Thank you, Congress, for Putting Child Safety First!

Important update!

Congress passed House Conc. Resolution 72 on September 24th, late into the evening.

This was a bipartisan effort with tireless support from child advocates, lawyers and legislators from across the country. This was a tremendous first step toward improving safety, mental health and family stability for children!

Watch this video courtesy of C-SPAN to hear what Representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties have to say about this new mandate to states and courts. The video is linked in the previous sentence. To comment on this legislation and story, please use the Contact form here.

My Advocate Center supports Georgia Courts in improving child safety and mental health.

Why did My Advocate Center begin publishing information about this proposed resolution back in April of 2018?  The answer: child safety and emotional well-being should always be the first priority of every legal matter involving children. Always. Most of us, however, could not fathom that this has NOT been the case; in fact, the true needs of children, including protection from an abusive parent, are often ignored.

You’ve seen the news reports, heard the stories and talked about it on social media, or maybe only quietly shared it with your counselor when privately grieving what has happened to you or to your loved ones.

The next step for Georgians is to ask our policy leaders to help create momentum on this issue. Please sign the petition below and get to know your U.S. Representatives by sharing your experience with them.

What is the overall goal?

Keeping our children safe, our families stable and healthy, protecting our rights as parents and grandparents to care for our own children. To do this, we need to improve how our courts and legal professionals manage family disputes that enter the the legal system.

Did you know? We reached over 1000 signatures on our previous petition, so just imagine what we can do now!

Warm Christmas and Holiday Wishes

To all who have been following and supporting My Advocate Center whether since inception in 2011 or in recent weeks and months, thank you and Merry Christmas!

Stay warm and stay kind, encourage advocacy and generosity wherever you are, and remember to put the needs of our children first and you will be blessed.

Deb Beacham, Founder

 

Advocates for Open Government and Open Records

Today was a fascinating day in the world of justice as I watched a packed courtroom full of people wait on the sentence issued by the Dawson County judge in Nydia Tisdale’s case.

There should have been no case to begin with, but since this was taken to a jury trial it became obvious that Tisdale had the most far-reaching and compelling support you likely have ever seen in a courtroom. Her legal team did outstanding work and Tisdale herself was like a beacon of bright light in that courtroom. That’s what the truth does, it shines.

Please watch WSB-TV in Atlanta at 6pm for the story and I’ll update this post soon with links to news reports, images and documents from this case as it will mean a great deal to all of us – as Nydia and her journalistic work will – for a long time to come!

With much gratitude to the Tisdale team lawyers, the politicians and other officials who testified on her behalf today, members of the press and many more who brought transparency into this trial and the issues in play, it is my request to you as you read this that you donate here to help Nydia Tisdale continue her priceless public service.

Follow via Twitter, @MPetchenikWSB for updates on this story, along with Chris Joyner @cjoyner and @alexisnews of the AJC and Robin McDonald of the Daily Report.

Deb Beacham

 

Early Intervention and Financial Advisors

The right solution is often a simple one.

If you believe that solving financial problems – or avoiding them – has to be a complicated and mysterious endeavor you could miss the best answer, which may mean the right advisor for your situation and life or business goals.

I believe that finding the right financial advisor early in life, early in a marriage, before starting a business, and early in the process of resolving conflict between family members is priceless.

Any time you are emotionally charged, under pressure to make big decisions, facing uncertainty or a major disappointment, you are served well to already have trust established with a solid, loyal and talented financial advisor.

Do I have recommendations? Of course I do!

My perspective comes, in part, from the study of hundreds of cases or situations presented to me through this website, and from experience in financial services where I worked directly with advisors and money managers across the United States.  Wisdom also comes from learning firsthand that not all financial advisors will give you all of the information or insight you need to make smart decisions.

During research of actual cases, I’ve noted how some financial experts make analyzing and planning more convoluted and expensive than the situation calls for, but emotionally charged parties aren’t in a position to recognize that value is lacking, or that key information is even being withheld. By the time someone realizes that they weren’t served well by the expert they were guided to use, it’s too late; the damage is done. Yes, I can show you what that looks like on paper and how it translates into bigger trouble in life. While I can help illustrate problems you want to avoid, the financial professionals I know and trust are the best at showing you what your best options are and then empowering you to act on them.

Early intervention is the way to go.

Make time before a crisis arises to interview and get to know advisors, and learn what value-added looks and feels like when working with a financial advisor. If you feel uncertain about a professional relationship and need to consult with someone else, let me know.

Coming soon: the next series of eye-opening interviews is under development, so please get in touch if you have suggestions for topics or would like to contribute as an expert or to simply tell a story that can help others reach better financial outcomes.

Above all, preserve your time and financial resources for the benefit of your family.

Parents Rights in Georgia Law and Rule 22 Application

Rule 22 Governs Permission for Recording Court Proceedings

Parents in Georgia have rights that are often not applied in child custody cases, including when someone other than a natural parent is seeking custody of the children. But is anyone paying attention to this type of loss and trauma?

If you are paying attention or are interested in increasing this focus, contact me here.

Protecting the right to record and maintaining open access to courtrooms does improve protections for families and children.

The content to follow is a developing body of work revealing clear examples of the difference it makes to have cameras allowed in courtrooms and to avoid restricting our press.

While I have much more to do here I wanted you to have access now to documents and videos as I upload them and welcome your questions and feedback as this story unfolds. Your attention is needed to ensure we protect access to our judiciary and ensure our courtrooms remain open.

Two problems are ripe to be solved:

1. Missing clarification of Georgia’s laws on the rights of natural parents.

Georgia judges and domestic lawyers expressed interest in this case because it could help clarify what was previously an uncertain matter left to the court’s discretion. Let’s address this issue first.

In the case featured in this article, the lawyer for the maternal grandmother convinced the court that the children would be at risk if they were left in the care of their father. The father was able to receive help thanks to volunteer lawyers through the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation and successfully appealed the trial court’s order giving custody to the grandmother.

With no evidence in support of the grandmother’s claims that the father was a violent man, the trial court gave custody for a second time to the grandmother. This time the Court of Appeals made sure the message was received, that the rights of natural parents should be taken seriously and that absent clear proof of ongoing or future danger to the children the natural parent’s rights are above those of a grandparent. Attached first is the June 24th ruling by the Georgia Court of Appeals, the final ruling driving home the instructions to adhere to the law and facts of the case. Additional filings and orders follow in reverse order.

Rights of Parents Georgia COA Jun 24 2016 by Deb Beacham on Scribd

2. A lack of transparency or ability to review proceedings in child custody matters

You might say this is the problem in all types of judicial proceedings, hence the attention given to the proposed amendments to Georgia’s Rule 22 governing decisions to allow filming or other types of recordings in courtrooms. Changes were proposed by Georgia’s judiciary and only a few organizations and individuals are focused on the flaws which could further restrict public access to court proceedings and discourage open records.

The focus here on child custody is due to the high volume of cases wherein children are used for leverage and/or to punish the other parent by moving to restrict rights, to cause pain and suffering or to avoid paying child support, for example. This is a widespread problem with almost nothing being done to curtail damaging tactics which exploit children and vulnerable parents.

Given the question of law governing the rights of natural parents and the opportunity to observe and film three pro bono lawyers fighting for a wrongfully accused father, I filed a Rule 22 Request to record this Hart County hearing. I learned about the case because the Court of Appeals had twice reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case.

When I began my investigation into the case history and factors that caused the reversal, I recognized the pattern of abusive litigation that is causing so many of Georgia’s children to lose access to loving, available parents. When you’ve seen this pattern of foul play unfold nearly one hundred times, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that intervention and transparency are needed.

There are several videos to this story:

Initially the hearing was set for late summer in 2016, and the grandmother’s attorney argued vehemently against having the proceeding filmed. This video portion will be added shortly.

After listening to her argument, the judge allowed the recording to go forward.  The lawyer was not about to give up on her strategy for denying the father custody, so another tactic was put into play that would either prejudice the court against the father or cause another delay, or both. This clip will be added.

Rather than allow the grandmother’s surprise expert to testify without fair notice and a deposition, the father’s counsel objected and moved to continue the hearing to allow for their deposition of this child custody psychologist Dr. Barbara Oxley.

The argument made by Athens attorney Ed Tolley is one often missed in similar proceedings. His argument and commentary from our interview will be added here.

The continued hearing was reset for December, 2016, and again the court ruled in favor of my Rule 22 Request, saying afterwards, “These days you’re afraid not to grant these things.” Interesting perspective and statement, but I’ll take it.

I’ll be back to complete this story and share the outcome, which will definitely surprise you!  In the meantime, please let me know if you’d like to contribute to additional use of Rule 22 Requests and other forms of increasing both public safety and especially better protections for parents and children.

The rest of the footage of the trial above will be shared in the coming days, and admittedly it will have much more meaning to children taken from safe parents, and for parents stripped of their right to nurture children without cause.

In the meantime, here’s another sampling of images and news reports that have meaning and which support protecting the intent and integrity of Rule 22.

Cameras Needed in Courtrooms

Do Cameras in Courtrooms Make a Difference?

There is no question that our citizens are safer when there is transparency in legal matters, but some judges are going out of their way, even issuing gag orders to media in addition to parties and sealing records in select cases, to prevent a review of what goes wrong in child custody matters when laws, facts and evidence are ignored or concealed from the court.

For several years I’ve been observing, analyzing and reporting on issues in family conflict matters that are causing avoidable stress and loss to children and to loving, safe and available parents. At the center of all of my research and reporting is the needs of children, which too often are forgotten or just set aside. The reports are not what matters, but the possibility of improving outcomes for children; the correct term for this form of journalism is Solutions-Based Journalism.

This form of news media and investigative reporting may not be popular in some circles as it challenges the dangerous status quo, but if it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t be talking about Rule 22 laws and cameras in courtrooms in this state. This is a critical topic the public needs to know is being debated and decided, so I’ll share more of my work and that of other journalists to support understanding and participation in this debate. In the meantime, please ask video journalist Nydia Tisdale about her experience filming public events and proceedings, and ask how you can support her efforts to inform citizens and increase transparency. Her unique work has been featured by news media not only in Georgia but by the Associated Press for her bold moves to support open government and greater public participation.

The more you know, the greater likelihood you’ll contact your legislators and your local news media because we do need cameras in courtrooms and we do need ongoing reporting about how family conflict and legal matters are managed.

A major issue for all, including for ethical, talented legal and healthcare professionals, is that foul play by certain other professionals is rampant and worsening with each year. In part this is due to a vulnerable and unsuspecting public but is also due to a cloudy courtroom landscape where it is easy to disguise bad faith and unethical tactics used to increase billable hours.

Another factor in the worsening of predatory & harmful case management is that certain judges are willing to play along, such as in this highly unusual Augusta situation which was investigated and reported on by local news media.

In the case featured in the news report below, the judge gave custody of the mother’s daughter to her ex-boyfriend when he gave custody of her two sons to this man, their father. However, the man has no biological or legal relationship to the girl, meaning this child and her mother were tormented and torn apart unnecessarily. Note: I have no connection to these parties, no bias or preference other than for facts and laws to count for the children involved. After studying dozens of cases closely in the Augusta Judicial Circuit, collaborating with local news media & seeing news stories through to completion, I know these courtrooms and local practices well and stand by my work and these news reports. Also worth noting, this is not water under the bridge for these children and their families; the damages are ongoing, and more families are being harmed in similar ways as you read this.

The Featured Report:

If the facts and evidence of this case justified an award of custody to the father of the boys, that would be reasonable, but the court also ignored the physical, visible evidence of family violence.

In a separate conversation we’ll feature more of the instruction for judges pursuant to the Georgia Domestic Violence Bench Book, which should be required reading for court officers and court staff such as clerks, social workers and others working with judges on these cases. This Bench Book is available online and published as a 10th edition, with participation from dozens of professionals from around the state of Georgia, so it’s not a secret to our courts that family violence, including in making determinations of custody and visitation, is a matter to be taken seriously.

Please review this news report and ask yourself how this could happen, why a judge would do this, and if the judge is making this kind of ruling, what else is going wrong in his courtroom.

Another key question is whether or not this court and this family could have benefitted from the application of instructions found in the Judicial Guide to Child Custody.

Solutions to Consider:

First, learn about your local courts before you enter into a legal action. Learn about practices of professionals before you sign agreements and pay retainers. Understand why so many families are losing their homes, health and jobs during or following litigation and especially why so many children are kept in or moved to unsafe environments.

Next, learn about accountability systems that exist to provide oversight of professional conduct, including judges and other court officers and experts who help determine outcomes. Do you see any consequences being given to professionals in your area or are you familiar with any investigations into questionable conduct of those managing these types of cases?

Learn from the testimony of lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, grandparents and others who are brave enough and articulate enough to state clearly what they experience or witness, and who are willing to call it what it is – especially if something improper has transpired, as in this Augusta news report.

Remember that all of these court professionals, including judges and child custody experts, are human, meaning they make mistakes, become fatigued and even worn out by the extreme emotions displayed in these cases; none of them, and none of us, are perfect. But the reality is that they have sworn to uphold our laws and they have a duty to do what is right by the children caught in litigation and who are often torn apart in the process.

Where you have the opportunity to encourage the use of cameras in courtrooms, with proper approval of Rule 22 Requests to Record, Videotape and/or Audiotape, to Televise or otherwise make publicly available these proceedings, please do so as it is highly likely you will help save lives.

Please contact My Advocate Center and let me know if you have questions or would like to contribute toward making these solutions available.

Thank you,

Deb Beacham, Founder

 

Our Wish is for Children to Be Cared for by Safe, Loving Parents

These simple wishes this holiday season remain our top priority:

family, charity, healthcare, health. christmas, x-mas and happy

Return children who have been removed from parents they love and need. Prevent children from being sent out of state and isolated for the purpose of silencing them.

Restore relationships between children and parents when they are separated for all the wrong reasons, and even cut off from all communication.

Protect children who are being abused, including emotionally abused when safe, loving parents are threatened with the loss of their children.

Protect the rights of parents asking court professionals to ensure they stay in the lives of their children. When the opportunity presents, help them recover from trauma and loss associated with these avoidable problems.

Show some courage and help grant them their wishes!

 

Loudon Sisters Jailed for Refusing to Live with Father

Loudon Sisters Jailed by Judge Article Washington PostWe were 14 years old when a police officer led us out of our school in handcuffs. We hadn’t committed a crime, and were dedicated students who maintained clean disciplinary records. But we could no longer abide by the shared-custody agreement our parents had signed in their divorce nine years earlier.

It mandated we spend half our time with our father, a man we had no relationship with and who largely ignored us except when he wanted something from us. When living with him became unbearable, we made the terrifying decision to use civil disobedience and refuse to go with him.

Hope Loudon Jailed by Judge for Avoiding Abusive Father

A Michigan judge imposed the same injustice on three siblings last month. Judge Lisa Gorcyca sentenced the Tsimhoni children — ages 9, 10 and 14 — to juvenile detention for refusing to meet with their father, drawing international attention. Gorcyca dismissed the children’s claims of abuse and insisted that their father, Omer Tsimhoni, is “a good man.” She sent them to Children’s Village before relenting to public outrage and moving them to a summer camp after more than two weeks.

In too many parental custody and visitation disputes, adults belittle children’s attempts to escape homes where they feel mistreated. Our father seemed to derive pleasure from controlling us and crushing our spirits. But like Gorcyca, a school administrator told us our father was “loving” and insisted that cutting him off would amount to throwing our lives away. Our friends’ parents were sympathetic, but believed what happened in our home was family business. Instead of allowing us to live with our mother full time, police sent us to juvenile detention for being “incorrigible” children.

[Editor’s note: Contacted by The Post, the authors’ father sent an e-mailed response: “Did I do everything perfectly? No. But my goal and my motivation is and always was for my children to become strong, healthy, happy people. … From the eyes of the adolescent girl, a parent’s behavior isn’t always seen clearly.”]

Judge Gorcyca justified her action by saying the siblings’ mother brainwashed them to hate their father. She told the children, “one day you are going to realize what’s going on in this case and you’re going to apologize to your dad.” But as 22-year-olds who were once in the Tsimhoni children’s position, we’re still not apologizing.

This article can be found on the Washington Post website here.

Please follow Hope Loudon on Twitter. Call to action: #StopCLA means Stop Court Licensed Abuse, which is what is happening to children all over the U.S. and beyond. Where cases can be exploited to increase profits to certain professionals, children are being punished, denied protection, medical & psychological treatment and silenced. The silencing of these children sometimes includes sentencing them to a detention center when they’ve done nothing wrong, threatening them with detention, or sending them to “treatment centers” for “troubled teens” when they were doing fine and no evidence was presented to prove they needed to be sent away or medicated to keep them quiet.

Hope Loudon is a freelance journalist now on the speaking tour helping other journalists and the public understand what is happening to children and families, how they are damaged by judicial rulings that ignore evidence, ignore the true best interests of children, and cause trauma for children that is virtually impossible to recover from. But Hope, true to her name, has shown that children can go on to rise above the loss and trauma, and can contribute to society in a meaningful way, and can be healthy and happy.  It’s just not easy and there are not enough resources to help these kids and their parents fighting for them.

Please read Hope’s work on the Huffington Post, especially related to the detention of the Tsimhoni children and the professional misconduct damaging the children and mother in this case.