Mitchell Papers Show Dark Money Divorce Lawyer Retainer Payments Linked to Minor's Counsel "GAL"


Over the past decade family law attorney Elise Mitchell was awarded court appointments to represent children as the county courts sought to provide the public with an appearance of diversity in divorce and custody cases. Mitchell is Black. 

Now Mitchell’s own adult  child, Ogechi Ajawara, has linked social media and  digital footprints that  expose what appears to be his mother’s involment in a California divorce case rigging and tax evasion scheme. 

The scheme has operated for over a decade and is  centered around Silicon Valley judges James Towery and Stuart Scott with links  to Los Angeles and Orange County Courts. The target, California  real estate and high asset community property estates  subject to  division in a divorce  or probate case.

Mitchell’s emails and dark payment transactions are linked to family law attorneys Stefan Kennedy, BJ Fadem, Constance Carpenter, Jessica Huey, Christina Adames and Nicole Myers , all operating in high asset divorce cases in  Silcon Valley. These lawyers, like their Southern California counterparts obtain immunity from their court appointments and as such are able to pad their bills with impunity. 

In  2018,  confidential files were reportedly left  at the San Jose Catholic School where Mitchell’s  daughter attended with the daughter of now Judge Cindy Hendrickson. After the leak, Mitchell  was shadowbanned and only given cases predetermined to be on the losing end of a real estate – private judge scheme operating in family court probate and divorce cases. 

More recently leaked files show that during the 2020-2022 pandemic, as courthouses were closed, Mitchell  nudged into private judging cases, representing the wives who were set up to lose due to case rigging involving California’s public court judges.  

Payments Mitchell collected in  cryptocurrency,  cash gift cards, and fradulent real estate titles  keeps Mitchell  funded as ineffective counsel in rigged divorce cases, while giving an appearance that Santa Clara County offers ” diversity ” in court appointments. 

Mitchell’s data footprint has revealed payments consistent with tax evasion and money laundering linked to the accounts of Pala Psychotherapy,  and cases of litigants in secret custody  matters, or divorce cases,  including  Gracie Razo, Abigail Portillo,  Juan Macias, Irene Medoza and Gary Ibarra.

More recently Mitchell has been  linked to a fraudulent CLETS DVRO scheme that began when she was paid by the NFL for a former San Francisco 49er in a custody / Domestic Violence case.  That case later saw Mark Erickson take over, after it was determined Mitchell stood to expose the case rigging scheme connected to Judge Towery’s courtroom and the Santa Clara County DA’s office through judge Towery’s wife, Karyn Sinunu Towery. 



Transgender Divorce Attorney Connected to Family Court Funded Pedophile Ring Linked to Santa Clara University  and California's Family and Criminal Cases

During the pandemic as California Courts were shuttered, a facilites worker at Santa Clara University was caught with sex toys and Kiddie porn linked to  transgender divorce attoney BJ Fadem. Mr. Fadem works in Santa Clara County family court where he is regularly  appointed as Minor’s Counsel while also working as an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University. 

More recently Fadem has been working in California’s lucrative private judging industry , where he is required to disclose his conflcits of interest before accpeting appointment and given immunity such that he is  elevated to the bench without vote or appointment of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Investigation of Faden’s “wife” Dawn  finds Fadem’s private juding disclosures vastly defective and ommitting income and connections to cyrptocurrency accounts used in sex trafficking and child porn rings  operating in the backdrop of  confidential court proceedings. where  by law school volunteer Karyn Sinunu Towery acts as link between cases in Northern and Southern California Courts. 

Since  “retiring ” from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in 2011, Sinunu Towery, wife of family court Judge Towery,  has worked as a ” volunteer” for the Santa Clara University  Law School ‘s charity operating as the Northern California Innocence Project. The charity purports to exonerate those wrongfully convicted in Criminal Cases Sinunu Towery herself was once linked to while employed in the DAO. 

According the the cryptocurrency and data footprint of Fadem’s wife and Santa Clara County DDA Steve Lowney, Sininu Towery has continued to use her power and connections in the DA”s office and at the University, to deflect criminal investigations that would expose  child trafficking rings funded and fueled by the criminal and family law matters involving minor children that are largely confidential. 



California’s family law cases involving unmarried parents , or criminal defendants who are minor children  are largely confidential. Case files and the court proceedings in these matters are not made public. This allows for lawyers involved in the custody and criminal cases linked to children to operated in secret. 

Digital scrapes  of the social media and cryptocurrency accounts linked to  criminal defense and divorce attorneys  was made possible by BJ Fadem, and his close associates Stefan Kennedy, Nicole Ford , Jessica Huey and Elise Mitchell show  hundreds of million dollars of unreported payments to court reporters, ” nannies ” ,” babysitters”, private investigators and IT experts moving around  the state’s divorce, probate, custody and conseratorship  cases. out of the court record, and view of the taxing authorties. 

The accounts of Northern California lawyers operating in private judge, custody and domestic violence cases where cusotdy or children is terminated for one of both parents,  link to Christopher Melcher, Dennis Wassner, Lisa Meyers, Laura Wasser   and Gregory Jessner who is married to an LA Superior Court Judge. 

LA Superior Court judges are regularly paid kickbacks for moving cases into the  private judge scam operating throughout the state where community property estates are used to fund systemic corruption in real estate and private businesses including JAMS and Siganture Reslutions. 

Venture Capitalists, lawyers, doctors, tech executives and Hollywood celebrities wanting to conceal their own criminality during a divorce, are retaining these lawyers during divorce or domestic violence cases are retaining these lwayers and then using private judges paid far more than agreed upon fees to cover up information and crimes that could be exposed during a family law or criminal court matter involing minor children. 

Paid to Change Gender of Children 

While acting as a private judge,  or appointed as minor’s counsel, BJ Fadem , an attorney celebrated in the judicary as openly representing the transgender community, has been linked to payments made to underground doctors used by child trafficking rings. The payments , revealed through datascrapes, are  linked to family law cases and to California Assembly member Evan Low, a proud member of the LGBTQ political landscape in California. Fadem also appears to have usd his assignment as a professor at Santa Clara University to advance a corrupt motive linked to his family law private judge business where he seeks to attract clients from the LGBQT community.  

Low, who has close ties to the Santa Clara County DA’s office,  and Karyn Sinunu Towery, is also linked to UC Irvine and Stanford University Title IX funding issues  that are being  exposed as the state bar reopens investigations related to lawyers Joe Dunn and Tom Girardi. 

Weaknesses  in BJ Fadem and Elise Mitchell’s cryptocurrency and client files have linked Northren California divorce attorneys loyal to Judge Jim Towery and   Thomas Girardi’s personal divorce with Real Housewives star Erica Jayne.  

State bar investigations into Girardi , and now former state bar director Joe Dunn, are now being expanded  to former state bar employee Jim Towery,  based on the data footprint and cryptocurrency accounts exposed by the sloppy handling of financial information,  misuse of client information,  and social media accounts used by Calfiornia divorce lawyers including BJ Fadem, Elise Mitchell, Nicole Ford, Lisa Meyers , Laura Wasser, Rob Brot, Christpher Melcher, Brian Pakpour, Jessica Huey , Stefan Kennedy, and Gregory Jassner.  All these private attorneys appear  to have benefited from selling client information, and rigging cases in public and private judging,  while handling some of the state’s largest divorce, cusotdy, probate and conservatorship cases  where lawyers are  regularly appointed as minor’s counsel or private judges in the state’s family law cases. 


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

Dear Judge Responding to DV Custody Cases

by Barry Goldstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

by Genevieve Brackins, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Bala, Cynwyd, 2008. How Many Children Are
Court-Ordered Into Unsupervised Contact With An Abusive Parent After Divorce?

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

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

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

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


v york profile photo

Open Letter to Family Court Lawyers from a Domestic Violence Expert

by Veronica York, Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Custody Expert, Certified High-Conflict Divorce Coach

Most family court custody cases are
settled amicably. It’s only about 3.8% of cases that require trial and often
much more. These cases are typically deemed “high conflict” by family court
professionals. The reality is 75-90% of these cases are domestic violence
and/or child abuse cases. These cases must be handled differently. The “high
conflict” he said, she said approach is harming and sometimes killing children.
This approach is creating a false equivalency between a victim and an abuser,
which always favors abusers and risks children’s well-being.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges seeks to train other judges on the current scientific research that shows standard court practices are working very poorly for children in DV custody cases. The two main studies that must be applied to these cases are the ACE Study (adverse childhood experiences) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Saunders Study form the National Institute of Justice in the U.S. Justice Department. Fundamentally, without ACE courts are minimizing the harm abusers cause and without Saunders, they are relying on the wrong professionals who are making recommendations and decisions that have devastating consequences for the children they are required to protect.

A Few Common Mistakes Lawyers Make in DV Custody Cases

The Saunders Study found that court professionals need more than just a general knowledge of domestic violence. They need to have knowledge of four specific areas including screening for DV, risk assessment, post separation abuse, and the impact of DV on children. If you are a family court lawyer who is being retained for cases involving DV or child abuse, you should have some knowledge in these areas to be able to effectively advocate and litigate for your client. Not having this knowledge wastes their precious time, money, and ability to protect their children.

The first most common mistake lawyers make is disbelieving true reports of abuse due to non-probative occurrences. For example, a victim of DV may leave their abuser and then return, they may have filed for a protective order and not followed through, they may have no incidents of physical violence reported to law enforcement, they may not show fear of their abuser in public, or they might have stayed with their abuser much longer than you feel anyone should. All these circumstances are common in DV relationships due to safety and other good reasons, one of which is protecting their children. However, court professionals assume these are good reasons to dismiss abuse allegations- and this is just not true.

The second most common mistake lawyers make is not asking the question “Who is afraid of who in the relationship?” The majority of DV cases involve a male abuser and a female victim. This is a statistical fact and although there are exceptions, it is important to understand that a victim of DV will give up much more than they are entitled to in these cases so they can avoid as much conflict as possible and protect their children. It is not uncommon for mothers to give up substantial financial assets, child support, and other possessions to ensure their children are protected from the abuser’s emotional and sometimes physical abuse.    

Another mistake is missing the motive of the abuser. Most courts like to assume a father is acting out of love for their children. This could not be further from the truth in DV custody cases. Family court is the most successful venue for an abusive father to continue his abuse. He knows that the best way to hurt the mother is to use the children. Their motives are in plain sight but most often missed by court professionals.

For starters,
loving fathers understand that children need their mothers. The most important
thing a loving father needs to do for their children is support and treat their
mother with respect. In our society, mothers are still typically the primary
care giver. This means they are the children’s primary attachment figure. To be
clear, the primary attachment figure is and always will be the person who did
most of the childcare the first two years of the child’s life. The idea that
children need both parents equally is simply not true. They need their primary
attachment figure more than the other parent and they need their safe parent
more than the abusive one. In fact, in almost all DV custody cases, during the
relationship, the father either wanted or demanded that the mother do most of
the childcare. In any other litigation this would be viewed as an admission by
the father that she is a good mother. Otherwise, he would have made other
arrangements for childcare. What are the chances that because the mother left the
relationship and reported his abuse that she is suddenly unfit or crazy? In the
real world, the answer is close to zero, but he will almost always claim that
she now has a mental issue or is alienating the children. Their motive is to
hurt the mother and punish her for leaving. This is also made clear when they
refuse to follow court orders, refuse to pay child support, withhold contact
with the children during their possession time, neglect the children, and continue
to harass, stalk, belittle, and disparage the mother. These are just some
examples of the many abusive behaviors that show their interest is what’s best
for them and their goal of hurting the mother, rather than what’s best for the

Abuser Tactics in Custody Cases

If you are going to take on a custody case with alleged domestic violence or child abuse, you must be aware of abuser tactics. These tactics include lying (even under oath), counter-parenting, alienation allegations, neglectful/abusive parenting, isolation, harassment/stalking, legal abuse, financial abuse, and sexual abuse of the mother and/or children. Abusers will deny any wrongdoing unless you can prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt, even then they will blame someone else for their actions. They almost never accept responsibility unless they can spin a victim narrative and gain sympathy. They have learned that courts bend over backwards to keep fathers in children’s lives at any cost because they believe children who do not have a father in their lives are at greater risk. This is only true when the father does more good than harm. If a father is doing more harm than good, he should not be a part of their child’s life until he can change his behavior. Children can thrive with at least one loving and caring parent.

As an expert witness, the first thing we have the client do is a pattern of abuse. This is a document that lists all the tactics their abuser used during their relationship and post separation. It is imperative to show the court the pattern of behavior that has caused so much stress and fear in the victim and their children. The court tends to only focus on any physical abuse, but The ACE research tells us that most of the harm caused by domestic violence and child abuse is the fear and stress. For decades, domestic violence advocates have been saying that physical assaults are not the most harmful parts of DV.  No one paid attention to them because there was no research; they didn’t have advanced degrees; and they were women.  It turned out they were right, and the ACE Studies confirmed their understanding.  Additionally, Saunders found, domestic violence advocates understand DV issues better than any other profession. Experts know and research confirms that it is the fear and stress that leads to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and suicide. Not to mention, long term effects such as heart disease, cancer and a variety of other ailments and diseases.

The doctors
working on the ACE research were asked the question: “Is there something we can
do now to save these children who have been exposed to DV and child abuse?”
There answer was yes, but there are two things that need to happen. First, the
children will need therapy and medical attention as problems develop. This
means that the safe parent must have control over health decisions. Abusers use
decision making to block anything the mother wants to help their children,
especially therapy because they do not want their abuse to be exposed. Second,
the children cannot be exposed to more abuse. This means that the abuser must
be limited to supervised visits until he can change his behavior. The only
thing proven to change behavior is accountability and monitoring. The father
can be given a path to increase his visits to unsupervised, but the burden must
be on him to prove to the court that he has changed. The recommendation is for
the abuser to complete a 52-week batterer program that is focused on accountability.
Once he has completed the program, he must assure the court that he takes full
responsibility for his abuse, he understands the enormous harm that he has
caused, he promises to never abuse anyone again, and if he does, he understands
that could mean the end of his relationship with the children.

Best Practices

The first thing a family court lawyer should do when faced with a client who claims domestic violence is listen. Victims of DV need to be heard, believed, and validated.  Too often they are told by attorneys their experiences don’t matter or will not be taken seriously in court. Although, that may be the case in many courts in the United States, it’s something that needs to be changed, not tolerated. Do not ignore the abuser tactics that are causing so much stress and fear in the victim and their children. This is what causes the most harm and as an attorney you can help them get these tactics to stop in the litigation process.

Second, understand the research must be presented as soon as possible to the judge. The first thing to do is tell the judge that there is now substantial scientific peer-reviewed research from the most credible sources, that shows current court practices are harming children and you would like the judge to take a fresh look at the case considering the research. This is a reasonable request that goes to the best interest of the children.

Last, bring in a
domestic violence expert that can testify regarding the research and how it
applies to the facts and circumstances of the case. Most courts are used to
hearing from mental health professionals that conduct a psychological or
custody evaluation. They speak to both parties and the children and give the
judge the whole picture. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, Saunders found
these evaluators do not have the needed expertise to make the appropriate
findings regarding abuse issues in these cases. They give the judge their
subjective opinion based on their own beliefs and findings. A domestic violence
expert with knowledge of ACE and Saunders can give the judge an objective
opinion based on the research, which is much more valuable for the court.

A common objection
we hear is that the DV expert did not speak to the alleged abuser or interview
the children. An expert witness should only be giving the judge one piece of
the story. The judge should hear from multiple witnesses and experts to
determine and put together the whole story and make a fair and equitable
decision. A DV expert can provide information and recommendations to the court
that they will not hear from anyone else.

All too often, they continue to
rely on the same evaluators and hear the same misinformation that is causing a
crisis in our country of children, who according to ACE, will live shorter
lives and face a lifetime of health and social problems.


As a protective mother, certified high conflict divorce coach, and a domestic violence, and child abuse custody expert, I have had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of other protective parents across the United States and abroad. The issues and tactics are typically the same and I can realize the patterns and identify the many errors being made in family court system today. Most judges, GALs, lawyers, and evaluators have spent their entire careers learning the wrong information as it pertains to DV and child abuse custody cases. The most significant impact is the harm being caused to the children of these cases. In addition, the financial impact on protective parents and their families is absolutely devasting. Entire bank accounts, college funds, 401K, and savings have been completely wiped out and then some. These cases are being drug out for almost a decade in some cases costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and many years off the childhood of so many precious children. This must stop.

Typically, I get
involved in a case way too late, the mother has already spent her life savings
on lawyers who did not know how to fight for them, they have lost their
children to their abuser, or they are still being continually harassed and
abused by the court system even after several years going through the
litigation process.  It takes time to
help them, undo mistakes, and consult with their counsel to turn these cases
around. In contrast, just this past March of 2022, I did have a mother who
contacted me before she left her abuser. I was able to help her choose her
lawyer, bring in an expert, and help her navigate communication, documentation,
and strategy. Her case is now settled. From start to finish it took four months
and much less money than it would have otherwise. It really proved that having
the right knowledge, understanding the research, and finding a lawyer that is
willing to listen, work with an expert, present the research, and advocate for
her made all the difference in the world. Not only to her, but more importantly
to her two young sons.

v york profile photo

After a 20-year sales and marketing career in the Television Industry, Veronica York felt a passion and calling to make a career change. Due to her own experience with a “high conflict” custody battle that started in 2018, she realized that the best interest of children was not the priority in the family court system. Children are suffering unnecessarily due to outdated practices of judges, lawyers, evaluators, and other court professionals.

Veronica completed the High Conflict Divorce Coach Certification Program founded by Tina Swithin in March 2021 and immediately started her coaching practice. In addition to helping her clients navigate their custody battles, she works with Barry Goldstein, a leading expert witness in contested custody cases involving domestic violence and child abuse. Barry and Veronica work together to educate court professionals by exposing them to current scientific research such as the ACE and Saunders studies. This research strongly supports protective mothers’ cases and encourages reform of practices that work poorly for children. Veronica also serves as the Advocacy Coordinator at the Center for Judicial Excellence.

Veronica has advanced training in family law mediation, writes articles and performs speaking engagements on the topic of contested custody in domestic violence and child abuse cases. She also does training for family court professionals on the misuse of parental alienation and the tactics of Post Separation Abuse during a divorce.



Gone But Not Forgotten: He Can Run But He Cannot Hide – Judicial Complaints


Complaint against Judge Jack Landis Judge Jack Landis of South Carolina may be gone (via retirement), but he is not forgotten for multiple vile abuses of process, constitutional rights, and due process violations. These may in fact include child endangerment related to illegally transferring a minor across state lines, along with witness threats and intimidation […]

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The Power of the Predator Parent influencing courts, schools, and all those whose role it is to protect children

Judge Jane Gallina-Mecca has substantially transferred the custody of many children into the hands of known sexual abusers. At the same time as the protective parent is attempting to present evidence of child physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, Judge Gallina-Mecca’s court is placing the protective parent in a coercive control vice to suppress evidence, often […]

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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

Family Courts’ Worst Trade for Kids: Safe Primary Attachment Figures vs. Abusers with “Rights”

Essay by Barry Goldstein

How would a typical family court analyze a case in which they believe a safe mother who is the primary attachment figure has failed to promote the relationship with a father the mother believes is dangerous and abusive? In many ways, this is the typical custody case the courts would call “high conflict,” and experts familiar with current scientific research would call a DV custody case.

Throughout their legal careers, judges have heard children do best with both parents in their lives. This is certainly true when both parents are safe and loving, but this is rarely true in DV custody cases. The problem is worse when courts conflate the benefits to children of relationships with both parents as if it means children need both parents equally. The research is clear, children need their primary attachment figure more than the other parent and the safe parent more than the abusive one.

The courts place such a high priority to keep fathers in children’s lives that they often sacrifice the child’s relationship with a mother the child needs so much more. This is the worst possible trade for a child. Courts create a catastrophic arrangement by severely restricting the mother and creating a harmful outcome case. We also see this outcome when courts give the father the power and control that he uses to destroy the relationship between the child and mother.

Domestic violence experts know context is critically important in recognizing domestic violence. Abusers and their attorneys routinely seek to decontextualize an incident in order to shift blame. Courts often undermine their ability to understand the context to save time. Practices in which courts arbitrarily create strict time limits benefit abusers for this reason. Victims need time to explain the context including the fact that many standard court practices favor abusers. Victims need time to explain the research and how the failure to differentiate abusers’ public and private behavior or the mistake of treating DV cases as high conflict. Abusers need only deny their partners’ reports and allow the court to use the flawed practices that tilt decisions against protecting children.

In most DV custody cases, the father wanted or demanded the mother provide most of the childcare. In any other court, this would be properly understood as an admission by the father that the mother is a good parent. Otherwise, he would have sought other arrangements. When the mother leaves and reports his abuse, abusive fathers often respond by seeking custody and claiming the mother is unfit. The charge is usually that she is crazy and/or alienating. What are the chances a mother suddenly became unfit because the relationship ended, and she reported his abuse? In the real world the answer is close to zero, but family courts that fail to use good scientific research and rely on the wrong experts often reach this unlikely conclusion. Courts rarely discuss or consider this obvious context that strongly supports mothers.

Primary attachment is non-controversial and used in many areas of childcare and welfare. The parent who provided most of the childcare during the first two years of a child’s life is and always will be their primary attachment figure. This is important to consider in family courts because the child needs their primary parent more than the other parent. Denying children a normal relationship with their primary parent increases the risk of depression, low self-esteem, and suicide. In most of these cases, the child is used to looking to the primary parent for most of their needs. This parent usually knows the child’s needs and providers better than the other parent. Accordingly, there are many non-controversial factors that should favor the primary parent.

There are two major paths that courts take when they trade the children’s safe, primary parent for an alleged abuser who has far less parental skill and knowledge. They are explained in the Saunders Study and the Meier Study that both come from the National Institute of Justice. The harmful outcomes are another illustration of the problem with family courts attempting to resolve DV custody cases without the benefit of current scientific research.

The Saunders Study includes a section on “harmful outcome” cases. These are extreme decisions in which the alleged abuser is given custody and a safe, protective mother, who is the primary attachment figure, is limited to supervised or no visitation. This is exactly the extreme remedy from the original “Parental Alienation Syndrome” that has been discredited even by many members of the cottage industry. Saunders found harmful outcome cases are ALWAYS wrong and based on flawed practices. The reason they are always wrong is that the harm of denying children a normal relationship with their primary parent is greater than any benefit the court thought it was providing. Saunders found these tragic mistakes are caused by using flawed practices. In many, if not most cases, the opposite outcome would have worked best for the children. Common flaws include reliance on unscientific alienation theories; pathologizing the victim; failure to use the right experts for a DV case; gender bias; and disbelieving true reports of abuse. I have never seen a harmful outcome case in which the court weighed the certain harm of denying children a normal relationship with their primary attachment figure with whatever speculative benefit the court thought it was providing.

One of the findings from the Meier Study was that alienation is being applied in a gender biased manner in addition to the problems caused by unscientific alienation theories. When courts believe the father was alienated, it provides a big advantage to fathers and helps them win custody. When the court believes the mother was alienated, the finding has no effect on the outcome. Part of the problem is that domestic violence is about control, including financial control. This means abusive fathers often control most of the family’s financial resources. This helped create the cottage industry of lawyers and mental health professionals that have a financial incentive to promote approaches that favor abusive fathers. Their voices have been far louder than those of victims. The superior financial resources help explain why courts so often make alienation findings in favor of abusive fathers.

The unscientific alienation theories were deliberately designed to help fathers. Accordingly, it often assumes alienation; pathologizes attempts to protect children and fails to consider more likely causes of a bad relationship such as DV, child abuse, or other poor parenting. The theories deliberately ignore alienating tactics by fathers such as avoiding child support; using fun activities as bribes; material advantages; and talking about how much the father misses the children. In our still sexist society, mothers usually do most of the childcare and so have a closer relationship with the children. One common example of gender bias is for court professionals to ignore or minimize fathers’ alienating practices. These tactics are better understood as DV by proxy because it is a continuation of the father’s DV by using the children.

The Batterer as Parent by Lundy Bancroft and Dr. Jay Silverman is one of the most authoritative books about DV and custody. The authors found all batterers, including “low level” (non-physical) abusers engage in harmful parenting practices that include undermining the relationship with the mother, teaching bad values (sexism) and serving as a bad example. Courts often make the mistake of assuming alleged abusers seek custody out of love for the children. Their motives often include regaining what they believe is their right to control their victim, make the decisions, and punish the mother for leaving. Shared parenting is often the first step towards total control and abusers usually use any power courts provide to destroy the relationship with the mother. This is a problem courts rarely consider because few court professionals understand DV dynamics.

What Does the Worst Trade Look Like?

The mother was such a good parent that she won the Mother-of-the-Year Award in Dutchess County, NY because other parents learned to improve their parenting from watching her. She created innovative ideas to involve her children in cultural, athletic, and entertainment activities. The children loved their mother and were deeply attached to her. The abusive father was rarely involved in caring for the children and viewed it as “women’s work.” He said he couldn’t change his daughter’s diapers because he might get aroused.

The case was assigned to a sexist judge who was a strong supporter of shared parenting and unscientific alienation theories. The judge forced a “settlement” for shared parenting. When the father assaulted the mother, another judge gave the mother custody and limited the father’s visitation. The sexist judge was angry at the change. He resumed shared parenting without allowing the mother to speak at the hearing, and soon created what Saunders would later call a harmful outcome case. Even the judge admitted the mother was an outstanding parent, but instead focused on alienation. The alienation included the fact the boy’s therapist called child protective services (over the mother’s objection because she was afraid of the reaction), and the mother said the children should eat healthy meals, dress appropriately for the weather and avoid adult-oriented TV programs. These statements were considered alienation because the father engaged in all of these bad parenting behaviors.

The effect on the children was demonstrated by the description of the daughter by the school nurse. When she lived with her mother, the girl would skip around school, holding another girl’s hand, smiling, and giggling. After she had to live with her father, the girl walked alone, head down and very sad. She kept going to the nurse with various ailments until the father “solved” the problem by forbidding her to see the nurse.

The father was allowed to move to Texas with the children which served to isolate them even more. The evil judge kept the case as long as possible to prevent anyone else from correcting his mistakes. Eventually, Texas took jurisdiction and quickly recognized the mother should have custody. They arranged for therapeutic visitation to restore the mother’s relationship. By this time, the father had so destroyed the mother’s relationship that it could not be salvaged.

One would think that the release of the Saunders Study and other important research would prevent extreme decisions that ruin children’s lives. Last week, I was scheduled to testify in another harmful outcome case. A convicted abuser was given custody years ago and a safe, protective mothers who is the primary attachment figure is limited to supervised visitation. Without listening to what I could say, the judge decided anything I could say would be irrelevant. The fact the court had imposed an extreme decision that a National Institute of Justice Study found to be ALWAYS wrong is not something the court needs to hear. In reality, the judge didn’t want evidence on the record that demonstrated the catastrophic mistake the court made. The father is already far along in his efforts to successfully impose DV by Proxy. The judge created an unprincipled decision that creates the appearance of bias, conflict of interest, or worse.


In these and many other cases, the court’s attempt to keep both parents in the children’s lives led to substituting the less involved and often dangerous parent for the better parent who the children need most. Imagine, in the Dutchess case, if the facts were as the judge wanted to believe. Imagine, the father did not have a history of abuse and was at least an adequate parent. And imagine that for no good reason, the mother was deliberately trying to alienate the children. The court’s decisions guaranteed that the children would have only one parent. Even with the most favorable assumptions for the father, there could be no question that the children needed their mother more and it was in their best interests for the mother to be granted custody.

Saunders found that shared parenting does not work in DV custody cases, but the judge might in good faith believe the children would benefit with shared parenting. Once the judge became convinced that only one parent could have custody, he decided to punish the mother for her supposed lack of cooperation. The judge failed to realize that in seeking to punish the mother, he was really punishing the children. The judge’s biased and ignorant approach meant the children would never get the help they needed to overcome the ACEs they were exposed to. The children are likely to live shorter lives and face a lifetime of health and social problems. They certainly had a more painful and unpleasant childhood. The judge destroyed their potential.

I wrote earlier that domestic violence experts understand the context is critical to understanding DV custody cases. The judges in the two cases discussed above and in many others are so used to following insular court practices and assumptions that ACE and Saunders prove wrong, that they miss the context, even after the courts’ goals become impossible.

Children only do better with both parents in their lives when both parents prioritize the well-being of their children instead of their sense of entitlement and control. Shared parenting is an ideological goal that is often harmful in contested custody cases. It might help courts settle cases; it certainly helps court professionals increase their incomes, but non-evidence-based decisions often remove the last chance for children to have full and successful lives.

As mentioned earlier, children need their primary parent more than anyone else on the planet. Courts that fail to use current scientific research routinely focus on unscientific alienation theories and don’t know how to recognize true reports of abuse. When courts focus on ideological goals, they take their eyes off the best interests of the children. Widespread gender bias helps fathers and hurts children. Gender-biased alienation approaches miss alienating behaviors by abusers but assumes alienation that is really an effort to protect children. Gender bias that minimizes primary attachment, obscures a critical factor in the well-being of children.

The family courts started their response to DV custody cases with reasonable mistakes because the research wasn’t available. Over the years, the mistakes became so ingrained that courts are often hostile to the important research that could better protect children. This is what happened in the two cases described in this article and many others. Ending the worst trades for children is long-past due.

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.


To the Attorney for the Accused Abuser

Following is a letter I wrote to the attorney for an accused abuser in one of our cases. It so happened that in this case a piece of correspondence between this attorney and Judge Jane Gallina-Mecca had fallen into our hands. That letter is published below. *** Dear Ms. Hart, As you may well be […]

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To the Parenting Coordinator Who Shows No Care for Children

Letter to the Parenting Coordinator in the case of a current client: *** Dear Ms. Schofel, Please be advised once again, as you are undoubtedly already aware, that the FCVFC legal and forensic team, who are engaged in oversight of the [redacted] case, are fully cognizant of your clinical career as a social worker and […]

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