Rare Removal of a Judge on a Domestic Violence Case

This is good news for domestic violence advocates and victims. But you have to ask the question, “Why is this rare?”

Why is it so common to allow judges to ignore domestic violence and other forms of control and abuse?

Much more follow up is needed here. We also need further investigation into why innocent parents are set up to fail using false allegations of abuse. Either way, dishonesty and perjury cause the children to be failed and caused more stress.

Excerpt:

“The North Dakota Supreme Court in January took the rare step of removing a South Central District Court judge from a child custody case.

The justices, in their Jan. 22 opinion, ordered that Judge Cynthia Feland be removed from a custody and child support case in McLean County between Nicholas Law and Danielle Whittet.

“A change of judge is ordered upon remand because of Judge Feland’s inability or unwillingness to follow our mandate, and out of concern for the tumult from and cost of litigation,” the justices wrote in a unanimous opinion signed by Justice Daniel Crothers.

The Supreme Court in 2014 ordered Feland to grant primary custody to Law and limit custody for Whittet, after Whittet [father] had been convicted for disorderly conduct and preventing arrest.

“In determining a parenting time schedule for Whittet, the court must bear in mind the presumption that any domestic violence, even if not directed at the child, negatively affects the best interests of the child. Accordingly, the court should consider limited parenting time for Whittet,” the Supreme Court wrote at the time.

Instead, Feland awarded Law primary custody of the child but maintained that Whittet would have custody of the child every other week.

The Jan. 22 opinion held that Feland had not given Law primary custody in name only because the actual custody arrangement had not changed.

The justices ordered that the case be remanded for further proceedings under a different judge.”

http://bismarcktribune.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/n-d-supreme-court-removes-judge-from-custody-case/article_1e441522-d7d4-503c-a399-fa1adf646c54.html

In Georgia, we ask the Judicial Qualifications Commission to take a closer look at why so many judges are leaving exposed the victims of family violence and their children.

When Child Custody Becomes Deadly

“His children were his life,” Prather’s sister Jerdonna Sawyer told The Associated Press by phone. “He wasn’t crazy at all. He just chose a terrible way to deal with his pressure and his stress.”

We are all saddened by this tragedy in Georgia, in the town of Douglasville, in which a father just could not take it any longer. Family members are grieving, and we may never learn the whole story.

Loss and stress do terrible things to the minds of people who could otherwise manage fine, but the escalated conflict surrounding divorce and child custody is enough to put many over the edge.

This father is one of a large handful in Georgia to end his own life, and one of several around the country who have murdered family members during the taking of their own lives.

So we advocate for reducing conflict and ensuring protections, as much as can possibly happen. Based on our data the courts and certain court professionals are exacerbating conflict rather than helping parents receive proper counseling and guidance.

If you recall the murder of Donna Kristofak in Cobb County not too long ago, she also had a restraining order and the court knew she was in danger. She tried to protect herself. These cases are different but there is still much we can learn by studying what happened in both.

When one parent loses control and believes they can no longer function or have any quality of life, something can switch in their brain and cause the urge to do something extreme and rash like finding a gun or a knife to use. It is not the choice of the weapon that matters, but the opportunity and the circumstances that feed this rage and desperation.

We can and must do better.

Our research has identified cases that are ripe for more loss and tragedy, and much of it could have been lessened if not avoided.

Please join the conversation on Pro Advocate Radio and follow our posts on our blog and on other social media. Let us know what you can contribute – how you can help?

In the meantime, watch for parents who are struggling around the loss of their children, their jobs, homes and health. Look for ways to ease their stress and to intervene if the situation makes no sense.

Court House

Protecting Children from Family Violence

The stories are worse than the stats, so if you don’t have a strong stomach, just turn away.

But we dare you to watch and learn, and take a stand in your cases and in your courts.

Many injuries and deaths are preventable, so stop making excuses. #ProtectChildren

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

Question Number One: What is a GAL?

Now that we see how prevalent the misconduct is and how extreme and lasting the damages are, we are developing the dialogue about what to do next.

You have to understand what a Guardian is and what they are supposed to be doing before you can properly review and judge their work, so let’s start here.

The news station reporting on the GAL misconduct and the bad case outcomes in Augusta, Georgia, asked us to explain more about the GAL program in Georgia.

They asked us, “What is a guardian ad litem, and is what we are seeing in Augusta the norm?”

We are opening the discussion for professionals and parents to work together to help improve this situation. The Augusta Chronicle ran a great summary of the GAL program, so please read that and let’s revisit how to improve this system so that we can avoid more of the same, and improve outcomes for children and families.

Please also connect with us via LinkedIn, and professionals may join the Counsel for Change group to contribute privately as we work on answering and correcting what is is wrong.  

Help Break the Silence about GAL misconduct that has been leading to harm to children and good parents.

Help Break the Silence about GAL misconduct that has been leading to harm to children and good parents.

Judge Rules: States “Something Wrong with You” for Molesting a Child

It is a good day in Georgia when evidence and testimony are allowed into Court, and allowed onto the record, showing that a crime was committed against a child.  

This is the lead-in to this story in The Daily Report, crediting Oprah Winfrey’s show with giving a teen girl the courage to report the crime committed against her when she was younger:

“A man who was convicted of child molestation after an Oprah show prodded a teenage girl to report him received a 20-year prison sentence and some stern words from a Cobb County judge.”

This should not be such a surprise that this happened, but based on large numbers of cases we have seen this is not happening as often as you would hope given the evidence and testimony available to the Court.

We posted about this story recently because the Court so clearly stated, “You have a hole in your soul…” for molesting a child.

The Court found this man guilty and it will be a long time before he is out of prison. There is more in his history that supports keeping him in jail, but our focus here is not on his time being served, but on the fact that the Court did not shy away from the damages to the child, to the egregious nature of the crime and did not help to deflect the evidence and testimony, or to explain it away.  

The Court in this situation did not act to allow a crime against a child to be covered up, rewarding the criminal and highly-paid court professionals to help “deal” with the crime by denying the evidence.  

This is quite the contrast from what is happening in many Superior Court cases when profits are driving the conduct of family law attorneys and court-appointed child custody experts.  It is one thing for a criminal defense team to use laws and due process to help protect a client against charges.  But what is happening on child custody cases in Georgia, where attorneys and Guardian Ad Litems are choosing not to advocate for children, or attorneys for their own clients, is something completely different. (Please note the emphasis online in comparing Augusta “Outside The Gates” to our Atlanta news stories.)

If there is money to be made from helping to keep evidence off the record in a criminal matter, while denying a child protection in a child custody case, there is much that can go wrong.  My Advocate Center is working with news media and local and State leaders to show that much IS going wrong on these cases in Georgia.  

Sadly, there is repeated interference with rulings that should lead to larger investigations and, most importantly, to the protection of children. 

There are pending cases in Fulton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Forsyth County, Columbia County and Richmond County where My Advocate Center has seen enough evidence and heard enough testimony to know that teams of investigators are needed to correct these situations.  Law enforcement and ethical attorneys have a different opinion of this situation, and are not the problem.

Our hope is that real investigations can happen before more children die, and before more parents commit suicide due to the trauma of seeing their children suffer and having their rights removed on top of the loss of all of their property and income.  Parents are in dire straits, and it’s time for our State to take action.  This cannot continue being swept under the so-called “rug” as it is a filthy, soaking-wet, and thread-bare “rug” at this point.

Below are some examples of coverage on the story in which the Court properly recognizes the nature of the criminal and rules to protect children:

 

Cobb County is waking up to the fact that children are being left unprotected even in light of clear evidence and substantiated reports of abuse.  WHY?

One Judge Properly Calls a Crime Against Children what it is…TERRIBLE.   We are asking that more Cobb County Judges wake up to the fact that children are being left unprotected even in light of clear evidence and substantiated reports of abuse. Why not allow investigations based on the evidence & testimony available?

 

In other sections of this website you will see reports about good parents who are falsely accused and even imprisoned when evidence exists to exonerate them.  It is the same problem in those cases, that for some reason certain professionals do not want evidence and testimony heard that would lead to proper rulings based on our laws – and based on common sense and what would serve the needs of children.  

If you have not seen the Divorce Corp. or No Way Out But One documentaries, now would be a good time to get up to speed by watching those.  The Kids for Cash documentary is also being screened in Atlanta in June, so you will not want to miss that if you care about what certain judges are doing — abusing power while exploiting those who fall under their power.

 

 

 

The Price of Bug Repellant

A father asked us recently, “What is a good way to explain to others what this family court trap is like?”

He asked for the best way to explain to his cousin what is happening with certain Georgia family law practices.  His cousin is interested in being supportive but he doesn’t “get” the legal world, let alone this divorce business.

Cousin Joe, however, lives in a big neighborhood and can’t stand the power-hungry HOA president:

You and your neighbors are going about your yard projects, and you get into an argument about a fence.  You go to the head of your HOA to help resolve the situation.  (You can’t stand your neighbor’s bad comb-over or his beer breath, but that’s besides the point.  He doesn’t want you to paint your fence!)

What you don’t realize is that “HOA Guy” has started selling products to deal with mosquitos.  “So what?” you say.

While trying to make your very important point about your RIGHT to paint your fence, with HOA Guy calmly listening, swarms of mosquitos start circling your head and attacking every body part.  Now you’re REALLY annoyed.  And really distracted, and you can’t function let alone work out an agreement with beer-breath.  …and to make things worse, beer-breath and HOA Guy are asking you what YOU did to bring on these nasty bugs.

Thankfully HOA Guy has a solution!

He rolls out the repellant and zapper equipment, and you quickly shell out $350.00 since that’s what he charges and you don’t see any other options at that moment. (These are BIG mosquitos & they feel like they are shredding your skin and going for your dog next.)

What you can’t see at this point is that he is growing those mosquitoes in tubs around the corner and turning them loose on you every time it appears your argument might be winding down.

This conversation is not only going nowhere fast, you and your disgruntled neighbor grow increasingly agitated – with each other.  You both give up in a huff and leave, but are told to come back the next morning (when the mosquitos probably won’t be so bad, HOA Guy calmly says.)

You’re so emotional and worried that you don’t realize the mosquitos are only going after you and your “difficult” neighbor…  The next morning you are relieved to learn there is a stronger version of the repellant you can now buy that he didn’t have the day before.  Another check is written, this time for $650.00, but you have hope you’ll get through the discussion this time.

And so on.

Before too long you’ve turned over your nice watch and your bank account is empty.  (So there is no money left for you to paint that fence you were fighting over!  Problem…solved.)

This is a silly and somewhat harmless picture, right?  Just bugs, an opportunist HOA president, a fight over a fence and a few bucks.

You get it now, right?

Or…not on board yet?  Not enough to go confront and oust HOA Guy and turn his tubs of mosquitos on him?

What if this were a true high-stakes game, and it involved losing your children, your home and your health?

If this were happening to YOU, could you explain that to someone?  Or would you be too ashamed to admit you couldn’t see it coming to be able to stop it?

Right now I bet you’re thinking that you would not shell out money like that for bug repellant?  No, we wouldn’t either, but we’re really talking about people who are told to fear they will lose their children and everything they’ve worked hard for…if they don’t “buy” and “just do what I tell you…”

When you’re under attack, and someone with authority – whom you voted for and therefore TRUST – lies to you and takes everything from you…you react and comply with what you’re told, because you are READY to be delivered from what is attacking you.

Yes, it is that simple.  If you get the wrong attorney, and they do not advocate for you with the Judge like you believe they will, and they tell you to hire the WRONG custody expert, there’s basically nothing you can do…

Or is there?  And is there something we can do together to help those who are being subjected to this?

If you understand this, then you can help us act on it:  this is the reality many parents around you are facing.

Imagine you are a loving parent who just wants to do right by your kids and your soon-to-be-Ex.  You hear about a “good attorney” from a friend, so you go ask for help and write a $4,000.00 check.

While promising to “help you through this tough time” this attorney, and then his preferred child custody “expert,” take a position of authority over you.  Now the judge, the attorneys and the custody expert are all selling you repellant to fight off the bugs they didn’t tell you about.   They will keep taking from you while putting you in a worse position, but you had no way to know this was coming.

This is the easiest explanation for why this continues, because it is so hard to believe…and it is happening in plain site.  As easily as the HOA guy who happens to have bug repellant handy when you come to him for help.  As easily as the guy who sells you the solution to the problem that he created.

Divorce is tough enough, without feeling the need to stay quiet because others know you are just going through an “ugly divorce.”  Can you see how this might be hard to explain, or to know where to turn and how to ask for help?

This is why we are asking you to learn and to offer support.

This is happening to so many around your community, and just like it is hard to avoid mosquitos, it is virtually impossible to stop what is happening to anyone faced with a legal conflict like this.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, or what kind of neighborhood you live in.  And, it can happen to you.

Some parents are in much worse shape, and are not allowed to nurture and provide for their own children.   This is the really tough part of this — that children are often a price or the “collateral damage” that you can’t even fathom.  Those situations require a higher level of support and commitment, but these cases range from simple to the extreme.

What is happening to good mothers is also happening to good fathers, and vice versa.  There have been enough tragedies coming from this scenario to wake us up and move us into action, as a state, as parents, grandparents and community leaders or professionals.

We just need to know what YOU can handle, and what you believe is right for you to do.

Whatever your comfort level is, just do something to help us get HOA Guy where he belongs?

 

Testimonials from Supporters on Facebook

A friend knows you are going through a divorce and that you’ve been displaced from your home.

But you keep to yourself the gory details, as much of it as you can handle.  Suddenly he reads something online that helps him understand what you’re dealing with.  Betrayal and shame take on new meaning, but in a way that makes him reach out to offer support.   He gets it now.  This is not your issue that you created, and he sees that you had no way to know the trap you were walking into with this “family law” situation.

You were trying to make the best of things, trying to do right by your children, while actually being guided in a way that didn’t make a ton of sense… But who are you supposed to ask?   Now it appears you are being penalized for being honest, and for NOT trying to punish your spouse for leaving you.  What gives?

Thanks to news media and social media, people like this friend are saying, “Wow, what if that had been me?  Could I have seen a way to react differently?”  And, “That guy is one of the smartest and most well connected people I know…if this can happen to HIM, then it can happen to anyone!”

Social Media is allowing us to “change the game” being played at your expense.  This friend of a Buckhead business owner is a great example of how people are opening their eyes, and placing the judgment where it really belongs.

People around you likely think there must be something wrong with you based on the look on your face, or how you sound…or maybe because of your silence.  They have no way to know the shame, the fear, the uncertainty…or that dishonest professionals may be adding to what was a tough situation to begin with.

So if you share a post about our work to help promote awareness, do not be surprised if you see something like what this person wrote to a friend in this situation:

“…why on earth should a lawyer be allowed to strip a percentage of a family’s wealth and drag out a lawsuit simply to rob a family blind when they are already in distress. It is sickening.”

Because healthcare providers and media personalities like Dr. Drew are validating the impact – and that it is NOT just “something that poor guy brought on himself” – more people are willing to learn and to support parents and children caught in unnecessary litigation.

What can you do or how can you use your voice?

Stand by people caught in a legal conflict.  You may be the only one to speak the truth, or who can make sense of what they are dealing with.

Stand by people caught in a legal conflict. You may be the only one to speak the truth, or who can make sense of what they are dealing with.

Fulton County: Pay to Play (Part Two)

 

Why raise the issue of “Pay to Play” on these child custody cases?

It’s a simple matter of the public wanting to know why the damages to good parents and to so many children are what they are during and following a legal conflict:

Some of the questions the public is asking include, “How many high-paid attorneys and custody experts does it take to influence a judge to ignore evidence and the wishes of a child?”  This is a fair question raised in Fulton, Cobb, Forsyth and Dekalb counties in similar cases involving child abuse.  It is fair to ask also, “Should this influence be allowed to stay hidden?”

It is a bigger question because many of these cases had possible outcomes that were faster, less traumatizing and expensive for the parents and children.

But the damages are not just happening to children, or around cases involving abuse.

Evidence of addiction and other misconduct / foul play is being ignored where it will allow a healthy and innocent parent to protect themselves. This is while certain professionals on those cases earn higher fees from that keeping that parent caught in the process.  It just takes lying to the innocent parent in saying “Oh, that evidence doesn’t count, or that misconduct won’t matter to the Court,” then creating more uncertainty by faulting the innocent parent instead of using available evidence, and the perfect storm is ripe for increased professional gain.

Parents are being told that the “trends” in family law mean that leaving out evidence is appropriate, and that means the financial losses & physical / emotional harm to good parents and children…is all fine, too. So we invite the press to ask, are these “trends” in line with our laws?  We know for sure they are not in line with common sense or with what our children need to be healthy and supported.

So this question on this Fulton case becomes fair game:

Does it really make sense that a GAL on a case like this one is billing over $133,000.00?    Wouldn’t the evidence on its face suffice to provide the right answers to the court?  How is this “trend” good for our children or our state?

Because of this coverage on these unusually high custody expert bills, many more cases have surfaced revealing that “things just don’t make sense” around amounts billed and by whom, and when compared to the evidence and facts of the case – and when seeing the damaging outcomes for children.

See the story posted below for the reason reporter Jeff Chirico did a follow up story on billing records and money.  Note that we have not seen one case with an innocent parent where these same professionals worked this hard to use their influence over a judge.  If they have such a case, our analysts would welcome the chance to compare billing records and the advocacy involved.

There is nothing wrong with making  a great living, or with paying experts when you need and can afford them.

The issue we are raising is that “neutral”  or “child-focused” professionals and their billing practices are doing harm in ignoring evidence that would end litigation and provide protections.

The results are reflecting that more innocent parents are being damaged in spite of evidence that supports them, while the actual perpetrators are able to get evidence ignored.  Either way the children are harmed.

Based on what we’ve seen in this case and in others, if you are guilty of something, then you have a clear path to follow in how to avoid losing in court.  Our point here is that the evidence of this case is impossible to argue with; and certain professionals are working hard to keep out the evidence, even those whose job it is to be “neutral” and to protect the child. (This statement is true and is based on the analysis of dozens of local cases, so we are not amending this statement until we see evidence to the contrary – which we hope will be the case in this next trial.)

If you are a good, innocent parent working to protect a child and to protect your rights, then hiring is a very different matter.  Having significant financial resources and connections as this father does, does not guarantee that the professionals you hire will advocate as needed on your case.  Money does not buy loyalty, but apparently it can buy a cover-up.  The cover-up can work in favor of a parent who is guilty of abuse, but in a number of cases brought to us the cover-up is done to protect a parent and professionals who have lied to police in bringing false allegations.

This means that in other cases, the professionals hired by affluent fathers are allowing their innocent clients to be set up to fail around false allegations.  So, if you are a father who has been falsely accused and lost big, do not make the mistake of thinking that this case may be like yours.  It simply doesn’t work that way – not based on a large number of case evaluations done over a period of several years.

So here is a tough question that is asked of us repeatedly:

Why is it that fathers who have been arrested in different jurisdictions, with reports of abuse substantiated, can use these professionals to hold a child hostage and harm an innocent, nurturing mother?  Then on the flip side, why are fathers who have done nothing wrong and have supported the mother and children (even in the face of adultery and addiction), being condemned and destroyed?

This is happening because it is profitable, and because there is no transparency on these cases.  The next question obviously is “where is the accountability” – does it exist?  The recording and reporting of these hearings is critical for both the public safety – especially that of children who barely have a voice to be able to ask for help – and also for the sake of the public trust in our legal system and judiciary.

If you are a professional who wants to see these cases adjudicated according to evidence and laws, and to ensure the safety of children and the rights of good parents, please look into this case and attend the hearing if possible.

If you are a parent who is uncertain about where to turn to safely navigate situations involving real or false allegations, contact us first.

* This post and this story are posted here together so that following the outcome of this case is easier.  CBS Atlanta did a thorough job investigating and reporting, and was threatened by Dr. Howard Drutman.

 

This is an excerpt from CBS Atlanta’s coverage on this story:

FULTON COUNTY, GA (CBS ATLANTA) –

CBS Atlanta News has learned attorney James Holmes is revising his $133,000 bill in a custody case, in which he served as a guardian ad litem, after reporter Jeff Chirico questioned his fees and his recommendation.

As a guardian ad litem, Holmes is responsible for advocating for the best interest of a 10-year-old girl whose identity CBS Atlanta News is withholding.

Last month, Fulton County Superior Court Judge John Goger ordered the girl live with her father despite allegations he had sexually abused her. Holmes and a court-appointed custody evaluator, Howard Drutman, recommended that the girl’s father receive primary custody of his daughter.

CBS Atlanta News obtained an e-mail Holmes sent to the parties, indicating his fees for working on the case from Spring 2012 through April 22, 2013 totaled $133,000.89.