A heartbreaking yet courageous story of a mother fighting to protect her children…and the family court system that failed this family.

This story is reblogged from: http://amississippimom.wordpress.com/

The Guardian ad Litem recommended sole custody to an allegedly abusive, criminal and drug abusing father who was later to found so unfit and abusive towards the children that they were later removed from his home. This mother was then prevented from being reunited from her children because she was now being sanctioned by the court for failing to pay exorbitant GAL fees!
“Even though my children are fully cognizant, aware, of their own memories, of me, their mother, of my behavior, of my affection, my deep, abiding, maternal love for them, and of our lives together, I have yet to offer any reasonable explanation why their father, an indisputable criminal, abuser, drug-user, was able to obtain, and keep, custody of them for so long, and, how this was done with the complicity of those court appointed to see to the children’s safety and well-being … how all these things were done for so long, how I was given very limited, stringent visitation, as their mother, and for so long. Is it acceptable to try to explain to children? How does one do so in any rational way?”

amississippimom

Starting Over When You Can’t Go Back?  – To All Protective Parents:  Rebuilding when you can’t go home again:
To all of my friends:  I have slowly begun to rebuild my work and my career, my freelance paralegal research.  I had been self-employed in the same field for over 20 years when my life came to a screeching halt in 2010 when my young children (ages 9 and 12) were kidnapped by their father and taken over 200 miles away … this was parental kidnapping, against custody, against the law.  So many others are familiar with this horror but this type of kidnapping garners little sympathy and certainly less action.  This atrocity, and the long-haul of horror it places a protective parent in is in no way different than having your children kidnapped by a stranger.  Although with parental abductions there may some knowledge, confirmation, and awareness, however vague, that…

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Title: “Exposing Child Advocates/Best interest Attorneys/Guardian Ad Litem”
By: CBSAtlanta.com, Reporter Jeff Chirico
Read the Story At: http://www.cbs46.com/story/22258017/investigation-exposes-little-oversight-of-child-advocates
Posted By: Moms Fighting Howard County Court Corruption, http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjUgwKeAfgfnLnXT7RslhBw
Date: May 15, 2013

CBS Atlanta investigates problems with the court appointed advocates known as the “Guardian ad Litems”, who are sworn to look out for the best interest of children, and be their advocate in court. The report investigates complaints from parents whose families have been harmed by failures within the GAL program and the corrupt, biased and unprofessional actions of the Guardians themselves.

Problems Reported Include:

*Poor training
*Lack of training or education in child development
*Guardian ad Litems lying to further their own personal agenda
*Bias (GAL favoring the parent who generates the most business. GAL working to further their own agenda over that of the child.)
*Parents can be fined by the Court to pay GAL fees–sometimes these fees can cost tens of thousands of dollars
*Collusion or Other Influences that are not based on fact, evidence or law
*Lack of oversight in the GAL program. There is no real agency that licenses a GAL. And no agency that oversees the GAL. There is no tracking or public disclosure of complaints against a GAL. And no effective means to report problems with a GAL, let alone to have your complaint heard.
*Verbal abuse, intimidation and trying to pressure witnesses and parents
*Children are being harmed due to the failures of a GAL
*Parents are unfairly being deprived of custody with no recourse to regain custody
*GAL talking to a Judge, influencing the Judge, socializing with the Judge or other Court Officers outside of work
*GAL refuses to accept evidence, interview witnesses, review documentation or conduct home visits
*Once a judge rules against you, there is no real oversight for parents

Georgia State Child Advocate Tanya Boga argues that the system is fair, most GAL are doing their jobs properly and if there is a problem “the judge can remove the Guardian ad Litem”.

Does that make sense to you? You are in court, having problems with a GAL and have to file a complaint with the same Judge who is hearing your case, and who has a long history of working with this Guardian. There is no investigation of your complaint. No record of the complaint being filed. And no advocate or mediator to ensure the parents is part of the complaint process, and that their complaint is actually being heard. Further, the GAL is often appointed, at tax payer’s expense, an attorney to represent their interests while the parent may not have the resources to get legal help. And similarly, the child victim is not appointed an attorney to represent their interests of protect them from Guardian abuse. How can you say the system is Fair when it works against parents and creates victims, who have been abused and traumatized by the Court process?

The guardians protect the judges, and judges protect the guardians ad litem“, Dr. Monty Weinstein, a psychologist and paid expert witness.

Any of this sound familiar??? Stories like this are just one example of the systematic failures within the Family Court system that is destroying families, and putting the lives of vulnerable children at risk. I encourage other news agencies, media outlets, bloggers, watchdog groups etc to investigate and report stories of failures within the Family Court system. By exposing the problems, we can demand justice, and fight for real reform.

 

This is a personal letter for the Guardian ad Litems, Evaluators, social workers, and Judges (etc) who are ordering co-parenting, divorce education, mediation, couples therapy and other professional interventions to compel victims of domestic violence to co-parent or share joint custody with an abuser…written by a victim who has been traumatized after your failed interventions.

Why is it when a victim of abuse flees the relationship, often losing everything she has to do so, the Family Court (and personnel) tells the victim that she needs to better communicate with the abuser? That she has to make it work for the children? That her concerns about safety and continued abuse, harassment, or stalking are not valid–she just needs to learn how to co-parent?

A few thoughts on co-parenting for women involved in domestic violence situation:

*Communication is about equality. It is NOT the victim’s fault that she is unable to communicate with the abuser, or make joint parenting decisions. The problem IS the abuse, and the threatening or dangerous behavior.

It is impossible to communicate with a person who does not see you as a human being, who does not respect your rights, and who has caused physical, emotional or bodily harm to you. There is no “co parenting” in an abusive relationship because the abuser will seek to dominate, control, intimidate and otherwise continue to abuse the victim – even using the children as a pawn to do so.

*It is not safe to attempt mediation, couple’s counseling or joint sessions between a victim of domestic violence & their abuser.

*An abuser will not benefit from classes, mediation, therapy or other interventions until they realize they have a problem, that their actions & words are harmful, and decide to be open to suggestions; and willing accept the need to change.

*According to one study, only 5% of abusers really change.

*A victim won’t be helped by mediation, classes or therapy because she will get the message from the Court that something is “wrong” with her, which creates further victimization. And even if the victim uses all the strategies offered, the abuse will continue–it does not solve the original problem.

*Women leaving domestic violence need support, resources & encouragement to heal from the abuse and rebuild their lives. Safety of the victim and child should be a number one priority — not the rights of an abuser.

*Abusive behavior should have consequences, and should be punishable under the law. Harassment Restraining Orders (HRO) and Orders for Protection (OFP) should be taken seriously. NO Court officer should force any woman who expresses safety concerns into any kind of mediation or couples therapy with an abuser.

*Divorce Education is better suited for families who do not have a history of domestic violence; different interventions are required when families violence, incest, or any kind of threat, intimidation, stalking, controlling behavior or violence involved. In fact, abusers will often manipulate these classes, and the professionals involved to gain leverage.

For Further Reading:

A large part of the reduction in domestic violence homicides had been aided by providing victims with safer ways to leave their abuser. Court decisions, particularly in criminal cases taking domestic violence more seriously sent an important message that society no longer tolerated abusive behavior. The frequent custody decisions supporting abusers have undermined this progress and sent the opposite message.

Domestic violence advocates have told me that they are seeing more mothers staying with their abusers and taking his beatings
because they are afraid the custody court will separate them from their children and they won’t be able to protect them. Of course some of these mothers do not survive this decision. At the same time, custody decisions that minimize the significance or fail to recognize the father’s abuse are sending a terrible
message that society will tolerate this abuse..” Barry Goldstein, “Extreme Custody Decisions that Risk Lives”. http://timesupblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/extreme-custody-decisions-that-risk.html?showComment=1311216123158#c1623428036311340788

What influences women when they are making child custody decisions that will bring them into future contact with a violent or controlling ex-husband? Fear, pragmatism, and the belief–sometimes reinforced in mandated divorce education classes–that their children will suffer if both parents are not in their lives, according to a University of Illinois study in the August Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. ..

And, although experts recommend that abused women be screened out of co-parenting classes, such as the class mandated in the two Missouri counties studied, half of the women in the study were directed to participate in the classes, even though all but one of the women’s attorneys knew there had been violence in the relationship.

‘Many women talked about the influence of that class on their thinking about custody,” said Hardesty. “They’d say, I can’t restrict his involvement with the children because I know it’s bad for the kids if we’re not getting along and both involved in their lives.'” Rick Nauert, Phd. “Co-parenting with an Abusive Ex?” http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/10/06/co-parenting-with-an-abusive-ex/310.html

Co-Parenting with an abusive spouse, Protect yourself and your children. Some tips and things to remember when co-parenting with an abusive ex-spouse can be found at this blog: http://coparenting101.org/2010/10/part-2-co-parenting-with-an-abusive-ex-spouse/

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What are YOUR thoughts? Please post below