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

Protected: Children Traded as Commodities

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Preparing Your Court for a Trauma Consult

Being trauma-informed means asking,

What happened to you and how can we help?

versus

What is wrong with you?

The Trauma Manual for Judges in Family and Juvenile Courts

Informed judicial officers and other court professionals can make an immediate, positive impact on children and parents who are being traumatized by abuse and fraud within their immediate family or through their extended family units.

This applies to schools, churches and to healthcare companies and organizations as well. The kind of stress and trauma that is inflicted in litigation, especially where custody disputes are used as weapons against a victim of domestic abuse or fraud, for example. Any first responder, mandated reporter of abuse or anyone interacting with families and children in a professional capacity should become trauma-informed.

We believe it’s worth spending the extra time learning and discussing these issues with court officials, professionals in other fields, and also with family members in your cases to engage them in the process.

This guide or Trauma Manual as referred to by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges will go a long way toward making your courtroom a safer and more constructive path for those who enter your court seeking protection and relief from abuse. [Read the Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases to learn to recognize signs that abuse may be concealed from the record.]

NCJFCJ Trauma Manual for Family and Juvenile Court Judges by Deb Beacham on Scribd

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

Protect Children from Psychological Abuse: Policy

Common sense tells us that causing worry in children is unhealthy for them. When one parent causes their child to doubt, resent, avoid or fear the other parent, assuming no actual safety threat exists, this can have severe and lasting harm on the child’s mental and emotional well-being. Don’t take my word for it.

You can observe children being subjected to family / parenting conflict in every community if you are concerned about this form of psychological abuse and know even a little about what to look for. Use the Contact Us form at the top right of this page if you’d like more information.

It is also undisputed that when a parent is physically or emotionally abusive to the other parent, whether pre- or post-separation, including through the use of deception, manipulation, financial control or financial deprivation to destabilize or shame the other parent, the harm translates directly to a negative impact on the children. Children cannot possibly feel good about themselves when one parent is harming the other and working to destroy a parent-child bond and relationship. Whether the stress and troubling feelings are apparent or not, they are there – and are dangerous to the child.

This is a child safety and mental health issue we should all want addressed.  Our court officials are given instruction by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in this Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases, including specific detail on how to recognize and correct harmful tactics used by a parent against another such as coercive control. This form of abuse may not be seen at first glance or if an investigation disallows evidence of domestic abuse, which unfortunately is often the case. One key point in this Guide is that perpetrators of family violence, coercive control, economic abuse, mental cruelty, etc., position themselves forcefully and deceptively as victims; they can be good actors and enabled by professionals paid to suppress evidence of real abuse and victimization. As such, this is a tough area to resolve so it is important that more courts put the information in this Guide to good use.

Family violence / domestic abuse cases often include some form of child abuse, especially where the perpetrator is willing and able to use children to inflict pain on the targeted parent. It makes sense that if a parent is willing to harm his or her child’s other parent, the offending parent is indifferent to the harm caused to the child. Some parents are so lacking in empathy that they intentionally and willfully use their children as tools or weapons to cause distress, uncertainty about the child’s well-being or whereabouts, grief from having a child wrongfully removed, and some use children for their own financial gain, even if it means causing the loss of the child’s home and pets.

Perpetrators of abuse refuse to accept they can no longer access victims physically, so they use children as the means to gain proximity and to appear justified in sending disturbing messages in person or through digital means. There really is no limit to what an unhealthy person will do to another, so it is up to the Court to intervene.

This highlighted page embedded below was printed from Florida’s legislation updates page. I’ll get a clean copy uploaded soon for you to download or you can search for it online in the meantime. What matters is that leadership in Florida recognizes the damage to children and spells out the mental impact of psychological abuse, including when adults punitively or selfishly act to break bonds between children and safe, loving and available parents.

It is the intent to cause harm to the other parent, the indifference to the harm and deprivation of the child, and repeated, ongoing acts to shut out a good parent that causes me to share the proposed language of this bill. The term “alienation” is too often misused, so that word or description should not be substituted for plain language detailing acts of intentional abuse and family violence.

FL Bill to Include Psychological Abuse and Alienation of Children in Certification by Deb Beacham

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.

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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!