CA Assembly Passes “Piqui’s Law” by Senator Rubio, Family Court Bill Heads to Senate Judiciary

SACRAMENTO, CA – In a unanimous, bipartisan vote, the State Assembly today passed Piqui’s Law, by Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), which mandates judges take training on domestic violence and child abuse to prioritize child safety in custody proceedings and clarifies California’s ban on the use of dangerous reunification programs in family court.

Senate Bill 616, Piqui’s Law: Keeping Children Safe from Family Violence, is named for a 5-year-old murdered by his father. The boy’s mother, Ana Estevez, fought in family court to protect her son against her ex-husband before Piqui’s death. The bill will align with federal provisions within the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in order to receive funding to reform family court. The Assembly passed the bill in a 64-0.

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Someone is Mentally Ill, an Addict, or an Abuser: The Vastly Different Response in Family Court and in Life: Essay by Barry Goldstein

“Shared Parenting” Places Ideology Over Children

by Barry Goldstein

Just as custody courts developed responses for domestic violence at a time when no research was available, early proponents of shared parenting sought to experiment when there was no research about shared parenting. Initially, parents seeking shared parenting did so voluntarily, in situations where they were able to communicate and cooperate. There is now legitimate research that found co-parenting benefits children only under the best circumstances. This requires the arrangement to be voluntary; an ability to communicate; neither parent is afraid of the other; and they live nearby. There is other legitimate research that found shared parenting is harmful to children because of the constant disruptions. There is no valid research supporting shared parenting without the necessary favorable circumstances. Unfortunately, this is a mistake courts frequently make.

Most custody cases, like other litigation, are settled more or less amicably. The problem is the 3.8% of cases that require trial and often much more. Court professionals have been taught to use a high conflict approach that assumes the parents are angry with each other and acting out in ways that harm the children. The research found 75-90% of these cases are really domestic violence cases that involve the most dangerous abusers. These are men who believe she has no right to leave, and who seek to use custody disputes to regain control. These are the last cases where shared parenting should be considered, but courts that have been slow to integrate important scientific research or use a multi-disciplinary approach, have trouble recognizing abuse in these cases. The use of shared parenting increases the bias to minimize or deny abuse in order for the case to be eligible for co-parenting.

The use of shared parenting has been encouraged and promoted by three groups based on their preferences and personal benefits, divorced from the well-being of children. Male supremacist groups support shared parenting because otherwise the safe, protective mother would have a strong advantage. Court professionals promote shared parenting because it creates the need for lucrative services, particularly to help hostile parties communicate. Court officials like shared parenting because they must respond to overcrowded dockets, and believe shared parenting is the only compromise both parties can be pressured to accept. In domestic violence cases, the abuser would never agree to anything reasonable, so they need to pressure and sometimes threaten the victim to settle cases. In my articles, I often need to explain problems that occurred after victims were pressured to accept co-parenting with their abuser.

Shared Parenting was Never Intended for Domestic Violence Cases

Most people, including court professionals, are unaware custody courts are having severe problems trying to respond to cases involving domestic violence or child abuse. Many protective mothers believe the courts are corrupt because the decisions and process are so unfair and catastrophic. While there is corruption with the cottage industry, courts are making harmful decisions because of their failure to use evidence-based research and unintended bias. Court officials would vehemently deny the system works poorly, but the factors that influence courts demonstrate their denials are wrong.

There is something undeniably wrong with a system in which a theory based on no research; but only the belief that sex between adults and children can be acceptable; and twice rejected by the American Psychiatric Association because of the lack of supporting research; has more influence over courts than two studies from the most credible sources, that go to the essence of what courts need to decide in custody cases involving possible domestic violence or child abuse.

Domestic violence is about control, including financial control. This means that in most contested cases the abuser controls most of the financial assets. Unscientific alienation theories were concocted and continue to be used to help cottage industry professionals make large incomes helping abusive fathers. The cottage industry lobbied to include alienation in the DSM which is the compendium of all valid mental health diagnoses. I am not aware of any other court that continues to consider a theory twice rejected by the leading professional association.

The ACE (adverse childhood experiences) Studies are peer-reviewed medical research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACE found that children exposed to domestic violence, child abuse and other traumas will live shorter lives and face a lifetime of health and social problems. Most of the harm is not from any immediate physical injuries, but from living with the fear and stress abusers cause. Clearly, this knowledge goes to the essence of the well-being of children.

The Saunders Study is peer-reviewed scientific research from the National Institute of Justice in the US Justice Department. Saunders found court professionals need knowledge of specific subjects that include screening for domestic violence, risk assessment, post-separation violence and the impact of DV on children. Professionals without this knowledge tend to focus on the myth that mothers frequently make false reports and unscientific alienation theories. These mistaken approaches lead to recommendations and decisions that harm children. Saunders recommends a multi-disciplinary approach that would include experts in domestic violence and child abuse when those subjects are important to the custody decision.

I think it is significant that ACE is used by medical doctors to diagnose and treat patients, by therapists to treat patients, by schools to help traumatized students, and by health officials to improve public health. In contrast, the only purpose of alienation theories is to help abusive fathers gain custody. Without ACE, courts inevitably minimize domestic violence and child abuse and without Saunders, courts rely on the wrong experts and so disbelieve true reports of abuse. ACE and Saunders demonstrate that many standard court practices are mistaken. This is not neutral in the sense it applies to both parents. All the mistakes from failing to consider ACE and Saunders tilt courts in favor of abusive fathers and towards risking children. Significantly, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges seeks to train other judges about ACE and Saunders.

The research differs on whether shared parenting is helpful or harmful in cases involving two good and loving parents. Decisions in these cases are less consequential because either parent or both parents will do their best for their children. Cases involving possible domestic violence or child abuse are very different. I interviewed medical doctors working with the ACE Research for my Quincy book. I asked them the most important question for courts to consider in these cases. When a child has been exposed to multiple ACEs, is there something we can do to save the child from the awful consequences? We can save these children, but standard court practices, particularly when promoting shared parenting prevent the responses the doctors said are necessary to save children from the awful consequences. Saunders found abusers use decision-making to block needed treatment and especially therapy because they are afraid the child will reveal his abuse. When courts require unprotected visitation without requiring the abuser to change his behavior, the child cannot heal and is doomed to a shorter, less healthy life. These contested cases are often the last chance to save the child.

Stop Using Shared Parenting in Abuse Cases

The combination of high conflict approaches and shared parenting is dangerous and too often deadly. High conflict creates a false equivalency between victims and abusers. Courts typically immediately demand co-parenting and take risks before they have time to consider the evidence of abuse or the critical context. Many court professionals immediately start promoting and pressuring for shared parenting. Victims are routinely punished if they object to cooperating with their abusers. Victim’s lawyers often tell clients not to raise abuse issues and not to object to dangerous arrangements. This results in courts making harmful decisions without ever learning about the history of abuse. This approach also serves to silence children who are exposed to the abuser. In the process, the importance of primary attachment is minimized and in some cases breast feeding is short-circuited to make sure the abuser has a “fair” amount of the child’s time.

Court professionals have repeatedly been told that children do better with both parents in their lives. This is true but is based on having two safe and loving parents. This is often not true in contested custody cases. Children need their primary attachment figure more than the other parent and the safe parent more than the abuser. When children have two good parents, they certainly benefit from a relationship with both parents. There is no valid research that children do better with 50-50 than say 70-30 or some other division.

The original idea behind shared parenting was made in total good faith. Unfortunately, it is often used for harmful purposes that bad-faith actors seek to hide. Male supremacist groups promote shared parenting as a first step towards taking children from their best parent. This is based on the ideology of “father’s rights” and a strong desire to avoid child support. The use of shared parenting often limits the needed inquiry about the history of abuse.

The biggest problem with shared parenting is that it is routinely used in inappropriate cases. Saunders found it should never be used in domestic violence cases. Even in the rare instances that a mother makes a false report, this is not the kind of case where parties are able to communicate effectively. Shared parenting was never meant for abuse cases, but with present outdated practices, courts are destroying children’s lives to promote an ideology and sense of entitlement.

Courts and legislatures need to address the failure of custody courts to integrate evidence-based research and consider the specialized expertise about domestic violence and child abuse that would help courts avoid dangerous mistakes. Until the present problems with the courts’ approach to the most consequential cases can be fixed, the last thing legislatures should focus on is expanding co-parenting arrangements that are already dangerously overused.

Some legislatures have recognized the serious problems discussed in this article. They have passed piecemeal solutions that would help children if they were properly implemented. The problem is that judges are often comfortable with familiar outdated practices and defensive about their mistakes. Repeatedly, we have seen courts work around instead of with the piecemeal reforms. Legislatures that want to protect the children in their states must support comprehensive legislation to create needed reforms. The legislation should specifically tell courts to stop using the outdated practices that harm children. The legislation must make the health and safety of children the first priority. The use of the word health requires courts to use the ACE Research because otherwise judges cannot recognize the full range of health risks. The legislation must promote the integration of important research like ACE and Saunders. The legislation must promote a multi-disciplinary approach that Saunders recommends. The legislation should provide for an early hearing limited to abuse issues to avoid distraction with less important issues and tactics. The legislation must also provide training in domestic violence as recommended in Saunders for judges and preferably other court professionals. The legislative solution is called the Safe Child Act. It is the comprehensive solution to court decisions that too often take away our children’s last chance for a full and healthy life. When legislators are ready to respond to the custody court crisis, it is much better for them to finally solve the problem rather than make it worse by further expanding shared parenting that is already overused.

Barry Goldstein is a domestic violence author, speaker, advocate and expert witness. He is the author of six books concerning domestic violence and child custody. Barry is the author of the Safe Child Act which is a comprehensive plan based on current scientific research that can fix the broken court system and make family courts safe for children.

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The Assessment of the Attitudes and Behaviors About Physically Abused Children – Baker Miller Bernet Adebay… by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

The Assessment of the Attitudes and Behaviors About Physically Abused Children – Baker Miller Bernet Adebay… by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

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Santa Clara Minor's Counsel, GAL, Scam Moves to Alameda , Orange and LA  Counties

          Elise Mitchell Real Estate Bribery Scheme 

Caliornia’s State Auditor issued a report on lawyers appointed for children during their parent’s divorce after complaints from Marin and Sacramento Counties showed lawyers padding thier bills and gouging parents and taxpayers for work that did little for the best interests of children. 

Minor’s counsel appointments are the gateway appointment to scams lawyers run in connection with family law matters. A divorce or cusotdy case where lawyers claim ” high conflict ” between parents will see a judge quickly appoint a favored lawyer as Minor’s Counsel in a case. The appointment provides lawyers with immunituy to issue reports and advocate for children. In  reality the appointments serve as permission to bill and bill families until there is no money left in a community property estate subject to division. 

Parents are forced to go into debt in order to pay lawyers to tell them how to feed, cloth, educate and support thier children. Minor’s counsel are not required to make financial or other disclosures so they often sit in cases where they own businesses with other lawyers, or the judge. 

It was said that the auditor uncovered the scheme in Marin and Sacramento that had been running as designed by Tani Cantil Sakauye  who sat in family court before the Third District Court of Appeal . She was  appointed as the California Supreme Court Judge in 2011, where she not only did nothing to curb the appointments, she moved thorugh local bar associations and clubs in San Jose , Monterey, LA and Orange County to expand them.

​ In Santa Clara she worked directly with former stte bar Chief Trial Counsel Jim Towery and his wife Karyn Sinunu to expand the corrupt practice of profiting from harming kids and robbing families. 

Minor’s Counsel Bring in Funding for Foster Care and CPS 

In Santa Clara, Monerey, LA and Orange County , the small group of lawyers acting as minor’s counsel stand as look out for lawyers involved in real estate schemes, charity fraud and the lucrative practice of private judging. 

Lawyers are vetted by how well they will be team players. Then with a few hours of training, they are appointment ready, If they incite conflict suffienctly, they can remain in a case for a decade until the children age out of the court’s jurisdciton. 

Elise Mitchell is a Black female attorney in Santa Clara, When the court got pressure for the lack of diversity on the Minor’s Counsel pandel, Mitchell was brougth in my Jim Towery and groomed for appointments after she drew in a case where she represented a NFL football player. 

Mitchell then got conencted to the domestic violence scam connected to charties including Women SV, and Judge Cindy Hendrickson who replaced Judge Persky on the bench. Hendrickson and Mitchell’s ties to local Catholic Schools saw them grooming cases to send kids to foster care to earn the county more money and net them kickbacks in real estate and dark money. 

As Mitchell suceeeded she was appointed in cases where lawyers playing for the private judge team would defend her minconduct and criminality., Mitchell was awarded a secret real estate deal in Alameda County where she was charged with expanding the enterprise and rewarded with kickbacks for getting Heather Allan, Jessica Huey , BJ Fadem  Eva Martel or Nicole Ford appointed in a case where she represents a client seeking to use the courts to abuse a former spouse or parent of a child shared in common. 

Accounting records accidentially leaked by Mitchell’s office, run by her children. show such payments from a grandma, Rosalie Black Baker , and others and how those payments  used to bribe judges in Santa Clara and Alameda. The payments also bribe cops, CPS workers and therapists  who will recommend children are placed in foster care for the right pay off price. 

Mitchell has also assured payments to lawyers appointed in LA and Orange County as an escalation of minor’s counsel and cusotdy experts appointments see  judges sending  kids to foster care or charity reunificaiton camps that kick back referral fees to minor’s counsel, district attoney election campaigns and judges through real estate schemes.  

Payments  documented between Mitchell and Orange County mnior’s counsel Cherly Edgar and Tracy Willis show a pattern that reveals  judges who are in on the bribery scam and benefit from real esate kickbacks.

Payments to Orange County Minor’s Counsel Steve Dragna  and Kelly Irwin along with payments to Anaheim police officer Mark Irwin connect the dots of minor’s counsel and Disney lawyers who paid off Judge Cowan in the probate case linked to Walt Disney’s grandson where Judge Cowan victim shamed Bradford Lund for having Down Syndrome after conserving Lund and denying him the ability to manage the money left to him by his grandfather, Walt Disney.  Like Britney Spears Lund has been locked deep inside LA probate court in a horrifically corrupt  conservatorship. The unhappiest place on earth and just down the street from Disneyland where Disney’s wealth was built. 

Minor’s Counsel Appointments Force Parents to  Lucrative Private Judge Cases at JAMS 

Attorney Ed Navarro has been dubbed the children’s assasssin in Los Angeles County. Ed is regualrly appointed in cases with Dennis Wasser , Lisa Meyer , Christopher Melcher and Ron Brot. . Navarro brings in custody experts and therapists associated with Family Bridges and Overcoming Barriers.. He is also linked to psycologists from UCLA and UC Irvine to  discredit the mental health and sobreity of parents and their children. 

Navarro is known for making the pressure so great, and billing hundreds of thousands of dollars to apply pressure to get parents to agree to use a private judge, with no questions asked. 

Los Angeles County District Attonrey George Gascon  has been seen getting payments in crytocurrency and real estate kickbacks to look the other way when middle class and high asset family law litigants use private judging to cover up fraud and child abuse. 

Noise from parents losing cusotdy of their children has grown louder and has been linked to the noise in the Lund and Spears Conservartorships. As a result reporters from the Los Anegeles Times, NBC, Pro Publica and Wall Street Journal have begun asking questions and making records requests about California’s family courts.

​These media requests are said to be reponsible for Chief Justice Tani Cantil Sakauye’s sudden annoucement to resign  as the minor’s counsel and private judge scams in California’s family courts begin to be revealed. 

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Parenting Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Abuse or Neglect by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

Parenting Children and Youth Who Have Experienced Abuse or Neglect by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

Judges Who Fail to do Their Due Diligence in Abuse Cases Are Complicit in Murder

When parents split up, joint custody may be ideal. But in cases of abuse, shared custody can be deadly.

Throughout several custody hearings for seven-year-old Kayden Mancuso, her mother, Kathryn Sherlock repeatedly warned Pennsylvania Judge Jeffrey Trauger of the extensive history of violence by Kayden’s father, Jeffrey Mancuso. Kayden’s principal and teacher also provided testimony. Despite this, in 2018, Judge Trauger awarded Jeffrey Mancuso unsupervised visitation. Three months later, Mancuso brutally murdered Kayden.

Mancuso’s case is not an anomaly. Since 2008, 856 children nationwide have been murdered by a parent going through a separation, divorce or custody case — oftentimes, like in Kayden’s case, because family court judges gave an abuser unsupervised visitation. An estimated 58,000 children have court-ordered unsupervised contact with an abuser each year. The Center for Judicial Excellence, a nonprofit organization that advocates for judicial accountability, has identified hundreds of cases, including several in Pennsylvania, where the courts failed to prioritize children’s safety.

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Someone is Mentally Ill, an Addict, or an Abuser: The Vastly Different Response in Family Court and in Life: Essay by Barry Goldstein

Dear Judge Responding to DV Custody Cases

by Barry Goldstein

Dear Judge,
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges seeks to train other judges about important scientific research like ACE (adverse childhood experiences) and Saunders. We now have a specialized body of research and knowledge about domestic violence and child abuse that can help courts recognize true reports of abuse and craft responses that help protect children.

The purpose of this letter is to ask the court to be open to considering the research and avoid standard approaches the research demonstrates work poorly in domestic violence custody cases. Most custody cases are settled more or less amicably. The problem is the 3.8% of all cases that require trial and often much more. The research shows that 75-90% of contested custody are really domestic violence cases. These cases involve abusers who believe she has no right to leave, and they are often willing to hurt the child to protect their “rights.”

Many present practices were developed over 40 years ago at a time when little research about DV was available. It was based on the assumption that DV is caused by mental illness or substance abuse. The research demonstrates these assumptions were wrong, but courts have been slow to modify the practices. Mental health professionals are experts in psychology and mental illness but not DV or child abuse. Every year, 58,000 children are sent for custody or unprotected visitation with dangerous abusers and since 2008, The Center for Judicial Excellence found over 850 children involved in contested custody have been murdered, mostly by abusive fathers.

ACE is peer-reviewed medical research from the CDC. ACE found that children exposed to DV, child abuse and other traumas will live shorter lives and face a lifetime of health and social problems. Most of the harm is not from any immediate physical injuries, but from the fear and stress abusers cause. This means practices that minimize older abuse; limit inquiries to physical abuse; assume the end of the relationship ends the risk; or ask children to just get over it have no chance to work.

Contested custody cases are usually the last chance to save children from the awful consequences. Medical doctors say children exposed to multiple ACEs can avoid the harm, but it requires two responses standard court practices prevent. The children will need medical treatment and therapy to respond to problems as they develop and to reduce the fear and stress. This means the safe parent must control health decisions because abusers use decision-making to block anything the mother wants and particularly to prevent or undermine therapy because the child might reveal his abuse. Shared parenting in these cases ends the child’s chance for a full and healthy life.

The second response the doctors say is needed is that the children cannot be exposed to more abuse or situations that renew the fear and stress. This means any visitation must be supervised until the abuser changes his behavior. When courts rush to resume or continue normal visitation without requiring fundamental changes by the abuser, courts take away the child’s chance for a full and healthy life. Fundamentally, without ACE, courts inevitably minimize the harm from DV and child abuse and err on the side of risking children.

The Saunders Study is peer-reviewed scientific research from the National Institute of Justice in the US Justice Department. The purpose was to review the domestic violence knowledge of judges, lawyers and especially evaluators. Saunders found court professionals need more than generalized knowledge about DV. They need knowledge about specific subjects that include screening for DV, risk assessment, post-separation violence and the impact of DV on children. Professionals without this specific knowledge tend to focus on the myth that mothers frequently make false reports and unscientific alienation theories. This leads to recommendations and decisions that harm children. Most evaluators fail to screen for domestic violence in an effective way and judges and lawyers have spent their careers influenced by evaluator’s misinformation about DV and child abuse. As a result, Saunders found most court professionals do not have the specific DV information they need for DV custody cases. DV advocates have more of the specific DV information courts need than judges, lawyers, or evaluators. This makes sense because they are the only profession to work full time on domestic violence prevention and safety. Saunders recommends courts use a multi-disciplinary approach that would include DV and child abuse experts when this is important to the case. Without Saunders, courts routinely rely on the wrong professionals for DV cases and so often disbelieve true reports of abuse.

The first part of screening for DV is to avoid discrediting true reports based on non-probative factors. Common examples include: the mother left an alleged abuser, but returned; she sought a protective order, but didn’t follow-up; she has no police or medical reports; the professional failed to differentiate between an abuser’s public and private behavior; the child appears to be doing well on the surface; and a child shows no fear interacting with the alleged abuser in front of a professional. These are all common responses for safety and other reasons and tell us nothing about the validity of reports about abuse.

Instead, courts should consider which parent is afraid of the other parent. Courts should consider the motives of the alleged abuser. Is there evidence that the purpose of his tactics is to maintain power and control; coerce the victim to do what the abuser wants and based on the belief that the man has the right to make the decisions? The court should then look for the pattern of coercive and controlling behaviors. Most DV is neither physical nor illegal. This means there is much more evidence of DV available when we know what to look for. Common tactics include emotional, psychological, economic, litigation and physical abuse, plus stalking, monitoring, isolating and similar tactics.

Risk assessment refers to the fact that there are many common DV tactics that are associated with increased risk of lethality. These tactics should be taken even more seriously. Examples include strangulation, assaulting a woman while pregnant; hurting animals; forced or pressured sex; threats of murder, suicide, or kidnapping; stalking; access to guns; and the belief she has no right to leave. I have reviewed over 1000 evaluations and have never seen an evaluator report something like, “the mother alleges the father strangled her, and if this is true it raises serious concerns of potential lethality.” This failure is a common example of minimizing the risk from an abuser.

There are two parts to post-separation violence and neither have to involve physical violence. DV custody cases usually involve abusers using custody to regain control over the victim and punish her for leaving. Saunders found abusers sometimes use exchanges to harass or even assault their victims. More commonly, we see economic and litigation abuse as part of the cases. Courts often dismiss the issue as typical to litigation, but it means the abuser has not changed.

Significantly, abusers do not hurt their victims because of anything she said or did. This means they are likely to abuse future partners. If they already have a new partner, he is likely to treat her well because he needs her testimony, but eventually will resume his abusive tactics. This means children will witness more DV and therefore cannot heal.

At least 40 states and many judicial districts have created court-sponsored studies of gender bias. They have used a variety of methods over four decades but have found widespread bias against women litigants. Common examples include holding women to a higher standard of proof, giving mothers less credibility, and blaming the victim for her normal reaction to the father’s abuse. This is a difficult problem to overcome because gender bias is usually unintentional and subconscious. At the same time the needed discussions are discouraged because of the risk that reporting gender bias may result in defensiveness or even retaliation. The Meier Study from the National Institute of Justice found courts have made little progress in overcoming gender bias. A good way to check for gender bias is to ask how a situation would have played out if the genders were reversed.

Sexist alienation theories were deliberately developed to help abusive fathers gain custody. Richard Gardner and the cottage industry of lawyers and mental health professionals needed an approach to justify changing custody from safe, protective mothers who are the primary attachment figures to abusive fathers who often had little involvement in childcare during the relationship. Gardner concocted Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) for this purpose based on no research, but only his personal experience, beliefs, and bias. This included many public statements that sex between adults and children can be acceptable. I don’t believe judges would have wanted to be associated with this theory if they were aware of the heinous basis for its creation. DV is about control, including financial control. This means in most contested custody cases, the abusive father controls most of the financial resources. The cottage industry developed for these financial reasons and the financial incentive has contributed to custody courts receiving frequent and aggressive misinformation, particularly about alienation.

Gardner sought to include PAS in the DSM-IV which is the compendium of all valid mental health diagnoses. The American Psychiatric Association rejected it because there is no scientific research to support alienation. PAS developed a deserved bad reputation, particularly that it clearly is not a syndrome, and Gardner committed suicide. The cottage industry sought to continue using PAS but wrote articles offering a slightly milder version and used different names such as alienation, parental alienation, or gatekeeping. The cottage industry and male supremacist groups lobbied aggressively to include unscientific alienation theories in the DSM-V which is the present compendium. It was again rejected because there is still no valid research to support the theory. I am not aware of any other court that continues to rely on a theory that has been twice rejected by the leading professional association.

There is an interesting finding in the Meier Study. They found that when courts believe a father is being alienated, this provides a strong boost for the father and helps them gain custody. When the court believes the mother is alienated, it has no effect on the outcome. This means unscientific alienation theories are being applied in a gender biased manner that violates due process and equal protection. What is really happening is that in our still sexist society, mothers continue to provide most of the childcare and therefore have a stronger relationship with their children. Court professionals are less worried about the mothers’ relationship and so pay less attention to alienating behavior by fathers. This is another example of unintentional gender bias.

Some judges have suggested they don’t need research because common sense tells us that parents do make negative statements about each other. This is true, even in intact families. This approach would be acceptable if the courts didn’t then accept the rest of unscientific alienation theories. These theories assume a bad relationship with the father could only be caused by alienating behavior. More likely causes include DV, child abuse, limited involvement, or other bad parenting practices. The theories seek to ASSUME alienation based on speculation about what the mother must be saying. The father rarely has personal knowledge of what is said in the privacy of the mother’s home but are often allowed to speculate. The findings rejecting unscientific alienation theories from the DSM-V means it is caused by bad behavior rather than mental illness. This means that mental health professionals, and especially the cottage industry have no special expertise to inform the court. The alienation theories assume alienation creates the worst possible harm to children. In intact families, negative statements rarely have long-lasting effects. A false statement against one parent is more likely to hurt the relationship with the parent making the false statement. ACE demonstrates that domestic violence and child abuse have far more harmful consequences. There is no valid research that demonstrates the harm from alienation because there is no standard definition of alienation. The purported research, based on the original bogus PAS finds harm to children that is more likely caused by DV and child abuse. Indeed, Gardner assumed that almost all reports of abuse by mothers or children are false. Objective research like the Bala Study found mothers in contested custody cases make deliberate false reports less than 2% of the time.

A recent decision by the Oregon Psychology Board is particularly helpful in understanding the use of unscientific alienation theories in custody courts. A custody evaluator used other language in the DSM-V to claim alienation is supported in the DSM-V. This is false because it was specifically rejected despite aggressive lobbying. The evaluator was disciplined for diagnosing something that doesn’t exist (in the DSM-V). Hopefully more cottage industry professionals will face accountability and stop poisoning custody courts with their biased theories.

The reliance on unscientific alienation theories has done enormous harm to children, but also to the reputation of family courts. It is outrageous that an unscientific theory, twice rejected by the American Psychiatric Association has more influence in the courts than ACE and Saunders that are peer-reviewed scientific research from highly credible sources. ACE is used in many areas of society to benefit individuals. It is used by medical doctors to diagnose and treat patients; therapists to treat patients; schools to help traumatized students and public health officials to support reductions in diseases and social problems. ACE is often compared to the Surgeon General’s Report linking smoking and cancer. Both studies can be used to discourage harmful behavior (smoking, DV and child abuse) and in doing so save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. In contrast, unscientific alienation theories are only used to help abusive fathers gain custody.

The parent who provides most of the childcare in the first two years of a child’s life is and always will be the primary attachment figure. In most cases this parent is the one the children turn to when they need assistance; the primary parent is usually the better parent based on more practice and knows the children’s providers as well as their needs and strengths. Denying children, a normal relationship with their primary attachment figures increases the risk of depression, low self-esteem, and suicide. The importance of primary attachment is often minimized by custody courts in part because of gender bias.

There is a section in the Saunders Study about harmful outcome cases. These are extreme decisions in which the alleged abuser receives custody and a safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure is limited to supervised or no visitation. Saunders found harmful outcome cases are ALWAYS wrong and based on the use of flawed practices. The reason they are always wrong is the harm from denying children a normal relationship with their primary parent is greater than any benefit the court thought it was providing. In most cases, the flaws used by the court resulted in an arrangement that is the opposite of what works best for children.

Context is critically important in recognizing domestic violence. Courts often miss the context in an attempt to save time because of crowded dockets. Decontextualizing is a common abuser tactic. They seek to start the story immediately after their abuse and simply describe the victim’s response. At early hearings, courts often limit the discussion to the immediate issue and in doing so miss the long history of abuse. Arbitrary time limits for presenting a case are not neutral as they are intended. Victims need more time to explain the context and explain (as in this letter) that many standard practices favor abusers. The alleged abuser need only deny the alleged abuse and encourage courts to maintain the biased practices.

In the typical DV custody case, the father wanted the mother to provide most of the childcare during the relationship. In any other court, this would properly be understood as an admission by the father that the mother is a good parent, or else he would have sought a different arrangement. When the mother seeks to leave her abuser and report his abuse, fathers often retaliate by seeking custody and claiming the mother is suddenly unfit. They often claim the mother is mentally ill and/or alienating. What are the chances a mother suddenly becomes unfit because the relationship ended, and she reported his abuse? In the real world the chances are close to zero, but custody courts that fail to use current scientific research, rely on professionals without the needed DV expertise and miss the context often make this unlikely finding.

Conclusion

The use of shared parenting has pushed the court towards an ideological approach and away from the best interests of children. This was one of the purposes of the male supremacist groups that have pushed for equal parenting. There is a legitimate argument for shared parenting in cases with two good and safe parents. This was never intended for use in DV custody cases. The most favorable research for shared parenting says it can be beneficial for children when both parents want shared parenting; the parents can communicate effectively; neither parent is afraid of the other and they live nearby. This does not apply to DV custody cases. Saunders found shared parenting is never appropriate in DV custody cases.

One of the problems with “high conflict” approaches is that it immediately pushes the parents for co-parenting even though in most cases it would be a mistake. High conflict creates a false equivalency between a safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure and an abusive father. In many cases, victims are punished for trying to protect their children and the desire to save court time is substituted for the desire to keep children safe.

ACE and Saunders demonstrate that many standard court practices and many standard evaluation practices are harmful to children. The resultant mistakes are not neutral in the sense that they apply equally to both parents. All the mistakes caused by a failure to use current scientific research help abusive fathers and place children in additional risk. Practices that minimize the harm from DV and child abuse and make it harder for courts to recognize true reports of abuse are harmful to children.

Expert witnesses are the only witnesses allowed to give their opinions. Family courts rarely differentiate between subjective and objective opinions. Subjective opinions work great for the experts, particularly from the cottage industry because they just have to say what they believe or what supports their client. Cottage industry professionals do not have the specific knowledge Saunders says is needed and are biased in favor of abusive fathers. They should never be permitted to serve as neutral professionals. The subjective opinions are often contradicted by the research the experts fail to consider. Objective opinions are much more useful for courts because it is evidence-based information that focuses on what works best for children.

Dr. Vincent Felitti, lead author of the original ACE Study believes prevention is the most important use for his research, especially in Family Court. This research is so exciting because it can be used to reduce cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental illness, substance abuse, suicide, crime and many other health and social problems. It is especially important for courts to use this knowledge in cases that are likely to be the last chance to save children from the awful consequences of exposure to multiple ACEs.

Barry Goldstein is a domestic violence author, speaker, advocate and expert witness. He is the author of six books concerning domestic violence and child custody. Barry is the author of the Safe Child Act which is a comprehensive plan based on current scientific research that can fix the broken court system and make family courts safe for children.

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Police Assault a 13-Year-Old Girl who resisted going with her alleged abuser

  So often, the cries and pleadings of family court victims go unheard. But not this time. This time the cries of this child who did not want to go with the alleged abuser were loud enough to rouse the entire neighborhood as she fought–even against the four police officers who were shackling her–not to […]

The post Police Assault a 13-Year-Old Girl who resisted going with her alleged abuser first appeared on Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts.

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Victims of Violence Want California Courts to Prioritize Child Safety in Custody Cases

In late February, a Sacramento man shot and killed his three young daughters during a court-ordered supervised visit at a church that their mother had asked a judge not to approve.

A Los Angeles man is serving 25 years to life in prison for suffocating his 5-year-old son to death in his car seat in 2017, a move he admitted was to punish his estranged wife, the boy’s mother, who was fighting for full custody.

Earlier this month, a 6-year-old boy and his mother were killed at their Baldwin Park home in a shooting that police say was connected to a domestic dispute with her boyfriend.

In the aftermath of these and other tragedies, domestic abuse survivors — including the mothers of slain children — are pushing for reform of the California family court system when it comes to custody and visitation proceedings. In numerous cases, they say, judges and mediators dismissed their requests and ignored warning signs about violent spouses and guardians.

Read more here.

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The Child Knows Best: The Resultant Provision of Wellbeing When the Court Hears & Rules Accordingly

The Child Knows Best: The Resultant Provision of Wellbeing When the Court Hears & Rules Accordingly

by Genevieve Brackins, Ph.D.

Children inherently deserve to be nurtured and supported in their growth and development yet abuse all too often harms the wellbeing and development of children.[1] When a parent does not provide care and protection for a child the child may attempt self-preservation. This attempt may take the form of trying to stay beyond the reach of an abusive parent. Yet, family courts across the nation have a pattern of denying these children the basic safety they so need: observable in family courts throughout the U.S. is a pattern of forcing the child back into the vicinity of the abuser in the name of reunification where the harm can, and often does, continue.

Through these court rulings, family courts in the United States have sentenced hundreds of children to their premature deaths at the hands of the very abusers from whom the children sought respite,[2] and hundreds of thousands more to endure harmful abuse (sexual, psychological, spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, financial, or social). For twenty-four years professionals have had the benefit of the results of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Studies. Throughout this nearly quarter of a century, it has been crystal clear that the chronic stress of living with the fear and harm of an offending parent’s abuse causes a real decrease in a person’s wellbeing, produces longstanding health problems, and is likely to account for a significant decrease in the person’s life expectancy. Parental abuse of children does not cease to have an impact when the child ages out of childhood (thereby gaining the legal ability to get away/escape the abuser’s physical presence), it is a wrong that may affect a person until their dying breath.

Family court judges across the United States sentence an average of 58,000 children per year to suffer the abuser’s abuse[3] and with frequency these courts legally prohibit the child and the protective parent from having contact with one another, serving another major blow to the development and wellbeing of the child. This problem is all the more possible when judges fail to utilize trauma-informed best practices. Often, court-appointed evaluators, expert witnesses, and other professionals upon whom these judges rely, also are not practicing a trauma-informed approach. Compounding this problem, often unchecked implicit biases in these professionals adversely affect the outcomes for the child as well. Whereas an attorney or judge may choose to defined “success” as clearing a case off the docket, such “success” may be a travesty against success to the child, who may now have been handed a life-sentence of agony due to the decision of the court and the enforcement of that decision. It is beyond crucial to listen to and account for the voice of the child about their experience. The importance of the child having a court-appointed trauma-informed children’s attorney is far-reaching as is the importance of directly addressing abusers’ attorneys that run the PAS strategy against the child’s best interest. The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) theory was concocted by Richard Gardner, an unabashed advocate for adults who desire access to the bodies of children for the adults’ sexual gratification via the utilization of the bodies of children. Gardner self-published his books and articles purporting his PAS theory. Never were his publications peer reviewed and the DSM-IV and DSM-V deny PAS a place in the compendiums due to the lack of validity of the Gardner’s theory of PAS. The Men’s Rights and Father’s Movements have advocated and lobbied for the acceptance of PAS and attorneys representing child abusers frequently deploy the PAS strategy.[4] Often this strategy is invoked in an attempt to prohibit the protective parent from exercising a legal right to protect the child in order that the offending parent can continue the abuse unrestrained.

While the etymology of the English word “custody”
means safe-keeping and protection, today, in effect in the U.S.,
the word dehumanizingly means legal property rights in a living human
child for the child’s parent. No more ought the family court paradigm be about
coercing children and their protective parent into accommodating the offending
parent’s abuse. Family courts across the nation must produce rulings that
reduce the fear and stress inflicted upon children by the parents who have been
harming them. The paradigm must center parents’ responsibility for and to the
child, as well as parents’ obligations to adequately meet the needs of the
child, including development needs. Now is the time for the paradigm to evolve
into one that reminds grown humans (in the form of judges, attorneys and other
professionals, parents, and society at large) that the child is just as human
as are they and they the will and needs of the child are to be recognized and
honored to the greatest extent possible.

Custody cases hold the potential to be about the safe-keeping and protection of the child/children whom the litigation surrounds. We know this is more likely to occur when judges hear from the child through the child’s attorney and is more likely to occur when those involved in such cases (including evaluator, visitation supervisors, the parents’ attorneys, judges, GALs, etc.) are properly and thoroughly trained to utilize trauma-informed practices and approaches (and not when such professionals say they have received such training while actually not engaging in trauma-informed practices which is a common problem). With growing public awareness about this crisis and organized strategic advocacy on the part of professionals engaged with and within this legal system, there may be changes implemented that decrease court-inflicted suffering of children while increasing the safety and wellbeing of the children.

[1] In excess of 60% of youth surveyed in The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence published in 2009 were impacted by violence. 46.3% had endured assault, 24.6% were impacted by robbery, vandalism, and/or theft, 10.2% were impacted by maltreatment, and 6.1% reported enduring sexual abuse.

[2] The yearly average is seventy-five court facilitated deaths a year [Goldstein, 2021].

[3] Bala, Cynwyd, 2008. How Many Children Are Court-Ordered Into Unsupervised Contact With An Abusive Parent After Divorce? <www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/med/PR3.html>.

[4] This is even withstanding that the data reveals that when a litigating parent makes the accusation of PAS of the other parent, that the majority of the time they themselves have brought about the relational disconnect between themselves and the child [Lubit 2019].


Dr. Genevieve Brackins serves as the University of Virginia’s Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center’s Education & Outreach Specialist where she oversees the Men’s Leadership Project mentoring program among additional engaged scholarship work.

Genevieve’s has presented her scholarship at Universities in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, and Tunisia as well as a variety of states across the U.S.. She holds a Ph.D. in the Interdisciplinary Humanities from Florida State University. Her M.A. from Florida State University is focused in Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Theory. Her B.A. is a double major in Women’s Studies and Music from SUNY Oswego.

References

Center for Judicial Excellence. US divorce child murder data [online]. Available from: http:// centerforjudicialexcellence.org/cje-projects-initiatives/child-murder-data [Accessed 11 July 2019].

Bala, Cynwyd, 2008. How Many Children Are
Court-Ordered Into Unsupervised Contact With An Abusive Parent After Divorce?
www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/med/PR3.html

Felitti VJ, et al, The relationship of adult health
status to childhood abuse and household dysfunction
. American Journal of
Preventive Medicine. 1998; 14:245-258.

Finkelhor, David, et. al, 2009. Children’s
Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey
(Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, D.C.) [online] Available from: www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/227744.pdf [Accessed 20 July 2019].

Goldstein, Barry. The
Least Worst Interests of the Child: The Only Outcome Family Courts Will
Consider
[online]. Available from: barrygoldstein.net/articles/the-least-worst-interests-of-the-child. [Accessed 19 July 2019].

Hannah, Mo Therese and Barry Goldstein, 2010. Princeton: Civic Research Institute. Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues

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