Pets Can Also Be Targets of Abuse – Personal Story

A 2017 study showed that 89% of women who had companion animals during an abusive relationship reported that their animals were threatened, harmed, or killed by their abusive partner.” – Animal Cruelty and Domestic Violence

The Hennepin County Family Court, it’s judges and Guardian ad Litem Jamie Manning, ( The Players Involved) schemed and colluded to give sole custody to a perpetrator of abuse who killed my pet cat as a way to get revenge against me. When I expressed concern of this man due to his behavior and actions, the family court said that speaking about abuse means “I cannot co-parent” and, thus, am not deserving of custody. When the abuser was awarded sole custody, he excluded me from the children’s lives, and interferred in our relationship. He did not “co-parent” but in the eyes of the court that was acceptable. The most recent judge on my case, Margaret A. Daly, basically said she sympathizes with the abuser and supports his actions to alienate the children from their mother, family and cultural background. Judge Daly went on to say that she will never allow me to have a regular visitation schedule with my kids and basically said that I got what I deserve. In addition, Guardian ad Litem Jamie Manning said I should not talk about abuse because “it happened in the past” even as my pet is dead and nothing will bring him back. Watching the Hennepin County Family Court’s failures over the past 14 years of family court litigation has made me an even stronger voice to urge needed reform in the family court system, CPS and the Guardian ad Litem program. 

I fled an absuive relationship in April 2006 after being physically attacked by Martin. My children and I would become homeless as a result, living on the streets and in shelters for almost 2 years until we were able to secure permanent housing. When I fled the house, I was not able to find my pet cat and was forced to leave him behind. When I called to Martin, and asked him to return the cat, he began to threaten that he will “get rid of him” and “take him to the Humane Society to be put to sleep“. Martin seemed to really enjoy the begging and tears, how I pleaded for te return of my pet. Martin said that he “wanted me to know how it felt to be hurt“. It was risky to make that phone call because once Martin discovered where I was staying, he began to harass me.

The drawing above is a representation of my cat, and that terrible time in my life. To this day, I still have nightmares. The picture to the left is one of the few I have of my cat. The other picture is one made by my child to express grief at the loss of our cat. My child glued a picture of a cat on a piece of paper then wrote “Mom Sad” to share feelings.

My cat disappeared, and was last seen in the family home. Martin returned to the home after I fled, and”got ride of” the cat just as he said he would. I never saw my cat alive again.

I had an advocate assisting me, while I was homeless, who volunteered to help locate my cat. He found credible information that shortly after I fled the home, Martin took my cat to the Humane Society where he was euthanized. I remember the advocate telling me the details and showing me a piece of paper from the Humane Society but, honestly, the rest is a blur. I knew my pet was never coming back but I just couldn’t face it. The cat was healthy. He was loved. And he had a home (relatives were willing to take him in). He did not need to die. He should have been in a home where he would be loved and well cared for. I did not even get to say good-bye. I wanted to say I’m sorry. I could not even get to cry because I needed to “prove” to family court that I could co-parent.

And if that is not bad enough, I have to listen to family court judges, a Guardian ad Litem and court professionals defend the person who did this. Listening to Judge Daly’s latest defense of Martin made me so sick that I was forced to leave the ZOOM hearing because I was heaving. As I lay with my head agains the rim of the toilet, the tears and vomit streaming down my face exposed all the things I have been through for the past 14 years… and I knew that no matter how difficult or painful it was, I needed to speak out. The injustice needs to be laid bare in order to fight for real justice.

I have always wanted to write a book about my nightmare experiences in anti-family court. The book would be a collection of memories, stories and photographs from my life. For the past 14 years, this book has slowly been written. Below is one of the chapters, written from the perspective of my cat who experiences abuse at Martin’s hands.  It is a true story. My cat is one of those who cannot speak out; this is my way of honoring his short life.

______________________

I live in my second home for only a short time. I love the two children who live there. They are always happy to see me and scratch my back just the way I like… Until I flip onto my side and fall asleep with a lazy purr on my lips.

The boy shows me the hiding places in the home. At first I think it is a game. I swat at stray toys left in the dusty corners. And scamper after the spiders crawling along with floorboard. I realize it is not a game when the man’s angry voice rumbles through the house, a thunder followed by the resonating boom of a toy being kicked across the room or a small body thrown to the floor. The man yells, “Don’t make me the be the ‘mean Daddy’!” He swears. He smashes the boy’s face into a mirror and tells him that if he keeps it up no one will ever like him, he will spend the rest of his life in jail. But I like the boy and do not understand why the man is so angry. The man chases the boy who runs in one of the hiding places. I curl at his side, my small body is no protection but I can offer a bit of warmth.

 

When it is calm, the woman will call for the boy. She tries to be brave but the slight tremble in her voice betrays fear. She will search all over the house for the boy. But the boy will not come out. Often times he falls asleep, his tawny head curls into my soft, striped fur. In his dreams, the boy is a builder who wears a bright yellow hard hat and blue overalls. He builds a giant house where every day ice-cream is served for dinner; the freezer is stocked with a million flavors: bubble gum, marshmallow mango, chocolate mint truffle … and tasty tuna treasure for me! The house is filled with toys and you never get yelled or hit when you forget to put one away. In this house, it’s okay to run around and be wild, you are never called names or told you are stupid. The man is not allowed inside; the only dragon allowed is the one outside, guarding the door so the man cannot come in. It is a wonderful dream that the boy does not want to wake up from.

The dog is friendly but warns me to run away. The dog is white with black spots, each circle like a target for the man’s rage. When the man is angry, the dog lays on the floor, refusing to move. One in a while she whimpers, a long, sad sound. Her entire body shakes but she will not move. Her brown eyes scan across the room, watching the feet that stomp and fists that flail, but she will not move. Once the man kicked her down the basement stairs. He has shoved her and thrown things at her. Like me, the dog is threatened and called names but when the man is calm again, his fists will ease into hands that pat your head or toss a ball your wall. Sometimes he takes the dog for long walks, and it is like they are best friends again. Like the dog, the entire family follows the commands of the man. Stupid. Sit. Shut up. Smile. Say you’re sorry. Start all over again.

I have happy memories of this family too. The little girl has a large doll house; I love to stretch across the pink, plastic living room floor with my paws peeking through the front door. The little girl does not mind the intrusion, her dolls go about their day – cooking, shopping, dancing – despite the massive fluff of gray and white striped fur laying in the middle of their house. She poses the doll in various positions using me as a couch, a pet for Barbie and even a fur coat.

The boy built a fort with blankets and pillows. He proudly displays the various cars that park in the fort. He is most proud of his “builder” trucks. The cars race around my paws, I swat at each one like they are mechanical mice. The children eagerly, and without reserve, show their love for me. They squeeze me, kiss the top of my head, and sit on me. At night I crawl into bed next to the little girl, finding the softest lump of covers to snuggle into. I love how she smells like strawberry bubble bath, one thumb hangs from her mouth while she sleeps. I even like the dog, who tolerates me as long as I understand that she IS the queen of the house.

What is good and what is bad melt together with this family until you cannot tell one from the other. Happiness electrified with tension – a hysterical, giddy feeling. And highly volatile.

The last memory I have of the family is loud, frantic. A thud. The high-pitched yip of the dog. The Boy screaming over and over again. The man kicked in the door, slamming the brass doorknob into the Boy’s face, blackening his eye. The shallow breathing of the Little Girl, watching this all, her eyes wide. The loud clatter of the phone as it was knocked out of the woman’s hand and fell to the floor. The sounds of struggle. The heavy sound of the woman’s body being dragged out the door followed by a steady thud-thud as her body was swung in the air and slammed to the ground. I hid then. I did not want to see anymore. I will never see my family again. They fled the house with some assorted bags and bundles. The streets will become their home.

When the woman returns to look for me, she will not find me. She will search the hiding places but I will not be there. She will plead, she will cry, asking the man to give me back to her. The man will not relent. He says that he wants her to feel hurt. He says he will “get rid of” me. He threatens to take me to the Humane Society to be “put to sleep”. All of the rage he felt towards her is now inflicted on me. Darkness in my final moments. Dumped into a pile of other forgotten bodies to be incinerated, ground to ash, and no more.

There is another dollhouse I now sleep in. Everyday the sun streams through the windows. Ice-cream is served for dinner every night. I take mine with tuna. The children can run and play, and make as big as a mess as they want without ever getting in trouble. I am pet by small, sticky hands. Hugged by little girls. And rescued by little boys when a dress or bonnet is put on me. The boys are rough but I don’t mind. I ride in their red wagons over hills and bumps. There is laughter when the wagon tips over, and we start all over again. I am happy in this place.

— “Emily Court”

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Court Injustice: Commentary & Repost

The State of Minnesota has a documented history of family court and Guardian ad Litem abuse, corruption, and children being placed in unsafe custody arrangements spanning over 20 years. There are 3 publicly reported cases of children running away after being placed in the custody of an abusive parent. There are, separately, a long history of similar failures being reported in Child Protection Services (and with its Guardian ad Litems).

One of these children, as an adult, aged out of the system and attempted to sue the county for failing to protect her from abuse; the lawsuit was dismissed because officials hide behind immunity.

“In an exclusive interview with this CDN reporter, Annalise Rice described a nightmarish childhood in which she was taken away from her mother without explanation and forced to live with a father who, she alleges, while mostly absent,  she alleges he was abusive when he was present. Rice ran away multiple times, including on incident during which she spent approximately one month on the run with her mother…”  Annalise Rice, 19, describes her Family Court nightmare

My own case in family court has spanned 14 years – one of the longest in Hennepin County. The longest continous family court case, that I am aware of, lasted 15 years, also in Hennepin. This poor family suffered horribly and had the same Guardian ad Litem as I, and at one point, the same family court judge as well. The result was the same in both cases: allegations of abuse ignored, children forced to live with an identified perpetrator of abuse only to be further harmed.

Parents who fight for the safety and well-being of children are punished by the courts who profit from continued litigation.

My case has cost the taxpayers of Minnesota an untold millions of dollars and the result – total devastation. I escaped abuse, becoming homeless with two children after I was physically attacked, only to lose custody to the perpetrator in family court. At the time of the court order, there were over a dozen documented abuse allegations against this individual…and the abuse continued against my children, for years. No one would help. I watched with horror when my child came home with bruises, a bite mark, scratches. Once I received a phone call from my child begging to come get them, and take them home. I could do nothing because when the courts ordered my children into the custody of the abuser, they also made it illegal to protect my own children from harm.  In fact, the court told me that I was “mentally ill” when I raised concerns or sought help. And CPS colluded with family court when (multiple, from several individuals) reports were filed. When I sought legal relief, the judge lashed out at me and refused to take any action to assure my children’s safety. The latest corrupt judge actually told me “I will not waste the court’s time or money on your case”. And now my case is the 4th that I know of (there are probably more) of a child running away when a Minnesota family court failed to protect them.

Minnesota does not just have a problem… this state has a crisis. The family court and CPS system has degraded so bad that justice is nothing more than a pretense.

I want to say to the victimized parents and children, you are not alone. I am so sorry for what has been done to you. I will fight for justice until I take the last breath in this body. No parent or child should have to live this nightmare. xo

daily or thereabouts...

I heard through Steel Truth program there is a problem in Minnesota (courts). I haven’t delved into the blog post, but watched Ann Vandersteel’s program some time ago.

Courts are important. Links to follow; do with as you will.

https://familycourtinjustice.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/the-captain-exposes-minnesota/

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UK to Undergo “Major Overhaul” in Family Court to Protect Abuse Victims

Public Domain: https://wallpaperaccess.com/

(United Kingdom, 06/25/2020) – A recent report that investigated the handling of domestic abuse cases involved in the UK’s family court system results in “sweeping reforms” after significant problems are revealed. The UK is now publicly acknowledging that the family court system is, in fact, deeply flawed and often fails victims of domestic abuse and their children.

The family court is often used as a battleground for an abusive and/or dysfunctional parent to further harass, intimidate, control and even gain revenge on a former partner through manipulation or misuse of legal proceedings. Yet one person alone does not represent an entire legal system. Abuse can only be escalated, and enabled through the legal and social service system if the system itself is complicit. The family court and it’s professionals – judges, Guardian ad Litems (or Cafcass), ADRs, attorneys, social services, etc – all play a critical role in the operation of the court system, and their views and opinions shape the outcomes of custody rulings and the dispension of justice. In both the UK and in the US, there have been decades of complaints from litigants and their children involved in family court proceedings. While this report focuses on domestic abuse cases, it is notable that even in families where abuse is not an issue, the same types of issues are often present. There is a pattern. Parents report their rights are being violated in family court, and they are losing custody of children without just cause or due process. There are countless complaints of an abusive or otherwise unfit parent gaining primary custody while the protective parent loses custody and is forcibly separated from the children. Complaints of parents becoming bankrupt and driven into poverty by the high cost of legal proceedings, especially when court drags on for years, are also common. Abuse of legal proceedings has become deeply embedded into the practice of family law, and has become as normal as filing a motion.

In situations of domestic abuse the failures and injustice present in the family court system create a continuation of abuse, and in some case, can be lethal – resulting in death of parents and children. Many victims of domestic violence, involved in the family court feel equally as abused by their former partner as they do by the family court system itself. There are widespread complaints concerning: domestic violence is ignored or dismissed, victims are told to stay silent about abuse, domestic violence victims are punished for reporting safety concerns and the courts are placing children in unsafe custody situations (giving perpetrators custody or unsupervised visitation).

Reform is urgently needed…not only in the U.K. but also in the U.S. The recent report, and recommendations from the UK offer valuable insight, and testimony, that is relevant to other family court jurisdictions, globally. This report voices similar concerns and systemic barriers existing in family court that are being report in the U.S.; and have resulted in injustice and inflicted harm on families and children. This report can be used to better understand problems within the family’s courts handling of domestic abuse cases, and can be used to support reform efforts and provide solutions to other courts and professionals. Or can be used to complement or provide expert opinion for studies, audits and examinations of the family court system.

Reform has been promised but very little has changed in family court…until now as the UK and it’s Ministry of Justice directly confront problems existing in family court and are working to implement new procedures and policies. Not only is the legal process undergoing change but also the tone or environment in the court system itself changing, to become more knowledgeable and aware of abuse, and more diligent in protecting litigants involved in proceedings. These reform efforts are ground breaking in that they send a message to victims of domestic abuse and their children involved in family court proceedings… you are heard, your concerns are being taken seriously and the courts will work to protect you.

On June 25, 2020, the Ministry of Justice announced “major overhaul” in family court to better protect victims of domestic abuse, and their children, who are involved in legal proceedings. The move came after a recent expert report revealed the court system is traumatizing and endangering the lives of domestic abuse victims.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-overhaul-of-family-courts-to-protect-domestic-abuse-victims

Respondents felt that orders made by the court had enabled the continued control of children and adult victims of domestic abuse by alleged abusers, as well as the continued abuse of victims and children. Many submissions detailed the long-term impacts of this abuse manifesting in physical, emotional, psychological, financial and educational harm and harm to children’s current and future relationships…” (p. 9)

The changes resulted after an expert-led review conducted on the court’s handling of domestic abuse related cases revealed significant problems and custody orders that endangered the lives of children. The experts handling the review included representatives from charities, the judiciary, family law practitioners and academia, and considered the views of more than 1,200 individuals and organizations.

Cafcass – the UK’s version of the Guardian ad Litem program, and the largest employer of social workers – was not invited to give input. Cafcass responded that, Cafcass was not invited to be a member of the Panel and we do not agree that the criticisms in the report reflect our current practice. But our task now is to learn from this feedback and to work collaboratively with families and specialist organisations to provide support that is considered more effective and which clearly promotes the safety and welfare of children at all times…” Cafcass argues that problems existing in the family court system are caused by a lack of funding and a lack of training. A publicly issued statement promised to do better by the children they serve. Visit this link to read the statement in full and be sure, also, to read comments from members of the public responding to comments from Cafcass and offering input: https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/2020/06/25/cafcass-responds-to-the-publication-of-the-report-from-the-ministry-of-justice-expert-panel-on-harm-in-the-family-courts/

The review raised concerns that victims and their children were not being adequately protected in the legal process, and were being put an unnecessary risk. The review found that the adversarial process in the family courts often escalated conflict between parents, which could re-traumatize victims and their children. It is important to note that findings were directed at the environment of the family court, and it’s procedures as contributing to increased conflict between parents and did not simply blame parties.

Victim testimony was also heard. “Submissions highlighted a feeling that abuse is systematically minimised, ranging from children’s voices not being heard, allegations being ignored, dismissed or disbelieved, to inadequate assessment of risk, traumatic court processes, perceived unsafe child arrangements, and abusers exercising continued control through repeat litigation and the threat of repeat litigation…” (p. 5)

The stories included in the report are truly disturbing. One included a mother who’s former husband was jailed for raping her and also was abusing their child. The criminal proceedings determined this man was dangerous yet she felt “the family court seemed to bend over backwards trying to accommodate his bid to get to see the children”. The case dragged on for over 5 years and racked up massive legal bills.

Another victim reported that she and her children became homeless after escaping abuse. The perpetrator sought full custody, stating that because mother is homeless that she cannot properly care for her children. The family court judge agreed and gave the perpetrator primary custody. The victim then returned to the abuser because she could not bear to leave her children in a home that she knows is unsafe.

A child who gave testimony said they were put into harm’s way due to the custody order issued by the family court. The child endured abuse for 7 years, described the father as “violent” and said “he threw a punch at me”. The child witnessed the father beating his girlfriend, and heard the father threaten to kill his mother and “take every penny from her”. The child reported that he felt “very scared”. The child was left in this abusive situation with no protection from the family court.

Another issue examined (p. 62-63) in the report from both victims and from legal professionals is that victims of abuse are often discouraged from talking about the abuse they experienced or discouraged from reporting safety concerns because “it would anger the courts” and it will hurt their case.

Mothers are frequently told they are lying when they report abuse, and falsely accused of parental alienation. Other mothers lose custody as a result of reporting abuse. The fear of falsely being accused of parental alienation has also kept some women from reporting abuse. Similarly, children often do not report abuse for the same reason. “Children may not dare to speak to their mother about what has happened during contact because it could be used against her in court to demonstrate ‘implacable hostility’ or ‘alienation’. Consequently, children suffering ongoing abuse through contact are left isolated…” (p. 156)

Another problem discussed is that the “experts” who diagnose “alienation” are not always credible, and often do not undergo evaluation by the court to determine their validity.

The review offered recommendations to improve the family court process in cases involving domestic abuse that will become part of a Implementation Plan that to enact the reforms and measure their progress.

Including:

Stronger powers for judges to prevent abusers repeatedly dragging a victim back to court (legal abuse). A commitment to change the provision on ‘barring orders’, which prevent abusers repeatedly dragging ex-partners back to court over child custody arrangements. Ministers will review whether this is best done through legislative or non-legislative means.

An Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts will be created as part of a pilot project. This specific type of court will consider family and criminal matters involving domestic abuse in a parallel to provide more consistent support for victims. Emphasis will be placed on getting to the root of an issue and ensuring all parties are safe and able to provide evidence on an equal footing – without the re-traumatizing effects of being in court with an abusive ex-partner.

As part of the Integrated Domestic Abuse Courts, there will be a trial to use a problem-solving approach in private family law proceedings. This could mean that judges decide what evidence to investigate, rather than both parties presenting their cases against each other. Meaning family law hearings will focus on specific issues to be resolved by the courts. (In the US this is referred to as a “Brief Focused Assessment”).

Ministers will launch a review into the presumption of ‘parental involvement’ that often encourages a child’s relationship with both parents, unless the involvement of that parent would put the child at risk. It will examine whether the right balance is being struck between the risk of harm to children and victims, and the right of the child to have a relationship with both parents.

Giving automatic entitlement for special measures in the courtroom for victims of domestic abuse going through the family courts – such as separate waiting rooms, entrances and screens – via a further amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.

(Side Note: I would recommend that the Domestic Abuse Bill includes language and provisions that a victim cannot face reprimand or lose custody of children because they use these special measures. This has actually happened in the family courts in the US. In my case specifically, I was reprimanded by the family law judge and Guardian ad Litem for enrolling in the Safe at Home Program and told participation means “I am keeping secrets” and not “co-parenting” with the abuser. As a result of my enrollment, the Guardian ad Litem recommended sole custody to the abuser, which the judge granted. So participating in a program designed to protect abuse victims from harm was used against me in family court that awarded sole custody of the victimized children to the identified perpetrator of abuse.)

Inviting the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Victims’ Commissioner to monitor and report on private family law proceedings involving victims of domestic abuse to ensure compliance with the recommended reforms, and to monitor progress.

Justice Minister Alex Chalk commented about the review, “Every day the family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger. This report lays bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, but we are determined to drive the fundamental change necessary to keep victims and their children safe. But this is not all we’re doing. Our landmark Domestic Abuse Bill will transform society’s response to this destructive crime – protecting victims and pursuing perpetrators more than ever before.

Read the Report ‘Assessing the Risk of Harm to Children and Parents in Private Law Children’s Cases’ 

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Donald J Harris on Family Court and Daughter Kamala

Source: The List, 8/12/2020: “The untold story of Kamala Harris’ childhood”. https://www.thelist.com/235746/the-untold-story-of-kamala-harris-childhood/?utm_campaign=clip

Vice-Presidential candidate, Kamala Harris (D-California), has been described as being a “historic pick” for running mate Joe Biden. While not an accomplishment, it is also notable that Mrs. Harris and her sister were the subjects of a contentious custody battle as a child.  I can only speculate that experiences with justice, fairness and how the legal system/government operates were, in part, impressed on Mrs. Harris at a young age due to her parent’s divorce and the involvement of the courts.  As a result of this court order, it appears that Mrs. Harris was raised primarily by a single mother with limited involvement of her father who never stopped trying to show his love, and be a part of her life.

This article is NOT to say or imply anything negative about Mrs. Harris’ family or her parents but to stress that the actions of family court, judges and it’s professionals, do have a lasting impact on children. That Kamala’s parents divorced in 1972 demonstrates that complaints about family court, and it’s treatment of litigants (parents) have a history spanning over 50 years. It also shows that anyone can be impacted, and even traumatized, by injustice in the family court system. There are widespread problems, and dysfunction, in the family court system that affect people of all ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, geographic regions and religious backgrounds. Both fathers and mothers are impacted, in different ways.

According to memoirs, Donald J. Harris, father of Mrs. Kamala Harris, was involved in family court litigation with his ex-wife that resulted in separation from his two daughters and caused stress on their relationship. Mr. Harris comments that he feels the family court decision was motivated by gender and racial bias. Despite the challenges, Mr. Harris worked to be a part of his daughter’s lives the best could, and never gave up on his love for them.

Harris writes in an essay Reflections of a Jamaican Father, “This early phase of interaction with my children came to an abrupt halt in 1972 when, after a hard-fought custody battle in the family court of Oakland, California, the context of the relationship was placed within arbitrary limits imposed by a court-ordered divorce settlement based on the false assumption by the State of California that fathers cannot handle parenting (especially in the case of this father, “a neegroe from da eyelans” was the Yankee stereotype, who might just end up eating his children for breakfast!). 

Nevertheless, I persisted, never giving up on my love for my children or reneging on my responsibilities as their father…”

Donald J. Harris and Shyamala Gopalan met and fell in love while participating in the Civil Rights Movement. They were married for 7 years and had two children together. After the divorce in 1972, Kamala and her sister Maya were placed in the sole custody of their mother who raised both girls as a single parent. Kamala wrote in her memoir “The Truths We Hold” that she and her sister would visit their father dad “on weekends and spend summers with him in Palo Alto.” She also traveled to India and Jamaica to visit family on both sides.

Mr. Harris was born in Jamaica and later became a naturalized American citizen. He is a former economics professor and an economic consultant to the Jamaican government.  Mother, Shyamala Gopalan, is an Indian immigrant who worked as a cancer researcher. She passed away in 2009.

Mr. Harris’ essay also raises an important issue that is often overlooked in family court – that children not only form relationships with parents but also form relationships and develop an identity by participating in the cultural and spiritual background of their respective parents. Again, not saying this is true with the Harris family, just making an observation and reflecting on some of my experiences in family court. For children to feel a part of their culture, they need to have frequent or ongoing contact with it’s traditions, norms and practices. Family court orders that limit or eliminate parental contact also take a child out of their culture, and can cause a loss of identity. When judges make decisions they need to consider cultural factors and take care that children are not estranged from their cultural heritage as a result of their rulings.

In the essay, Mr. Harris shares family history and stories. He writes, “As a child growing up in Jamaica, I often heard it said, by my parents and family friends: “memba whe yu cum fram”. To this day, I continue to retain the deep social awareness and strong sense of identity which that grassroots Jamaican philosophy fed in me.  As a father, I naturally sought to develop the same sensibility in my two daughters…” Mr. Harris comments that he now enjoys a closer relationship with his children.

For More Reading:

The List: The untold story of Kamala Harris’ childhood

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Family Court Judge Holds Hearing at Litigant’s Home, Seizes Property Without a Warrant

Public Domain Image

I’ve never seen anything like this before, so needless to say, I’m still researching the mountain of issues here…” – Attorney John H. Bryan

(Beaver, Raleigh County, West Virginia: 03/04/2020) – A shocking video posted online shows a family court judge taking the law into her own hands, and the property of a litigant as well.

Raleigh County Family Court Judge Louise Goldston presided over a divorce involving Matt Gibson and his ex-wife. After the divorce was finalized, the ex-wife filed for contempt to get personal property (DVD movies and pictures) from the home that she said were awarded to her during the divorce but she never received. During the hearing, Gibson stated that he was not sure where the items where or if he had them. Judge Goldston’s response was to immediately move the hearing out of the courtroom and into Gibson’s home.

Without a search warrant, and without a court order, Judge Goldston instructs Raleigh County deputies to search the home of litigant, Matt Gibson. Gibson recorded part of the incident using his cell phone. 

The video footage shows Gibson asking for a search warrant, and then telling the judge,”You won’t get in my home without a search warrant.”

To which Judge Goldston replies,”Oh, yea I will!”

At another point in the video, Judge Goldston tells Gibson that if he does not allow her into the house, he will be arrested. Judge Goldstin along with three deputies, the ex-wife and her attorney then entered the house without a warrant, and without permission of the owner (Gibson) and began seizing items. Gibson was threatened with arrest if he raised any objections.

The Fourth Amendment, of the U.S. Constitution, protects against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by state or federal authorities, including judges and law enforcement: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Fourth Amendment

Gibson, who works as a federal law enforcement officer, felt the search was wrong. Gibson filmed the shocking events until Judge Goldston demanded that deputies take his phone (also shown in the video). Gibson was also told that he he continued to record the search that he would be arrested. Despite Judge Goldston’s efforts to stop filming, the video was later uploaded online by attorney John H. Bryan, and was featured in a local news report.

Judge Goldston has not made a public comment on the case, as it is an ongoing matter.

Raleigh Co. Family Court Judge called into question after viral video shows her conducting search without warrant

Family Court Judge Searches Home <—View video footage here

FOR THOUGHT:

So it’s not as if we didn’t know legal abuses occur, and that they can even happen with depressing regularity. We just didn’t think there’d be a time when legal abuse would seem like a regular part of everyday life…” – Doug Casey’s International Man

Judges have tremendous power to intervene and change the course of individual lives with their actions and rulings. When presiding over issues involving children, such as in family court, the decisions of a judge influence the development of our next generation, for good or bad. It is crucial that judges are competent, impartial and respect the rights of litigants. When a judge abuses their power and position, it undermines the justice system and creates mistrust in public officials. 

Judges are public officials, and should be held accountable to the people they serve. Generally, judges are given immunity or are considered not liable for actions and decisions they make while acting within the boundaries of their profession, and while administering the law. However, immunity does not give a judge permission to take the law into their own hands, to use their position to further an agenda or to promote a personal interest. Complaints against out of control judges are being raised not only in family court but in other areas of the legal system, from litigants from every state in the nation. Common complaints include: bias, violating the rights of litigants, denial of due process, coercion/pressuring litigants, rude behavior and making decisions that result in harm to the litigant (or their children). Videos of judicial misconduct have been posted online for years, shocking the public. Despite public exposure of misconduct and public demands for judicial reform, little seems to change in the legal system. This video posted from Raleigh County, as well as the many other publicly posted videos, blogs, and testimonies (etc) of those who have had their lives negatively impacted by an out of control judge show that, clearly, more needs to be done. If not remedied, corruption will spread throughout the legal system, and seep into society.

Has there been a “never see anything like this before” moment in your family court case?

There have been many of those moments in my family court case. One of the most memorable being Judge Aldrich becoming angry when my attorney attempted to present evidence, he yelled at her from the bench. He then picked up an ink pen and threw it her. In another incident, Judge Aldrich called a recess. He stepped off the bench, still in robes, then went into the hallway to tell me/pressure ne that he has seen many cases like mine, and it’s best that I settle this case now because I will not like what will happen if he has to make a ruling. I faced a double edged sword that would cut any way it swung.

For Further Reading:

A Manifesto for Judicial Accountability in India  (Well written and researched article that is also relevant to America, and other countries. Offers legal insights, case studies, and steps that can be taken to improve the judiciary).

Congress Must Increase Judicial Accountability and Transparency (A 2019 letter to Congress urging reform, includes five areas to address when crafting legistlation)

Does America Have an Out of Control Legal System? Doug Casey’s International Man

ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct

 

 

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Minnesota Judicial Branch Update: COVID-19 and Changes to Court Procedure

The Minnesota Judicial Branch is discouraging the public from making any non-essential visits to court facilities during the outbreak of COVID-19. Remote proceedings are being used when possible. Information about changes to court procedures in response to COVID-19 can be read online at: Minnesota Judicial Branch: COVID-19 Information

Visit website for translations in Spanish, Somali and Hmong. There is also a link to sign up for e-mail updates.

Minnesota Judicial Branch continues to monitor the most current statements and recommendations regarding COVID-19 in Minnesota. The Branch is coordinating closely with statewide partners, including the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The Branch will be following MDH recommendations as the situation evolves.

Update, March 20, 2020:

After careful consideration and consultation, the Judicial Council has recommended further restrictions for in-person courthouse access. In response, Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea has issued a statewide order, ADM20-8001 Continuing Operations of the Courts of the State of Minnesota Under a Statewide Peacetime Declaration of Emergency. The order restricts in-person access to courthouses for only designated case types, and opens up additional opportunities for remote hearings that must occur during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order goes into effect on Monday, March 23, 2020, and is in effect for the next 30 days or until another order is issued, whichever comes first.

We are committed to protecting the safety of all who must enter into a courthouse during this unprecedented time. The Minnesota Judicial Branch is where people access justice and defend their constitutional rights. The balancing of public health and access to justice during this time is testing our systems and procedures. The steps we announce today will help us maintain that delicate balance,” said Chief Justice Gildea.

For detailed explanations, see the order. Website includes a summary of major changes established by the order. Wesbite also includes county specific district court information. Minnesota Judicial Branch: COVID-19 Information

Public Domain Image: needpix.com

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Commentary: Sharing Custody During the Coronavirus | What If I Think My Child is At Risk?

“I am getting a lot of questions from my clients about coronavirus and whether a parent should be keeping if the child might be at risk of getting exposed to coronavirus. This is not legal advice but here is my best answer.

What I tell people is is that you should follow the court order and if the court order dictates a special arrangement you really have a duty to abide by it unless the child is at risk of harm or serious physical injury…

If you don’t follow the court orders and there could be consequences and they may not be great consequences...”

NOTE: This video recording is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as the rendering of legal advice. The viewing of this recording does not create an attorney-client relationship. An attorney-client relationship is only formed when you have signed an engagement agreement. We cannot guarantee results. Past results do not guarantee future results. Consult with a licensed attorney for information regarding the specifics of your case.

Additional Note: FCI is posting this publicly available video as an educational resource for parents. Command the Courtroom is not affiliated with FCI in any way.

For More Information:

⏱️COMMAND THE COURTROOM LIVE! MONDAY at 6:30 p.m. MST SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION FOR THE NEXT CTC LIVE! http://bit.ly/CTCLivestreamQuestions

Wendy Hernandez is a family law attorney in Phoenix, AZ and founder of Command the Courtroom which teaches you how to handle yourself in court and achieve the best outcome when representing yourself in your divorce or child custody case.

FOLLOW Wendy: FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/commandthecou…

WEBSITE: http://www.commandthecourtroom.com

LAW FIRM WEBSITE: http://www.hernandezfirm.com 

 

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Child’s Drawing of Emotional Abuse: Sad Mom

 

It is a great source of pain that my child’s earliest impression of “mom”, of what it means to be a woman, involved witnessing the emotional abuse and degredation I suffered. My child drew this picture (above) for me, and told me that it depicts “You is sad Mom – you got called horrible names.” The lines by the eyes are tears. Note the figure has no mouth and cannot speak. 

Emotional abuse is an attempt to gain control and overpower a victim, just as physical abuse.  The only difference is that emotional abuse uses emotion and not physical force as a weapon. Emotion becomes a weapon when words, threats, body language, mind games, bullying and coercion (etc) are used to confuse, manipulate and control the victim.

Children become victims when they are used as pawns in the perpetrator’s efforts to dominate the victim, witness abuse directly and/or are abused themselves. About one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year and 90 percent will directly witness the abuse..” (Source: Domestic abuse: Long lasting effects on women and their children)

That domestic abuse is a re-occurring behavior means that children are repeatedly exposed to incidents of violence. Each incident of abuse causes a trauma or a physical, mental and/or emotional wound. The effects of abuse cause a lifetime of damage. (Read more: Impact of Domestic Violence on Victims and the Community)

In my situation, my child was so traumatized by abuse that she would repeat the “horrible words”, saying over and over again in a singsong voice things like “stupey” (stupid), “fuckey” (fuckin) and “stupey baby” and “dad call me stupey and fuckin'”. This was heard by numerous bystanders, people either visiting my family or professionals working with my family. It was also witnessed when my child visited father in his supervised visits.

It was noted by the therapist working with my family that my child “repeated power and control themes in play”. With the male doll fighting the female. Or the female trying to run away. The child would throw the male doll in anger. Once breaking the arm off “Prince Eric” after he was slammed against the wall. Only then did my child feel safe.

Healing and recovery is only possible when the victim is safe, and no longer being harmed. It is a courageous act for a victim of abuse to leave the perpetrator and seek safety. But, too often, the system will punish the victim for escaping the abuse. This happens when lenient sentences are given for abuse related crimes. Or when a victim is criticized and held under suspicion for leaving an abusive relationship, and not believed by authorities when coming forward with allegations. And happens when victims lose custody of children to an abuser, even after they speak out, in family court.

Professionals, including those working in family court and social services, who fail to recognize domestic abuse or ignore concerns from victims, not only put the victim’s life in danger but also become an enabler for abuse to continue. And the system that is supposed to protect becomes another source of trauma, and pain.

This happened in my family court case – despite the signs of abuse, despite the child being diagnosed with PTSD consistent with abuse and/or trauma, despite overwhelming evidence of abuse, the family court and Guardian ad Litem denied any abuse occurred. After I sought to protect my children, and remove them from a home that was unsafe and volatile, the family court gave sole custody to the identified abuser and banished me from the lives of my children.

My child is right… “You is sad Mom…” has become my everyday reality dealing with the loss of my children, and witnessing the family court system decimate my family with the impact of an atom bomb. 

My own family court case of losing custody of my children to an identified perpetrator of abuse is  just one tragic example among thousands more…there are anguished parents across the U.S., and the world, who have not only been abused and tormented by a former partner but are also being re-abused by the failures, and injustices, of the legal and social service systems.

– Emily Court

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CPS Breaks The Law & Father Fights Back In Federal Court!

“Unless you’ve been targeted by Child Protection Services, you cannot even begin to imagine the feeling of pain, grief, financial loss, helplessness and depression caused by having your children removed without due process, and the nightmare involved to get out. This is happening all over the United States…” (Petition – Stop CPS From Legally Kidnapping Children)

March 2, 2020 (St Paul, Minnesota) – This video provides a brief recap of what laws CPS (Child Protection Services) broke against Dwight Mitchell and the parental association “Stop CPS From Legally Kidnapping Children”, why the federal civil rights lawsuit against CPS was filed, the upcoming Oral Argument before the 8th Circuit US Court of Appeals in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 11, 2020 at 11 AM, and the Rally planned for the same day at 9 AM in front of the Federal Court House.

Logo
Family Preservation Foundation, Inc.

For more information please visit:

Petition – Stop Child Protection Services (CPS) From Legally Kidnapping Children!

Family Preservation Foundation

YouTube Channel: Family Preservation Foundation

Facebook: Family Preservation Foundation

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Dangerous Felon Fires Gun During Custody Exchange: WHY Was He Allowed Unsupervised Visit?

Feb 13, 2020 (West St. Paul, Minnesota) – An OUTRAGEOUS family court decision from the State of Minnesota… Ta’Quan Lee Smith has a rap sheet that includes  selling drugs, armed robbery and giving police officers a false name. SO how was Smith able to convince a family court judge that he is deserving of custody of a child, and should have unsupervised visits? During a recent child custody exchange, Smith became angry and started shooting a gun at the car his ex-wife and child were riding in. The bullets missed the victims and instead landed in the metal roof of a nearby business, thankfully no one was hurt. 

“Police learned from the victim that she had gone to the parking lot with her new boyfriend to meet her soon-to-be ex-husband, whom she identified as Tu’Quan Lee Smith, for a child custody exchange, the complaint states.

She told police that Smith exited his vehicle and began taunting the couple. They completed the exchange of the child and then Smith flashed a gun and threatened her boyfriend. The victim and her boyfriend then left with the child in their vehicle.

The victim then realized that her child had dropped a glove in the parking lot, so they returned to the parking lot and Smith followed them in his vehicle. Once in the parking lot, Smith pointed the handgun at the victim’s vehicle and fired two shots at the front of the vehicle. The victim then fled the parking lot to get away from the scene…”

Smith has been taken into custody and is being held at the Dakota County Jail. If convicted, Smith could serve up to 7 years in prison.

But what about the sentence given to children who are court ordered into unsafe custody or visitation arrangements by family court judges? These children face a kind of incarceration where their childhood ends, and they are condemned to be re-abused or traumatized after being placed in custody or visits with an abusive, unfit parent.

In 2017, the United Kingdom passed significant reform and changes in family court procedure to better protect victims of domestic violence, and their children, during divorce and custody cases. The changes were implemented after after the release of a report titled Nineteen Child Homicides. The report tells the stories of the cases of 19 children, all intentionally killed by a parent who was also a known perpetrator of domestic abuse. The killings happened due to unsafe child contact arrangements, formal and informal. Over half of these child contact arrangements were ordered by the family courts.

Cases of injustice and abuse in family court have been reported for over 20 years in Minnesota and also been reported to be happening by parents in every state of the U.S. and even internationally. The Smith case should be a wake up call that the family court system is in serious need of reform and without it, lives will be put at risk and children will be harmed by the very system that is support to support their “best interest”.

Read More:

Charges: Woodbury Man Fired Gun at Vehicle Containing His Child During Custody Exchange

UK judges change court rules on child contact for violent fathers

Launch of “Nineteen Child Homicides” report and Child First campaign

Posted in Family Court Injustice, Family Court News, Legal News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments