds are given directly to Courts.

“(page 111) AV grants have had several unanticipated benefits: Among others, these benefits include (1)several states credit AV grants with changing state culture and making access issues and services visible and available for the first time; (2) several states credit AV grants with improving relationships between the child support agency and the court;

 

 “Promising Practices” Pages 77, 78- Pennsylvania - Administration

The AV grant is administered through the child support agency within the department of social services. However, the agency does not contract for services directly. Instead, it funnels the money through the local counties’ Domestic Relations section of the local Court of Common Pleas. (The Court of Common Pleas acts as the child support office in the counties.) The court selects the service providers, and the state pays the providers through the courts. The child support agency sees several advantages to this approach, including (1) it ties the court to the service providers; (2) the local courts know what services are needed in the community so can support those services that are most promising; (3) courts are the primary referral sources to services; and (4) courts collect and review the statistics about participation, which helps them monitor the programs.  Grants are awarded for two years, with a review after the first year, and future funding is

contingent upon availability of funds. AV programs are scattered throughout the state, and geographic diversity of the AV grant recipients is intentional. The board that reviews AV grant proposals includes representatives from multiple state agencies to ensure program diversity.

 

Evaluation - The AV program coordinator has not followed up formally with the service providers to assess outcomes. However, she says that the programs do some follow-up to see if access has improved or the relationship between the parent and the child has improved. She recognizes that all of this is self-reported and thus not based on objective data.

 

  1. HHS Court programs fund punishing Mothers.  “Among the sanctions available for contempt are fines, jail time, and a change in custody.” Page 62. 

 

  1. TANF pays for Court litigation.  “Supplemental funds from other sources: A few states have contributed monies from other sources (e.g., surplus TANF dollars, (page 110, id)” 

 

TANF Funds.  TANF funds are perhaps the most flexible of the federal funding sources states can use to support fatherhood programs. Retrieved 2/7/2010, http://www.financeproject.org/Publications/fatherhoodprogramsresource.htm” 

 

Transfers of TANF Block Grant Funds- Pennsylvania continues to provide supportive and emergency services through TANF or other State programs…Family Preservation, Reunification and Support Services Designed to Promote TANF Purposes… Parent/Child Visitation…Programs Promoting Responsible Fatherhood.  For purposes of this section, “needy” is defined as having a household income of less than 400% of the Federal poverty level. Retrieved 2009

http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/Resources/Documents/Pdf/Publications/TANFStatePlan.pdf   

 

  1. For-Profit Access/Visitation Program Practitioners are Integral to Custody Litigation.  “Promising Practices identifies a collusive relationship between the Custody Court and OCSE.  Exhibit A-3 proves funds are given directly to Courts. Appendix A – Overview of States Access & Visitation Projects

Exhibit A1 Access Visitation Grant Activities in the States  Confirms that federal HHS funds are paying for affiliates integral to fraudulent, extended custody litigation, including:

 

(1) Mediators - voluntary and mandated (by Court order, contempt proceedings – jail and/or fines for non-compliance)

(2) Counselors

(3) Parent Educators/Education

For production of:  Parenting Plans; Monitoring; Supervised Visitation, Neutral Pick-up/Drop-off; Visitation Guidelines

 

In order to understand how these affiliates are used to avoid due process and create fraudulent, extended litigation see problems listed in the  “Testimony to the Truth Commission,” Fourth Battered Mothers Custody Conference, January 13, 2007 Albany, New York.  Enclosed

 

Also see Section III:  Trade Associations

 

 

 

SECTION II:  Custody and Support in Cases of Abuse

  1. Abusers are more likely to seek custody and to take the abuse to court

“Are "Good Enough" Parents Losing Custody to Abusive Ex-Partners?”  Empirical data compiled by The Leadership Council.  Enclosed.

“Testimony to the Truth Commission,” Fourth Battered Mothers Custody Conference, January 13, 2007 Albany, New York.  Enclosed

“Research Indicating That The Majority Of Cases That Go To Court As "High Conflict" Contested Custody Cases Have A History Of Domestic Violence” compiled by Professor Joan S. Meier, Esq., George Washington University Law School.  Enclosed

“Domestic violence experts have concluded that perpetrators of domestic violence seek power and control over their survivors. Women who are survivors of domestic violence have often been abused over an extended period. The abuse generally escalates; it often includes repeated emotional mistreatment, coupled with a range of physically violent acts used by the perpetrator to gain emotional and physical power and control over the survivor.  Abusers do not generally act out of sudden anger; their violence is often calculated and deliberate and often includes psychological intimidation, coercion, and threats. “Most of the perpetrators I’ve dealt with did not have a problem with anger management,” said attorney Lorraine Bittner, the legal systems advocate from the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, at the Pittsburgh hearing. “It was power and control issues. For example, if he wants to make a point in the middle of a mall, he waits until they are in the car in the parking lot. Then he punches her.”  Final Report Of The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee On Racial And Gender Bias In The Justice System, 2003.

“The legislature hereby reiterates its previous findings and statements of purpose set forth in R.S. 46:2121 and 2131 relative to family violence and domestic violence. The legislature further finds that the problems of family violence do not necessarily cease when the victimized family is legally separated or divorced. In fact, the violence often escalates, and child custody and visitation become the new forum for the continuation of the abuse. Because current laws relative to child custody and visitation are based on an assumption that even divorcing parents are in relatively equal positions of power, and that such parents act in the children’s best interest, these laws often work against the protection of the children and the abused spouse in families with a history of family violence. Consequently, laws designed to act in the children’s best interest may actually effect a contrary result due to the unique dynamics of family violence.”  Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act, La. R.S. 9:361-369.

B. House Concurrent Resolution 172

“The United States Congress recognized this inherent harm to children whose parents perpetrate domestic violence on their partners when both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 172 in October of 1990, which recommended to States that "credible evidence of physical abuse of a spouse should create a statutory presumption that it is detrimental to the child to be placed in the custody of the abusive spouse." H. Con. Res. 172, 101st Cong., 2d Sess., 136 Cong. Rec. H8280-02 (1990). In passing this resolution, Congress made a legislative finding that "even children who do not directly witness spousal abuse are affected by the climate of violence in their homes and experience shock, fear, guilt, long-lasting impairment of self-esteem, and impairment of developmental and socialization skills." H. Con. Res. 172. Children of victims of domestic violence also suffer when the abused parent, who is generally their primary caretaker, cannot devote proper attention to the children's needs because of the abused parent's depression, low self-esteem, and low energy, not to mention the obvious physical injuries from domestic violence which can render victims bedridden or hospitalized. Karen Czapanskiy, Domestic Violence, The Family, and the Lawyering Process: Lessons from Studies on Gender Bias in the Courts, 27 Fam.L.Q. 247 (1993). Further, a child placed in the custody of a perpetrator of domestic violence remains at risk. More than fifty percent of perpetrators who batter their spouses will also batter their children and the pattern of spouse abuse usually precedes the abuse of the child. Hart, supra.”

 

 

SECTION III:  Trade Associations And Therapeutic Jurisprudence

A.  Trade Associations Maximize Profit By Increasing Business in Family Court

 

Trade Associations have increased their influence within family court.  Trade Association members include Judges, Court Administrators, lawyers, custody evaluators, counselors, mediators, parenting coordinators, etc.  Trade Associations facilitate networking between members, teaching Judges, administrators, lawyers, custody evaluators, counselors, mediators, parenting coordinators, etc. how to work together for maximum business profit potential.  The trade association’s minimize abuse and control.  They prefer to give victims equal accountability for the abuse, often dismissing abuse as high conflict or alienation.   

 

An influential trade association is the Association of Family Conciliation Courts (AFCC).  This group began in California and has developed to a National organization with extreme influence over family courts.  This group does NOT advocate for victims of abuse.  It does NOT advocate for safety of children.  It advocates for Fathers Rights often by a presumption of shared custody even when the Father is abusive, ranging from physical abuse, verbal and psychological abuse to sexual abuse (looking, touching, to penetration).  Because of the advocacy for abusers, AFCC disseminates legal strategies for abusers to obtain custody.  AFCC educates its members how to work together to increase profits/business – See AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordinators.  AFCC has a background in the growth of Access Visitation and Fatherhood HHS programs.  See CRC Newsletter, Section IV:  History of Access Visitation Programs  

 

Unfortunately for children, the trade association has found abuse and extended litigation good for business!!!  The trade association is NOT motivated by The Best Interests of the Children.  The members are motivated by self-interest of profit! 

 

  1. Therapeutic Jurisprudence “Therapeutic jurisprudence in the family courts, i.e. a "mental health approach to the law" substitutes the opinions of mental health practitioners for traditional evidence and decision-making procedures. Because these persons actually do not have any kind of "expertise" to opine this way, what originally was thought to be a helpful idea (in this medicalized and psychologized world) has become merely economic opportunism, harming not only the litigants and children in the system as well as the court system itself, but also perverting substantive and procedural law. It is not science, but compensated yenta-ism that has permeated the courts under the pretexts that engineering family affectional relationships is within the ability of mental health "science" practitioners to accomplish, and that this is an appropriate goal of the government, court system, and state police power because children "need" something it has to offer. See additional comments on this index page here.http://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/site-index-frame.html#soulhttp://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/site-index-body.html#Guardians%20ad%20Litem

 

  1. Professional Academy of Custody Evalautors (PACE)  Pre-Agreements – This is a sub-group trade association for psychologists focusing on disseminating courtroom strategies for increasing business/control of litigation.  This group proliferates PAS/Richard Gardner courtroom strategies and Threat Therapy non-traditional treatment.  . 

 

Lawyers can obtain a custody evaluator who will write a report awarding custody to the abuser and counseling/mediation/co-parenting, etc. to themselves.  Lawyers and psychologists are coached to have pre-arranged agreement with Judges to let the custody evaluator run the case.  Dr. Bricklin’s  “SEVERE PARENTAL ALIENATION AND SIMILAR ESTRANGEMENT PATTERNS: OUTPATIENT THERAPEUTIC PROTOCOLS”  advocates for pre-agreements for judicial orders to administer Threat Therapy to child abuse victims.  These pre-agreements with Judges are common.  All PACE custody evaluators are certified only after submitting a letter from a Judge.  It should be noted that Dr. Barry Bricklin advocates for pedophiles and treatment of children by Threat Therapy.  Dr. Bricklin’s wife was the recent President of the Pennsylvania Psychological Board. 

 “Even if a parent has a (mildly) “negative” style, a child who interacts with this parent has the opportunity to learn how to deal with it, increasing that child’s available coping and resource-styles throughout life.

Not only must a MHP deal with all of the diagnostic complexities already mentioned, but also with the fact that psychological life is transformational: it is a “work in continual progress.”  A parent who was previously a poor psychological match for a particular child can therapeutically upgrade and transform his or her styles and become a good match for the child.  A maturing child may come to see aspects of value in a given parent’s behavior that were initially not perceived by the child, or were perhaps not even in existence prior to the child’s changing his or her own patterns which then could induce change in the parent.  All relationships are continuously interactive and potentially transformative for each member of any given family system.

Hence the best (and probably only) way to ascertain if an alienated or estranged child could profit from an ongoing relation with a “target” parent is to set up the special kind of therapeutic program that has a chance of being successful in such cases and observing what happens.  Once the program is in place one can carefully monitor the therapeutic process for positive and negative prognostic signs.  We rarely mention these emergent signs (signs that usually do not yet exist at the outset of treatment) because some can be “faked” (while others cannot be faked).  In other words, we rarely, at the outset, tell the main therapeutic participants all of the things we are paying attention to.

A therapeutic plan that can be successful in these cases is very different than traditional plans.  For one thing, the Court must be actively involved in the process (specific details are listed later).  For another, the child must rapidly see that he or she is NOT going to be the major (or even minor) decision-maker of importance as to who attends the therapeutic sessions or for how long.  This “tail-wagging-the-dog” phenomenon in which a child gets to exercise control over parents will ultimately not only ensure that an out-patient reunification process fails, but is also ultimately harmful to the child as he or she grows up. “Severe Parental Alienation And Similar Estrangement Patterns: Outpatient Therapeutic Protocols,” Retrieved 2.5.08 http://www.drbarrybricklin.com/pastherapy.htm

D.  Deprogramming Children 

Counselors are often intent on deprogramming victims of abuse, forcing them to “love” their abuser and remain silent.   These counselors work with Courts to manufacture false records.    One therapist is Dr. Barry Bricklin.  Dr. Bricklin confers with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, trains other counselors in bogus methodology including Parental Alienation Syndrome (a legal tactic used by sexually abusive Fathers), and authors “tests” that can be scored improperly to show favorable results.  A deprogramming institution is The Rachel Foundation.  The Rachel Foundation was given a $50,000 DOJ grant for operation of a deprogramming facility in Texas.  A family is available to testify.

“Some children have reported receiving treatment involving threats and coercion. The child may be told that he or she may not return home until they have accepted a more favorable view of the denigrated parent.  Sometimes reunification therapy does not involve confinement and separation from the primary parent, but involves forced therapy sessions with a rejected parent. Many of the same ethical questions apply to this type of therapy as well, as the child is often forced to attend these sessions against his/her will.  If the child is being forced to reunify with a parent he has clearly stated was abusive to him or her, the child may react with increased symptoms, suicidal ideation, or even suicide attempts.” http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/med/%20pr-2-09.html “Experts Warn About Dangers of Deprogramming Treatment”. 

 

SECTION IV:  State Responsible For Protection

 

In re Sharline Nicholson, et al., 00-CV-2229 (JBW) (CLP), US Eastern District New York  3/1/2002.  The “Nicholson” Opinion was written after abused mothers sued New York Children and Youth for failure to protect victims of abuse.  The Honorable Justice Weinstein addresses Government’s responsibility to victims and makes the case for the failure of Access Visitation/Fatherhood programs.

 

 “It is also useful to keep in mind that the range of activities which qualify as domestic violence is quite broad, ranging from the batterer “frequently argue[ing] with victim” or being “possessive or extremely jealous” to “attacking the victim with weapons.”

 

The battered mother … may easily be engaged and seen as the parent who is more willing and interested in complying with services to prevent removal of her children or to get them returned from foster care. This creates a situation in which a child welfare case is opened due to the father’s beating of the mother in the presence of the children, and she is sent for domestic violence education, parenting classes, individual counseling, and drug testing, among other possible referrals. In addition, she may be told she must go into shelter – while, meanwhile, the father is sent to either an anger management class or, perhaps parenting [classes] and nothing further. This unequal treatment sends a message that the mother is more responsible for getting help and is more “sick” for being in an abusive relationship than the actual person who committed the violence. As part of their mental abuse, many fathers will tell a woman that if she seeks help to escape the home, the system will turn against her, that she will be blamed for the break up of the family, that she will lose everything and that the abuser will get away with everything because he is in control – the system often perpetuates this belief and reinforces to women that they are powerless and will be punished, no matter what they do. Id

 

Responsibility for governmental protection of children rests primarily on the state or municipality. See, e.g. Lois A. Weithorn, Protecting Children from Exposure to Domestic Violence: The Use and Abuse of Child Maltreatment Statutes, 53 Hast. L. J. 1, 19-26 (2001).

 

In a heterogeneous, non-theocratic and democratic society such as ours, there is enormous diversity in domestic relationships and in the degree that they are founded on mutual respect and love (the norm) or malevolence. Particularly if there is a sexual relationship between the adults, the emotional interaction may be intense, sometimes flaring into psychological or even physical abuse. The abuse may be endemic. It may be directed against the children as well as the mother. The children may be indirectly affected, as when they observe an abusive incident. Even when the abuse is not physical, it may be so fierce as to be the equivalent of a beating. The mother may lack the ability or resources to either protect herself or the children. Economic, emotional, moral or other ties may, as a practical matter, prevent the mother from separating from the abuser or seeking governmental protection against him. She may hope for eventual reconciliation – and sometimes it does occur. 

 

Myriad subtle reasons may prevent her from separating from the abuser, protecting the children, or seeking assistance. In some households ethnic or social mores are relied upon to justify abuse as a “traditional right.” Ability to deal with tensions induced by self, a partner, children, economic and social factors varies enormously among those who become embroiled in domestic violence. In short, this case presents the most intricate and recondite relationships, the stuff of thousands of novels, poems, newspaper accounts, and legal proceedings.

 

Whatever the explanation, physical abuse of mothers and children, or the imminent threat of such ill treatment is not tolerated in our American society. Whether the mother, the family, or the immediate social group accepts cruelty as the norm or as permitted, it is a minimum assumption of our twenty-first century United States that it will not be tolerated.  The Government has the obligation to stop it and prevent its recurrence whenever it can.

 

Second, battered women often suffer from behavioral and psychological problems that differentiate them quite sharply from non-battered women. Third, the behavior of social workers and health service providers was a direct, albeit inadvertent, contributor to women’s sense of being trapped in abusive relationships. Tr.1540.  The most dangerous time for a woman and a child appears to be immediately after she leaves the batterer; his threats will usually make her aware of this. Ex. 106 at 16.  The battered woman cannot change or stop the perpetrator’s violence by herself. If she does not have adequate support, resources, and protection, leaving him may simply make it worse for the children.” Id. At 19.

 

The National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges Family Violence Department as set out in a comprehensive 1999 report entitled Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence & Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. Ex. 165 (“National Council Guidelines”). Suggests that child welfare services sometimes blame victimized mothers for “failure to protect” children because of the “system’s inability to hold the actual perpetrator of violence accountable.” Id. At 66. They recognize that battered mothers, like nonbattered mothers, may themselves abuse or neglect their children and should be held accountable if they do so. The Guidelines, however, recommend that “Child protection services should avoid strategies that blame a non-abusive parent for the violence committed by others.” Id. (Recommendation 22). They explain that “[b]laming a battered mother for being abused, for not leaving the domestic violence perpetrator, or for not stopping his violence is simply counterproductive.  The battered woman cannot change or stop the perpetrator’s violence by herself. If she does not have adequate support, resources, and protection, leaving him may simply make it worse for the children.” Id. At 19.

\

Batterers Should Be Held Accountable

The National Council Guidelines reflect the growing consensus that child welfare services play an important role in holding abusers accountable for their actions. The First Principle of the National Council Guidelines, which it describes as an “overriding one,” includes the tenet that violent perpetrators must be held responsible for their abusive behavior. Ex. 165 (Principle 1). Child welfare agencies should “record domestic violence information, including any specific harm to the child, on agency forms (e.g., case findings and affidavits) in a way that clearly holds the perpetrator of domestic

violence responsible for harm and identifies the resulting safety concerns and continued risk that the perpetrator creates for family members.” Id. At 61. It is also important that child welfare services engage batterers directly, develop service plans for them, and monitor their compliance. Id. At 64-65.

 

Dr. Stark testified that best practices establish that the batterer should be held accountable for his actions, and that the victim is in a particularly bad position to perform this task. Thus, every State now requires that police arrest batterers, rather than making the victim responsible for deciding whether the arrest should occur. Tr. 1600. See also Ex. 106 at 25-26; New York Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities, Report to the Governor at 40 (1997) (Charging victims of domestic violence with neglect “implicitly places responsibility for stopping the violence on the victim, rather than on the violent partner who is committing the acts.”).

 

 

 

 

SECTION V:  History of Fatherhood Access/Visitation/Marriage Promotion HHS Programs

 

  1. Access/Visitation was designed by and for Fathers, in order to use custody to reduce support obligations and continue their abuse by proxy of family court.

 

Proof:  Back issues of the Childrens Rights Council, David Levy, newsletter, “Speak Out For Children, 1989-1992,” Children’s Rights Council, Inc. (CRC) nee National Council for Children’s Rights. Inc.  This document consists of three years (12 issues) of a quarterly newsletter that addresses the health development of children of divorced and separated parents.  The National Council for Children’s Rights (NCCR) (now the CRC) advocates reducing divorce by strengthening families through divorce and custody reform; minimizing hostilities between parents who are involved in marital disputes; substituting conciliation and mediation for the adversarial approach; assuring a child’s access to both parents; and providing equitable child support.  Each issue typically contains news articles about the activities of the CRC, bills and resolutions in process in the Congress, etc  [263-page retrieved 8/2007, pdf file available by email attachment upon request.] 

 

This archive proves that CRC is a Father’s Rights organization that was heavily involved in setting the parameters of HHS Fatherhood goals of joint or sole custody for Fathers and denial of abuse by forcing conciliation.  “NCCR is credited by knowledgeable Capitol Hill sources as the group primarily responsible for convincing Congress to fund access projects.” Page 27.  Pg. 37 and 38 Begin to rewrite research calling domestic violence high-conflict instead of abuse and control; claiming abuse has an instigator and a receiver, making the abuse the victim’s responsibility and equalizing the relationship.

 

The newsletter reads like a Who’s Who of political influence and program design. The newsletter underlines the connections between goals of Father’s, Trade Associations and minimizing of child sexual abuse (for instance: PAS/Richard Garnder) 

 

In summary, the CRC is a special interest group that worked with members of Congress and HHS to design pro-abuse HHS Fatherhood programs to manipulate family court litigation.

 

 

  1. Evangelicals, Theocrats, the Religious Right and The Father’s Rights Movement teamed-up to successfully reorganized the Department of Health and Human Services with the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1998 in order to filter funds to Fathers to maintain control of the family, especially in cases of divorce.  While these groups seem to have different agenda’s, they shared the same goal:  Control.

 

Proof:  “Theocrats wrote Welfare Reform” and “Family Court, Father’s Rights, Abuse/Control  & the True Meaning of “Family Values”  These two documents summarize research compiled by myself, Doreen Ludwig. Written in January, 2007.

 

SECTION VI:  Resources for Understanding Abuse

“Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life,” Evan Stark, 2007.  "Evan Stark's brilliant book will transform our understanding of violence against women and place the anti-abuse campaign squarely in the center of the feminist revolution and the movement for universal human rights. In Stark's new paradigm, we see that physical violence is only the tip of an iceberg of intimidation, isolation, and deprivation of daily necessities that amounts to a denial to women of personhood and full citizenship. Every human rights theorist, advocate, and jurist needs to read this landmark volume and use it to reinvigorate the movement toward true equality for women. If every law enforcement officer, shelter provider, social worker, and legislator would also read the stories Stark tells about women's everyday struggles in hostage-like relationships, society's approach to the abuse of women would be immeasurably strengthened."-- Heidi Hartmann, Institute for Women's Policy Research and the George Washington University

“When Men Batter Women:  New Insights knot Ending Abusive Relationships”  Neil Jacobson, John Gottman.  A provocative psychological study of why men batter women and why women take it.  For years, many battered women have suffered from the misperception that being beaten is somehow their fault.  After a 10-year study of 200 couples – 60 studied intensively – psychologists Gottman and Jacob son squash that myth and others in this revealing book.

“The Overburdened Child,” Judith Wallerstein, , 2001  “The second category of overburdened children is that special group who are burdened by responsibility for a troubled, needy or depressed parent and who have been cast by that parent into the psychological role that the parent requires.  The intensity of the parental need for the child and the regressive dependence on the child that can develop at this time represents one of the important findings from the author’s work.  It would be facile (simplistic, superficial) and in the author’s judgment, misleading, to suggest that the child taken on the role of the parent or for professionals to conceptualize these relationships primarily as role reversals.  These interactions are complex and unfamiliar and merit careful examination.  In these cases, there are many variations in the role that the overburdened child plays at the time of separation and during the years that follow.  The child or the adolescent may serve the parent as arbiter, protector, advisor, parent, sibling, comrade in arms against the other parent or against the world, confidante, lover or concubin .  Or the child may serve as a key figure who wards off the parent’s depression or ego disintegration.  Children who are likely to be selected for these demanding roles are sometimes more sensitive, more vulnerable, more pitying, more worried about the adult, and more frightened than are children in other divorced families.  Their greater sense of vulnerability make it more likely that they will yield to the parents wishes, threats, or blandishments (flattery).  Nor is it unusual for the child to be called upon to maintain the psychological functioning of the parent by assuming one or more of these roles.

 

“The Psychopathy of Everyday Life:  How Antisocial Personality Disorder Affects All of Us” Martin Kantor, M.D.  An absorbing and groundbreaking exploration of mild psychopaths those people found everyday in all professions and in all walks of life who lie, swindle, manipulate and schmooze their way into often very successful positions, at a cost to victims usually so unaware that they can not protect themselves.

 

“Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited” Sam Vaknin

 


[1] House Passes Bill to Fund Men's Custody Movement” http://www.now.org/issues/legislat/12-03-99.html Retrieved July 30, 2009.  “NOW activists have monitored for years those groups and their extremist leaders because we hear from thousands of women each year who have lost custody of children to abusive ex-spouses due to their tactics.  Those include the Children's Rights Council (CRC, in actuality a men's custody organization), the National Fatherhood Institute, Institute for American Values and National Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Development. Men's custody advocates have helped to shape a backlash against tougher enforcement of child support orders. Angry dads groups have a strong advocate in a House Ways and Means staff member, Ron Haskins, who promoted earlier programs in demonstration projects on child visitation and access and who was reported in a 1998 CRC newsletter to be working with Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL) to get $2 billion in funding for their programs. Haskins is a former board member of CRC and got credit for defeating protections for battered women on welfare in final conference committee (after both the House and Senate had approved).”


 

 

IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF FATHER:  How Welfare Pays Family Court

To Continue Patriarchal Control

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Ludwig v. Stepien

A CASE STUDY OF SYSTEMATIC COURT/HHS FATHERHOOD

FRAUDULENT CUSTODY CASE

 

 

Elizabeth and Kathleen Stepien:

 

I finally decided to contact you.  I am so sorry!!! Please know I love you and I will never blame you for what happened.  I did not know what Jackie, the Judge & Dr. Ring planned – to take us away from each other.  I tried everything to stop it but they are very bad people they do not care how much they hurt children and mothers by lying.

 

I want you to read what they wrote to get you away from me.  I am giving you four pages of the Court papers that were used, #a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h on page 4 and a-g on page 1 & 2.  If you want you can write me back – you know who will pass this letter to me.

 

You may want to keep this in your locker so you don’t get yelled at.

 

I gave you something from Courageous Kids – you are not the only children this happened too!!!  These are bad people.  We are not in California but I have been working in Pennsylvania and on March 3, I will tell people about this.

 

If you write me, you may want to say how you feel about what happened and how you are living now.

 

I could go to Court and ask for supervised visits but they do not let you talk or hug and they lie and drag you into Court and to people like Dr. Ring.  I did not want you to have to go to Court or to only visit me with people watching and making up stories.

 

What they do to children is called Threat Therapy.  They tell Moms and kids that no matter what Daddy does he is always right and if you don’t like it you will not get to see each other or go to jail.

 

You could let me know if you want me to try to do something.  Maybe I could get you a cell phone or you could email my friend.

 

Let me know if you want me to do something.  Or how you feel, I can share it with people who may be able to help.

                                                             

Love, Mom

Your whole family loves and misses you!

 

 

 

 

The Department of Health and Human Services has created incentives for Courts to award custody to abusers under “Fatherhood” programs.  Access/Visitation and TANF funds are given directly to family court to pay mental health “experts” trained to profit from prolonged custody litigation by purposely denying abuse and blaming the victim.  Court administrators, judges, lawyers, counselors, mediators, and court “experts” are members of trade associations trained  to force conciliation, counseling, therapy, co-parenting, and promote junk science claims of borderline personality disorder (instead of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (instead of protection from abuse).  AFCC’s Task Force report on how to be a Parenting Coordinator reveals a lack of knowledge about abusive control, narcissistic behavior, and sociopaths.  Parenting Coordination is an extension of litigation and a violation of due process.   Parenting Coordinators can be called counselors, mediators, or educators and they receive HHS payments for promoting Fatherhood.

 

This case study documents how a known abuser is permitted to use the court to obtain control.  This case uses excerpts of the court record to show SYSTEMMATIC failure to protect survivors, failure to correct or acknowledge a false report and denial of due process. 

 

This case study proves the Court protects counselors who receive HHS funds over children’s health.    Pennsylvania received $99.5million in stimulus funds for OSCE programs.  Stimulus money will fund a State-wide increase of the business of unethical mental health practitioners determining children’s lives  

 

When a false, unethical report is the sole determinant of custody using the Fatherhood model of preference for increasing Daddy’s access through counselors, the Court blames the “loser” for reporting the unethical counselor. 

 

We reject Mother’s contention that she has never had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues surrounding Dr. Ring’s evaluation since he has never been subject to cross-examination.  The trial court’s ruling on March 27, 2006, which did not require Dr. Ring to testify, was a direct result of Mother filing a complaint against him [seven counts identified – see Rule to Show Cause below] with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office [in fact, the ethical complaint is filed with the State Department Bureau of Licenses].  Mother’s action has consequences to which she is bound.  As such, we conclude Mother’s claims are without merit.” The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 815 MDA 2009

 

The children’s Mother filed a Petition In Accordance With International Commission On Human Rights, #P1279-08, on October 23, 2008 because HHS Fatherhood programs resulted in a proven unfair trial.  The excerpts show how Berks County set-up a trial to give custody to Father, an abuser, by using the false, unethical report of the Fatherhood counselor by denying all due process to Mother.

 

 

  1. Dr. Timothy Ring, in his appointed capacity as custody evaluator, submitted his false report to Judge Keller on March 27, 2006 in the custody trial of Ludwig v. Stepien, for the sole benefit of Father.  Dr. Ring is listed as a witness for Father.  Dr. Ring is referred to as an expert for Father.  Dr. Ring’s report was underlined only in favor of Father, therefore it is tampered evidence.  Dr. Ring’s report is identified as “Defendant’s Exhibit 1.”  Therefore, Dr. Ring was appointed by Berks County Court of Common Pleas to submit a custody evaluation for Father.  This constitutes a serious violation of civil liberties of Mother.  See Exhibit 4, transcript of 3/27/06 excerpts with arrows denoting collusion.

 

  1. Dr. Ring REFUSED Plaintiff cross-examination on 3/27/06.  Judge Keller acquiesced.  See transcript.

 

  1. Dr. Ring REFUSED Plaintiff witness of his intern Sandhya Sheperd.   Judge Keller acquiesced.  See transcript.

 

  1. Judge Keller denied witness integral to Mother’s defense, a violation of due process and equal protection.  See order denying witness of school employees (collateral witnesses), Mother’s answer, Judge’s trial statements.  Note, school employees were NOT included in Dr. Ring’s evaluation.  Mother worked and volunteered in the School District.  Employees contradicted claims in Dr. Ring’s report.  Also see 3/27/06 transcript included in 302 MDA 2007.

 

  1. Judge Keller denied EVERY exhibit of Mother on 3/27/06.  Exhibits were proof that the custody evaluation was fictitious and that Father was abusive.  Judge Keller purposely denied due process and equal protection in order to manufacture a false record omitting abuse.

 

  1. Judge Keller denied the report of Dr. Susan Atkins, Clinical Psychologist, because it contradicted the fictitious custody evaluation.  See 3/27/06 Transcript and Dr. Atkins report submitted as an Exhibit in Federal Record and 302 MDA 2007.

 

  1. Judge Keller ignored the witness of Dr. Susan Atkins because it contradicted the fictitious evaluation of Dr. Ring, including that Mother suffered from abuse and that Dr. Ring’s diagnosis was NOT a DSM classification.  See 3/27/06 transcript and Exhibit 5, Custody Memo of Law, Dr. Atkins testimony.

 

 

Judith Wallerstein, is renowned for her study of the emotional outcome of divorce on children.  Early in her work, Ms. Wallerstein recognized the importance of Fathers.  At that time, she was heralded by the Fatherhood movement.  However, as her work progressed, Ms. Wallerstein, recognized negative effects of patriarchal abuse.  For championing the needs of children, she became denounced by the Fatherhood Movement (see CRC newsletter). 

 

Elizabeth Stepien is “The Overburdened Child,” as identified by Ms. Wallerstein in 2001. 

The second category of overburdened children is that special group who are burdened by responsibility for a troubled, needy or depressed parent and who have been cast by that parent into the psychological role that the parent requires.  The intensity of the parental need for the child and the regressive dependence on the child that can develop at this time represents one of the important findings from the author’s work.  It would be facile (simplistic, superficial) and in the author’s judgment, misleading, to suggest that the child taken on the role of the parent or for professionals to conceptualize these relationships primarily as role reversals.  These interactions are complex and unfamiliar and merit careful examination.  In these cases, there are many variations in the role that the overburdened child plays at the time of separation and during the years that follow.  The child or the adolescent may serve the parent as arbiter, protector, advisor, parent, sibling, comrade in arms against the other parent or against the world, confidante, lover or concubine.  Or the child may serve as a key figure who wards off the parent’s depression or ego disintegration.  **

 

Children who are likely to be selected for these demanding roles are sometimes more sensitive, more vulnerable, more pitying, more worried about the adult, and more frightened than are children in other divorced families.  Their greater sense of vulnerability make it more likely that they will yield to the parents wishes, threats, or blandishments (flattery).  Nor is it unusual for the child to be called upon to maintain the psychological functioning of the parent by assuming one or more of these roles.” 

 

 

Father’s abuse and need to use the children to satisfy his emotional failings was identified by Dr. Ring.  Dr. Ring blames the victim (Doreen) for the abuse (conflict) and blames Doreen for Father’s (Chester’s) failure to give answers.  Dr. Ring failure to identify Battered Women’s Syndrome or Post Traumatic Stress Abuse.  Instead Dr. Ring makes the common mistake of pathologizing the victim, minimizing and blaming the abuse on the victim.

 

TEXT of Dr. Ring Custody Evaluation

Page 22 #2 “the conflict between these two parties is characterized predominately by Doreen acting out in emotionally disregulated ways.  Chester is ostensibly fairly passive and describes himself as basically “defending himself.”  This clinician is concerned regarding both Doreen’s emotional disregulation and Chester’s adjudication of the “victim’s role.” 

 

Page 23 #4 “Chester Stepien’s mental status is that of an individual who does not show significant disturbance or characterological deficit.  This clinician, as stated previously, is concerned regarding his victim posture and how much responsibility he has displaced on the children for his emotional well-being.”  Doreen Ludwig has been reasonably credible regarding details fo the conflict in their marital relationship, which clearly, Chester has minimized, and again, basically adopted his position as the victim and as primarily the person who is defending himself.  This clinician’s observation of their interactions is one of probably equally shared responsibility with regard to each parties’ contributions to these conflicts.

 

Page 13 Chester concedes that most of the caretaking of the children was Doreen’s responsibility because she was a stay-at-home mom, and he worked many hours.  However, he does state, “My girls did want me to give them their baths.”

 

Page 15  He did seem to be a bit confused regarding his responses to certain hypothetical situations.  This might be due to the fact that his estranged wife usually dealt with situations involving the children and that he was hesitant to assert his opinion.  This also may pertain to Chester’s personality, in that, he appears to be a very concrete person, and visualized himself in hypothetical situations requires a degree of abstract thinking.  Chester also appears comfortable showing his feelings rather easily in front of his children, although this may not be as desirable as he believes.  For example during this particular interview, he indicated that he cries in front of the girls, stating that he misses them, and consequently evokes a sense of guilt in the children, thus, precipitating excessive responsibility on their part for his bad or good feelings.”

 

 

Testimony of Doreen Ludwig

 

“I left an abusive man and filed for divorce on November, 2004.  My lawyer told me that since I was the primary caretaker of our two daughters since birth and there were no problems with Children and Youth or school, that the children should be safe, meaning there was no reason for an extended court custody fight.”

 

“Chester Stepien (husband and Father) hired a Father’s Rights Attorney, Jacqueline Mark.  They immediately petitioned for custody claiming that Mother was mentally ill.  Judge Scott Keller ordered the parties to Dr. Timothy Ring for a custody evaluation.  Father paid the full amount of $3,200.  Dr. Ring is a member of The Professional Academy of Custody Evaluators, a pro-abuse, pro-PAS, network headed by Dr. Barry Bricklin.”

 

“Issue 7 Investigations – evaluations Dr.  Ring filed a false report.  Mother filed ethical charges.  After 2 ½ years, Dr. Ring was served with seven ethical violations.  [See Rule to Show Cause below.]

 

“At the custody trial on March 2006, the evaluation was marked Defendants Exhibit, was underlined only in favor of Father, the psychologist is listed as Father’s only witness along with the two children, and the Child Custody Network Attorney when asked by the Judge for more witnesses, states “No we are happy, we have Dr. Ring, we have only listed (witnesses) of Dr. Ring and the children.”  This psychologist DENIED to be cross-examined, he and the Judge DENIED the witness of the intern who conducted 80% of the evaluation and could testify that Father admitted physical abuse.   But custody was changed to Father SOLELY because of Dr. Ring’s report.”

 

“The record includes three hours of testimony and a denied-into-evidence written report from Dr. Susan Atkins, (Mother’s treating psychologist, who works for over twenty years with Lancaster Domestic Violence Shelter and worked with the truly mentally ill).  Dr. Atkins even states when reading Dr. Rings evaluation “I was shocked,”  “Dr. Ring did not make a DSM diagnosis,” and that Mother does have “ADD, PSTD, Adjustment Disorder.”  This testimony was ignored by the trial court and the Superior Court.  The custody evaluator did not consult with Dr. Atkins, nor any school employees where Mother was heavily involved and had been employed.  The school employees were listed as Mother’s witnesses and were DENIED by the Judge.  They would have proven the evaluation false.”  [See Dr. Atkins 12-page report, 3/27/06 transcript, and memo of law with transcript excerpts.]

 

This case study proves that Pennsylvania permits unethical evidence by HHS practitioners because the State refused to enforce the Ethical Code.

“2009 Update – Dr. Ring has been permitted to be unethical by the PA State Department.  Charges were withdrawn because “he will never do it again,” “ he got training,” “he does a lot of reports for Berks County” and “he volunteers for the Red Cross.” [See Withdrawal]

 

 

Dr. Ring was protected because he receives TANF & access visitation funds for counseling, mediation and co-parenting coordination.

 

TEXT of Rule to Show Cause against Dr. Ring, 63-08,06-63-00065

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

COUNT ONE

  1. D.L. (Mother) and C.S. (father) are the parents of two minor children, E.S. (DOB 10/23/96) and K.S. (DOB 6/13/98) herein collectively referred to as the S children.
  2. At all times relevant herein, DL and CS have been involved in a dispute regarding the custody of their children.
  3. On or about December 7, 2004, the Court of Common Pleas of berks County, Pennsylvania issued an order in the matter DL v CS #04-16445 directing that the parties to that litigation and their minor children submit to a custody evaluation by Respondant (Dr. Ring).
  4. DL had primary physical custody of both children at the time of Respondent’s custody evaluation.

10.  On or about July 21, 2005, Respondent issued a “Child Custody Evaluation” (custody report) with regard to the S children that was filed in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas in the matter of DL v. CS #04-16445.

11.  A true and correct copy of Respondent’s July 21, 2005 custody report is attached hereto and incorporated by reference as Exhibit 1.

12.  During the course of performing the custody evaluation and preparing the custody report, Respondent failed to comply with recognized standards for the completion of such an evaluation and report.

13.  Respondent’s custody report contains several inconsistencies, including but not limited to the following:

  1. On page 24 of the report, Respondent recommends a change in primary physical custody to the father based in part on the mother’s yelling to the point where it frightens the children, however, on page 20 of the report, Respondent reports that when asked if her mother’s yelling scares her, ES responded “no.”
  2. On page 22 of the report, Respondent based in part his conclusion that the mother had an unstable history by stating that “she essentially entered her relationship with CS as an escape from her family of origin,” and yet on page 3 of the report, Respondent reports that DL was living on her own in an apartment at the time she began her relationship with CS.

 

14.  Respondent’s custody evaluation and report improperly focused primarily on DL’s reported [by father only]  psychopathology rather than parenting capacity, the psychological and developmental needs of the child and the resulting fit.

15.  Respondent’s report contains insufficient data and information about the impact of DL’s reported psychopathology on her parenting capacity and the psychological and developmental needs of the children.

16.  Respondent’s report contains insufficient data and or behavioral examples to support his statement that the children reported considerable emotional dysregulation on the part of their mother which caused them considerable anxiety.

17.  Respondent’s report contains insufficient data and information to support his expressed concern about the mother’s ability to maintain an appropriate home environment for the children while juggling her schooling and employment.

18.  Respondent failed to use multiple methods of data gathering and failed to obtain collateral and corroborative information relevant to the statements and photographs provided by the father with regard to the cleanliness and organization of the mother’s home.

19.  Respondent failed to use and/or document multiple methods of data gathering such as collateral interviews, home visits and/or reviewing the school or medical records of the S children to confirm the information provided by the parents.

20.  Respondent’s report contains insufficient data and information to show that his recommendation of a change in custody is in the best psychological interests of the S children.

21.  Respondent’s report fails to explain how the S children would benefit from a change in custody.

22.  Respondent’s report fails to explain why the father has better parenting skills so as to support a change in custody.

23.  Respondent’s conclusions and recommendations are unsupported by the data and information contained in his report and reflect a lack of objectivity and impartiality in his assessment.

24.  Based upon the foregoing Factual Allegations, the Board is authorized to suspend or revoke, or otherwise restrict Repondents license, or impose a civil penalty pursuant to 63 PS 1208(a)(4) and 63 PS 1211(b) in the Respondent displayed gross incompetence, negligence or misconduct in carrying on the practice of psychology.

 

COUNT TWO  By committing immoral or non-professional conduct

 

COUNT THREE  In that Respondent deviated from the American Psychological Association Guidelines for child custody evaluations in divorce proceedings, Section 1, Paragraph 3, by failing to focus his custody evaluation on parenting capacity, the psychological and developmental needs of the child and the resulting fit, in violation of regulations promulgated by the Board as 49 Pa. Code 41.61, Ethical Principle 3(E)

 

COUNT FOUR  By failing to use multiple methods of data gathering during the custody evaluation, in violation of regulations promulgated by the board

 

COUNT FIVE  Section III Paragraph 12, by drawing conclusions not adequately supported by the data, in violation of regulations promulgated by the Board  

 

COUNT SIX  By failing to make recommendations based upon what is in the best psychological interests of the child, in violation of …

 

COUNT SEVEN  By failing to maintain an objective impartial stance in violation of regulations

 

In a 2010 Appeal, The Superior Court quotes Dr. Ring’s fictitious report again:  “wife suffers from a  “constellation of mental health issues,” including psychodeviance and schizophrenia.”  THERE IS NO EVIDENCE and there exists current and plentiful evidence to the contrary.  [See Dr. Atkins testimony and 12-page report.  Also see Dr. Okomoto letter submitted in support.]

 

Not only are HHS Fatherhood practitioners protected by Licensing Boards and higher Courts, Federal Courts give counselors Judicial Immunity – 11th Amendment Protection even for FRAUD

“Dr. Ring was appointed by Berks County Court to conduct a Custody evaluations … Dr. Ring was acting in a quasi-judicial capacity as an “arm of the court.”  He falls directly under Hughes granting absolute judicial immunity [under 11th constitutional amendment].  U.S. East. Dis. PA, 07-2127, 8/28/2007. pages 12, 13.

 

“The District Court also correctly held that Drs. Rotenberg and Ring, who the court appointed to evaluate the parties and custody masters Meyers and Ullman, are entitled to judicial immunity because they acted as arms of the court.”  Third Circuit Court of Appeals, 8/7/2008.  [Both reports are known to be false as the Rule to Show Cause was submitted to the Court.]

 

Because HHS is funding custody for Fathers, the laws of Pennsylvania are ignored and rewritten to protect HHS-funded counselors.  The Custody Code requires Courts to assess abuse, thereby giving protection from abuse over access/visitation or Fatherhood

 

The Custody Code, 23 P.C.S. 5303 - (a) General rule – (1) In making an order for custody or partial custody, the court shall consider the preference of the child as well as any other factor which legitimately impacts the child’s physical, intellectual and emotional well-being.(2) In making an order for custody, partial custody or visitation to either parent, the court shall consider, among other factors, which parent is more likely to encourage, permit and allow frequent and continuing contact and physical access between the noncustodial parent and the child.(3) The court shall consider each parent and adult household member’s present and past violent or abusive conduct which may include, but is not limited to, abusive conduct as defined under the act of October 7, 1976 (P.L. 1090, No. 218), [FN1] known as the Protection From Abuse Act.

 

This case study’s court record proves the trial court NEVER held a hearing on Father’s abuse; in fact, they FORBID the witness who would prove abuse.   Father REFUSES to encourage, permit and allow frequent and continuing contact and physical access between the noncustodial parent and the children AND the entire Maternal family.   The Court NEVER gave Mother Access/visitation!  To this date, the trial and higher courts forbid Mother a hearing.

 

One year after Doreen Ludwig filed an ethical complaint against Dr. Ring, the law was changed to forbid the filing of ethical complaints against those who receive HHS funds.   

 

Pennsylvania, Access/Visitation Program Practitioners are Held to NO Ethical Standard

“Court-appointed child custody health care or behavioral health practitioners.  No party to a child custody matter in which the court has appointed a licensed health care or behavioral health practitioner to assist the court by conducting an examination or evaluation of the parties involved or making a recommendation concerning a child custody agreement or order may be permitted to file a complaint against the practitioner with the practitioner’s State Licensing board prior to the final agreement or order being issued and for 60 days thereafter.  As used in this section “licensed Health care  or behavioral health practitioner” means a person who is licensed, certified, accredited or otherwise regulated by the Commonwealth to provide health care or behavioral health services.”  Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute 5340. 

 

A behavioral health practitioner uses Threat Therapy and other non-traditional techniques to force victims to accept the abuse.  To understand the full extent of torture techniques practiced by behavioral therapists read “The Enablers” at http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/03/enablers

 

This case study has already proven that the HHS Fatherhood counselor awarded Father custody in order to obtain counseling sessions.  This type of abuser is often only happy with complete ownership of the children.  Court records are replete with cases Fathers getting ex-parte hearing’s to achieve this objective.

 

Testimony of Doreen Ludwig:

 

Ex parte hearing  In August, 2006, the Judge and CCN Attorney held an ex parte hearing based on this hidden perjury “Mother obtains sexual gratification at the expense of the minor children by engaging in a continuous and perverse exploitation of her genital region to the children.”  There is no evidence and there was NO cross-examination.  Appeals and Stays denied for no reason by the PA Superior Court, PA Supreme Court and US Supreme Court. 

 

 

Issue 3 – children In this case, children are brought before the Judge in his quarters and they are questioned until they affirm what the court is trying to manufacture.  A nine-year-old girl [Elizabeth who has already been identified as the overburdened child] was asked three times if she ever saw her Mother naked.  She finally admitted to seeing “a leg.”  For this, she has been responsible for the loss of her Mother and entire Maternal family, toys, dog.  Second daughter [Kathleen] said “no” and was ignored.

This was after being in Father’s Attorney’s office for 1 ½ hour (proof is in a bill). 

 

 

The July 24, 2006 and August 4, 2006 Custody False documents are riff with false allegations 

However, Lawyers are allowed to lie in divorce in Pennsylvania NO MATTER HOW UNTRUE! 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recognized that “when alleged libelous or defamatory matters, or statements, or allegations and averments in pleadings or in the trial or argument of a case are pertinent, relevant and material to any issue in a civil suit, there is no civil liability for making any of them.   An absolute privilege.  There is no lability even though the statement is alleged to have been made falsely and maliciously and without any reasonable or probable cause.” U.S. East. Dis. PA, 07-2127, 8/28/2007. page 16.

 

The August 15, 2006 was an EX PARTE HEARING.  The Mother was NOT present and the Father WAS NEVER CROSS-EXAMINED.  [See exhibits and transcript submitted in 1494 MDA 2006.]

Mother was not given the documents prior to the hearing.  Ms. Mark’s bill proves she coached the children for 1 ½ hours.

 

In this case study Father and the Father’s Rights Attorney used these false allegations:

6. Since the temporary custody order was granted, Mother’s mental health has deteriorated to such a degree that the best interests of the children requires a modification of the current Order, limiting Mother’s contact with the children to supervised visitation  because:

  1.  Mother obtains sexual gratification at the expense of the minor children by engaging in a continuous and perverse exploitation of her genital region to the children.
  2. Mother has become increasingly violent toward father in the presence of the children.
  3. Mother’s violence and threatening behavior has caused one of the parties children to exhibit physical effects such as stomach cramps and vomiting, headaches, unreasonable fears and nightmares.
  4. Mother has attempted to physically remove the children from Father during Father’s periods of custody, so that the police had to get involved.
  5. Mother has refused to return the children according to the schedule listed in the custody order.
  6. Mother torments the children with wild false accusations about Father.
  7. Mother has punished the children for attempting to telephone Father for help during Mother’s rampages.
  8.  The children state they are fearful of Mother. 

Filed and verified by Defendant and counsel, August 4, 2006:

Since August 1, 2006, Mother has retaliated against her children as follows:

  1. Mother screamed repeatedly at the children, stating among other things that “the judge told me everything you said,” and they were punished for testifying.
  2. Mother also told the children not to talk to their Father because if they do the judge will throw Mother in jail.
  3. Mother has threatened the children with physical harm if they ever “tell the judge her business again.”
  4. The children tearfully pleaded with father “Please don’t tell her I told you what mom said because she’ll kill me, she’ll kill me!”
  5. Mother has informed the children she has a “new man” that is going to help her lie in court.”  She has instructed the children that they are to lie if asked to testify again.
  6. Mother has changed the day care center information stating that Father is no longer allowed to pick up the children.
  7. Mother refused to turn over the children to Father at the scheduled custody exchange on August 4, 2006.
  8. Father has incurred substantial counsel fees as a result of Mothers contempt.
  9. Mother should be responsible for Father’s reasonable counsel fees and costs.

:In a 2010 Appeal, The Superior Court of Pennsylvania claimed that Elizabeth testified and confirmed her Fathers accusations.  THE TRANSCRIPT OF 8/1/06 DOES NOT PROVE FATHER’S ALLEGATIONS, BUT RATHER PROVES THE CHILDREN HAVE WORDS PUT IN THEIR MOUTHS AND ARE PRESSURED BY THE JUDGE.  THE SUPERIOR COURT OF PA IS CONTINUING TO CREATE A FALSE RECORD!!!!  552 MDA 2009

 

It is reasonable to conclude that Court Administration (AOPC) is protecting Fatherhood.  An easy way to tract systematic fraud would be to track the author of appeals which are labeled as “non-precedential memorandums” and kept off-the-record and out of case law.

 

 

Court Administration has played a supportive role in the Fatherhood fraud. 

 

The Judicial Conduct Board is supposed to investigate and prosecute Judges who do not follow the law.  It would seem that extreme denial of due process warrants investigation. 

            “It is a fundamental right in this country to confront one's accuser and to examine evidence the trial court relies upon to reach a decision. The parent in a change of custody case must be allowed an opportunity to rebut the conclusions of the report and to cross-examine the preparer.”  Miller, 671 So. 2d at 851; see Betz v. Betz, 575 N.W.2d 406, 410 (Neb. 1998) (holding that hearsay remains hearsay although within report prepared by guardian ad litem appointed by court pursuant to statute); Clark v. Alexander, 953 P.2d 145, 154 (Wyo. 1998) (ruling that guardian ad litem report should not be filed with court or received into evidence without express agreement of parties)

            “The Supreme Court has held that parents must be afforded ample means to contest charges of unfitness.” Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745, 747-48, 769 (1982) (requiring clear and convincing evidence for state to permanently terminate rights of parents in their natural child). Coble v. Coble

The Judicial Conduct Board acts as part of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.  They have admitted their failure to investigate a similar Judicial pay-back scheme.  The JCB was given two opportunities to investigate including filing of The Rule to Show Cause.  [See two denial letters.]  The Courts of Pennsylvania have NO OVERSIGHT, at the Appellate level or independently.

 

This case study’s Mother identified (correctible) problems early on.  Court Administration, at all levels refused to address contracts with unethical Fatherhood counselors receiving HHS payments.  [See Letter to Berks County Court Administrator proving their approval of the custody evaluator, failure to protect abuse victims, and bankruptcy due to litigation; Letter from Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts proving approval of unethical custody evaluations; Denial of Custody Hearing even though proof of fictitious custody evaluation – proof that the court continues to keep children with the abuser, The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, 815 MDA 2009.]

 

 

INCREASING THE HHS CUSTODY PROGRAM

A second HHS report entitled “A Collaboration and Strategic Planning Guide for States:  Child Access and Visitation Grant Programs,” 2006 proves HHS encourages collusion and conflict-of-interests by encouraging  Courts to develop “a process for soliciting the input of and establishing partnerships with other key players (e.g., judges, state and family court representatives, child support and faith and community-based agencies);”

 

In Pennsylvania, members of the Pennsylvania Bar (lawyers and Judges) social workers, psychologists, fathers rights advocates, and a member of the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence have written a plan called “Commission for Justice Initiatives, Changing the Culture of Custody in Pennsylvania.” 

This plan would alarm any litigant who attempted to divorce an abusive Father and wound up having the Father use the court to continue his abuse.  This plan hands the role of abuser directly to the psychologist or social worker in the form of Parenting Coordinator.  Under this plan, litigants will NOT be permitted to get an independent evaluation!!  Due Process is obliterated as the Court works together to identify clients able to pay for HHS-subsidized services and clients who will extend litigation creating profits for court affiliates.

 

The Agenda for a House hearing proves the special interests behind custody.  One hour and a half was given to lawyers and judges; One hour was given to Father’s Rights groups; social workers received 15 minutes; domestic violence received 15 minutes; and victims of abuse (including abuse by proxy of family court) received 5 minutes.  Kathy Manderino, the Chair of the family law committee, also a member of HHS committee,  refused to accommodate Mothers who requested more time to speak and a time that did not overlap the children’s school dismissal. 

 

Jacqueline Berrere/Berrier  #717-772-7703  runs the OSCE Court program and is working with the Pennsylvania Bar and Supreme Court in order to increase the use of these profit-motivated affiliates, especially given the influx of $99.5million in stimulus funds.

 

The State offers NO legal assistance

 

- MidPenn Legal Aid contacted for representation.

See response letter  “given that the demand for legal services is greater than the ability of MidPenn staff to provide such services to everyone who is financially eligible, MidPenn has established priorities and case acceptance guidelines, such that we would not typically provide extended representation in  Court even if there were merit, but rather would offer advice and counsel.”

 

BIAS REPORT PROVES BREAKDOWN

The “FINAL REPORT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT COMMITTEE ON RACIAL AND GENDER BIAS IN THE JUSTICE SYSTEM, 1999-2003” proves a severe breakdown in protection from abuse in issues of family law.   The Bias Report failed to adequately address domestic violence in custody, support and divorce. 

 

The Bias Report failed to document results of contested custody including use of evaluations.

Page 474 – Custody - County Surveys - None of the counties responded to a survey question concerning the percentage of fathers who were awarded primary physical custody in contested custody actions, nor did any respond to the survey’s request for breakdowns by race and gender of the outcome of plaintiffs’ requests for physical custody for 2000–01.

 

Judges responsibility -  It is the family court responsibility to facilitate fair, and equitable litigation.  One party shall not maintain sole control of marital assets during pendency of custody litigation.  Parity and equal access to the law is in the best interests of the children.  An interim disbursement may be needed to obtain parity and equal access to the law.  The Bias Report states “The courts rarely grant advance distributions of marital assets. Because most non-consensual divorce cases take more than two years for assets to be distributed, the court’s reluctance to enter interim awards places a burden on the economically dependent spouse and may inhibit his or her full access to the legal system. The spouse controlling the marital estate may also dissipate the assets, leaving no recourse for the dependent spouse.”  “At public hearings throughout Pennsylvania, attorneys and litigants testified that the judicial system often provides little or no help to pro se litigants who are either initiating legal proceedings or responding to actions against them.” 

 

Proposed 5332, 5334, 5335, 5339 and 5340 would help trade association, for-profit motivated, members increase business by court appointment and orders for fees.  There are NO limits on fees and NO ethical requirements for practitioners, and NO system for review.  In fact, the proposed 5340 protects unethical custody evaluators!!!  See Dr. Ring charges.

 

There is already court approval of bankruptcy due to litigation.  See Berks County Court Administrator letter.  Proposed 5332, 5334, 5335, 5339 and 5340 will increase bankruptcy.  There is no protection for equal access to funds for defense.  Abusers are more likely to control finances.  Legal aide and pro bono representation is NOT available for victims of abuse.

Bias Report at Page 402 - While some courts are all too willing to challenge the domestic abuse survivor’s motivations for filing a PFA petition, they often fail to question the abuser’s motive for requesting substantial custody. Research indicates that custody disputes are more frequent when there is a history of domestic violence. Moreover, fathers who are batterers are twice as likely to seek sole custody of their children.62 Such requests for substantial custody may be a misuse of the legal system, motivated by the batterer’s continuing need to control and abuse the mother through harassment and retaliatory legal action. Fathers in such cases may use children as an excuse to have contact with the women they are otherwise prohibited from seeing. Yet, if mothers seek to protect themselves and their children by moving frequently or seeking to limit the father’s contact, the courts may view the mothers as unstable, uncooperative, and unwilling to share access to their children, all in contravention of Pennsylvania’s Custody Act.

 

 

In conclusion, the following excerpt is integral to my assertion that access/visitation and TANF are paying for pro-abuse, Fatherhood, custody litigation.  While this proof comes from the Section called “Working with Faith-Based Organizations,” most court affiliates are not religious organizations.  Page iv “ Some states contract directly with FBOs and some do it indirectly; that is, the FBO is one of several service providers in a larger collaborative.”  The evaluation proves there is NO oversight and accountability. 

 

 

Child Access And Visitation Programs: Promising Practices” Contract Number 105-00-8300, Task Order 22, OCSE, ACF, DHHS,

 Pages 77, 78- Pennsylvania - Administration

The AV grant is administered through the child support agency within the department of social services. However, the agency does not contract for services directly. Instead, it funnels the money through the local counties’ Domestic Relations section of the local Court of Common Pleas. (The Court of Common Pleas acts as the child support office in the counties.) The court selects the service providers, and the state pays the providers through the courts. The child support agency sees several advantages to this approach, including (1) it ties the court to the service providers; (2) the local courts know what services are needed in the community so can support those services that are most promising; (3) courts are the primary referral sources to services; and (4) courts collect and review the statistics about participation, which helps them monitor the programs.  Grants are awarded for two years, with a review after the first year, and future funding is

contingent upon availability of funds. AV programs are scattered throughout the state, and geographic diversity of the AV grant recipients is intentional. The board that reviews AV grant proposals includes representatives from multiple state agencies to ensure program diversity.

 

Evaluation - The AV program coordinator has not followed up formally with the service providers to assess outcomes. However, she says that the programs do some follow-up to see if access has improved or the relationship between the parent and the child has improved. She recognizes that all of this is self-reported and thus not based on objective data.

 

Appendix A, page 2 – Pennsylvania uses access/visitation (custody) program funds for payment to: 

(1) Mediators - voluntary and mandated (by Court order, contempt proceedings – jail and/or fines for non-compliance)

(2) Counselors

(3) Parent Educators/Education

For production of:  Parenting Plans; Monitoring; Supervised Visitation, Neutral Pick-up/Drop-off; Visitation Guidelines

 

 

 


 

There is a crisis in the custody court system, which has resulted in thousands of children being sent to live with abusers while safe, protective parents, primarily mothers, are denied any meaningful relationship with their children. The court system has failed to respond appropriately to domestic violence and child abuse cases involving custody. The Commission found many common errors made by the courts and the professionals they rely upon which contribute to these tragedies. These same mistakes have negatively impacted battered women and children in other cases, with less extreme results.

 

Testimony to the Truth Commission at the Fourth Battered Mothers found that there is a widespread problem of abusive parents being granted custody of children and protective parents having their custody limited or denied, and/or being otherwise punished.

  From these and other case histories, issues raised by concerned professionals throughout the country, and up-to-date research, the Commission made the following findings and proposals recommended for further study. Not all members of the Truth Commission agree with every proposed solution, but all members are in agreement that solutions need to be developed to address these findings.  (2007 Truth Commission Members: Richard Ducote, Esq, Chair; Nancy Erickson, Esq.;Barry Goldstein, Esq.; Eileen King; Patti Jo Newell; Connie Valentine, M.S.; Gwen Wright; and Joan Zorza, Esq.  Special Thanks to Mo Hannah, Ph.D., Truth Commission Coordinator)

 

 

 

 

PROBLEM / SOLUTION

I. Court appointees, state actors and other professionals are frequently biased, particularly gender-biased, misogynistic, incompetent, and inadequately trained in domestic violence and child abuse. Many exhibit a shocking lack of knowledge about incest and child sexual abuse, and how domestic violence affects parenting, and may lie with impunity. They appear to have scant understanding of, or interest in, the negative effects of substance abuse as it pertains to parenting There is a lack of training and availability of qualified, ethical professionals, particularly attorneys to represent non-abusive protective parents.. This problem is mostly hidden from the general public.

 

Public Education: The situation of family courts endangering children and punishing women must be exposed in the media. State and national policymakers in all 3 branches of government and other allies must be advised of the problem of family courts placing children in the unsupervised custody of abusive parents, and be told that this is happening with alarming frequency.

Research: More and better research on family court cases with allegations of DV and child abuse is needed to determine how many children are sent to live with abusers and how often custody scandal cases occur. Research should be done about how jury trials might work in custody cases to determine if this method of family court adjudication improves children’s safety. Any changes to the law must be examined to rule out unintended consequences of the abusers using the law to assist their cause.

Training: Effective, quality, in depth training on recognizing domestic violence, effects of domestic violence on children, gender bias, child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, substance abuse, and the negative effects of abuse and violence on parenting and healthy child development must be developed and provided to all court professionals. A standard national training curriculum must be developed by a consortium of nationally recognized experts in domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse, parenting, and child development. The approved curriculum must be taught by qualified experts who must pass rigorous examinations in the subject matter. . This training must be based on publications such as the 2006 Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide and 1996 American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force must be required for and provided to all court personnel and associated professionals, including judges.

Judges: Judges who preside over custody cases exhibit clear bias against women. They are sometimes closed to new information and research. Many judges improperly delegate judicial authority. They frequently rely on court appointees and abrogate their judicial authority by uncritically following recommendations of appointees. The judges may select appointees in a biased manner from a small pool, using problematic lines of friendship and trust.  This leads to appointees pleasing the judge in order to get reappointed.

 

 

·        Judges who demonstrate gender bias, fail to protect children and vulnerable adults, and show favoritism in court appointments must be identified and successfully trained to conduct themselves appropriately, or be removed from the bench. Judges must be prohibited from improper delegation of judicial authority in custody and visitation cases.  Judges must not be allowed to abrogate their decision-making duties to court-appointees.

 

 

Court-Professionals. Court professionals often do not rely on facts, and make recommendations based on stereotypes and bias, frequently endangering children and vulnerable adults by so doing.

 

·        Court personnel and court related, and court-connected professionals must only gather facts to provide to judges, not make recommendations.

·        The level of integrity for all court personnel and court related professionals must be dramatically raised to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are not placed at risk.

 

Child Advocates: Guardians ad litem, law guardians and attorneys for the minor often assume inappropriate roles, do inaccurate fact-finding, and present incompetent, biased recommendations that place children at substantial risk of continued abuse. They often fail to gather or report information from their child clients. They may distort the child’s wishes and advocate for positions that harm rather than help and protect the child client. They are often appointed when there is no defined need and it is difficult to remove them once they are on the case. In some states, they may stay on the case until the child reaches the age of majority. The child is unable to fire the attorney. The attorneys often do not argue the law or call witnesses. Often their fees are paid by parents who have no say in their appointment.

 

·        The role of the guardian ad litem, law guardian or attorney for the minor must be limited to the American Bar Association standard of practice (37 Family Law Quarterly 2003) or eliminated entirely. Children must be able to dismiss any advocate or attorney who does not ensure their physical and sexual safety and does not represent their wishes. If appointed by the court, the advocate or attorney shall be paid by the court or volunteer his or her services.

 

Evaluators/Investigator:  Evaluators often perform inadequate, incompetent and biased investigations and assessments. Many are selected for reasons other than competency in evaluating domestic violence, child sexual abuse or child physical abuse. They may utilize junk science such as so called “parental alienation syndrome” to make recommendations that place children at risk of continued abuse. They are often appointed when there is no defined need. Their fees, often prohibitively expensive, are usually paid by parents who generally have no say in their appointment. Some do not make written reports and when they do write a report, parents are often not allowed to see the report. They may be trained in systems therapy in which the abuse is considered a family problem and not the criminal behavior of the abuser.

 

·        Evaluators are to be used only to gather specific factual information that could be helpful for the court to make custody and visitation decisions as directed and defined by the court. Evaluators must be prohibited from usurping judicial authority by making recommendations in custody cases as to which parent should receive custody and what type or schedule of visitation should be granted.

·        Any appointment of an evaluator should be limited to only specific issues that require scientific expertise in his or her area of expertise, such as a mental health professional expert might be appointed when there is credible evidence that a party and/or child may suffer from a mental health problem that would significantly affect parenting. After-effects of violence and abuse, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety, must not be used against victims by any mental health professional. Junk science such as PAS and alienation are inadmissible and must be disallowed. Behavior may be defined but must be proven, not just alleged.

·        When a custody or visitation case involves allegations of domestic violence, child physical or sexual abuse, or substance abuse, the court must appoint a trained investigator who is a documented qualified expert in the discipline area being investigated (i.e., domestic violence, child physical or sexual abuse, or substance abuse).

·        A standardized template report format must be required for all investigators to complete, to ensure statewide uniformity and compliance with laws and rules of court. A format example can be found at www.childabusesolutions.com. Such reports must be based only on accurate, scientific evidence.

 

Mediators:  Mediators are used inappropriately in domestic violence and child abuse cases and in some states, mediators make recommendations to the court based on brief meetings with the parties. They seldom take abuse allegations seriously and generally push protective mothers to accept inappropriate shared custody and unrestricted access by abusers to the children. Often they credit junk science parental alienation syndrome accusations made by abusive parents, but do not realize that abusers are raising PAS allegations are doing so for their own tactical gain. Most are trained in systems therapy in which the abuse is considered a family problem and not the criminal behavior of the abuser.

 

·        Mediators must never make recommendations to the court. Mediation must be entirely confidential. Mediation must be specifically prohibited in any case where there are allegations of domestic violence, child physical or sexual abuse, or substance abuse, in which cases, the court would order an investigation.

 

Other Court Connected and Court Appointed Personnel: Special Masters, Parenting Coordinators and other court personnel are often biased and incompetent, and are used inappropriately. Most side with the fathers and take a punitive role against mothers. They illegally intrude themselves into the lives of families.

 

·        Such personnel must be specifically prohibited in child custody and visitation cases.  Parents and their children must be free of illegal state intrusion except when a child is at risk in a home where there is domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or substance abuse.

 

Supervised Visitation Monitors: Monitors lack training and are often biased. They scrutinize the protective parents, but do not report children’s disclosures of abuse. They may fail to protect the children appropriately. Most do not take long-term cases because their caseloads are high.

The monitors often misuse and misinterpret data from the supervised visits. Most are more supportive of giving fathers access to children than in protecting the children and their mothers.

Judges may fail to send appropriate cases to supervised visitation, and inappropriately place non-abusive parents on supervised visitation.

 

·        Supervised visitation must be standardized. Supervision by relatives or friends of the abuser must be prohibited.

·        Supervised visitation is to be used only to protect children from violence and abuse, not to punish a parent for reporting abuse or for attempting to protect the child.

·        Supervisors should make a record of statements by a child, which indicate a danger to the child's health or safety. Supervised visitation reports should not be used to determine if a parent is safe enough for unsupervised visitation, but rather an investigation by a qualified expert investigator should be ordered.

 

 

Attorneys, Therapists, and Physicians Attorneys are sometimes biased against women, unethical and incompetent. Abusers’ attorneys are often overaggressive and may suborn or encourage perjury. Attorneys for protective parents may abandon their clients before a court date and often fail to protect their clients’ interests in order to avoid offending a judge they will see in other cases. This improper representation results in countless delays and often the loss of custody.

 

Therapists for the child are sometimes biased, fail to make mandated reports of suspected child abuse or neglect and may be trained in systems therapy, in which the abuse is considered a family problem, not the responsibility of the abuser.

 

Physicians may be friendly toward the abusers and fail to make mandated reports of suspected child abuse. Few truly understand the dynamics of domestic violence and few take the victim’s fears seriously. Some violate the victim’s confidentiality and tell their abusers what was said.

 

Attorneys, Therapists, and Physiciansinvolved in custody and visitation, domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse and substance abuse matters must be closely regulated by an independent citizen oversight committee to ensure that child and victim protection is their primary concern and to prevent abuse of power.

 

 

II.  Domestic violence, child abuse, and substance abuse are ignored, minimized, and trivialized. This results in a failure to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Professionals fail to give credence to abuse and disregard the safety of the children and their mothers. If violence occurred in the past, it is considered no longer a relevant issue even thought the victim and children are still afraid.

There is a reliance on myths, not research. Parental alienation and other junk theories are used against mothers, completely defeating and trumping any abuse allegations.

Mothers are pathologized, misdiagnosed and demonized with mental health labels. Good faith efforts by mothers to protect themselves and their children are frequently misunderstood to be an attempt to interfere with the father's relationship with the children.

The “friendly parent” standard is used inappropriately, to say that abusers are more likely to share parenting. Ironically, once abusers gain custody, they then isolate and estrange the children from the protective parents. Courts seldom punish the abusers or switch custody back to the protective parents.

 

 

Joint custody is presumed to be in the best interests of the child even when the parents are unable to communicate and violence is occurring.

 

 

·         Courts must be mandated to err on the side of physical and sexual safety for children and vulnerable adults.

·         Clear guidelines and protocols must be established to identify domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse, and substance abuse.

·         All family court cases must be screened at the outset for domestic violence, child physical or sexual abuse, and substance abuse through the use of a nationally recognized valid domestic violence screening instrument, a valid child trauma screening instrument such as the Trauma Symptom Checklist (John Briere, Ph.D.) and a valid substance abuse screening instrument such as the Addiction Severity Index (ASI) in conjunction with alcohol/drug urine or hair tests

·         Pending an investigation when there is any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or substance abuse, or during an appeal, the child must be protected by remaining in the custody of the safe, protective parent.

·         Domestic violence must be taken seriously and a domestic violence advocate provided for both adults and children in family court. Domestic violence advocates are an important resource in the community and should not be treated as partisans. They work to end domestic violence which states and the courts claim is their policy. Accordingly the courts should seek appropriate input from the domestic violence community in determining the qualifications of professionals with respect to domestic violence. Lack of police reports should not be used to discount domestic violence.

·         Domestic violence must be defined appropriately. One recommendation would be “coercive control by an intimate partner involving physical, sexual, psychological/ emotional and/or economic/financial abuse.”

·         The court should be aware of and strongly skeptical about men who feign that they are physically victimized by women, particularly when the males are larger or stronger.

·         The term “primary/dominant aggressor” needs to be clearly defined. It is recommended that the definition include the following factors:

o        A bigger, stronger (usually male) aggressor hits harder and causes more damage;

o        The reason for hitting: males hit for control/get their way versus females hit in self defense;

o        Women “give in” due to fear of murder or severe bodily harm; men virtually never give in due to such fear.

·         There must be a presumption that domestic violence primary/dominant aggressors, child abusers, and habitual substance abusers are prohibited from gaining joint or sole custody of children.

·         Primary/dominant aggressors and child abusers identified in family courts through initial screening and careful investigation must be limited to supervised visitation until they complete an extensive batterers program, and/or child abuse prevention program.

·         If a primary/dominant aggressor fails to complete a program for batterers, supervised visitation must continue. The court would need to hold a new hearing to determine what visitation would be safe and beneficial for the child if he completes the program.

·         If the child abuse was sexual in nature, or an abuser physically attacks the child after completing the program at the treatment center, the abuser shall be limited to only supervised visitation during remainder of the child’s minority.

·         Mediation and couples counseling are inappropriate and not to be used in domestic violence cases due to power and control exercised by the primary aggressor.

·         Programs where child protective agencies work together with domestic violence agencies and consult domestic violence advocates about cases which may involve domestic violence must be developed and expanded.

·         The “approximation standard” (i.e., the approximate parenting timeshare prior to separation) must become the standard for sharing parenting after separation. The court must ensure that supervised contact only is allowed for perpetrators when there is domestic violence, child physical or sexual abuse, or substance abuse, unless and until the behavior is remediated to ensure safety of the children and vulnerable adults.

 

 

III.  Multiple constitutional, equal protection and due process violations occur in family court proceedings.

 

Gender bias is blatant and epidemic by almost all the players in the court system and there is a there is a significant lack of due process.

Children are treated as property and are not parties to custody and visitation cases that determine their safety. Children are not allowed to speak for themselves, and when they do speak out, most court players selectively choose to report what they said, or they are ignored, or what they say is used against them or their mothers.

Children age 12 and older are often running away from abusive parents where they were placed by court order, and are being prohibited against their wishes from living with the parent who does not harm them

The “best interest of the child” standard is unconstitutionally vague.

Court orders are unequally enforced in a gender-biased manner. The law is used in a punitive, retaliatory, punishing manner, including excessive criminal prosecution of mothers for minor infractions that are virtually always ignored when these or even more serious ones are done by abusers.

The same issue is often relitigated for the abusive party, but not for the protective parent, who may not even be permitted to rebut the allegations. Most courts ignore res judicata, issue preclusion, collateral estoppel and other legal arguments and defenses raised by mothers, or they do not even permit her to raise these claims. This does usually not happen with the abusive parent.

The same courts that are very punitive against mothers for any alleged violation often bend over backwards to give fathers who owe child support a break. Many courts eradicate child support arrearages for fathers, even in violation of the law. When child support is ordered against mothers, it is often at much higher levels than courts order against similarly situated fathers.

Poor litigants, usually mothers, may not have an attorney while the litigant with more resources, usually the father, is represented by an attorney.

Excessive court appointee fees quickly deplete assets, even for those with resources. The parent with more money (most often the abuser father, particularly in families where there are violence and control issues) is far better able to pay for expensive attorneys and appointees, creating an unequal playing field. Even apportioning fees based on a percentage of income produces inequality if parents have widely disparate income, as is most often the case in families where there is violence.

All too often, a criminal, rather than a civil, burden of proof is used in family court cases against mothers, particularly, regarding domestic violence or child abuse allegations. Many family courts even ignore criminal court findings of guilt involving the same evidence used to convict abusers.

Ex parte hearings often result in loss of custody, often with no hearing ever being scheduled at which the mother is allowed to present her evidence and rebut the allegations made against her.

Mothers are not given the opportunity to be heard and often are not even notified about hearings. When they point this out, many courts refuse to reschedule hearings or allow them a chance to rebut the allegations. When custody is switched to the abusive parent, courts often use the long delays that they caused to rationalize keeping custody with the abusive parents.

In-chamber conferences are usually held with no record.

Often transcripts are not made of proceedings, and when they are, the transcripts and court records are often altered, sometimes documents are substituted or removed from the case file, and occasionally the entire case files are misplaced. Parents may be denied access to review their own court files.

Evidence of abuse is not allowed, not admitted into evidence or is discounted. Courts and unqualified professionals often look only at physical abuse (and sometimes only "serious" physical abuse), thereby failing to understand the context of the abuser's behavior.

Coercion and intimidation occur, such as threats to mothers that they will lose custody if they do not sign stipulations, agree to unsupervised visitation or shared parenting, or agree to a non-judge with quasi-judicial immunity and near-complete authority over the case.

If victims pursue criminal charges regarding child abuse or domestic violence, this is often held against them.

Mothers are urged or forced to drop protective orders, sometimes as the only way to get their cases moved forward (e.g., to go through mandatory mediation).

Often mutual orders of protection are ordered, when there is no request made, and often in states that prohibit mutual orders of protection.

Mothers are often forbidden to get or have entered second opinions on child sexual abuse. Mothers are often prohibited from taking their children to the doctor or therapist, denying their children a chance to heal. Mothers and their children are often prohibited from talking to others, and sometimes even from obtaining therapeutic help, which impedes or prevents them from healing. Some are mandated to see therapists or couples counselors who subscribe to junk, sexist theories such as PAS, false allegations of abuse and father supremacy

There is a lack of finality to the cases. The cases end when the last child reaches the age of majority. This is abuse of the judicial system.

 

 

·        Gender bias must be exposed and eliminated in family court. The courts need to create consequences for the use of gender bias.

 

·        Children must be parties to custody cases, not treated as property. Children must be allowed and specifically provided the option to testify (with the option of testifying in camera) and speak to the judge directly, if they wish. If the children are too young to speak for themselves, they may be provided with a free Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer to assist them.

·        At the age of 12 and older, children may develop their own custody and visitation plan, provided that plan is safe. If the plan involves being in unsupervised contact with a parent who is a domestic violence primary aggressor, whom the child identified as a physical or sexual abuser, or who is a non-abstinent substance abuser, the court shall order an investigation to ensure child safety.

·        “Best interest of the child” must be specifically defined as safety of the child and vulnerable parent using a civil burden of proof. Safety must be the primary consideration. The court must consider the harm versus benefit of placing children with their identified abusers. The court must be mandated to err on the side of caution and child protection from physical and sexual abuse.

·        Family courts must be prohibited from making or enforcing gender-biased orders, relitigating issues, making punitive orders, or prosecuting infractions in a punitive or gender-biased manner.

·        The playing field must be equal; poor litigants need adequate representation. If both litigants agree, without coercion or intimidation, not to be represented by attorneys, the court must ensure that a vulnerable litigant is not allowed to be dominated, controlled or overpowered by an abusive litigant.

·        If the court appoints a professional to assist the court in fact-finding or to assist a child, that professional must be paid by the court. Litigants who have no say in the appointment must not pay for the court-appointee. Other fees to litigants must be capped. Abusers should be ordered to pay expenses caused by their abuse and litigation tactics. 

·        A civil burden of proof, preponderance of evidence, must be specified and used in family court cases. Evidence that meets a criminal burden of proof must be considered prima facie evidence in a family court case.

·        Ex parte hearings must be expressly prohibited by law. All courtrooms and records must be open, including family and juvenile courts. Any order or decision from a hearing in which a party was not noticed or present must be pronounced null and void by law and retroactively remedied.

·        All hearings and court proceedings must be videotaped or recorded and transcribed. Transcriptions must be provided to litigants, at no cost if the litigant is poor.

·        All legally admissible evidence of abuse must be allowed in hearings, without exception.

·        Evidence must be preserved. Interviews with children and families on videotape.

·        Stipulations and agreements made under coercion and intimidation such as threats of losing custody or prejudicing the court must be specifically prohibited. Such stipulations and agreements must be made null and void retroactively and the case must be promptly relitigated.

·        Retribution against litigants for pursuing criminal charges must be specifically prohibited by law and those professionals removed from their positions. Criminal charges must be reinstituted.

·        Urging/forcing the removal of protective orders must be prohibited by law and court professionals who do this must be removed from their positions. Protective orders must cover the children and be reinstituted retroactively.

·        Orders of protection must be made only to protect vulnerable adults and children, and mutual orders of protection must be prohibited.

·        Mothers and children must be allowed to seek appropriate therapeutic help with professionals trained about trauma, domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse, and substance abuse. These professionals must be mandated to protect children and vulnerable adults, and those who do not must be identified, trained or lose their license. No child may be denied a second opinion on a medical condition or appropriate medical care, by law. However, this does not apply to treatment to “deprogram” or otherwise convince a child that abuse did not occur, or treatment that relies on junk science, which treatment shall be specifically declared illegal and prohibited. All legally admissible evidence must be admitted into court and entered into the court record.

·        Judicial cannons and court rules must be amended to prohibit gag orders regarding not reporting abuse, discussing the case or seeking safety for oneself or one’s child.

·        All pro se litigants must be allowed to speak in hearings exactly as attorneys speak.

·        All litigants must be treated with respect and dignity. Court customer satisfaction surveys must be implemented and sent to the Executive or Legislative branches of government to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used inappropriately

·        Language used by any court professional must be clear and unambiguous, so that the victim is not blamed for the abuse (i.e., “the man abused the woman,” rather than “the woman was abused”.)

·        Courts must be required to oversee and prevent abuses by translators

 

 

 

IV. There is a lack of accountability for court professionals.

 

Appeals are lengthy, costly, and only examine legal issues, not discretion of judges. Where there is no transcript of the proceeding, there is no way to appeal. Where there is no audio transcript, there is no way to appeal inadequate or faulty translation problems.

Immunity prevents judges from being held accountable for unethical behavior and decisions.

Judges often rule on requests to recuse themselves from cases. Many do not recuse themselves, even when there is evidence of bias and/or misconduct.

Professional oversight boards, such as commissions governing judicial performance, attorney bar associations and boards governing mental health professionals, operate in secrecy and virtually never appropriately discipline their members for ethical transgressions and failure to protect children.

There is no review of bad judicial decisions. Children are left in dangerous homes for decades. Family court abuses are handled within the court system and no corrective action is taken.

 

·        There must be a less expensive, more expedient fast-track appeal method for cases that place children and abused victims at risk. Records must be kept and made available about how often each judge creates a Custody-Visitation Scandal Case. Such cases should require a written explanation and a review by an outside agency.

·        Judicial and quasi-judicial immunity must be specifically limited. An effective method to discipline judges must be developed.

·        A recusal request must be heard by a different judge than the one who is being asked to be recused.

·        Judicial review must be performed by citizens, not by other judges. **

·        A process must be developed so that the thousands of cases wrongly decided in which children have been forced to live with abusers can be screened for mistakes and can be corrected even if the time to appeal has expired. Custody scandal cases must be immediately investigated by a special national investigative task force. Children must be promptly removed from dangerous placements if there is any evidence they are or have been harmed, and placed with their safe parents.

·        Grievance committees must be set up with domestic violence expertise through an expanded role of the domestic violence liaison for the court or the domestic violence community, so as to guarantee that those reviewing these cases have the requisite domestic violence training to make proper decisions. 

·        The committees would focuses on the safety of the child and vulnerable parent.

·        An office must be set up to review the cases and correct the problems. This office must have statewide grand jury powers to protect children, depending on the state constitution. An administrative review by an entity outside the judiciary must be implemented for any case in which a child has been placed at risk. A review must be conducted upon request, and must include talking directly with the children in question. The children must be placed immediately in the custody of the safest parent if the review determines that there is any risk of physical or sexual harm or injury to the child or children.

·        Citizen oversight committees must be established to ensure that professionals maintain high ethical standards and safety for children and vulnerable adults.

·        The U.S. Congress must investigate the misuse of federal funds in the court process and taxpayer dollars and the misconduct of the court system to further victimize women and children, along with the due process and constitutional violations.

·        Independent citizen review of family court proceedings, including a court watch program, must be funded nationally, using a standard data-gathering instrument, to ensure family courts are in compliance with accepted rules of conduct and law. Sanctions against abusers and the courts must be used to prevent abusers from using legal tactics to continue their abuse through the courts.

·        Incompetent judges, mediators, guardian ad litem, law guardians, minors attorneys, custody evaluators, parent coordinators, monitors, special masters and other court connected or appointed personnel must be disciplined and removed, along with those who fail to screen out cases involving domestic violence or child abuse or urge parties into unsafe practices such as mediation, couples counseling, shared custody, mutual orders of protection or dropping court-issued orders of protection.

·        Unfit judges must be recalled. If a recall petition is filed against a family court judge alleging that he or she is unfit because he or she had not protected children or victims from physical or victims from physical or sexual abuse, that judge must at a minimum be assigned dockets where he or she will not hear any cases involving domestic violence, child abuse or child custody or any other issues where they have been alleged to be unfit.

·        The method of judicial election or appointment needs to be examined. Shorter terms, competency exams in the area of law in which they are ruling, training in ethics, psychological testing are needed to ensure judges are fit for the job.

·        Protective Parent Reforms should be enacted on state and Federal levels to ensure that due process violations cease. (See attached 1992 Post-Separation Family Violence Relief Act R.S. 9:361-369 adopted in Louisiana, and 2006 Protective Parent Reform Acts proposed/ adopted in Connecticut, Maryland and Tennessee.)

·        If custody is given to an alleged or adjudicated abuser, the judge must write the reason on the record and ensure the child’s safety by frequent follow up hearings. If the child discloses a second act of violence or abuse, only supervised visitation would be allowed thereafter.

·        Parents who make good faith reports of abuse of children may not be punished by losing custody.

·        The “approximation” standard must be the rule (post-separation custody must approximate pre-separation parenting time.)

·        The family court must be specifically required by law to obey all human rights statutes and treaties, along with all due process and constitutional laws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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