When Family Court Fails to Recognize Domestic Violence

The family court system often fails to adequately address the issues, and needs, of families who have been impacted by domestic violence. Domestic violence is a serious problem that harms families and individual lives, and has a devastating impact on society as a whole.  This is made worse when family court rulings allow abuse to continue, and empower abusers to the detriment of families, and children.

To properly protect children, and ensure better outcomes for families, it is crucial that family court judges and other professionals have a clear understanding of the nature and dynamics of domestic violence, and are educated on how abuse presents itself after separation, and in the legal system. 

Statistics About Domestic Violence:

The Department of Justice conducted a 10 year study on non-fatal domestic violence (2003-2012) and found that domestic violence accounts for 21% of all crime, and current or former intimate partners commit the most violence. It has been a long-established fact that leaving an abuser is the most dangerous time for a victim, the study confirms the rates of violence are greater for those who were separated or divorced, compared to other groups surveyed. 

Domestic violence perpetrated by intimate partners or immediate family members was reported to the police 56% of the time. Studies on domestic violence have found often women do not report abuse until after separation because they are now receiving support, or feel they are in a safe place to report the abuse.

A separate study reports that an estimated 3.2 million American children witness incidents of domestic violence annually. Further, “Research also indicates that child maltreatment happens in 30-60% of families where domestic violence is present. Men who batter their wives are more likely than non-violent men to also abuse their children. Studies have found that between 23 and 70 percent of men who batter their partners also abuse their children, and one study estimated that 50 percent of battered women have been abused while stopping their partner from abusing the children. Research also shows that women who are abused by intimate partners are more likely to abuse, neglect or use aggressive disciplinary behaviors.“(MCADSV).

Why Are Family Court Professionals Failing to Recognize Domestic Violence?

There are many reasons why family court professionals fail to recognize domestic violence – some reasons are based on the incompetence or corruption of individuals, other issues are systemic in nature. 

In general, it has been found that family court professionals are not properly trained to recognize domestic violence, and not trained to recognize how abusive behavior manifests in a legal setting. The family court professional may have just a limited understanding of domestic violence, or may rely on their own interpretation to guide them. In addition, the family court professional may not be aware of existing laws that define domestic violence, or may not be knowledgeable about existing child custody laws and what they say about pertinent issues.  Family court judges may also ask court professionals (GALs, evaluators, therapists, supervised visitation facilitators, etc) to take on roles or tasks that are beyond their duty, or their skill level – which creates another set of problems. 

Context is also important to understanding and recognizing domestic violence, how it has affected the children, and how it has affected the family dynamic as a whole. Along with lack of education and training on domestic violence issues, comes a general bias of what constitutes a “fit” parent or a “better parent”. An abuser is often adept at conning people, or gaining sympathy, and can win the trust and support of a family court professional while turning that same person against their ex partner.  If the professional minimizes, ignores or negates concerns about domestic violence, the victim is not seen as credible, and the context changes from understanding the abuse to now designating one parent as the “problem”. 

Other failures result when family court judges are overwhelmed with caseloads and working under a constrained budget, with limited resources available. As a result, judges often rely on their own personal beliefs to guide difficult decisions. Other judges “rubber stamp” recommendations made by Guardians, evaluators, and mediators (and other professionals) without a second thought to the unique needs of the family, or the safety concerns of those involved.


Common Signs that the Family Court Does Not Understand Domestic Violence:

Some common signs the family court professionals (judge, Guardian ad Litem, attorney, therapist, mediator, etc) does not recognize domestic violence include (but are not limited to):

  • An abuse victim is told to  “communicate” with a former abuser, even if it endangering personal safety or that of the children. Communication may result in emotional or psychological abuse, threats or intimidating behavior. The court professionals not only ignore concerns for the safety of the victim, but will imply, directly state or take action that failure to communicate with an abuser will result in loss of custody and/or visitation or other punitive action. 
  • An abuse victim being to told to “cooperate” or “co-parent” in a way that endanger themselves or their children, or in ways that are humiliating or put the victim in a position where they feel powerless to a former abuser.                                                                         The threat is real — statistics from the 10 year Department of Justice study (2o12) found that 77% of domestic violence incidents occurred at or near the victim’s home, and the perpetrators were largely intimate partners or immediate family members.
  • When an abuse victim raises safety concerns, they told by a judge or other family court professional that that their concerns are not valid or are not real or they cannot “prove” abuse has occurred.
  • When an abuse victim raises safety concerns, or speaks about the violence that happened in the home, they are falsely branded as crazy or told they are mentally ill.                          Warning signs you have been given a false mental health diagnosis by family court: The diagnosis does not consider your experience with domestic violence, or ignores evidence you have about the abuse. The diagnosis is vague or nondescript. The diagnosis was not made by a medical professional (may be implied or stated by a GAL, evaluator, or opposing counsel etc). The diagnosis is made by someone you do not trust or do not feel comfortable with. You were forced to go with a certain provider, and had little say in choosing a provider, or the recommendations made by your therapist were ignored. The diagnosis conflicts with the assessment, reports and/or testing by a treating physician or therapist. The diagnosis is not supported by credible medical evidence. The patient has no symptoms of the diagnosis. The patient is stable, and generally is doing well in their everyday life, with little or no impairments (some allowance should be made for the stress of continued litigation, and separation from children). The court refers patients to the same providers or therapists over and over again – there is a pattern of diagnosis, and treatment. If any of this is happening to you – it is advisable to seek legal help or counsel to find out if there any remedies available to you.
  • A victim of abuse is forced into mental health treatment, co-parenting classes, family therapy (etc) they do not need, while the abuser is never held accountable, never mandated to get treatment for their violent behavior.
  • The family court professionals ignores, denies or rejects protective orders, or protection offered through state address confidentiality programs. Many victims report family court judges will dismiss or throw out their protective orders.
  • Evidence, documentation, witness statements, medical reports and other credible evidence are not take seriously, are ignored or dismissed.
  • Children are put in harm’s way or are actually harmed after the court professional has ignored a past history of domestic violence or child abuse. This usually happens when a child is allowed into unsupervised contact with a former abuser, transitions from one parent to another are also a common place where there is a high risk of danger.
  • A parent is punished for taking legal action to protect their children, or to raise concerns about abuse. Punishment can include: monetary fines, jail, loss of visitation with child, loss of custody of children, forced medical or psychiatric treatment where success is viewed as compliance with the court or staying silent about concerns, judges refusing to hear motions, delay on issuing rulings or requested court documents, etc.

There is also a prevalent attitude that occurs along with these actions – that the couple is “high conflict” or engaged in mutual tensions, because the court professional does not recognize the power, control and intimidation tactics coming from just one side – that of the abuser.

Lucy, writing for “Turning Point”, an organization that offers support and services for victims of domestic and sexual violence in Wisconsin, wrote an article on the struggles abuse victims face when involved in family court litigation, and the professionals do not recognize domestic violence, or support survivors. Lucy is herself a domestic violence survivor who has been involved in family court. She says, “And, here in my home state of Wisconsin, where refusal to communicate with the other parent is a factor in determining custody and placement, domestic violence victims may feel that they have no choice, but to cooperate.

It’s a notion that confounds me.

In no other context would we ever expect the victim of a rape or physical assault to sit down in a confined space and talk through her “differences” with her perpetrator. And yet, that’s what’s expected of domestic violence victims.”

What Can Be Done to Improve Family Court’s Response to Domestic Violence?

The legal system has sought to improve the court’s response to domestic violence in the criminal courts, family court has largely been untouched as far as systemic reform.

So what can be done? The issue is complex, and I do not mean to imply that I have all of the answers… but to begin the discussion, here are some ideas.

** Require specialized training on domestic violence, the dynamics of abuse and relevant laws for family court professionals. Also require regular, updated continuing education classes on required topics such as domestic violence, legal abuse, child development, ethics and boundaries, etc.

** The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is a great place to go for research, educational articles and training assistance. http://www.ncjfcj.org

There is also an article that may be particularly helpful: A Judicial Guide to Safety in Child Custody Cases

This guide offers education about domestic violence with insight on the behavior of an abuser, and victim of abuse. It gives tips on handling domestic violence cases and ways to ensure the safety of the parties, and children, and more. Also includes a supplemental guide and bench cards follow a judge’s decision-making from the initial filing through drafting and enforcing the order.

** Conduct an independent system wide audit of family court to determine its needs, areas of improvement, and to offer a way (anonymously) for litigants to provide feedback. The audit should result in a written report that outlines all areas that were reviewed, and identifies the strengths and weakness in the family court. Review the progress of the court in following recommendations. 

** Sponsor legislation that creates a presumption against joint custody when domestic violence or child abuse is present. For joint custody to be successful, parents need to be able to work together as equal is child rearing – which is impossible for abusers who use joint custody as as a way to exert power and control, or retaliate against, a former partner.

** Make the safety of children the key goal of the best interest factors (this has already been implemented in Canada, under The Family Law Act).

** Require family dispute resolution practitioners to screen for violence to ensure the processes used are appropriate (this has already been implemented in Canada, under The Family Law Act).

** Model best practices, and family court procedures after what is currently being used in a Domestic Violence Court

** Increase accountability for judges, judicial officers, GAL and other family court professionals


~ Emily Court, 2015

Additional Sources:

Department of Justice; Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003-2012” by  Jennifer L. Truman, Ph.D., and Rachel E. Morgan, Ph.D., published April 2014: Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003–2012

Lucy’s story: Co-Parenting Counseling – A No-Win Sitch For Domestic Violence Victims

Supporting Battered Mothers Protects Children: Reducing the Effects of Domestic Violence on Children” An MCADSV Report to the Missouri Children’s Services Commission, 2011: Supporting Battered Mothers Protects Children

Witnessing Domestic Violence: The Effect on Children” by Melissa M. Stiles, M.D., Am Fam Physician. 2002: Witnessing Domestic Violence: The Effect on Children


Posted in Family Court Injustice, Family Court News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guardian ad Litem Tells Abuse Victim: “..Do Not Exhibit Fear”

Another horror story from the bowels of family court…

Guardian ad Litem, Jamie Manning, has intentionally ignored the history of domestic abuse in my family, and ongoing concerns for my children’s safety and well being, when making her recommendations to the Court about custody and parenting time.

Public Domain Image

When appointed to my case as GAL, Ms. Manning has told me to stop raising concerns about my children and actively worked to give the allegedly abusive father sole custody. In essence, Ms. Manning was representing my former partner – NOT my children.

Further, it is not the job of a Guardian ad Litem to directly make parenting time decisions, but rather to conduct and independent investigation and give recommendations to the Court. In my case, Ms. Manning became the “gatekeeper” to my children, and her word was the single authority deciding when, if and how I would see my children. Ms. Manning’s abuses of power in her role as GAL has caused real harm to my children, and put me back in a position of being controlled by my former abuser, who now has sole custody and the sole authority to decide my parenting time beyond the one visit a month I am allowed (Ms. Manning’s idea).

This e-mail Ms. Manning sent me in 2009 shows her power in determining my parenting time, and also includes comments that she did not believe me when I informed her of the family history of abuse (which is supported by documentation), and instead directs me to co-parent with my abuser “in a positive and non-conflictual manner” (see e-mail in full at the bottom of this post):

Ms. Manning:My only concern is that you do not exhibit fear of M– in front of the children.  This behavior is confusing to the children. 

 M– has not exhibited threatening behavior towards you that I am aware of since my involvement with your family in July of 2007.  

 I am pleased that the two of you appear to be improving your ability to discuss the children and work together for their best interests. 

 It is important for the children to observe the two of you communicating in a positive and non-conflictual manner.”


My daughter wrote this in school: “I wish dad was nice to mom”

As my parenting time was being stripped away, and my children continued to struggle in their father’s care, I wrote this e-mail to Ms. Manning, outlining my concerns.  I also wrote that “I am not afraid of my abuser” because I felt I needed to appease Ms. Manning in order to continue a relationship with my children. The e-mail also includes several recent events that led me to feel unsafe due to the actions of my abuser, all of these incidents involved my children or happened in front of my children. (I am including excerpts only to protect the privacy of my minor children).

Does this make sense? I have to prove that I am not afraid of my abusive ex partener and am willing to co-parent even while the abuser is continuing to harass me, and inflict harm where he can. I struggle comprehend this twisted version of reality that Ms. Manning has imposed on me, but will never accept it.

Part of my e-mail to Ms. Manning says the following:


I have been compliant with the court order, and it is my intention to remain so.

Since September 2008, on at least 3 separate occasions M— has volunarily, by his own intitative, allowed me brief, unsupervised contact and conversations with the children. If M– had any concerns, his behavior does not indicate it. On all occasions, the children were happy to see me, and my behavior was appropriate.

It should be noted that both children had prior knowledge that they were going to live with M–, and DJ wrote me a letter weeks before the court order that said “Good Buy Mommy“. JJ specifically told me “I am going to live with my dad. That’s sad ‘cuz you won’t have any children anymore.” And “I am going to live with my dad for 9 days.” You had knowledge that JJ made this comment about “9 days” , Jamie, because I heard you mention it when we went to court.

I do not “exhibit fear” in front of the children. In fact, while in my care the children have maintained their relationship with their father.

If I have concerns about M–, I do not bring them to you Jamie because you told me that I am “painting a bad picture of M–” and that you do not believe my allegations of abuse. Thankfully, I have a supportive network of friends, family and church/social groups that I can freely talk to, and who will be there for me. I do not want to have conflict with you. I would rather find a peaceful way of taking care of my children, and ensuring their best interest. “

Truth — You cannot co-parent with someone who is abusive, controlling and treats you like an object, not a human being.   Further, when an abuse victim escapes the relationship, the abuse often continues; abuse is not always physical but can take a variety of forms. One form of ongoing abuse is called “Domestic Violence by Proxy” which means the abuser uses the children as a weapon to threaten, harm or gain control of the victim he no longer has access to.

After winning sole custody (with Ms. Manning’s help), the abuser has admitted in open court that he “will not co-parent” and is now working to alienate my children from me. His justification? He points to the court record, and Ms. Manning’s recommendation of him.

I am sharing my horrific experiences of dealing with Ms. Jamie Manning because I have since learned that I am not the only parent who has been harmed and wrongfully deprived of my children due Ms. Manning’s unprofessional conduct, and reckless disregard to the GAL Rules of Procedure. Parents, concerned family members and interested parties need to work together to raise awareness, and work towards reforming the deeply flawed GAL program.

The State GAL Board needs to take the complaints of victimized parents and children seriously, and formally investigate Ms. Manning. If Ms. Manning has been found to have violated her duties (and I believe there is overwhelming evidence to prove this has happened), she should be immediately discharged from her position. Families are being destroyed, and children’s lives are at stake. The State GAL Board should act to protect the children involved.

There is a group of Minnesota parents who have been involved in family court litigation who are working together to reform the GAL program, called “A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger”. A Call to Action has worked hard to present their concerns to the MN State GAL Board, and ask for revisions in the complaint process (for those seeking to raise a complaint against a GAL). I am sharing the link for more info, and also in case anyone needs support or wants to help make a positive change. A Call to Action ~ Together We Are Stronger

Several members of “A Call to Action” have Ms. Manning as their Guardian ad Litem, their experiences were written about in an article published by City Pages called “The Proxy”: SEPARATED FROM THEIR KIDS, PARENTS UNITE AGAINST ONE COURT GUARDIAN

— Emily Court

From:  Manning, Jamie (Jamie.Manning@courts.state.mn.us)
Sent: Sun –/-/09 6:21 PM
To: –@–.com

The Court’s Order states that your parenting time “may be expanded by the Guardian ad Litem.”  I will check to see if the children’s schedule would allow for a Wednesday visit.  I’m glad that the telephone contact has been going well.  I think it is just fine that you attend DJ’s event.  My only concern is that you do not exhibit fear of M– in front of the children.  This behavior is confusing to the children.  M– has not exhibited threatening behavior towards you that I am aware of since my involvement with your family in July of 2007.  I am pleased that the two of you appear to be improving your ability to discuss the children and work together for their best interests.  It is important for the children to observe the two of you communicating in a positive and non-conflictual manner. 

I will try to contact M– this week to further discuss an expanded schedule.  I have been in contact with the children’s therapists and school.  It is my understanding that JJ is being assessed for issues related to her speech.  Hopefully we can talk this week as I will be away from my desk beginning this Thursday until the following Wednesday.

J. Manning ”

Rules of GAL Procedure (MN) Effective Jan 1, 2007


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Review: “The Wounds Time Won’t Heal” by Martin H. Teicher (How Child Abuse Impacts Development, Causes Brain Damage)

When I came across the article, “The Wounds Time Won’t Heal”, it answered many of the concerns I have about my own two children, who are victims of child abuse, and who have experienced significant trauma in their lives.

I went back to family court recently, and had to prove a “significant change” in order to ask for the relief outlined in my motion. One of the things the judge said to me is, “How do I know that what you are reporting is not just the special needs the children have?” The answer should have been obvious — my children have not been diagnosed with a serious mental illness or chemical imbalance. Their symptoms, and poor functioning, are a direct result of their history, and current dysfunctional environment (abusive father has sole custody). My daughter is diagnosed with “anxiety” and she is growing worse, not improving in her father’s care. In my care, my daughter normalizes. Recently, my daughter has had violent outbursts in school – which has never happened before this year. The abusive ex is refusing psychological testing for my son, I believe because he wants to cover up the abuse. My son has spoken out about the abuse in the past, and has been diagnosed with PTSD. My son, also, is growing worse in his father’s care. The school has reported that if my son does not get help, they fear that in his future he may end up in jail. This is the most heartbreaking, painful experience any parent could endure. My children are suffering, and I am being prevented from supporting them or offering any kind of help. 

If this court order is in the “best interest” of my children, why aren’t they improving?

And what is really happening with my children – who show various behavioral and emotional symptoms?

I am just one parent of countless other facing similar concerns… Dr. Teicher offers valuable insight for us, as well as for the court officers and professionals working with our children.

The Wounds That Time Won’t Heal


In his article, “The Wounds that Time Won’t Heal”, developmental neuropsychiatrist Martin H. Teicher reveals how abuse negatively impacts child’s development, and can even cause permanent damage to a child’s brain. Teicher states, “Our research (and that of other scientists) delineates a constellation of brain abnormalities associated with childhood abuse.” and ,”Childhood trauma is not a passing psychological slight that one can choose to ignore. Even if the abused person comes to terms with the traumatic memories and chooses (for the sake of sanity) to forgive the perpetrator, this will not reverse the neurobiological abnormalities.”

Researchers are finding that the effects of abuse and neglect on young, even psychological abuse (where there are no bruises), causes a lasting negative impact on brain development. The brain abnormalities caused by abuse may account for abnormal personality traits and other debilitating psychological symptoms.

A victim may experience inward and outward symptoms as a result of abuse, or both.When the victim turns their fear, shame, confusion and hopelessness inward, they often experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD. If the victim turns their fear outwards, they experience aggression, hyperactivity, impulsiveness and drug/alcohol addiction. Sometimes the victim may repeat the abuse they experienced or witnessed onto others.

Childhood trauma also causes a range of psychosomatic symptoms (that involve both body and mind). Including somatoform disorder where a patient experiences physical pain and symptoms with no known cause, these symptoms are directly related to trauma. Victims can develop anxiety and panic disorders. Some victims regress, which means when triggered by trauma they revert to a behavior from an early stage of life where they felt safe. Often the victim may appear infantile, they will crawl or hide under furniture, they may not speak but instead babble or cry, sometimes they curl up in a ball or throw tantrums/fits of rage.

Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) causes a victim to re-experience the trauma–usually after they are triggered by a specific reminder. Not only does the trauma play in their mind but their body chemically responds, also going back to that place of trauma. The reminders can happen in the day during vivid flashbacks or, at night with nightmares or panic attacks. PTSD has a variety of symptoms including (but not limited to): feeling numb, becoming extra sensitive to stimuli (hyper arousal), outbursts of anger, avoiding the places or reminders of trauma, losing interest in things you once enjoyed, exaggerated startle response, feeling disconnected and depression.

For example, When I escaped the abuse, my son was 6 years old. He suffered from such severe PTSD that when triggered, he would pound his head on the wall or hit his head with his fists. When I asked my son why he did this, he said, “The pain feels better than the memories.” And, “If I do this, I won’t remember anymore.”

Researchers are discovering that abuses causes neurological damage, even without a physical blow to the head. Studies show that abuse victims have abnormal brain waves, some suffer from seizures, or somatic disorder. Dr. Teicher says, “My hypothesis is that the trauma of abuse induces a cascade of effects, including changes in hormones and neurotransmitters that mediate development of vulnerable brain regions.”

Teicher believes that our society, and government, should take a strong stand, followed by actions, to prevent child abuse. His ideas include: tracking statistics about child abuse in order to implement programs and policy better able to support families, and prevent abuse. Making after school programs and day care programs for children more available. Increased education for the public, and professionals alike.

Teicher’s article has taught me alot, and I highly recommend it.

— Emily Court



Posted in Abuse Allegations & Documentation, Child Abuse | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Song for Survivors: Impossible by Shontelle

You are stronger than you even realize… 

A song, and video, for all survivors: “Impossible” by Shontelle.

Shontelle told the story behind the song to J-14 Magazine: “I really felt like ballads were missing from radio for a minute, and I knew that there was no song out there for heartbroken people. I just wanted to put a song out that gave people hope – things may not work out the way you want them to, but you can move past it and everything is gonna be okay. I know that a lot of people have a similar story and sometimes you need to feel like you’re not alone. I knew that I might have to tell embarrassing stories about myself, but I might help someone realize, ‘Okay, if Shontelle can figure it out, then I’ll be alright.’ It’s not the end of the world – you can move on, and this is song is going to help you find the strength somehow.”

My thoughts:

This video tells the story of a young woman (played by Shontelle) leaving a bad (emotionally abusive) relationship to start her life over. The video shows how the woman was controlled, and not allowed to express herself – or be her own person. You can see the progression as the emotional abuse escalates, and at times the fights become nearly physical – which is what often happens in abusive relationships. You can also see the boyfriend’s selfish behavior in that he is partying, and having fun, while his girlfriend is miserable and kept from her own happiness.

What I thought was interesting is that in order to break free from this relationship, this woman left a comfortable life, and was showing staying in a hotel, that for a time she struggled. But when she was singing, she was shown in a white background with light shining all around her body; which to me symbolized hope, that no matter how bad things are at the moment, they will get better.

– Emily Court, 2015

Music video by Shontelle performing Impossible. (C) 2010 Universal Records, a Division of UMG Recordings, Inc. and SRC Records, Inc.

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Aaden Moreno Murdered After Court Fails to Issue Protective Order – Judge Pinkus instructs Victim to “work out a parenting plan”

Middletown, Connecticut: A 7 month old infant was killed by his father just a few weeks after a Court failed to give the mother (and applicant) a permanent restraining order. The Judge also told the victim to co-parent with her abuser. When she did so, the father gained access to the child, and killed him. 

Listen to what the judge’s reason for denying the protective order..During a hearing on June 29, 2015, Judge Barry C. Pinkus offered these words in Court to Adrianne Oyola (19), mother seeking a permanent protective order for herself and her 7 month old child, Aaden: “I’m not convinced that there’s a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury.

I just think the two of you don’t have a good relationship and you need to get – somebody needs to go downstairs and file a custody application, and you need to work out a parental rights agreement..

I’m not satisfied that this-that he’s-that you’re in imminent fear, in imminent harm that he’s going to come over, and you know, cause you physical harm or physical violence… 

Judge Barry C. Pinkus went on to say that both parties were acting like “children”, basically making the abuser and the victim of abuse equal (which is victim blaming)and that they just need to grow up, and learn to co-parent. Just a few weeks later, Aadan was murdered by his father, Tony Moreno (21). 

Adrianne Oyola (19), mother, filed a restraining order on June 17th against her abusive ex partner, Tony Moreno (21), claiming that he hit her, threatened her life and told her that he could make their 7 month old son, Aaden, “disappear any time of the day“. Adrianne received a temporary restraining order at the time of the application.

On the June 29 the temporary order was reviewed, to see if Adrianne qualified for a permanent order. Adrianne Oyola testified to Judge Pinkus that her ex partner, Tony, was physically abusive, emotionally abusive, and controlling. Adrianne also testified that Tony would physically take her son, Aaden, in order to control her. Tony allegedly would use his body as a barrier between Aaden, so that she could not get access to him or protect him. She says that Tony fractured her ankle. She also claims that Tony violated the temporary restraining order by having a friend contact her, stating that Tony’s mom is sick and wants to see Adrianne and the baby. When the “friend” went to pick Adrianne and Aaden up, she did not see the mom but was instead confronted by Tony, who was attempting to intimidate her to drop the restraining order. After the break-up, Adrianne reported that she felt Tony was watching her, and that he knew where her sister was even when she, herself, did not know. Tony then allegedly texted Adrianne telling her where the sister is.

Tony responds that Adrianne “throws temper tantrums” and is out of control, insinuating she is a danger to him.

Since the restraining order was not continued, Adrianne attempted to work out a custody agreement, privately, with Tony.

On July 5, text messages before the murder clearly show that Adrianne was attempting to co-parent with Tony in the moments before Aaden was killed, as instructed by Judge Perkus to “work out a parenting plan where you know when the baby will be with mommy and when the baby will be with daddy” and “the two of you need to figure this out for the sake of your child” and “if you want your child to grow up healthy and be well, you need to grow up with each other as adults, and you’re not doing that right now. You’re dealing with each other like you’re children.

An excerpt of the text messages reads:

“11:41 T to A: You tried to take him away from me. You failed. I didn’t
11:42 T to A: Enjoy your life without us now
11:42 A to T: Where are you?!
11:43 A to T: Tony I’m trying to make this co parent thing work!
11:44 T to A: Your not a parent anymore

That same night, Tony took Aaden and  jumped from the Arrigoni Bridge between Middletown and Portland, Connecticut. Tony survived 120-foot fall from the bridge, and Aaden did not. Aaden Moreno’s lifeless body was found in the river downstream in East Haddam, Connecticut. Tony remains in stable condition at the hospital.

Domestic Violence by Proxy is the term used to describe what happens when an abuser no longer has access to a victim, so he will intimidate,  control, threaten or seek retaliation against their former partner by using the child as a weapon. Some abusers hurt the child in order to inflict hurt and pain on their former partner. Some children, like Aaden, are murdered.

Courts have a crucial role in protecting women and children from the threat of violence by recognizing the signs of abuse, and taking legal action to protect victims. State Sen. Mae Flexer issued a strong statement against the court’s failings, “This tragedy was preventable and I am again calling for increased training requirements for all judges and court personnel who work with victims of domestic violence. For years I have been working to increase training requirements for judges and any such requirements have been met with great resistance by the Judicial Branch. Failure to protect this baby when the signs were so clear is unacceptable.

Read More: 

6/29/2015 Restraining Order Hearing in Superior Court Oyola v. Moreno: Restraining Order Hearing

Body of child missing after dad jumps off Conn. bridge located

Mother Feared For Child’s Safety, Records Show

Text messages reveal final moments before baby Aaden’s death

Aaden Moreno. Source: WCBV 5 ABC News





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Healthy Attachments are Crucial to Outcomes for Children

Attachment is the outcome or result of the way a child is cared for early in life, and is connected to a child’s development, and their well-being as an adult. 

John Bowlby (1907-1990), a British psychoanalyst, developed the theory of attachment when studying the distress infants experience when separated from parents. Bowlby noticed that separated infants would go to great lengths to prevent separation from a parent, or to regain contact. Children who feel secure in their parent’s love and care feel better about themselves, and approach the world with more confidence. 

“A parent, however, is not only the child’s first teacher, but also their first caregiver. Mothers and fathers influence their children’s development, not only through the resources they invest in their children and the linguistic and cognitive stimulation they offer, but also through the attachment or bond they forge with their children.” (The Conversation, March 2014)

Theories about attachment state that healthy, positive social and emotional development in a child depend on sensitive and responsive care giving. The first 3 years of a child’s life are crucial in developing healthy attachment. The care and nurturing that a parent gives a child creates a foundation that a child will use to learn, grow and eventually take into their own adult lives; in a positive or negative way. Attachment also shapes a child’s relationships with others in their lives – family, peers, teachers, etc


A healthy or secure attachment happens when a parent is available most of the time to meet the needs of the child, and is responsive to those needs. Attachment happens in everyday life – picking a baby up when he cries, reading a bedtime story, playtime and providing a child with affection and positive feedback, are all common ways secure attachments are formed. To develop a secure attachment it is crucial that the care and nurturing is consistent. 

In a secure attachment, the child is assured that the parent will meet their needs. A secure attachment also involves the child’s ability to reach the parent if they need comfort or help. Another component is that if the child expresses a negative emotion they are safe to do so, with that parent.

The elements of healthy attachments between parent and child include a child who feels safe with the parent, engaging in close (physical) contact, sharing discoveries or experiences, forming emotional connections and consistent (predictable) contact.

Children who have a secure attachment are better able to socialize with others, have a more stable mood and behavior, and are more likely to explore and engage in the world around them.


There are also insecure or unhealthy attachments. Insecure attachments happen when children are abused, ignored, rejected or neglected by parents. Parents who are insensitive or highly critical to children may also create an insecure attachment.

There are two main types of insecure attachment:

Avoidant: This happens when a parent minimizes, ignores or rejects a child. In turn, a child will minimize or ignore their own needs, and avoid a parent when that parent seems upset or distressed.

Disorganized: This happens when a parent does not provide consistent care for a child. A parent seems overwhelmed or expect the child to take care of adult responsibilities (that the parent avoids). As a result, the child will exaggerate or amp up their behavior and emotions to get the parent to notice them. The child will be unable to handle their own distress or feelings.

Children who have insecure attachments often experience anxiety or fear, and often suffer from a variety of emotional and behavioral problems. Insecure attachment create a greater risk of significant delays in speech and language, physical growth, and social and emotional development. The effects are devastating on children, and often create lifelong consequences.


The strongest predictor for a child who has an unhealthy attachment is having a parent who lacks a secure attachment, themselves. However, a secure attachment with one parent can offset the damage of an insecure attachment with the other parent. 

I would also argue that parental alienation and Domestic Violence by Proxy (when an abusive parent uses a child as a means to control, intimidate or hurt the other parent) creates an unhealthy attachment. Not only is that child affected by the dysfunctional behavior of their primary parent (who is also engaging in abusive, alienating behavior) but the child is also deeply affected by the loss of the “targeted parent”, and is being brainwashed to hate or reject that parent.  Signs of unhealthy attachment will be visible in children who experience alienation.

Another problem occurs when the attachment is disrupted – meaning a child is estranged with a parent or if there is inconsistent contact. In some cases, a parent is responsible for lack of contact with a child. In other cases, the estrangement may be due to parental alienation, court orders reducing or limiting parental contact, changing court orders, parental kidnapping, or domestic violence/family safety issuesl.

In these situations, it is difficult to improve the relationship if your contact with the child is restricted or non-existent, or similarly, if the child is rejecting the parent.

How to understand this? According to Dr. Craig Childress, “Your child loves you with all their heart.  You are the world to them.  They are lost.  They are living in a psychologically dangerous world of ever-changing truth and reality.  They must do what it takes to survive in the dangerous psychological world of living with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

Dr Craig Childress, Psy. D, has introduced a model of parental alienation, based on attachment theory called “pathogenic parenting”. The Childress model relies on accepted, standard, scientific psychological principles and constructs; it connects the dots between the family functioning, the personality disorder (of a parent engaging in pathogenic parenting), and attachment. In the Childress theory, what is commonly known as parental alienation is an “attachment trauma” that is passed down from one generation to the next, and severely impacts the child.

Dr. Childress’s work is really insightful, and I have found to be helpful. He also includes recommendations on his site on how to identify pathogenic parenting, insights for targeted parents, and advice for psychologists and family courts.

You can read more on his blog: Dr. Craig Childress Blog




*Developmental Delays


*Difficulty expressing thoughts, feelings and emotion

*Difficulty interpreting what they need

*Difficulty making decisions

* Fear

*Internalizing (Anxiety, Sadness, Guilt, Blame, Shame)

*Poor health



*Attention Seeking Behaviors. Risky behaviors that endanger self or others.

* Avoidance (withdrawing from a parent, rejecting a parent)

*Developmental Delays

* Dismissive (suppressing thoughts and feelings, ability to repress or deny a bond with another person, may seem cold or unemotional), Dismissive in relationships with others

* Externalizing Problems (Aggression, Defiance, Hyperactivity, Rebellion)

* “Fear without a solution”, meaning a child becomes anxious or upset when an abusive caregiver enters, and for a short time, displays bizarre or unusual behavior. Fear without a solution is predictive of abuse and/or maltreatment.

(For example: My child was in supervised visitation with abusive father. Father enters room with a cup of hot cocoa for the child. The child becomes visibly anxious, hyperactive, loud, then dumps out the hot cocoa and spills it all over the table and herself. When I picked my child up, thankfully she was not burned but there was cocoa on her clothing, on her arms and chest, and in her hair).

*Increase in youth crime, delinquency (often related to externalizing problems)

*Low Self Esteem

*Poor language development



*Difficulty communicating with others

*Difficulty expressing thoughts, feelings and emotion

*Difficulty making decisions

*Difficulty trusting others, making friends

* Dismissive (suppressing thoughts and feelings, ability to repress or deny a bond with another person, may seem cold or unemotional), Dismissive in relationships with others

*Educational troubles or struggles in school



*Lack in social skills



*Positive community involvement – Spiritual support, Attending community events (celebrations, classes, library events, cultural celebrations, etc), Volunteering, Community Garden, Mentoring etc

*Court orders encourage frequent contact between children and parents (unless parent is found to be unfit or abusive).

*Courts stop awarding custody to abusive or unfit parents

*Family therapy or individual counseling

*Increase involvement early childhood education or parenting support programs

*Involve positive adults in the care of your child – family members, friends, spiritual support, play groups, clubs or sports etc

*Reaching out for support or help, when needed

*Take time everyday to spend with your child – playing, reading, enjoying special activities, sharing meals etc.

*If estranged from your child, there may be ways to maintain a connection but keep in contact with the ways available to you (if possible) – text, Skype, e-mail, phone, letters, visits etc

*Don’t vent, express frustrations or take adult issues out on your children

*Do not speak negatively about the other parent in front of your child, or use the child as a messenger

There are many programs that do assist needy or at-risk families, some government funded others are charitable or private organizations. To get a list of resources, you may consider calling United Way 211. United Way 211


This is a difficult subject, and I do not claim to have all the answers… but let’s continue the discussion. Please post your thoughts, comments below or leave additional links. Thank you!

— Emily Court, 2015


Ludwig F, Lowensten, P.h.D., Southern England Psychological Services, 2008: Attachment Theory and Parental Alienation

Sutton Trust research by Sophie Moullin, Jane Waldfogel, and Elizabeth Washborook, March 2014: Baby Bonds: Parenting, Attachment and a Secure Base for Children

The Conversation, March 2014: Bonding with your child matters for their life chances

R. Chris Fraley, University of Illinois: A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research


Posted in Abuse Allegations & Documentation, Child Abuse, Parental Alienation/DV by Proxy, Parenting Tips and Articles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Question (and the Song) “For the Love of a Daughter” – Parenting After Divorce / Separation

My daughter JJ will be having her birthday soon…and I probably will not be allowed an additional visit on her actual birthday. Since I only get one visit a month (due to an unjust court order), I will be forced to cram a whole month of missed events, family celebrations, holidays and my daughter’s birthday… all in one day.

My daughter deserves better than this.

My daughter deserves to have a whole day dedicated to her. I would tell JJ stories of the events surrounding my pregnancy and her birth. That when I was pregnant her brother DJwould play with her, still in my womb. I vividly remember when DJ brought out his plastic farm animals — cows, horses, sheep and pigs, balancing each one on my belly. DJ would giggle as he watched my huge belly roll and bounce from his unborn sister, who kicked the plastic animals off my belly one by one. DJ’s small voice chirped, “Say moo!” Or, “The pig says oink! oink!

My daughter deserves to spend her birthday with her mother, it is my job to guide and nurture JJ as she grows into a young lady. A mother has a purpose no other can fulfill. For a female child, a mother imparts wisdom and role modeling that is vital to her development, and sense of self.

For example, a profound bonding occurs between mother and daughter during “dress up”. On her birthday, JJ would dress up in a pretty dress; and I would straighten her hair into long waves. JJ’s closet is lined with dresses that she has not had a chance to wear. There is the maxi dress with rainbow colored zebra print, and trimmed with cotton lace from Justice (her favorite store). A frilly red party dress trimmed with ruby sequins. The purple velvet dress from Grandpa, with diamonds sprinkled across the front, and a petite bow that ties at the waist. She has dress up jewelry, and no matter what, will try on my high heels. While JJ was getting dressed up, we would chat about anything and everything — family memories, her day in school, her dreams. My toddler, RJ, would barge in the room, wanting to be part of the fun. Choo! Choo! He’d run his train between our legs, climbing up a high heel shoe on his way to the doll castle.

I couldn’t help but to admire how much JJ has grown, and to mourn all that I have missed. 

A song has come to mind lately, as I am dealing with my daughter’s birthday and our estrangement due to parental alienation, “For the Love of a Daughter” by Demi Lovato. In this song, Demi pours her heart out, expressing the pain of her parent’s divorce, “Four years old with my back to the door, All I could hear was the family war..” “For the Love of a Daughter” is based on Demi’s experiences with alcoholism and abuse from her father, and also her parent’s divorce. 

In the video For the Love of a Daughter, a little girl reveals her pain of being abused, manipulated, lied to and then abandoned by her father, “How could you push me out of your world, Lied to your flesh and your blood, Put your hands on the ones that you swore you loved? Don’t you remember I’m your baby girl?The song is a plea from the little girl  to her father, to remember his love for her. A plea to really change the behaviors that are hurting her so he can be the father she needs. For the Love of a Daughter also exposes the abuse the little girl is experiencing, she needs to tell what happened to her.

Demi wrote this song about her father, whom she became estranged from after her parent’s divorce. Demi hints that her father may have struggled with mental illness and alcoholism, and says “he wasn’t able to function very well in society“. At one point Demi had to keep a distance from her father because the nature of the relationship was hurting her,”You try to have faith in somebody, even when you’re the last person that believes in him. But when somebody lets you down after you’ve been the only one there for them, and so many times, you don’t know what else to do. I had to cut off all connection, it was hurting me too much.” Demi has made peace with her father, who has since passed away. She established a scholarship in his name to help people struggling with mental illness to receive needed treatment.

I see JJ, my little girl in For the Love of a Daughter, as she is being caught in the middle of her father’s dysfunction – who has purposefully, and consciously decided to forcibly separate me from my children (for whatever reason). My children are feeling the brunt of his actions, because parental alienation is robbing my children of their mother, their family, their cultural and religious identity…and taking away the childhood they deserve to experience. Somehow the love of the children has been lost (to my ex, and others like him).

For the Love of a Daughter is a question any parent going through separation or divorce should ask themselves – are my choices, actions and attitudes being done for the love of my child, or for another reason? Watching For the Love of a Daughter will show an example of tremendous pain and lifelong scars inflicted on a child when a parent puts their own selfish desires above the child’s well-being.

But there is also hope! You have tremendous potential to sing a song into your child’s life through your presence and example. If you are a parent struggling with abusive behaviors, family dysfunction or have engaged in alienating behaviors, for the love of your child, seek out needed help, support or treatment. Use the example provided in For the Love of a Daughter to heal, and become a nurturing, healthy part of your child’s life. 

— Emily Court, 2015

Demi Lovato opens up on father’s death: ‘There’s an overwhelming sense of peace’


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