News Report: Call for Fulton Family Court Investigation

What do Fulton County families and children need most?

If you ask parents caught in legal conflict, you’ll likely hear the word transparency.

Georgia news media, parents, advocates and legal professionals attended a press conference on April 24th that covered in detail the danger experienced by safe, loving parents and their children in family court cases.

The allegations are serious and a plea was made to Fulton County’s District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate the claims.

The press conference featured Georgia expert William Perry who is known for his news reports on ethics failures in government. Perry, who goes by Georgia Ethics Watchdog in his reports, learned just how dangerous the legal environment is for families, and decided to do something about it. Several tragic stories were shared and family law attorneys weighed in, agreeing that something needs to be done. Atlanta’s Fox5 News aired the story that evening, doing a remarkable job at laying out what is complicated and challenging to explain.

The news report explained that for these parents who are being victimized, nothing is more important to them than their children. Children are reportedly being taken from them without any regard for the law.

Perry addressed needed policy changes and spoke about his challenge to law enforcement and other authorities to investigate cases where good parents are wrongfully accused, torn from their children and set up to fail.

My Advocate Center’s term to describe the problem is profit over protection.

Outcomes make no sense given our laws and the facts in such cases.  The real needs of children are thrown by the wayside. Does it need to be this way?

The image here was taken by a news team at the Fulton County courthouse in recent years, when custody experts were paid to suppress evidence of child abuse that was substantiated by forensic evaluations and law enforcement. The litigation resulted in protection and proper medical treatment being withheld from the child.

Young adults are coming forward now to speak about their experiences such as what this child experienced when outcries for help were ignored and silenced. There is no need to wait in beginning investigations and working to remove danger by closing loopholes in state policies.

When families are exploited there is often a lack of transparency and due process in the management of the litigation, so Perry emphasized the need for parties to be allowed to record their own court proceedings.

Superior Court Rules on Recording Court Hearings

This issue was addressed by Georgia’s Supreme Court and Superior Court judges and includes recommendations from stakeholders in the press, My Advocate Center and other advocacy groups.

The new rule changes take effect in May of 2018, benefitting the public, professionals who are ethical and committed to protecting clients and children, and also benefitting the courts in creating more efficiency and positive outcomes.

Parents, grandparents, professionals and even children are speaking up about experiences and the need to take action. Contact My Advocate Center’s founder Deb Beacham here to report details to My Advocate Center or to ask for assistance.

Investigations and News Reports Matter

Learn more about what is happening across Georgia and how investigations can make all the difference in improving safety, family stability, and the ability for parents and children to recover from trauma.

Contact My Advocate Center to review case studies and data on these issues. Investigators will discover that the problems described here are wide-spread and found nationwide, but with Fulton County’s large population and high rates of domestic violence and child abuse, there is a special need for a concentrated review of cases in this area.

Background material for news reports and investigations can also be found in reports such as this story by an Augusta news station about glaring misconduct by a Guardian ad Litem who manipulated cases based upon whether vulnerable women would comply with his demands, or not.

Training Materials for Professionals on Harm Caused by Alienation of Children

This is a lot to read, but critical for professionals to get this that it is no small thing to enable this form of abuse to ruin the lives of children when you are in a position to make life better for them.

 

AAML_Alienation of Children and Parents_2015 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

Do you know how to recognize harmful behavior in children who have been turned against a parent?

Excerpts found below are borrowed from the above document and may include occasional notes by My Advocate Center as this review is part of a larger study geared toward reducing childhood trauma and improving safety for parents and children.

Page 14:

Good grades in school, excellent performance in sports and performing arts, and polite, compliant behavior in settings apart from the rejected parent comprise only some aspects of healthy psychological functioning. Children who suspend critical thinking and judge parents as either all good or all bad are prone to transfer such cognitive practices to peer relationships, resulting in the rupture of friendships at the first sign of conflict.

Alienated children’s relationships with their favored parents may appear ideal because of the absence of conflict and frustration. In some cases, though, children pay for such harmony by neglecting their own needs.22 Often these children feel responsible for their favored parent’s emotional well-being. They comfort distressed parents, serve as confidantes, and assure parents of their allegiance. Alienated children often sacrifice age-appropriate independent functioning in order to gratify favored parents’ needs to keep the children close at hand and dependent.

Page 15:

The children believe that they have their favored parents’ approval to suspend the usual rules of morality when dealing with the targets of their enmity.

Apart from what may be covert or subtle corruption of character and respect for authority, alienated children suffer overt irrational anxiety or hatred of a parent and declare their wish to completely erase good parents from their lives.

Such irrational feelings represent significant psychological disturbances, regardless of how well these children function in other domains.24 At the very least, unreasonably rejecting a parent is as serious a problem as are other irrational aversions and anxieties, such as avoidance of school, peers, or open spaces. Their obsessive hatred of rejected parents is at least as worrisome as fixed negative stereotypes and irrational prejudice toward members of religious or ethnic minorities.

Severely alienated children suffer significant impairments in their cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development.25 They maintain a highly distorted view of a parent. They are unable to give and receive love from a good parent.

What would be a normal response, if the parents were not separated?

If these children were living in an intact family, professionals would not doubt the wisdom of addressing rather than ignoring the problems.

It is not necessary to cite the long-term consequences of parental alienation to justify the importance of addressing the problem. The family’s dysfunction in the present is sufficient justification for intervention.26 In addition to alleviating the child’s obvious impairments, interventions are needed to improve the functioning of both parents. Some mental health professionals and lawyers too readily counsel rejected parents to accept the situation and wait passively for the child’s return. Those who make recommendations and decisions for these families should understand that the family is suffering and should be aware of the immense tragedy for a child to lose a parent and for a parent to lose a child.

It is easier to appreciate what is at stake when parental alienation is seen through the eyes of a parent who is the victim. One mother puts it this way:

It is like your child has died, but you can’t go through the normal grieving process. Instead you are stuck in this Twilight Zone-like nightmare with no end in sight. You know your child is being abused, and this is child abuse pure and simple, but no one will help you save their hijacked souls and you are forced to stand and watch, with your hands tied behind your back. She describes what mental health professionals term ambiguous loss or complicated loss, more difficult to resolve than grief over the death of a child because it defies closure.27 She also identifies the pain of standing by helplessly while her child’s character is corrupted.

Page 17:

In addition to the emotional impact on families, parental alienation is implicated in violence, suicides, and homicides. An example is a father who alienated his children and then conspired with them to kill their mother. Explicitly recognizing the power of the father’s influence, the district attorney charged the man with having “coerced, persuaded and enticed his children to commit this atrocious crime upon their mother.”28

Researchers have limited data on what happens over time.

Researchers can extrapolate long-term outcomes, though, from several well-developed lines of investigation. These include: the impact of exposure to poorly-managed parental conflict, the consequences of intrusive parenting, and the risks to future development associated with parental absence and unresolved conflicts with parents.30

The literature on parenting most relevant to understanding the consequences of parental alienating behavior are studies on parental psychological control, also called intrusive parenting. This is defined as parenting behavior that “constrains, invalidates, and manipulates children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression.”33 Examples of psychological control include: “If I have hurt her feelings, she stops talking to me until I please her again.” “Is less friendly to me if I don’t see things his way.” The concept of intrusive parenting was not created with alienated children in mind. But “manipulating children’s psychological and emotional experience and expression” is precisely how authorities on the psychology of alienated children describe the negative influence of the favored parent.34

This type of manipulative parenting is linked to subsequent higher levels of depression and antisocial behavior.35 Higher risk for depression is also one of the known longterm hazards of parental absence during childhood.36

Some of the dynamics of this elevated risk may not apply to situations where parental absence is caused by the child’s rejection, but most of the identified reasons for the negative impact of parental absence are relevant to the risks faced by an estranged child growing up apart from a parent and without that parent’s psychological contributions to development.

The greater the discrepancy between the amount of nurturing and involvement children received from each parent—and for severely alienated children it is the most extreme—the lower their subsequent self-esteem, life satisfaction, and quality and satisfaction with friendships, and the greater distress, romantic relationship problems, and troubled ruminations about parents these children experience when they are young adults.37

In addition, children who hold a parent in contempt risk feeling contempt for the aspects of their own personalities that reflect identifications with the rejected parents. The resulting diminished self-esteem may contribute to depression. Children cannot escape the knowledge that each parent is part of them. It is difficult to harbor great contempt for a parent without, at some level, feeling terribly impaired.

In subsequent years many of these children regret missing out on the relationship with the rejected parent. As they mature, many feel ashamed and guilty for having caused so much pain to a loving parent.

Why is it important to take action to prevent such abuse and harm?

Overcoming severe alienation usually involves extensive litigation, multiple failed attempts to modify the behaviors of the alienating parent and child, and sometimes an intensive intervention, all of which take a lot of money and time. The longer the process takes, the more the losses accumulate. The longer the absence of contact between parent and child, the more lost opportunities mount for the creation of family memories. School performances, music and dance recitals, scouting trips, science fair projects, sports events, proms, and graduation ceremonies all create memories marred in future years by the parent missing from the photographs.

Can educational programs help?

The programs teach about the impact of parental conflict on children and the importance of avoiding bad-mouthing and alienating behavior. They offer no guidance, though, on how to respond when the other parent engages in alienating behavior that places the children at risk for joining in a campaign of denigration and rejection. The programs exhort parents to refrain from behaviors that encourage alienation, but they make no suggestions to proactively protect children from succumbing to a parent’s alienating behavior or to stem the tide of alienation before it becomes severe. In short, parents receive no advice on how to respond effectively to the challenges posed by their children’s rejection and provocative, contemptuous behavior. As a result, alienated parents typically make mistakes that compound the problem.43

Therapy?

Page 25:

Counseling is not only ineffective in many cases of moderate and severe alienation. Often it makes things worse. Counselors who lack adequate understanding and competence in dealing with parental alienation may be too quick to accept at face value the favored parent and child’s representations of events.53 This can result in misdiagnosis and misguided treatment.

Detailed and Unambiguous Court Orders are Strongly Recommended

Parenting coordinators and therapists who work with high conflict cases emphasize the importance of the court issuing detailed and clear orders. A parent who is intent on obstructing the child’s contact with the other parent will exploit every loophole and ambiguity in the orders to accomplish this goal. For instance, the parent may claim that the child is coming down with a cold and can’t make the shift between homes. Or the parent will sabotage court-ordered treatment because the orders failed to specify which parent is responsible for getting the child to the therapist. Attorneys who represent rejected parents should anticipate every conceivable excuse to keep children from their clients and then ensure that the orders protect against these contingencies. If this is done at the stage of the initial temporary orders, it could help prevent alienation from taking root and becoming more severe. Attempts to corrupt a child’s view of a parent most effectively crowd out the child’s positive feelings and memories when the child has no reminders of the parent’s love and no time to enjoy that parent.55 The child becomes more dependent on the favored parent and more likely to see the absent parent through the distorting lens of the parent doing the bad-mouthing.

When their parents separate, children have no norms about what to expect. If they have regular contact with both parents from the outset, this becomes the status quo and the norm. If they lose contact with a parent, they come to regard this as normal. The longer children are apart from a parent, the stronger the negative attitudes, the more resistant to change, and the more difficult it is to reunite children with their rejected parent. The longer the children’s will dominates the behavior of adults, the more difficult it will be for the children to appreciate and accept that decisions about contact are not theirs to make.

Can courts do more to safeguard relationships between targeted parents and children?

One provision of many court orders, designed to safeguard children’s welfare, may have undesirable consequences. Parents are admonished to not speak negatively about each other to the children, not involve the children in parental conflicts, and not discuss the litigation with the children. The problem is that alienating parents, either intentionally or inadvertently, regularly violate this provision.

This places parents who are targets of badmouthing and smear campaigns in a bind. If they do not speak to their children and correct misinformation that persuades the children to see them in a bad light, they give their children no help to cope with the bad-mouthing, and may stand idly by as their relationship with their children gradually deteriorates.56 But if they do speak to their children, they risk being seen as criticizing the other parent, involving their children in the parents’ conflicts, or inappropriately exposing the children to litigation matters.

Lawyers and judges should recognize some limitations of court orders that attempt to regulate parent-child communications about the divorce. For example, parents should shield children from most adult-adult issues and not undermine the other parent’s relationship with the child—that is the true intent of such court orders. But a parent who is the target of bad-mouthing may need to defend his or her parent-child relationship by sensitively providing information to counter accusations the child hears from the other parent.

Even the most unambiguous and detailed orders will not help if they are not enforced. A parent who obstructs the children’s contact with the other parent may benefit from the status quo. In In re Miller and Todd, a New Hampshire court awarded custody to a mother who successfully interfered with the father child relationship.57 The court found that the mother alienated the children from their father, but reasoned that the children had spent the majority of their lives with her and that is where they felt most comfortable. This is typical for such cases. The absence of contact establishes a status quo that the court honors in order to spare the children drastic changes.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court vacated the award.58 It recognized that the father was denied contact with his children for more than two years, and that awarding custody to the mother because of the lack of father-child contacts rewards the mother for violating court orders.

The decision quoted the Vermont Supreme Court: Although obviously well intended, the court’s decision effectively condoned a parent’s willful alienation of a child from the other parent. Its ruling sends the unacceptable message that others might, with impunity, engage in similar misconduct.

Left undisturbed, the court’s decision would nullify the principle that the best interests of the child are furthered through a healthy and loving relationship with both parents.59 This reasoning gives voice to the most frequent complaint parents make regarding their custody litigation:

Repeated violations of orders go unpunished, with some parents making a mockery of the court’s authority.

Experts agree. Dr. Joan Kelly notes, “[A] significant number of these parents have come to believe . . . that noncompliance with court orders, whether for facilitating contact between the child and rejected parent or attending divorce education classes or therapy, brings no negative consequences.”60

Are some professionals encouraging misconduct and willfully causing psychological harm to children and safe parents?

In some cases a child runs away from the rejected parent’s home into the welcoming arms of a parent intent on driving a wedge between the child and the other parent. Law enforcement authorities can be effective in such situations by retrieving the children, giving them stern lectures, and returning them to the parent from whom they ran away. The police are more likely to do so if the court orders anticipate such an event and direct law enforcement personnel to enforce the parenting plan.

Unfortunately often the police dismiss such incidents as family matters that need to be settled in court and not by police intervention. A parent is less likely to harbor a runaway child if he or she expects swift sanction from the court for violating orders. Instead what often occurs is that the children remain out of touch with their rejected parent as the litigation slogs through a quicksand of legal maneuvering and failed psychotherapeutic attempts to remedy the problem.

Drawbacks of leaving children with the parent using alienating tactics:

Leaving the children with their favored (abusive parent who is manipulating the children and exploiting the court process) parent may be less stressful for some children in the short run, and may be a default option if the court determines that the rejected parent lacks the capacity to assume full-time care of the children. In terms of alleviating alienation, though, this option has significant drawbacks.

It is not recommended when the favored parent has a history of sabotaging treatment (e.g., repeatedly failing to bring children to appointments, or repeatedly terminating treatment until locating a therapist who supports the favored parent’s position in the litigation).

It is not recommended when the favored parent exposes the children to an emotionally toxic environment, such as intimidating the children into rejecting the other parent. The literature on domestic violence describes the manner in which efforts to turn children against a parent sometimes represent a continuation and extension of behaviors by the other parent intended to harass, control, and punish a former spouse or partner.66

Are many court professionals currently getting it wrong?

According to a consensus of studies, treatment of severely alienated children while they remain apart from the rejected parent and with the favored parent is more likely to fail than to succeed and it may make matters worse by further entrenching the child’s distorted perceptions of the rejected parent.67 This is true for all models of treatment of irrationally alienated children proposed in the literature. Extending unsuccessful treatment while the child remains with the favored parent carries the hazards of delaying, and in some cases preventing, the eventual delivery of effective help.

Custody evaluators and guardians ad litem often prefer this option because they believe it is less intrusive and requires less of an adjustment on the children’s part than removing the children from the primary care of the favored parent.

Typically, court orders for treatment under this option are open-ended with vague and non-specific treatment goals (e.g., to reunify the parent and child, or to improve the parent-child relationship).

This is the reality for most parents being pushed out of their children’s lives. Is this intentional?

If treatment fails (which is more likely than not with severely alienated children who have no contact with the rejected parent outside of therapy sessions), the rejected parent wants to return to court as soon as possible (assuming finances allow), while the favored parent delays the process as long as possible. When the case is back before the court, the judge is likely to order an updated evaluation by the original evaluator. The timing of the re-evaluation is subject to the evaluator’s schedule and is usually prolonged by the favored parent’s obstructive and delay tactics.

The longer the delay, the older the children, the more accustomed they become to living estranged from a parent, and the less likely the court will be to overturn the status quo.

Note: in going through this body of work, it seems that there is great incentive for an abusive parent to violate court orders and engage in mental cruelty by manipulating and coercing children as it is so easy to get away with causing harm this way.

To what degree will abusive parents manipulate and collude to avoid intervention?

Collusion to Discourage Interventions and Placement with the Rejected Parent:

When the favored parent worries that an evaluator, guardian ad litem, or the court are likely to hold the favored parent in large measure responsible for the children’s alienation, and may place the children primarily with the rejected parent, often the favored parent encourages the children to pretend that they have overcome their alienation. Cooperative and superficial polite behavior replaces the former avoidance and disrespect. After months and sometimes years of no contact and scornful rejection, the children begin to comply willingly with orders for contact.

In an attempt to obscure the fact that the children had ever been alienated, the favored parent and children rewrite history. In one case, after the court heard evidence about a child’s animosity toward his mother’s extended family, one boy falsely claimed that he had been having weekly phone contact with his maternal uncle. Through texts and emails requesting to meet, greeting cards signed with love, and surreptitious voice recordings, the children fulfill their assignment to create a record that the favored parent subsequently uses to argue in favor of maintaining the status quo. Toward the end of a trial, a teen contacted her mother after months of avoidance to ask to meet for dinner.

The mother was aware that the offer was a ruse. If she refused the invitation the father would claim that the mother was not doing her part toward reconciliation. If she accepted the invitation, the judge would hear that the mother-daughter relationship was on the mend and no additional intervention or custody modification was needed. After hearing the details of the children’s communications during the contact, I advised the mother to be aware that her daughter likely was recording the entire interaction. The mother replied, “Come to think of it, she left her cell phone in the center of the dining room table during the entire meal.”

It exposes the power that the favored parent has wielded all along to remedy the problem and underscores that parent’s role in fomenting, strengthening, and supporting the children’s suffering.

At the same time, it reveals a previously unseen malleability in the behavior of the favored parent and children when sufficiently motivated by the court’s authority.

The sham, intended to convince the court to take a hands-off approach, instead helps the evaluator and the court appreciate that the successful resolution of alienation requires the court’s firm expectations, oversight, and enforcement. When the children believe that, as far as the court is concerned, failure is not an option, they are more likely to engage meaningfully in efforts to repair the damaged relationship.

The fear of getting the favored parent in trouble with the court provides children with a face-saving excuse to “follow the rules” and return to a normal relationship with the other parent. The children then feel relieved to shed the burden of having to disrespect one parent for fear of disappointing the other.

Can the court or professionals expect the abusive parent to do right by the children and other parent after winning?

The parent with whom the children are aligned has carried on a lengthy campaign to support the status quo of no contact between the children and their other parent. It is unlikely that the aligned parent will be inclined to relinquish the campaign in the immediate aftermath of the court’s decision.

Tips for Lawyers Representing a Parent Who is Alienating the Children – page 67.

1. If your clients are aware that they are undermining their children’s relationships with their other parent, impress upon them the damage this is likely to cause the children in the near-term and in the future.

4. Ensure that your clients understand the possible legal consequences for interference with custodial contact and for violating court orders.

The Targeted Family Usually Does Not Recover, but Faith Remains

Despite weathering cruel treatment and untempered hatred that would drive most people away, many rejected parents maintain a steadfast commitment to their children’s welfare and invest considerable resources trying to restore positive relationships. Very often the tragedy extends to an entire half of the children’s family who remain astounded and deeply hurt at the formerly loving children’s complete estrangement.

Challenge to the Legal Community and to Healthcare Professionals

The outcome of cases with severely alienated children spells the difference between elated parents who recapture their identities as parents versus bereft parents who mourn the loss of their children and whose children grow up with parents who may be perpetrators of emotional abuse, who force them to make a child’s version of Sophie’s Choice, and fail to honor their right to love and be loved by two parents.

If they don’t find their way back to their rejected parents when these children grow up and have their own children, the next generation is deprived of a legacy.

Helping these families is challenging and a heavy responsibility.

It is not often that legal and mental health professionals get the chance to alter the course of generations.

Remaking of Minds using Psychological Abuse

It’s possible to wear someone down to the point of making them think and act in ways they otherwise would not. This is one form of psychological abuse explained by Psychology Today in this article that reveals what happens to children who are mistreated within the context of family conflict.

My goal since beginning research on this problem, and then reporting on the ways children are used and harmed through the mismanagement of family conflict, has always been about reducing childhood trauma and disrupting cycles of dysfunction.

The dysfunction I’m referring to manifests as addiction, mental illness caused by family violence, sexual abuse and neglect of children, abandonment, financial failure and home loss, suicide and divorce as primary examples. Children experiencing these forms of dysfunction are more vulnerable to exploitation, more inclined to rage and desperation. Boys seem to be more severely impacted by divorcing parents than girls, according to this article featured on Mic.com which explains the commonality between young men involved in shooting rampages. [See Ready, Aim, Fire at Pain and Anguish]

A prominent dysfunction is also seen in how bonds between loving, safe parents and their children are broken down and destroyed. Georgia law speaks to misconduct in the form of poisoning the mind of a child against a parent, showing that this is abuse and that it harms both the child and the targeted parent.

The term often used in courts and by psychologists is parental alienation. Alienation of affection is specifically prohibited in court orders governing custody and care of children of divorced parents. If one parent acts to cause distance and break the loving bond between the child and the other parent, he or she can be held in contempt. Why this form of misconduct is not being confronted and corrected in our courts is a separate matter.

The term as an allegation of wrongdoing, however, has been improperly applied often in Georgia court cases involving actual child abuse and/or domestic violence, to blame the victimized or protective parent trying to keep the child safe and the abused parent’s rights intact.

The right to nurture and care for one’s own child is a protected right in our courts, but that right is stripped away by wrongfully condemning the targeted or abused parent for “alienating” the child from the perpetrator of abuse. As a result of this misapplication of the term alienation, it has had a polarizing effect on parents who have suffered from its use and amongst professionals involved in family conflict.

Another useful article on this subject featured in Pyschology Today can be found here.

Notoriously and across the globe, parental alienation syndrome (“PAS”) has been used by questionable custody experts to fault protective parents by claiming the safe parent has engaged in a sickness, a disorder, to cause an abused child or child who has witnessed or experienced family violence to want distance from the abusive parent. The conduct of such professionals goes against the needs of the child and is in direct conflict with laws specific to child safety and protection.

What the expert is saying to the child is that he or she should accept the abuse as normal. It is common for experts appointed or hired in custody cases to normalize abusive conduct, including psychological abuse, neglect, violence and even sexual abuse. Actually, this tactic is most commonly used in cases involving true sexual abuse of children to discredit the abused child and the parent fighting to protect the child. Of course, the expert, whether a psychologist or attorney acting as a guardian ad litem, is being paid to manage or filter information going to and from the child, to the court and other authorities, but always in a way that serves to guard the abuser and restrict the safer or more nurturing and emotionally healthy parent.

The expert is saying to the safe, protective parent that you should avoid asking for protection or else face condemnation and separation from your child. This tactic is based in fraud and often involves acts of false reporting and perjury by the experts influencing courts and other authorities against the safe parent and in favor of the abuser. Claiming that a parent who seeks help for a child who is having medical or psychological treatment withheld by an abusive parent, for example, is alienating the child from the other (abusive) parent is a false allegation.

This is extremely common in such cases involving child custody where there is evidence of actual abuse and the perpetrator expects the custody experts to suppress evidence of abuse. The false allegation serves to put the safe parent on the defensive, forcing him or her to spend more money defending against the false allegation. The focus of the expert’s investigation, instead of being on the perpetrator of abuse and on protecting the child, becomes a series of substantial steps to condemn an innocent parent. This is why U.S. legislators included language in a Congressional concurrent resolution discourages the use of “parental alienation syndrome,” as it is misused or used for wrongful purposes.

For the purposes of this article and throughout the rest of my reports, the terms alienation, alienating behavior and parental alienation are referring to the abusive conduct by either a party to family conflict or a professional engaged in targeting the safe parent and exploiting, for profit, the children involved. Any form of alienating behavior is an intentional act to cause harm and should be identified and corrected as such; children should be protected from this form of abuse.

The proposed legislation is solid, but there are other tactics involving psychological abuse and professional misconduct yet to be addressed. There are a host of false allegations and abusive methods that come in to play in litigation, but what they all have in common is that they cause trauma and increase risk of other injuries to both children and loving parents.

There is an entire body of work on this form of psychological abuse shown above in the poisoning of a child’s mind and in the manipulation of their normal behavior to break the bond between parents and children. Psychology Today featured the work of Dr. Craig Childress to explain the harm done and to demonstrate what can be done to address and correct the damaging misconduct. Excerpts of this spotlight on the issues follow:

Trauma to Safe Parents and Children

  • Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound form of psychological trauma experienced by targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. This is perhaps the principal source of anxiety for the alienated parents, who witness the abuse of their children, and are prevented from protecting them.
  • This psychological trauma of alienated parents differs from what groups like combat veterans face when they develop PTSD, yet the experience of targeted parents is a form of trauma as debilitating as any other. Although not all parents who are victims of parental alienation experience trauma, as the same event that plunges one parent into trauma may not do so with another, those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives most certainly do.
  • Losing the bond with your child is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. The childhood trauma experience leads to the development of the aggression behind parental alienation. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships. The trauma reenactment narrative represents a false drama created by the pathology of the alienating parent, in which the targeted parent is being assigned the trauma reenactment role as the “abusive parent;” the child is being induced into accepting the trauma reenactment role as the supposedly “victimized child;” and the alienating parent adopts the role of the “protective parent.” None of this false drama, however, is true.
  • The parenting of the targeted parent is entirely in normal range, and the child is in no danger and does not need any protection from that parent.

The Nature of the Problem

  • A major impediment for victimized parents is that the problem is largely systemic in nature, as support services for alienated parents are virtually non-existent, and support services for their children are also in short supply.
  • When parents of alienated children attempt to bring their concerns to child welfare authorities, as parental alienation is a form of child abuse and thus a child protection matter, these agencies often disregard the problem, and when they do become involved, rarely share their findings in family court child custody hearings, despite the fact that this information will serve the best interests of the child.
  • In parental alienation situations the targeted parent is put on the defensive, and must continually try to prove to therapists and others that he or she is not “abusive” of the child. The targeted parent is often blamed for the child’s rejection, even though he or she did nothing wrong: “You must have done something wrong if your child doesn’t want to be with you.”
  • It is often deemed irrelevant that the parenting practices of the targeted parent are entirely within normal range. The alienating parent, often skilled in the use of adversarial combat (and thus rewarded within the current adversarial system), thus has the upper hand. In this upside-down world, your child is being taken from you, and no one seems to care or understand.
  • The emotional trauma inflicted on the targeted parent is severe, and the grief of the targeted parent is deep.

Keep in mind that the intent of the parent using alienating tactics against the targeted parent is to do harm. The effect if the abusive behavior if successful is erasing the targeted parent from the lives of their children either completely or to a significant degree.

There is no current solution to prevent this abuse or to help targeted parents and children overcome it.

  • The trauma experience captivates the psychology of the targeted parent, as the world of the targeted parent revolves entirely around the trauma experience and the false drama.
  • Repeated court dates, lawyers, therapists, custody evaluations, that all occur in the context of continuing parent-child conflict, consume the targeted parent. Yet it is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation. They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them.
  • They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.
  • As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. Instead, they must have their feet firmly planted on the ground, steady in your own emotional and psychological health, and then extend your hand to retrieve your child. But even then, given the nature of parental alienation and its profoundly damaging effects on a child, a child may not grasp the parent’s hand.

Can a Parent Engaged in Alienating Behavior Become Self-Aware and Change Course?

  • According to the work of Dr. Craig Childress, parental alienation is first and foremost an attachment-based trauma.
  • Attachment-based parental alienation is essentially a role reversal of a normal, healthy parent-child relationship.
  • Instead of serving as a “regulatory other,” which involves providing stability and meeting the child’s emotional and psychological needs, alienating parents use their children to meet their own needs, violating boundaries and seriously compromising and damaging the child’s healthy development.

If a parent is indifferent to the harm he or she is causing a child, that parent isn’t going to seek treatment and work to change behavior, let alone help heal the injury caused to children and the targeted parent. The alienating parent will refuse to acknowledge wrongdoing and, if confronted, will escalate the abusive behavior. Left to his or her own devices, the abusive parent will continue causing harm.

This pattern of continuing abuse despite laws and court orders is similar to that seen in the conduct of the perpetrator of domestic violence of a physical nature. The severity of the harm being done can be better understood by reading the statements made by Congress in House Resolution 72.

Intervention from authorities, responders, healthcare providers and other stakeholders in child protection is needed.

Learn more about tools provided to courts around the United States about coercion, bullying and deception of children, about how easy it is for the abusive parent to present as the better parent because of being skilled at lying and manipulating, and about approaches courts can take to remedy these forms of abuse.

Download and read the Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases.

Access insights about bullying and suicide rates.

Let’s talk if you are interested in learning more about solutions.

I appreciate your time here and commitment to improving protections for our children.

Deb Beacham

Georgia Political Update: Victim Protection and Perpetrator Accountability

Many of our citizens believe that protection for victims is the battle cry only heard from the progressive side of the aisle, but in this past legislative session I learned about the role of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board and how conservative values drove policy reform efforts to better serve victims of abuse and to improve safety and stability for our citizens.

One of the things that stood out for me is that the Georgia Baptist Mission acknowledged its members have as much to lose as other religious groups from extending statutes of limitations for suing not only sexual predators but also the entities that enabled and/or covered for the predator. In spite of this financial and public exposure risk, the Baptist leadership stated firmly its position to seek better protection for the vulnerable and real accountability for perpetrators of child exploitation.

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, nor is it a characteristic of one party or another.

It is resoundingly a matter of right versus wrong.

We need more of this form of advocacy, this type of integrity and leadership. We need more people across society to loudly and firmly, “No,” to putting profit over protection. In my work and social engagement, online and offline, I’ll continue to acknowledge and support good work by those on all sides of political, faith, protection and enforcement issues. The more we all pull together and close the divides that exist around this problem, the faster we save lives and stop abuses of all forms.

The topics of predatory behavior, the lack of transparency and accountability for perpetrators, the lack of protection for children and adult victims of abuse, and the extreme difficulty for victims and survivors to recover are ones I’ve been studying, analyzing and reporting on for years. I’ll continue this work far into the future, specifically focused on solutions that both prevent and assist in recovery.

I’m especially grateful to all participating actively and investing in creating change in this area of our society. Thank you for standing up, speaking out, and showing up repeatedly and demonstrating your commitment to improving safety and allowing for recovery.

In this section below, I’ve included an excerpt of the legislative update from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Public Affairs team:

SEXUAL ABUSE

“On a positive side was legislation like HB 732, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, that increases fines and penalties for pandering and solicitation for sex trafficking. These are the “middle men” who are out there drumming up business for pimps and johns. This legislation is needed to crack down on all who are a part of sexual exploitation of individuals for sex trafficking in our state. See GBC resolution on this issue https://gabaptist.egnyte.com/dl/JTaByb5jS7/RESOLUTION_ON_HUMAN_TRAFFICKING.PDF_ .

Rep. Jason Spencer addresses the topic of sexual predators at a press conference. MIKE GRIFFIN/Index

A bill that caused a sizable amount of controversy had to do with HB 605, The Hidden Predator Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer, (https://christianindex.org/children-hidden-predator-act-2018/ ) passed the House by a 170-0 vote. The bill basically allowed the statute of limitations to be extended to allow victims of child sex abuse to sue entities who had covered up child sexual abuse in the past. The bill was severely amended in the Senate. (https://christianindex.org/legislative-update-georgia-hidden-predator-act/ ) It was amended so much that there was very little legal remedy left for those whose statute of limitations had run out for criminal prosecution.  This legislation was introduced in the context of the legal cases regarding the Boy Scouts, The Catholic Church and USA Gymnastics.

Georgia Baptists supported this bill because we felt that it struck a balance in allowing the victims to sue, and the rights of the entities to defend themselves. However, because of the severe amending done by the Senate, the House did not agree with their version. The Senate would not appoint a conference committee and the House would not agree to the changes and the bill, therefore, died. This is a sad outcome for these victims/survivors of child sexual abuse.”

 

Let me know about your involvement in these issues and how I can better support you by contacting me here, and by connecting and engaging on social media.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham

My Advocate Center on Twitter

Facebook Advocacy

 

Child Safety Must Come First by US Representatives

Great news for children and parents being denied protection from domestic abuse, who are often harmed during prolonged child custody litigation.

Please read, share and contact your state’s leaders to join in with their support of this House Resolution No. 72.

Georgia’s children and parents are especially vulnerable, as hundreds of cases across the state now prove. Television and print news media and several independent journalists have documented professional conduct in what is referred to as “sensitive” cases, including by filing Rule 22 Requests to Record judicial proceedings.

The big deal about the conduct being documented is this: the way many Georgia child custody cases are managed often puts children in harm’s way as they are given to the parent most likely to cause stress or injury.  It is hard to fathom if you can not see it firsthand, but sometimes court professionals, including child custody experts, go so far as to deny children and adult victims of domestic abuse protection and even necessary medical and psychological care.

If you live in Georgia, you can find your U.S. Representatives here. Please encourage your representatives to read and support this resolution. And, in Georgia, learn how you can encourage leadership to keep our courts and court records open and accessible.

As these cases are usually cloaked by a veil of secrecy, and speaking about what is happening to the family is frowned upon and outright discouraged, it is critical that journalists are not restricted in recording judicial proceedings or in obtaining case records.

Both of these issues, policy to improve child safety and rules governing the ability to record judicial proceedings, need your attention.

Thank you!

Child Safety and Child Custody in House Resolution 72 / Bipartisan Support by Deb Beacham on Scribd

How Do You Tell This Story?

There is no one way or no best way to tell the story of a man driven by others to take his life. I know, because I have been trying to explain to state leaders, media, and professionals how this is happening to good people who trust our legal system to work to protect them and their children. Challenging doesn’t even touch it.

Author Mike Volpe deserves credit for coming as close to perfect – or as close to doing justice – as one can when speaking of Chris Mackney’s early death by suicide, and how this relates to family court.

Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney’s Kafkaesque Divorce

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Why should you read this book?

Because our nation is in crisis and we are losing parents and children by the thousands each year, and because the cause of loss and suffering is strange to us, hard to fathom, hard to explain…unless you experience it, or take a closer look at the numbers and the patterns behind the number.

Volpe tells this story while also providing enough detail from other cases, involving similar losses to families in several states, to open up this discussion in a way that can lead to action.

 

 

How Reading Bullied to Death by Michael Volpe Helps Us Solve a National Crisis

  by Deb Beacham

If I had not experienced myself what happened that caused a grown man, an intelligent, beloved man, to take his own life, I might respond to this tragedy by saying, “Well, there must have been something terribly wrong with him, that poor father, that caused him to do this.”

This story is shocking, outrageous and hard to believe at times, but journalist Michael Volpe does this tragedy justice in also revealing it as a very important playbook – a must read for our leaders, law enforcement, healthcare and legal professionals, and especially for an unsuspecting public. That is, for those wishing to avoid the death trap that took Chris Mackney’s life. His death and his children’s losses could have been avoided, and Volpe’s work is helping us learn from this tragic lesson.

Author Michael VolpeAdrenaline junkies will be satisfied by the intense murder mystery plot, conspiracy theorists will find new rabbit holes to plunder while others will draw hope and feel relief from having the dangers of family court spelled out as Volpe has done here.

Advocates, ethical professionals, parents and grandparents around the globe cheer, some loudly and some through tears, when investigative reporters and journalists get it right about suffering and loss being forced upon them. That is what Volpe has done in his book Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney’s Kafkaesque Divorce.

The loss and suffering caused to families and children by dishonest, biased and punitive family court professionals has been described in the Huffington Post by Anne Stevenson, Tina Swithin, Randy Burton and other writers, but there has been little done to develop and leverage solutions, mostly because it is a highly controlled, convoluted and profitable system designed to prevent exposure and accountability.

Burton is correct that crimes are being committed and with no chance for accountability or recovery, but we need more than that because to stop there may leave us hopeless.

What Volpe has outlined in this book may well give us what we need to start turning the tables on those causing the damages, and that is how we are responding to his work by leveraging it along with our research at My Advocate Center in Atlanta.

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Why is it so difficult to focus on these issues, this attack on parents and children? Correct, there is nothing light, funny or charming about it, and the bad actors do not look like the mob characters we see in the movies or on television.

The lack of inaction until now may also be due to the fact that many people see this crisis as just a family problem, a divorce problem, a mental health problem, a crime problem (in another jurisdiction).  Authorities manage to in some way compartmentalize the issues into existing only under someone else’s list of issues to address. “Someone else will have to deal with this,” and, “it’s just too bad” that this goes on.

Well, that’s just not good enough, and what we now have is a runaway collection of professionals across our nation (and beyond) who put their own profits ahead of the safety and wellbeing of our families and children. The damages stretch across every social or socio-economic barrier we’ve erected and the only thing holding us back is the notion that it is someone else’s problem. We have the data, and we have Volpe’s work in this book and his series of articles that break down who is doing what, how they’re doing it as well as how they’re getting away with it.

We must accept as a society that this problem belongs to and impacts all of us, and we are all a part of the solution – we all have the ability to help turn the tables on predators who profit from undermining families and the legal system, with the worst of it being the damages to children and their parents. Everything fails and suffers from there. Just ask actor Jason Patric or actress Kelly Rutherford. Lives are being turned upside down, and simply for profit and a failure of ethics, and an abandonment of laws and duty.

The state of Connecticut at least recognized that a response was needed so it will be interesting to understand what has taken place since this public forum laid out the facts. The CT Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care & Custody of Minor Children opened up dialogue to invite “constructive suggestions about how to improve a process we all know can be made better.” That is putting it mildly but we’re grateful state leaders even opened the door and allowed public discussion on the issues. We were glad to hear that law enforcement as well decided to investigate, but the rest of us need to have staying power and need to support the authorities in continuing and expanding on this work. The predators expect us to get worn out, busy or to assume someone else has it covered.

I believe that this type of public hearing done in CT, combined with media coverage and these hard-hitting articles, are two parts of the overall solution as awareness must come first, but until now we’ve been a long way off from having enough data clearly laid out to know what should be a next step.

When Michael Volpe entered the scene and began digging into these issues, I was another person who breathed a sigh of relief, dared to hope and committed to doing what I could to empower his work. One way I could do this was to introduce him to investigative TV-reporter Nick Lulli and to help both Volpe and Lulli draw clear comparisons between cases until the specific fact patterns of fraud emerged.

Screenshot 2014-12-02 10.09.57As one reporter to another, Volpe and Lulli could dissect and debate the issues that cause most people to lose their ability to communicate effectively, let alone be able to ask for help. Lulli, during his time in Augusta, Georgia, was able to piece together several compelling reports about damages caused by outrageous and unethical professional conduct.

Volpe included some of Lulli’s work in his book, including a story about a father believed, even by the judge, to have attempted the murder of the mother and his own son by arson. By shutting down the fire investigation this abusive, wealthy doctor was able to take custody and move the children away while doing everything to prevent the mother from maintaining a bond with her children. The children disappeared from Georgia before the mother could learn they were gone, and only found out when they did not come off the school bus as expected.

What has not yet been reported on is that the mother’s attorney, who billed her close to $200,000.00 in fees, has a pattern of allowing this kind of loss and trauma to happen to her own clients, especially to women when there is violence, child abuse and/or fraud involved in the case.

This is not an isolated bad act and the damaging, fraud-related conduct continues, which is one of the key points Volpe’s book drives home.

Should plaintiff’s lawyers develop a strong stomach for seeking damages on these cases, all they have to do is ask as the claims and evidence exist in volumes large enough to put many trial attorneys to work for the next decade. Funding is being sought to cover expenses of litigation; and, this may be the only hope for these parents and children to recover.

In other cases, Nick Lulli reported about a guardian named Doug Nelson who helped attorneys throw cases whichever way was most profitable, ensuring ongoing damages, which meant more litigation and increased fees for the professionals. It is known to Georgia’s legal community that Nelson was sexually assaulting women, recommending custody for them when they complied and tearing children from them when they rejected his advances.

To date nothing has been done about the crimes of sexual assault or about the fraud committed, or about the fact that children are damaged along with both mothers and fathers, while other professionals knew about it but did nothing.

Nelson resigned as a magistrate judge but is rumored to be re-applying for similar positions.

Questions still hang in the air in Georgia, including, why are the other professionals not acting to restore parents wrongfully cut off from children who need them, and why has no action been taken to hold anyone accountable? Again, the claims for damages, the evidence and opportunity to help targeted parents and children recover are plenty; please contact MyAdvocateCenter.com if you are an interested trial lawyer or want to help see this litigation proceed.

How many more lives do we need to lose before we take action? Our answer is none. I invite you to read Bullied to Death and to contact me or reach out to author Michael Volpe, and share your response and answer to this question.

 

These journalists deserve credit for taking risk and for the positive impact they are having on people who need a reason to believe something might change for the better. This book may well save a number of lives, and it could be someone in your own circles.

It needs to be stated firmly that this story about an unnecessary and intentionally inflicted loss of life is accurate, and is best told by this journalist who is not a victim of the type of fraud seen in this case. The factors leading to Chris Mackney’s death are intertwined with crimes committed by family members, but also by crimes committed by people sworn to uphold the laws of our country. Volpe masterfully handles the critical task of dealing with both sets of crimes, while setting us up to learn from this chain of events and to hopefully empower professionals and others to prevent more tragedy.

One of my recommendations as a reporter, advocate and parent is that more news media pursue these issues, reveal the evidence and report on the foul play and professional misconduct occurring in every state and in virtually every jurisdiction.

Michael Volpe has now given you a road map and a solid starting block. So, yes, I consider this a must read, especially if you care about the impact of crime on families, children, our education system and our communities in general. This is one set of issues we can do something about in our lifetime, and we now have the blueprint for how it works.

My Advocate Center_book review A

Why is Volpe’s book so useful for those of us driven to make a positive impact? As a journalist he puts everything into a balanced perspective and relays details of cases and the public reactions in a way that others can understand, so they can pick up the thread and run with a story should they be inclined to do so.

Since I’m both a reporter and an advocate for change, I’ll say my favorite part of the book is Chapter 12, which deals with the question Chris Mackney raised in his search for a way out – what he believed was his salvation in the child custody matter. The question: would having a Guardian ad Litem appointed to help protect his children in the court case have made a difference, as he was fighting for?

Chris Mackney died from trauma caused in family court_loss of children and rightsIn Chapter 12 of Bullied to Death, Volpe asks, “Would a Guardian have saved Chris Mackney?” If you have a family court story to tell, the answer would be a resounding “No,” unless you are one of the rare few to have a true advocate for your children.

We know it’s possible thanks to Georgia’s now retired Guardian ad Litem Julia Bloodsworth from Augusta and a small handful of her peers; it’s just unlikely that without some serious and savvy sleuth work that you’ll wind up with someone who speaks for children and for safe parents as she has done in that jurisdiction. We need more like her, and we need more trained advocates in this arena like we have in the CASA program.

 

But it is still a myth spread around to those who have not taken off the filtered lens; and some professionals will say to someone who lost a child custody dispute and can’t understand why, “Oh, you did not have a guardian? Oh my…” as if that is your answer to why you have no parenting rights or your children were left unprotected.

Attorney Randy Kessler said this to me during a post-divorce consult, and he is a nationally recognized family law attorney who caters to celebrities and is seen on Nancy Grace, so naturally I believed him at the time. It was interesting that he had his younger, junior associates in his office during my consult, so they were listening to the hard-to-digest story I told about being set up to fail, being played and manipulated by my own counsel, so that my children could be taken away and leveraged against a large financial estate. I later realized that none of the associates in the room were surprised by what happened to me in losing custody; the poor outcome was just blamed on the fact that I had only a custody evaluator and not a guardian ad litem.

It’s ok, you can laugh, as we all now know this is a just a game. A traumatic, expensive, deceptive and avoidable one, but the good news is that I was allowed to purchase my children in the process, and not only are they now doing well, they are doing well because their parents work together in spite of what happened, in spite of what the professionals did to worsen and prolong our case, increasing the expense and their profits. Compare these cases to Tammy & Tony’s story on Pro Advocate Radio about how they realized they were both being lied to by the attorneys on either side of the case in order to drive up fees by guiding the parents to destroy each other, creating an unnecessary custody fight.

Kessler blamed my attorneys Kathy Portnoy and Charla Strawser for the damages in my case because the “expert” they chose to evaluate our situation was not a Guardian ad Litem.  He said, “They should have put a Guardian on your case; I don’t understand why they did not…” He was glad to throw them and the custody evaluator Sarah Brogdon under the bus to me in person, saying Brogdon wasn’t the right expert to use on this case. “She’s not a Guardian.” And, I was told, “Everyone knows Sarah doesn’t get domestic violence,” and doesn’t care unless you are missing teeth.

However, Kessler used Guardian/Attorney Susan Hurst in another case to gather the facts and to weigh in as GALs are often judge and jury; and he allowed this guardian to suppress evidence that would have and should have ended the case long ago, without charging the family hundreds of thousands in legal fees and setting the parents up to have property liens for those fees on both of their pre-marital homes. This was a clear-cut case with the mother making false claims to police, so that they would fault the father while covering up the mother’s financial fraud and addiction-related neglect of the children.

It seems in investigating these cases that violence DOES matter to these professionals, but only when false claims can be made and leveraged to increase the expenses on the case; reports about violence are not used to protect actual victims and their children. We’ll visit more on this soon, but please keep in mind we are focused on certain professionals, select child custody experts, and because of clear patterns of wrong-doing and the fallout for families and children.

Back to the issue of what is going on that causes trauma to parents like Chris Mackney:

One question we have is whether this mother decided on her own to stage a fake domestic violence scene or if it was suggested to her, with guidance on how to go about getting a police report that they could leverage in court to destabilize the father. This happens so often and with ease due to the help provided by certain law firms, that it’s time we ask those tough questions in actual investigations with law enforcement. Women are also falsely accused of violence, of child abuse and neglect, of being “off” because of having PTSD and more.

Innocent parents should not be cut off from children, incarcerated and losing jobs and reputations, all so attorneys can maneuver to increase their fees as they complicate and prolong cases.

My opinion on that Fulton County case Kessler participated in is that the court professionals should have sought help for the mother as you would in any other situation. They had what they needed in evidence to hold her accountable, and they had a duty to protect the father from the false claims while addressing the financial fraud involved. They should have protected the children and the mother from herself, and the mother actually would have done better financially if she had taken the father’s offer in the beginning of the case. So many questions, so little time…

My Advocate Center_Book Review CThe outcome is that this mother who worked with GAL Susan Hurst as her child’s advocate wound up owing to her attorneys most of what she was awarded at the end of the case. So who wins in this one?

No one wins, except the guardian and the attorneys who guided the parents into this position. Similarly, Hurst acted as attorney for a father twice arrested for child molestation and found to have large volumes of child pornography in his possession, but Hurst’s argument to the court was not to help her client heal from sickness or to protect the child, but rather to block the testimony of police, the forensic expert & to deny the existence of the evidence, saying, this information is not relevant to this case.

Something has to give here, and it’s not the parents being tormented this way in these cases. They have given enough.

Chris Mackney, the father bullied to death in this ugly process, was much like the innocent father in Fulton County, Georgia, and like so many other fathers and mothers. He just could not know what he didn’t know, and could not understand the scope of the game being played on him or the fact that this is a creative but bold form of racketeering, which we are seeing and experiencing, but without the means to disrupt. If he had known Hurst was aggressively protecting a child molester while at the same time setting innocent parents up to fail – leaving children in harm’s way – would he have agreed to put her in a position of authority on his case?

Both fathers, one alive and one deceased, believed a guardian ad litem and the attorneys and judge would help them because that is what our laws and rules dictate. He believed in duty of professionals to advocate ethically and honestly.

Other fathers like Chris Mackney have taken their lives, including two or more in the Atlanta area, following similarly abusive child custody disputes, including one controlled by Dr. Elizabeth “Betty” King and the GAL Susan Hurst. Both mothers and fathers will tell you they have contemplated suicide, as the abuse, trauma and suffering are so severe. It is beyond difficult to explain what is happening to you, let alone ask for help when your time, your financial resources and your credibility are all being destroyed.

The worst is the grief you experience when your children are ripped from you, especially when you are the loving, nurturing, available and safe parent. The parent the children need most is often the one taken from them. This cruel activity is causing post-traumatic stress symptoms in parents and children, and most are not getting the treatment and support they need to recover. When doctors involved in these cases, like Dr. King and her partner Dr. Carol Webb, or their peer Dr. Nancy McGarrah, actively help cause this trauma and injury as we are seeing, the question is asked about whether other claims for malpractice should be considered. It is no surprise that parents are becoming reluctant to sign contracts with these doctors when the contract demands full immunity from any wrongdoing.

Yet, we see claims filed by doctors (along with Guardians) asking courts to hold parents in contempt for being unable to pay large bills, especially when that doctor or guardian helped to suppress evidence and to destroy an innocent parent.  Parents who are otherwise safe and available for the children are being pushed out, so when you see Court Watch news on social media, you’ll understand why.

Cartoonist Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle captures the right look on certain Guardian ad Litem faces as they over charge and under serve parents and children.

Cartoonist Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle captures the right look on certain Guardian ad Litem faces as they over charge and under serve parents and children.

Knowing the tactics used on parents and knowing these cases as I do, I can understand why Mackney felt his only way out was through death. Rather than leave it there, I challenge you to use what you have available whether it is intellect, your voice, talent, courage, financial strength, time, or whatever it may be to help prevent more tragedies like this one.

I am using what I have had available to me, including large volumes of evidence gathered – – and it is about the data as a shrewd legislator said to me not long ago. Standing up to bullies like you’ll read about in Volpe’s book about Chris Mackney’s experience has brought me unwanted attention, and I’ve been pulled into court to answer, “What are you doing, and why are you doing this?”  But standing up and speaking out has also opened doors.

Please join me if you have something to contribute, can spare the time and have the courage or desire to see more good people fight back against these bad acts – crimes in many situations.

The public is not allowed to know the rules of the game before becoming trapped, so at the very least we can change that. If you’ve watched the Hunger Games movie series or read the books, you’ve surely thought, “If I could just jump into the story and tell them how the game works, that they are not meant to survive…” Well, in Georgia at least, we have the evidence and the data to show that what happens on cases like these is pre-determined, intentional, but that – with help – the damages are avoidable. When you have this kind of data and proof, then you can create the opportunity to do something about it.

 

So, now that we know, let’s answer this man’s question about what would have saved him.

If Chris Mackney had seen what the cast-of-characters in Georgia have been doing, like Guardians (GALs) Janet Weinberger, Susan Hurst, Larry Yarbrough, Jim Holmes, Diane Woods, Carol Orleck, Lisa Harwell, Doug Nelson and others, to intentionally damage children and push parents over the edge, it might have saved his life. The data we have is actionable, and tragedies like his can be prevented. Worth investing in, don’t you think?

My Advocate Center_Book Review BThere is hope when strong people or media are paying attention, as Mike Volpe, Nick Lulli and The Augusta Chronicle have done. The same goes for people who invested as Joe Sorge has done with his documentary and book Divorce Corp, and the many other men and women who have investigated, reported, written books, blogs and used their voices at state Capitol buildings lobbying for protection and transparency.

Another book written to describe what mothers were being put through in Houston, Texas, is available online, called The Women of Court Watch; so this problem is decades old, and it is getting worse each year. No one is immune as we are seeing here in Georgia on these cases, and even well known, savvy attorneys on being damaged by their peers.

As it’s time we step up and address this crisis, my review of Bullied to Death is an invitation to law enforcement, professional associations – including State Bar Associations and the ABA, psychological and medical licensing boards – to sit down with those of us who have collected and organized the data to reveal actionable steps, and to start allowing our country to heal from the crimes being committed.

There are enough outraged people, there are too many torn from children, who have lost their homes, careers, health and even their lives. It is time for those of us who are capable of following through and acting on the data to do so.

Jason Patric said it perfectly when interviewed on national television about his story and case, “The family court system is broken and in my journey I have learned of so many other stories where children have lost their parents.” “I want to use my story and my name to give a voice to those who do not have one.”

Please read Bullied to Death by Michael Volpe and decide what your role or contribution can be in saving lives and turning the tables on bad actors.

Deb Beacham of My Advocate CenterDeb Beacham is an entrepreneur who specializes in problem solving for families and professionals dealing with high-conflict disputes, including divorce, child custody cases and financial matters. One of the best ways we can assist others is by uplifting ethical, talented professionals and by making sure the public knows how to find them.

Beacham founded My Advocate Center in Fall 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia, to connect a variety of community resources necessary to ensure the best outcome for children who often become pawns in divorce and child custody cases. The mission is to provide parents, professionals and policymakers clear, actionable insight that will aid the dispute resolution process to serve the best interest of the child.

Pro Advocate Radio is sponsored as a platform to keep the conversation going and to empower our community to solve the problems before us, including those presented in Bullied to Death by Michael Volpe.

Broadcasts include topics like family court conflict, domestic violence, child trafficking, unraveling financial fraud, and interviews with law enforcement and legislators on needed policy changes. As funding for solutions becomes available and as more news media pick up these stories, this will become an easier conversation!

The Rights of Children

Should children have rights when parents and other family members fight?

Needs of Children_Freedom to Know Their Parents and Be Protected

Excerpt of material borrowed from Jennifer Baker PhD’s article on this case of child abuse and deprivation:

“Barbara Bennett Woodhouse  is the L. Q. C. Lamar Chair in Law at Emory and serves as faculty advisor for the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic.

She is one of our most eminent scholars on the topic of children’s rights. She has developed an account of five basic human rights that represent what other experts agree is crucial to the well-being of children. (Please read her excellent book on children’s rights, here(link is external).)

These are: privacy rights. While we are familiar with how these work in regard to adult lives, for children, “the basic unit of privacy is not the individual but the relationship between the child and the caregiver. “ Children, in other words, need us to respect their relationships and their capacities to form relationships.

Agency rights. Children develop voices and they have agency. They need to have a voice in matters that affect them, even if “they are not ready to take responsibility for the ultimate choice.” Children are both citizens-in-training and valuable in their own right, as they are.

Equality. Children, dependent on communities as they are, deserve access to the necessities of life that other children in the community are given.

Dignity. Children are their own persons, and “laws that penalized innocent children for the sins of their parents,” as existed in the Victorian era, have come to look “inhumane.”

And finally, protection rights. Civilization depends on the weak being protected from the strong. Situations where children are put in danger of harm violate these children’s rights.

Woodhouse explains that children’s rights flow “from the same set of basic values” that give adults rights. We cannot, in other words, pretend adult rights are on some firmer basis than those of children.”

Do you agree?

Let us know: MyAdvocateCenter.com

Use your voice,

Deb Beacham

 

Psychology Today Contributor Gets It

No, it’s not your imagination. You heard correctly: a judge ordered children into a detention center and then into a special “camp” because they reported on family violence and asked to not be subjected to further abuse. The children spoke up because they did not want to be separated from the parent protecting them.

This issue is not about gender but about ignored facts and profit motives of certain professionals; it is just a game that is played in family court, and it harms mothers, fathers, grandparents and always the children.

At My Advocate Center in Atlanta, Georgia, we have been receiving data from and reporting on cases involving (equally) damages to good fathers and to good mothers, cases in which nothing makes sense when you look at the facts and available evidence and testimony.

The gender war (along with racial bias) is encouraged by the professionals profiting from the conflict, so that one group believes the other is benefitting from a bias or “unfair advantage.” Money does often play a role, but it is not always the person with access to money and status who is driving or benefitting from the foul play. This is why our data and reports are valuable to authorities, and why we support both professionals and parties in organizing facts and outcomes; it is overwhelming for those subjected to this misconduct, and even to professionals trying to unwind the case and assist the victims. You might not see who is causing the damages, how they are doing it and how it is being covered up if you do not look closely enough, or look at enough cases, including transcripts, billing records and custody reports (if the report has not been put under seal, if the transcripts are accurate and complete, and if the billing records or file are not withheld.)

The Michigan story this Psychology Today writer reports on could almost as easily be featuring a father who has been wrongfully separated from children who have asked for protection from their mother. That is the situation in an Augusta case covered by The Augusta Chronicle. It was not the father who was violent (per DFCS records which were hidden from the father), the child did testify on his behalf as did a competent, ethical guardian, but the facts and the needs of the child were ignored…while the father was stripped of everything – his rights to and time with his child, his financial assets, his job, and he was put in jail.

This Augusta case and other cases we have investigated show that men also are abused, and men can be the “protective parent” while the mother is the one involved in a “pay to play” game to avoid consequences for her own misconduct. What is being done to parents, to both mothers and fathers, sends the message that you are better off staying quiet about abuse (from addiction, violence, financial or fraud-related abuse) than asking for the court’s help. Ask for help at your own peril…and at your children’s peril…not that you are better off if you stay quiet, mind you. But many are told, “Do nothing, say nothing, or this will get worse; you will never see your child…”

The wrong outcomes are being forced upon good people and abused children as frequently as you see panhandlers near a highway or intersection; it is just something that happens and that many people have become numb to, but this happens to an unsuspecting public and causes irreparable harm. Currently there is no way to recover, including no way to recover or to bring home these children.

Coercion and intimidation tactics, and retaliation methods, rule the day, just like we see in this Michigan case with the children put in detention centers, cut off from their mother and the mother put under a gag order.

Child abuse can be prevented_My Advocate CenterAs in other cases, the children are old enough to be heard and to be believed, and they were clearly not represented properly by professionals charged with the duty of representing their best interests.

Psychology Today contributor Jennifer Baker, PhD, nails this story and the problems emphatically with her pen, in this article and in others, including this one and this one. This case and the issues is raises are not going away anytime soon.

This is one reason we focus on the needs of children consistently when noting questionable conduct and outcomes. The term best interest has been so badly misconstrued or even corrupted that it has become meaningless, at least in terms of the results shown in thousands of cases across the country, and around the world. Children are being betrayed when they ask for help and often silenced as the judge did in this case.

It is almost impossible to fathom that this is happening, let alone that it is often intentional and done in bad faith and with a complete lack of empathy for the trauma being caused to children and to the parents they need and want.

This is also a reason we emphasize to legislators that loopholes must be closed that allow certain court professionals to block evidence and testimony that should be used to protect children and victims of abuse. Evidence and testimony should be recorded and used for the benefit of our most vulnerable citizens; it is just not that complicated, but our data reveals that the opposite is taking place when cases are easily manipulated and controlled by certain attorneys and select child custody experts. If you read the transcript of this Michigan case and the associated articles, you’ll see what we mean.

What is consistent across these cases is the motive:

It is simply more profitable to keep children and safe parents off-balance, unprotected and ignored.  They have to spend money to fight back, until there is nothing left to spend. But typically the other side – the side driving the stress and trauma – will keep on spending. Profit over protection has become a pattern or a formula followed by professionals who typically lack oversight and who believe there will never be any consequences for causing harm to children.

We advocate for children to have the best of both parents, meaning the best that each has to offer, and that sometimes means one or both parents need to receive a “tough love” message from the court or the right treatment for addiction or counseling to manage bad behavior, but it that message should NEVER mean sentencing and locking up children who have not done anything wrong. Unfortunately, children in many states are being convicted and locked away – from safe, loving and available parents and families – when they asked to have a voice and to be protected.

To learn more or to report details of similar cases, please visit our Report Cases form on MyAdvocateCenter.com.

Deb Beacham, Founder and Director