California legislature passes bill aiming to protect children from abusers during custody disputes

Again and again, Ana Estevez warned officials that the man she was divorcing, Aramazd Andressian, was abusive and dangerous. Nevertheless, a Los Angeles County family court judge granted him shared custody of their 5-year-old son, Piqui.

One week later, on April 21, 2017, Andressian smothered the boy to death.

Engulfed by grief, Estevez, a former elementary-school principal, teamed up with her state senator, Susan Rubio, to craft legislation to prevent other children from being ordered into the custody of their abusers. This week, the California legislature passed that bill, known as “Piqui’s Law.”

After voting unanimously for passage on Wednesday, the state Assembly gave Estevez a standing ovation. Estevez also attended Thursday’s Senate vote, holding an urn containing Piqui’s ashes. That vote was unanimous, too.

The law, which will take effect unless it’s vetoed by the governor, establishes training on domestic and child abuse for custody judges and bars them from ordering children who resist contact with one of their parents into “reunification treatment” that cuts them off from the other parent.

Read more here.


The Court that Hurts Children

The Court that Hurts Children

By Barry Goldstein

Custody courts cannot protect children when they permit a biased theory, designed to help abusive fathers take custody from good mothers and twice rejected by the American Psychiatric Association because there is no research to support it, to have more influence over the courts than ACE (adverse childhood experiences) and Saunders that are peer-reviewed scientific studies that go to the essence of the well-being of children and come from highly credible sources.

The ACE Studies are peer-reviewed medical research sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The original ACE Study was released in 1998 and there have been at least five additional ACE Studies that confirm and expand the original findings. ACE is used by doctors to diagnose and treat patients, therapists for trauma-informed treatment of patients, public health officials use ACE to help traumatized survivors, and educators use ACE to help traumatized students. The only purpose of unscientific alienation theories is to help abusive fathers take custody from safe, protective mothers and help the cottage industry earn large incomes.

ACE would tell the court that children exposed to domestic violence, child abuse and other trauma will live shorter lives and face a lifetime of health and social problems. Most of the harm is not from any immediate physical injury, but from living with the fear and stress abusers cause. Doctors working with the ACE research can help courts understand that contested custody in DV cases is often the last chance to save children from a lifetime (often a shorter lifetime) of illness and pain. In order to save these children, they will need medical treatment and therapy to respond to health problems as they develop and reduce the stress which will cause most of the harm. The children also cannot be exposed to more abuse or frightening situations or else they cannot heal. When courts insist on giving an abuser shared decision-making, they prevent the children from receiving the treatment they need. Abusers particularly do not want the children in therapy where they might reveal his abuse. When courts assume keeping abusers in children’s lives is beneficial, they expose children to more abuse and stress. These standard court responses remove the last chance for children to have a full and successful life.

The Saunders Study was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice in the US Justice Department. The purpose was to determine the domestic violence knowledge of judges, lawyers, and evaluators. Saunders found court professionals need more than generalized training in DV. They need specific knowledge that includes screening for DV, risk assessment, post-separation violence, and the impact of DV on children. Professionals without this information 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. Saunders found DV advocates have more of the DV knowledge courts need than court professionals and most judges, lawyers and especially evaluators who do not have the DV expertise they need. Saunders recommends a multi-disciplinary approach that in potential DV cases must include a DV expert.

Fundamentally, without ACE, courts routinely minimize the harm from DV and child abuse and without Saunders they rely on the wrong professionals and so disbelieve true reports of abuse. Many standard court assumptions and practices were proven wrong by ACE and Saunders but continue to be relied on by courts.

Domestic violence is about control, including financial control. This means that in most DV cases most of the family’s financial resources are controlled by the abusive father. This factor led to the creation of the cottage industry of legal and mental health professionals who promote bogus theories such as alienation to help abusers gain custody. This financial advantage is a huge legal advantage and courts have been reluctant to use their authority to level the playing field. Abusers routinely use economic and litigation abuse to bankrupt their victims so that many victims wind up representing themselves. Courts do not seem to notice the tactics, use the information to recognize abusers’ motives, or take action to guarantee a fair trial. The superior economic resources of abusers result in judges and other court professionals hearing far more misinformation than the actual research that courts badly need.

The tilt is further encouraged by the response of attorneys. Lawyers for abusers are comfortable acting aggressively even when it misleads the court and places children in jeopardy. At the same time, many attorneys for mothers refuse or discourage their clients from presenting evidence or research about DV. Many courts have failed to understand mothers’ attempts to protect their children and have responded by punishing protective mothers who are the primary attachment figures for the children. Judges rarely consider that aside from missing true reports of abuse, the retaliation discourages lawyers from providing courts with the information needed to protect children in other cases.

The Meier Study is an outcome study designed to measure how courts respond to alleged DV, child abuse, and alienation. In the context of other research, Meier supports the conclusion that custody courts support abusive fathers far more than the evidence would justify. This is to be expected given the information discussed earlier.

In the last 15 years, a study from the Center for Judicial Excellence found over 900 children involved in contested custody have been murdered mostly by abusive fathers. In many cases, judges disbelieved or minimized reports of abuse and gave the killers the access they needed. The Bartlow Study asked judges and court administrators in the communities that suffered these murders what the court had done to make children safer in response to the local tragedy. The shocking answer was nothing because they all assumed the murder was an exception. I find it distressing that even the murder of a child does not overcome the defensiveness and insularity that has prevented needed reforms including the use of ACE and Saunders.

Children who physically survive their time controlled by custody courts are not out of the woods. Many of these children die in their teens or twenties from suicide or a drug overdose. Other children will later die early from cancer, heart disease or other diseases that are caused or exacerbated by the stress ACE focuses on. People who were never in custody court die from similar tragedies so we cannot know if an individual death was caused by the poor practices courts use in responding to abuse cases. There is no doubt, however, that many children’s lives are being ruined because courts are more willing to maintain the status quo than introduce ACE and Saunders.

I wrote an article based on a true story of a mother who saved her son by punching a mountain lion who attacked him. She was viewed as a heroine because the danger was from a wild animal instead of a wild abuser. The story illustrates the maternal instinct to protect children. Only in the courts that hurt children is this instinct viewed as harmful and severely punished. Some of the most heart wrenching stories I hear involve extreme decisions separating mothers from children and children from mothers. Courts make this tragic mistake because they are relying on flawed and biased practices. The Saunders Study and Kayden’s Law would tell courts of their mistake if only courts would consider scientific research instead of subjective opinions. Many, if not most, children will never recover from these extreme and retaliatory decisions. No judge wants to hurt children, but without the research they will continue to do so.

One of the reasons DV experts understand abuse issues better than other professionals is that we look at the patterns. Judges and court administrators miss the patterns because they are handling all custody cases. Most cases involve two good and loving parents and the standard court practices work well in those cases. This makes it harder for courts to recognize the 3.8% of contested custody cases that require a very different response. 75-90% of these cases are really DV cases in which an abusive father who often had limited involvement with the children during the relationship seeks custody or shared parenting (as a first step) to regain control and punish the victim for leaving.

It is a mistake to treat cases with two safe parents the same as cases with an alleged abuser. High conflict approaches are biased in favor of abusers because they create a false equivalency between victim and abuser. There is now a specialized body of knowledge and research that is needed in abuse cases, including to determine if there is abuse. Any attempt to decide possible abuse cases without the benefit of ACE and Saunders is malpractice.

Any effort to reform court practices in order to protect children must include ACE and Saunders. Many court officials seek to block any legislation they view as limiting their discretion. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges seeks to train other judges about ACE and Saunders because it goes to the essence of the well-being of children. I have never heard a judge or court administrator explain the justification for failing to make sure the knowledge in ACE and Saunders is used to understand these cases and protect children.

I don’t write this article out of anger or to criticize anyone. I am writing out of profound pain and sadness. The worst part of this work is the constant stream of preventable tragedies that never stop. We fight on a case-by-case basis, but as long as courts maintain the ignorant and biased practices that err on the side of protecting abusers and ruining children’s lives, the unbearable tragedies will continue. Please tell me how courts that hurt children can continue to try to respond without the benefit ACE and Saunders.

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.

(Thanks to Veronica York for her suggestions that improved this article).


The Role Of Journalists In Failing To Report Family Court Corruption

A   California journalist wrote asking for an interview. Hello FCVFC, I am a reporter with the San Francisco Public Press. I am deeply interested in reporting on domestic violence and child abuse issues. Last year I did a three-part series on a new California law called Coercive Control (please see links below) that won a […]

The post The Role Of Journalists In Failing To Report Family Court Corruption first appeared on Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts.


sad mother sitting on the floor crying holding a child's shoe

6 Ways a Mother Can Lose Custody as a Result of Her Misconduct

sad mother sitting on the floor crying holding a child's shoe


It is a difficult decision for any parent to lose custody of their children. It can be an even more difficult decision when the mother has lost custody due to her own misconduct.

Ways a Mother Can Lose Custody

In order to understand how this could happen, it’s important that we take the time to examine 6 ways in which a mother might lose custody as a result of her own actions:

1. Child Abuse

Society tends to see women as nurturing, but they can be just as capable of abuse. Despite the commonly held belief that women are less capable of child abuse than men, it is often more shocking to learn that a mother has abused her children. Some people assume this type of behavior occurs in only one-parent families and especially among stepfathers or adoptive parents, however, mothers can also be abusive.

The reason mothers lose custody of their children is abuse: physical, emotional, and sexual. Some people assume that women are less likely to be abusers, however, they can commit all types of child abuse which makes it more shocking when a mother abuses her kids because society sees them as nurturing but sometimes this isn’t the case.

Sometimes, a mother isn’t abusive herself but fails to protect her children from abuse by the new partner. If the court becomes aware of this behavior in either case, they are likely to lose custody.

When a father knows his child is being abused by the mother but does nothing about it, he fails to protect their child and this can impact both his custodial rights as well as the mother’s. This means that parents have an obligation to take care of their children.

2. Child Neglect

If a mother neglects her child’s basic needs, like health and education, she runs the risk of losing custody. For example: if she leaves them hungry or homeless without any clothes to wear they will likely end up in foster care. Neglect is often intertwined with other issues such as abuse or substance use so one should not be ignored for another.

There is no set standard for a “perfect parent”. Family law judges understand that parenting isn’t perfect, so they are willing to overlook some small mishaps such as being late picking up the children from school or not keeping an appointment. However, if there’s long-term neglect of the child and this threatens their well-being, then you could risk losing your parental rights with family court intervening.

A father may be able to prove the negligence of his children by the mother. Teachers, daycare providers, family members, and others are all potential sources for proof against a negligent parent. If these people notice that there is something wrong with how parents care for their kids but don’t know what exactly it might be or if they would want to testify in court about it on behalf of an estranged father’s custody case, then perhaps direct evidence can help them out!

3. Substance Abuse or Addiction

The courts take addiction to alcohol and drugs very seriously, in part because it can have a negative impact on the care that an addict’s children receive. If a mother struggles with addictions to alcohol and other substances she may be put into question as being unfit or unable to take care of her children.

If a mother is discovered to have a dependency on prohibited substances or drugs and alcohol, she risks having her custody rights revoked. Children of addicts are more likely to suffer neglect, abuse, and imitate their parents by picking up bad habits as well. In cases where there’s evidence of the mother’s substance use (drug/alcohol), fathers can present this evidence requesting that his ex-wife be stripped of visitation privileges with his children altogether in order for them not to pick up these unhealthy behaviors themselves.

Despite the fact that a mother can be awarded custody if she agrees to get treatment for her addiction, this isn’t always possible.

A result of giving mothers custody over their children when they are addicted is it may endanger them physically, sexually, or emotionally and put their lives in danger (e.g., drunk driving). However, there are times where mothers might still retain custody after signing an agreement allowing them access to counseling for addictions as well as following through on getting help from these services (if necessary) .

4. Violating a Court Order

A mother’s custody rights can be lost or reduced should she violate a child custody order. When a parent disobeys their scheduled responsibilities, neglects court-ordered visitation times with the father, and interferes with his parental privileges they may face consequences such as losing legal custodial authority of her offspring.

If a shared custody agreement is ordered by the court, and she fails to comply or interferes with her co-parent’s parenting time, then she will be in violation of the court order.

Violations of court orders are like any other form of misconduct: the more serious the violation is, it should be treated with a correspondingly stronger punishment. Assume that a mother consistently misses deadlines for dropping off or picking up her child by only several minutes, this technically qualifies as violating an existing custody agreement but will rarely have drastic consequences on their custodial rights since these kinds of minor violations tend to carry minimal punishments in most cases.

A mother who decides that the court’s order providing specific parenting time is a suggestion and not a directive may violate their custody agreement. If this continues to happen, it could lead to losing custody of her child.

A father should keep a detailed log of every time his ex-wife interferes with or violates their court order. Every instance the mother keeps the child from him sabotages visitation plans, and more can be used against her in court to lessen her custody rights as punishment for causing havoc between them.

Fathers should be sure not to let the violations of a court order go without any consequences. The usual reason they do this is that they want to avoid conflict, but mothers will only see that as an opportunity for them to violate it more often and solidify in their minds that it’s just a suggestion instead of something she needs to follow.

5. Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not just something that happens to other people. To protect your children, you should also know the signs of domestic violence that are exhibited by mothers. You do not have to put up with abuse and ensure that they stay safe from harm.

If a mother is deemed to be abusive, she can have her custody revoked. This will ensure that the children are not exposed to potentially harmful abuse and also protect them from potential future harm.

Domestic violence is emotional abuse that may turn physical with time. Children are in danger of being exposed to this if they come in contact with or spend significant time, living in the home. Courts are aware of this and will take action for your safety.

6. Severe Mental Health Issues

Mothers with mental health concerns still have the right to custody of their children, however, if a mother’s state endangers her child/children or compromises them in any way then she can lose that legal privilege.

In these cases, the court has to consider whether or not it is in their children’s best interests if they are left under a mother’s care. The father will have to show that her mental health issues compromise their safety and argue that without his presence, their well-being would be better protected. This can sometimes require extensive interviews by psychologists as well as counseling before any final decision being made so this process may take some time but should always remain fair for both parties involved.

Other ways considered by the Law for mothers to lose custody of their children:

  • Child Abduction
  • Parental Alienation
  • Lack of Involvement in the Child’s Care
  • Reporting Abuse by the Other Parent

The final and most important thing a mother can do is to seek the help of an attorney. There are many ways for mothers to lose custody of their children as a result of misconduct, but there are also attorneys that specialize in challenging such decisions. If you’re feeling like your child’s best interests may not be at risk due to this ruling, please contact one of our lawyers today. They will work hard on your behalf and make sure that your rights as a parent remain intact so that you have time to raise them with the love and care they deserve!

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Home Church Pastor Hector Moreneo Doubles as Attorney Connected to Human Trafficking

Hector Moreno has been described by young women as a skilled predator who grooms women and children for a life of sex trafficking through the Campbell based Home Church as Moreno works as a divorce attorney in Santa Clara and San Mateo Couties. 

Leaked audio of a conversation between April and Michael Moreno, Hector’s children. indicate Moreno has been connected to a human trafficking ring connected to the Home Church were Moreno is a pastor. 

Over 40 women and young men have come forward to tell of the horrors they endured from the time they were young children attenting camps pitched to their parents as spiritual . 

For over two decades Moreno has used children groomed through the church to provide a supply of young sex workers, domestic help and nannies to high paying Silicon Valley clients. 

In the divorce cases he handles, Moreno offers up children whose parents allege child abuse of a wealthy spouse. Those children are sent to Family Bridges and Transitioning Families reunification camps where the church’s grooming and brainwashing techniques are used on children  Moreno separates from loving families. Children from middle class and wealthy families have the education , dental work and hygine skills Moreno seeks for clients, escort services and international trafficking rings connected to ” missions ” he runs for Home Chruch. 

Moreno’s son Michael Moreno , is employed in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office . There he gets cases dismissed for the benefit of his father’s work for the chruch, and in the family courts. 

The Leaked audio is haunting. It shows that Moreno is using his standing as a licened attorney and trusted pastor for racketeering activity that includes buying and selling of kids and young women. 

In the audio, April is heard begging for her father to help after noting he has repeatedly buried police reports and called in favors from DA Jeff Rosen to get cases dropped against his clients and deakons of the church. 

Presently Moreno is supporting a cousin by marriage, Cindy Hendrickson in a political race to be judge. Moreno used the congrgation at the church to buy votes knowing he will cash in if Hendrickson is elevated to the bench such that she can issue orders that will justify payments to reunifcation camps and court witnesses who can win cases for the Moreno clan . 

On Moreno’s payroll are at least 5 FBI agents, DOJ proseuctors and the local District Attorney, Jeff Rosen who protect Moreno’s criminality in exchange for real estate deals, cash and cryptocurrency that is flush in Silicon Valley. 


The Most Important Stages Of The Divorce Process

The Most Important Stages Of The Divorce Process


Divorce is both an emotional and a financial hassle. If you want to file for dissolution of marriage in Florida, you should know there are two types of divorce. The simplified dissolution of marriage and the regular dissolution of marriage.

In a simplified dissolution of marriage, spouses agree on the division of assets and property, do not have children or file for divorce during a pregnancy stage, or do not seek alimony. In a regular dissolution of marriage, the situation is reversed, and various aspects of the divorce cannot be agreed upon.

In both cases, consulting with a divorce lawyer can simplify the process, bringing it to an end sooner and in your favor. Working with a lawyer can help you take the proper actions while the case is underway. For example, certain actions, such as online statements, can backfire on your case during the divorce procedure. Click here to learn more.

Regardless of what type of divorce you wish to pursue in Florida, here are some of the most important stages:

The Petition and the Response

The first stage in a divorce, and one of the most important for foreshadowing how your divorce case will go, is how you file the petition and how your spouse responds to it. In Florida, you must meet some requirements before filing for divorce, such as:

  • One of the spouses had a residency in Florida for at least six months before filing for divorce
  • Both parties must provide full financial disclosure
  • Proof of marriage
  • Demonstrating the marriage is disjointed

When you file the dissolution of marriage in the county you reside in, the court will send divorce papers to your spouse. If your spouse disagrees with the divorce settlement terms, the court will order a court hearing.

If your spouse agrees with the settlement agreement, your divorce case will not go to trial and will be finalized sooner. A divorce attorney can help you prepare your files properly so your case proceeds easier.

If your spouse dodges the divorce papers, it may be an early sign that your divorce proceedings will not go smoothly, and thus you will need a good divorce lawyer to help you combat other divorce delaying tactics that your spouse may use later.

Division of Family Assets & Alimony

The equitable division laws in Florida imply the distribution of all marital assets. Although some do not consider these laws to be fair, a divorce attorney will represent your rights and opinions regarding alimony. This is the most critical financial stage in a divorce, and the court will consider issues such as:

  • The duration of your marriage
  • Disabilities, age, and health
  • Various economic circumstances
  • Spousal allocation of wealth

It’s important to avoid big financial decisions during your divorce proceedings; otherwise, it may backfire on your case. Even if you learn here more about the most important stages of a divorce, things can turn out differently in your case. Contacting a divorce lawyer is the best way to have your case analyzed and get solid legal advice that can prepare you for the most important stages in your particular divorce proceedings.

Child Custody or Child Support

The most important “emotional stage” of any divorce is, of course, related to child custody. Here, the court will decide in the child’s best interest, and this is the stage where issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, and other problems are discussed if present.

If you want to keep your children safe, working with a divorce lawyer is imperative to prove the abusive behavior of your former partner. Apart from this, child support is also important during separation. Even with the distribution of assets, raising and caring for children is difficult without additional financial support. Child support is imperative if you are unable to take care of your children due to financial reasons.

More importantly, even if you aren’t an abusive parent, your former spouse may try to put the blame on you. Having a good divorce lawyer by your side is critical in this situation, as they will help you out and fight in your best interest till the end.

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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

Does an Expert Witness Need to Speak with all Parties?

By Barry Goldstein

During our training to teach batterer classes, we often discussed the fact that much of domestic violence is counterintuitive.  One would expect abusers to deny and minimize their abusive behavior, and they do.  One would also expect alleged victims to exaggerate or even make up false reports of DV.  Instead, it is very common for victims to minimize his abuse; take more responsibility than she deserves; and make excuses for him.  Most court professionals are not DV experts and would not even consider the very different responses from victims and abusers.

We have heard lawyers and judges question whether a DV expert should be allowed to testify if they haven’t interviewed both parties and possibly any children.  This mistake is based on the standard practice of evaluators speaking with everyone.  It is also based on a fundamental failure to understand domestic violence.  The Saunders Study is the leading research about the DV knowledge of court professionals.  It found courts should use a multi-disciplinary approach to DV custody cases.  Nevertheless, courts routinely listen to evaluators who failed to consult a DV expert and are without the DV knowledge Saunders found to be necessary.

In the real world, professionals routinely make important judgments about DV without speaking to the alleged abuser.  Doctors, therapists and DV advocates often calculate a child’s ACE score based on what the safe parent tells them.  They have found this to be highly accurate because the research confirms women rarely make deliberate false reports of abuse, particularly in the context of contested custody cases.  Similarly, advocates and law enforcement routinely use lethality or danger assessments based on the reports of the alleged victims.  These practices have proven to be helpful and accurate.  Of course, if these assessments lead to criminal charges or other court action, the alleged abuser is certainly given the opportunity to respond.

Courts Need DV Expertise

There is now a specialized body of domestic violence knowledge and research that was not available when custody courts developed their response to DV cases.  This information is critical if courts are to be effective in recognizing and responding to DV.  Saunders found court professionals need more than generalized DV knowledge.  They need knowledge in very specific topics that include screening for DV, risk assessment, post-separation violence and the impact of DV on children.  Saunders found most evaluators and other court professionals do not have this specific knowledge.  When courts attempt to make decisions in possible DV cases without the necessary DV knowledge the results are often catastrophic and frequently ruin children’s lives.

There are four parts to proper screening for DV.  The first part is to avoid non-probative factors that are often used to discredit true reports of abuse.  Common examples include the alleged victim leaves and returns, she fails to follow through on a request for a restraining order, she doesn’t have police or medical records.  These are common responses of victims for safety and other good reasons.  Another related mistake is treating an alleged abuser’s good behavior in public, including testimonials from friends, family, and colleagues as if that tells us anything about his private behavior.  In the batterer classes I taught, the men usually acted respectfully, and we were trained to understand this tells us nothing about his behavior in private.  In many cases, professionals observe an alleged abuser interacting with the children.  When they don’t show any fear, the untrained observer assumes this means he cannot be abusive.  The children understand he would not hurt them in front of witnesses, so it is safe to play with a father they still love.  The fact courts continue to discredit abuse reports based on non-probative factors demonstrates the need for a DV expert.

The second factor is simply to determine which parent is afraid of the other.  Sometimes victims challenge their abuser during litigation.  They are afraid of him but find the courage because they are trying to protect their children. When an alleged victim accepts clearly inadequate child support, this is often because she is afraid of his response if she demanded what the law requires.  Context is important, including the relative size and strength of the parties in determining the fear issue.

Most custody cases, like any litigation are settled more or less amicably.  The problem is the 3.8% of cases that require trial and often much more.  Although courts often use a high conflict approach, 75-90% of these cases are really domestic violence involving the worst abusers.  This does not mean they committed the most severe assaults, but rather he believes she has no right to leave and so he is entitled to do whatever is necessary to regain the control he believes he is entitled to and punish the mother for leaving.  Courts cannot make decisions based on statistics but should look to his actions to understand his motive.

Most parents would sacrifice their resources and preferences to benefit their children.  Accordingly, it makes sense to look to see if the father is making such sacrifices or alternatively refusing to do so.  Is the father refusing to pay child support and other child related needs or making it difficult to collect?  Is he interfering with the child’s communication with the mother?   Is he blocking therapy and other decisions that would benefit the child?  Saunders found abusive fathers use decision-making to block anything the mother wants and especially therapy because the child might reveal his abuse.  Is the father uncooperative with socialization and activities that would benefit the child?  Does the father engage in unnecessary and harmful litigation tactics?  Is he trying to gain an unfair advantage by imposing high litigation and other expenses on the mother?  Is the father willing to spend more to deprive the mother or child of something than the issue would cost him?  I had an extreme example in one case where the father canceled health insurance for the children that was fully paid by his employer.  The court treated it as an economic issue rather than proof the father was deliberately trying to hurt the mother and children.  An abuser is not likely to engage in all these bad practices but looking at the totality of the circumstances can help the court determine whether the father’s priority is the well-being of the children.

The final part to screening for DV is looking for the pattern of abuse.  Courts tend to focus on incidents, and that is needed for evidence, but in DV cases, it is not just that the abuser committed some incidents, but it is who he is, what he believes, and all designed to impose his will.  The pattern would include all the tactics the abuser used during the relationship and since.  This emphasizes that most DV is neither physical nor illegal.  The tactics often also include emotional, verbal, economic, and litigation abuse as well as isolating and monitoring tactics.  Including all the tactics makes more evidence available and helps courts recognize his motives.  The fact that his tactics continued after the separation demonstrates he has not changed.  Some professionals assume the end of the relationship ends his abuse, but the research found only accountability and monitoring are effective in changing abusers’ behavior.  When courts minimize or overlook abusive behavior, it serves to encourage these harmful tactics.  This is not beneficial for the children.

Risk Assessment is central to the work of DV advocates because if we can’t keep the victim safe, nothing else matters.  It is hard to believe courts haven’t made this a similar priority to protect children.  The Center for Judicial Excellence keeps records of children involved in contested custody who were murdered, mostly by abusive fathers.  Since 2008 they have found over 860 child murders.  

There are specific behaviors associated with higher risk of lethality.  These circumstances include strangulation; hitting a woman while pregnant; hurting animals; threats of murder, suicide, or kidnapping; access to guns; stalking; and the belief she has no right to leave.  I have reviewed over 1000 child custody evaluations and never saw an evaluator reference the lethality risk associated with these allegations.  The failure to focus on risk assessment results in denying and minimizing the risk from abusers.

Post-separation violence refers to two types of risks courts rarely consider.  In contested custody, fathers who had limited involvement in childcare during the relationship suddenly seek custody or shared parenting as a tactic to gain access to the victim and punish her for leaving.  Saunders found abusive fathers sometimes use visitation exchanges to harass or even assault the mother.  Abusers may use meetings or communications to try to resume the relationship or just have sex.  This might be misunderstood as romantic, but it reveals the motive for seeking custody.  Abusive litigation tactics and economic abuse are often a continuation of the father’s DV once he no longer has regular access.  Even worse, many abusers recognize the best way to hurt a mother is to hurt her children.

Abusers do not commit DV because of anything the mother said or did.  Rather, his behavior is based on his sense of entitlement and belief as the man he has the “right” to make the decisions.  This means he is likely to abuse future partners.  If he is given custody or unprotected visitation, the children are likely to witness more DV and that would prevent them from healing so they will suffer the awful consequences of exposure to multiple adverse childhood experiences.

The ACE (adverse childhood experiences) Research is peer-reviewed medical studies from the CDC.  It provides the answer to Saunders question about the impact of DV on children and goes to the essence of the best interests of children.  ACE found that children exposed to DV, or child abuse will live shorter lives and suffer a lifetime of health and social problems.  Most of the harm is not caused by any immediate physical injuries, but from the fear and stress abusers cause.  Without ACE, courts routinely minimize the harm from DV or child abuse and are deprived of the most important information.

ACE tells us that many common court practices work poorly for the children the courts are obligated to protect.  These mistakes include: refusing to consider older abuse; assuming a very young child could not be harmed by DV because they would not understand what occurred; failing to allow enough time to learn the full context and patterns; using approaches that demand the child just get over it; high conflict approaches; using shared parenting in cases where children have multiple ACEs; using unscientific alienation theories; failure to give serious consideration to supervised visitation; and failure to focus on how to reduce the fear and stress on children.

Avoiding Outdated Practices

Saunders found custody courts need to use a multi-disciplinary approach in cases where there may be domestic violence.  This means courts benefit from hearing DV experts when determining if there is DV as well as best responses.  It is puzzling why judges or lawyers could believe a DV expert must speak with an alleged abuser to provide useful information while there would be no question a party’s therapist can testify after only working with their client.  The mistake is probably based on familiarity with standard evaluator practices and a misguided sense of fairness.  

As DV expert witnesses, we often hear the alleged abuser’s voice through evaluation reports, GAL reports, court transcripts, and messages like texts or emails.  The attorneys who complain we did not speak to their clients would never have allowed us to speak with them.  Even without us speaking to the alleged abuser, the court will hear his side of the story because he will be given an opportunity to present a case.  In contrast, when courts rely on an evaluator without the needed DV expertise, the court never hears the vital DV information discussed above.  Even when there is no evaluation in a case, the judge and lawyers are relying on the many evaluations they have read in other cases that fail to consider important DV expertise.  In other words, courts will always have an opportunity to hear from both parties, but only with a DV expert can the court consider the type of life saving information described earlier.

There is a history and context that undermine the adoption of needed reforms.  Present practices, particularly concerning evaluations in DV custody cases were developed at a time when no research was available.  The popular assumption was that DV was caused by mental illness or substance abuse.  This led courts to turn to mental health professionals as if they were the experts in DV.  They are experts in psychology and mental illness, and this can be helpful particularly when there are mental health issues in addition to the DV.  Further research proved mental illness and substance abuse reduce inhibitions, so DV is more severe, but does not cause DV.  Saunders established that evaluators do not have the necessary DV expertise, but courts have been slow to use the multi-disciplinary approach needed to protect children.

At the same time, DV is about control, including financial control.  This means most of the financial resources favor abusive fathers, so courts have heard much more biased misinformation that favors abusers.  Most lawyers do not have DV expertise and many refuse or discourage presentation of DV information because they believe judges don’t want to hear them.  This is precisely the scientific research and DV expertise courts will miss without testimony from a DV expert.

There is something terribly wrong when an alienation theory based on no research, but the belief sex between adults and children can be acceptable continues to have more influence on custody courts than ACE and Saunders that are peer-reviewed scientific research from the CDC and National Institute of Justice.  The alienation theories were twice rejected by the American Psychiatric Association because there is no research to support it.  The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges seeks to train other judges about ACE and Saunders because without this vital research courts routinely deny or minimize true reports of abuse AND RUIN CHILDREN’S LIVES.

As DV experts, we can provide custody courts with knowledge of important scientific research, DV dynamics, gender bias, child sexual abuse, batterer narratives, and the importance of context.  This knowledge proves many standard court practices are harming children.  If we don’t speak to an alleged abuser, the courts will get his side of the story anyway, but if courts don’t hear from DV experts, as the research recommends, courts will never hear the information needed to keep precious children healthy, safe, and alive.

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.


APA PA Child Abuse by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

APA PA Child Abuse by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

Domestic Violence Training for Judges: West Covina Legislator’s Bill Clears Hurdle

Next stop for State Sen. Susan Rubio’s SB 616– Piqui’s Law — is the Senate, and then the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Along with a relentless push from mother Ana Estevez, actress Angelina Jolie has backed the effort.

A San Gabriel Valley state legislator’s bill seeking to require judges to take domestic violence training to inform them on child safety during custody proceedings is one step closer to the governor’s desk.

State Sen. Susan Rubio’s SB 616 – known as Piqui’s Law, after the 5-year-old boy who was murdered by his father in the time period when his parents were going through a divorce — passed through the Assembly on Aug. 15.

If it gets through the Senate, and if signed by the governor, the bill would align with federal provisions within the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in order to receive funding to reform family court.

That reform would require state court judges to take training that proponents say would help them recognize and respond to child abuse, domestic violence and trauma when they look to make custody decisions amid parental legal disputes.

Read more here.


Cults and the Courts, Part 2

Complaint against Judge Mary Rudolph Black in the case of our client Re: Fraud, malevolence, failure to investigate child abuse / child endangerment FBI Referral to Investigate Cult Association With Child Endangerment — Ignored Evidence Suppressed & Ignored When Properly Brought to the Court’s Attention Subversion Of Client’s Ability to Be Present In Court For […]

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