Why You Should Always Consider Mediation Before Litigating a Divorce

Divorce is a complex process that can bring feelings of anger or sadness to everyone involved. Conflict in the divorce can mean more emotional and economic pain, for the litigants and any children involved.

Mediating a divorce is an excellent decision to help avoid an expensive legal battle and reduce that stress by providing the parties to the suit with more control over the case’s outcome.

Learn why mediation is better than divorce, then contact our Dallas divorce mediation attorneys for more information.

Divorce Mediation Overview

Divorce mediation allows separating couples to meet with a neutral third party, with or without counsel, to resolve any issues or items of contention in a divorce. Mediation is preferable to litigation because it is less upsetting and almost always less expensive. Divorce mediation also usually allows the parties to finish their case quicker than a standard divorce.

Another important benefit to mediation is that you and your partner have the ultimate say—subject to agreement and the confines of the law—over your contested issues. Outside of extreme circumstances when mediation may not be the best course of action, any agreement reached in mediation is binding on the Court. This means that you both can keep the power and control over your relationship, and the Court is not making ordering things that no one asked for.

How Mediation Works

Divorce mediation starts when you and your partner agree and select a mediator, or the Court appoints one. While divorce mediation is voluntary in most states, Texas courts have the power to order the parties to mediate their case. This is the limit to what the Court can do, as the Court cannot force parties to reach agreements.

While mediation is highly successful in resolving cases, it is most effective when both parties are willing to negotiate their contentious divorce issues. Usually, the mediator will set up an appointment in a neutral setting with the spouses (and counsel, if any). During this initial meeting, the spouses can talk about their views on common divorce topics that, include:

  • Division of assets
  • Child visitation and custody
  • Child support
  • Alimony

The first discussion helps your mediator to understand how realistic a possible resolution to the case is via mediation. As a further means of “keeping the peace” during these sessions, the mediator will generally have each side in a separate room (or Zoom room, if being done electronically).

There is no time limit on divorce mediation in Texas. Everyone can continue working with the mediator to reach an agreement until an agreement is reached, or the process becomes unworkable. If the issues are too complex or the conflict is too high for agreements to be reached, litigation is still possible. Still, mediation is almost always less expensive than a lengthy divorce fought out in the courts. Parties can save thousands of dollars—and ever-valuable time—by resolving their case through mediation.

Is Mediation An Option?

Mediation is possible if there is a chance you and your partner will agree to the terms of a divorce. Also, both sides need to be open on finances, and agreement is required on child custody matters. However, mediation is not usually advisable if there is a history of domestic violence.

Contact Our Dallas Divorce Mediation Attorneys Today

Divorce is painful, and a contentious divorce can be emotionally and financially devastating. Everyone is better off when both sides can agree to divorce terms without an extended legal quarrel. Divorce mediation is a great choice to reach these agreements, whether the issues are alimony, child custody, or division of property.

The Dallas divorce mediation attorneys at Orsinger, Nelson, Downing & Anderson can help with mediating your divorce to bring your case to an agreeable conclusion without a lengthy legal battle. Our attorneys are proud to serve the communities of Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, and San Antonio. Please contact our Dallas divorce mediation attorneys at (214) 273-2400.

The post Why You Should Always Consider Mediation Before Litigating a Divorce appeared first on ONDA Family Law.

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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.

The post The Most Important Stages Of The Divorce Process appeared first on Divorced Moms.

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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.

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Murders of Children Forced Congress and Biden to Act. Will California Do the Same?

BY SUSAN RUBIO AND KATHLEEN RUSSELL

(SACRAMENTO BEE) – In February 2022, during a family-court-ordered visitation at a Sacramento church, a father murdered his three young daughters and a designated supervisor. He then committed suicide. Previously, the mother had obtained a domestic violence restraining order against the man, saying she feared for the life of her children and herself and that he had shown clear signs of escalating violent behavior. This type of horrific crime is not rare amid contentious custody proceedings. The Center for Judicial Excellence tracks murders committed in the U.S. by divorcing or separating parents, and it also tracks when a parent has unsuccessfully asked a court to intervene. Since 2008, there have been at least 859 reported cases of children being murdered by an abusive parent during divorce or separation proceedings. Many of the children died during a family-court-ordered visitation despite the presentation of evidence that they were in danger.

Read more here.

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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.

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Parental Alienation and Domestic Violence Part Two by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

Parental Alienation and Domestic Violence Part Two by Family Court-Corruption on Scribd

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.

Read more here.

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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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Project Hopeline

In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wanted to let you know about Project Hopeline. This valuable service helps domestic violence victims get a much-needed cell phone, while also supporting numerous shelters and services throughout the country through recycling and refurbishing of wireless phones in an environmentally friendly. Find out more about the program…

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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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