The Pretend World of Custody Courts


This article from “Time’s Up”,  is posted here with permission from the author:


The Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) is the part of the US Justice Department that provides grants for programs designed to reduce and prevent domestic violence. They recently sponsored a forum for their staff and other professionals in various parts of the government to learn about the crisis in the custody court system. They heard from seven protective mothers, one very inspiring Courageous Kid and over a dozen of the leading experts in the country. It was a wonderful discussion based upon current scientific research and actual experiences and everyone seems to get it that the courts are routinely making catastrophic mistakes in failing to protect children and domestic violence survivors. The purpose of the forum was to consider the problem, causes and solutions. It was so wonderful to take part in a reality based discussion about domestic violence custody issues and to do so with people who may have the ability to promote the needed changes. And yet the next day if any of us walked into a custody court, the research and the reality that were an unquestioned part of the discussion at OVW would be missing in the pretend world that is the present custody court system.

Similarly, in December, I had the privilege of participating in a review of grant proposals concerning gender, violence and health. The Canadian Institute of Health brought leading experts in the field together to consider which grant proposals would be most beneficial to fund. This was a high level discussion in which all of the participants were familiar with current scientific research so that we could have a reality based discussion. I found it particularly interesting that the Canadian government could attract knowledgeable experts for $200 a day at the same time the courts pay or require litigants to pay thousands of dollars for a few hours to “experts” completely unfamiliar with up-to-date research who instead provide opinions based on their personal belief system and prejudices.

Our custody courts are a very insular system in which information and ideas that contradict the misinformation routinely relied on by court professionals are unwelcome. Custody courts started relying on mental health professionals at a time when no research about domestic violence was available and many people assumed domestic violence was caused by mental illness, substances abuse and the behavior of the victims. We now know the original assumptions are wrong and mental health professionals rarely have much expertise in domestic violence or child sexual abuse. Nevertheless the courts are so used to relying on professionals with inadequate training that they routinely refuse to hear genuine experts or treat their testimony with tremendous skepticism. Experts, government agencies and academicians relied on to make major decisions in the real world are treated with disrespect by the court system. Repeatedly I have heard judges suggest that when the (inadequately trained) GAL, evaluator and child protective caseworker all agree, it is unreasonable to consider any other view.

Abusers often impose a pretend world on their victims by denying and minimizing their abuse. They often blame their partners by claiming her behavior forced him to abuse her. It is often unsafe for the woman to challenge this pretend existence. Genuine experts agree that dealing with reality is an important part of the healing process after survivors leave their abusers. This makes the common court practice of cooperating with abusers to focus on pretend issues so harmful to battered mothers and their children.

Many years ago I tried to help a teenage girl whose father was sexually abusing her. She finally found a therapist she could trust and the courage to share her secret. He called the child protective agency, but their response was to remove the girl from her home so the father’s life would not be disrupted. They put her in a home for girls that included those there for criminal behavior. While at this home, she was assaulted and robbed. The caseworker refused to permit her to continue working with her therapist just when she needed him most and pressured her to recant her allegations. The caseworker threatened to send her to an even worse facility and she was also concerned about the trouble her father would face. When she recanted her allegations she was sent back to her home and forced to engage in therapy based upon the false assumption her allegations of abuse were wrong. At a time when she needed therapy in response to years of abuse, she was forced to engage in therapy to determine why she made false allegations.

More recently, I worked on a New Jersey case in which a young child reported to her mother that her father and his mother had touched her in the vicinity of her privates. She did not know the words to be more precise. The father immediately denied the allegations and claimed the mother was making deliberate false allegations. The unqualified professionals focused only on whether the child was molested or the mother made false allegations and when they could not find enough evidence of abuse after a flawed investigation assumed the allegations were false. They brought charges against the mother and eventually gave the abusive father custody and the mother supervised visitation. When the court professionals later learned of the father’s history of domestic violence and hired a qualified expert who used current research to recommend custody be restored to the mother, the court professionals ignored the information that undermined their mistaken finding. The mother was forced into therapy in which she had to prove she no longer believed the true allegations if she wanted unsupervised visitation with her daughter. Having escaped the pretend world imposed by her abuser by leaving him, the mother faced another pretend world imposed by the court.

These kinds of mistakes are common in the broken custody court system. Often they are caused by court professionals who use the bogus Parental Alienation Syndrome (sometimes by other names) to give custody to the abuser and deny normal contact with the protective mother. Some courts impose reunification therapy on the children who are taught that their dislike of their father is not because of his history of abusing them and their mother but because of the lies she has told them. Again at a time when they need therapy to heal from their father’s abuse and the separation from their primary attachment figure, they must instead engage in therapy based on pretend alienation issues. These practices work well for the bank accounts of mental health professionals, but poorly for children.

Most court professionals have been trained to view contested custody cases as “high conflict” by which they mean the parents are angry at each other and act out in ways harmful to their children. Current research, however, establishes that most of these cases are actually domestic violence cases. Fathers with a long history of abuse seek custody as a way to gain access to their victim to pressure her to return or punish her for leaving. Court professionals unwittingly assist these tactics by pressuring the mother to interact and cooperate with her abuser instead of pressuring the father to stop his abuse. The normal fear, emotion and reluctance to cooperate with a man they see as dangerous is used to discredit and punish the mother. Using the “high conflict” lens makes it harder for court professionals to recognize the father’s abuse and to take it seriously.

Few court professionals have been taught about the dynamics of domestic violence or how to recognize it. We regularly see court professionals discredit domestic violence complaints for reasons that are not probative such as when women return to their abuser, withdraw protective orders or don’t have police or medical reports. The women do this for safety and other reasons, but if the professionals treat this kind of information as if it were proof of false allegations, they have no chance to recognize valid complaints. At the same time, these professionals are often only looking at incidents of physical abuse. Accordingly they fail to see the patterns of controlling and coercive behavior. They don’t pay attention to economic control, isolating behaviors, emotional abuse, monitoring their partner’s behavior or information about the abusers’ motivation. Once courts determine through these flawed practices that the domestic violence allegations are false, they generally refuse to consider additional evidence or events that support the allegations and severely retaliate against mothers who continue to believe their allegations. Significantly, when courts do recognize the father’s abuse, they rarely if ever penalize him for continuing to deny his abuse.

The pretend world created by the custody courts is supported by the popular myth that women frequently make false allegations of abuse to gain an advantage in the litigation. A new Department of Justice study led by Dan Saunders of the University of Michigan found that court professionals without adequate training in domestic violence are more likely to believe this myth and in turn make recommendations harmful to children. The myth greatly contributes to the frequent mistaken findings we see in custody courts where valid allegations of domestic violence are disbelieved. Widespread gender bias also contributes to the inaccurate decisions.

Custody courts do their worst job in responding to allegations of sexual abuse of children. Although a majority of allegations made by mothers are accurate, 85% of the cases result in custody for the alleged abuser. Even attorneys with little knowledge of domestic violence and child abuse routinely advise clients not to raise sexual abuse allegations, even with strong cases, because the courts are so reluctant to believe a father could commit such a heinous act. Sexual abuse against young children is particularly hard to prove because it is committed in private for obvious reasons and children often do not have the language to describe what their father did to them. Although many court professionals expect physical proof, most assaults do not leave physical evidence and when they do it may be gone by the time the child works up the courage to reveal the abuse. Older children often recant true allegations because the abuser has threatened to hurt them or their mother or because they don’t want someone they still love to get in trouble. Poor investigation methods by often inadequately trained professionals also impede proof of sexual abuse. When allegations are made by mothers the most likely circumstance is the allegations are true. The next most likely is that the accused did not abuse the child but engaged in boundary violations that made the child uncomfortable. Other common possibilities are that the allegations are false, but made in good faith or that the evidence is equivocal, but court professionals routinely focus on deliberately false allegations even though this is the least likely cause for the allegations. The result of these flawed practices is that courts often deny valid allegations of sexual abuse and conduct the rest of the case based upon the fiction that there is something wrong with the mother for trying to protect her child.

These common mistakes in domestic violence and child abuse cases lead to a pretend world promoted by the abuser and supported by the court in which the case is conducted based on the fiction that the mother’s allegations are false. Any attempt by the mother to provide additional information of the father’s abuse is treated as a lack of cooperation for which she is severely punished. Her only hope to have some minimal time with her children is to prove she no longer believes the true allegations she made. In other words she is back in a pretend world that she hoped to escape by leaving her abuser. Even worse, now he has complete control, supported by the court and she is not even near the children to try to protect them when he acts in a dangerous manner.

In the typical contested custody case the mother is the primary attachment figure for the child and complains about the father’s domestic violence and/or child abuse. The father counters with claims of alienation. The primary attachment figure is the parent or other caregiver who provides most of the child care during the first couple of years of a child’s life. When a child is separated from their primary attachment figure, the child is more likely to suffer depression, low self-esteem and to commit suicide when older. Accordingly it makes no sense to do this unless the primary attachment figure is unsafe such as if they were a drug addict or beat the child. At the same time children who witness domestic violence are more likely to engage in a variety of harmful behaviors when they are older and their normal development is impeded which can cause lifetime of harmful effects. Alienation is a nebulous term which is often alleged in a generalized way. The most likely outcome of false negative statements is that it harms the relationship with the parent making the false statements. There is no research that demonstrates long term harm to children from alienating behaviors. Claims of primary attachment are almost always true as in our still sexist society mothers continue to provide most of the child care particularly in the first years of a child’s life. In many cases the father does not contest the issue or the work schedules of the parents make it clear who was the primary attachment figure. Mothers’ allegations of abuse are rarely deliberately false (in cases of child sexual abuse inaccurate complaints could be made based on the behavior of the child), so the complaints tend to be reliable. Alienation claims by fathers in contested custody cases are often part of a standard abuser tactic to deflect claims of abuse. Research such as the study led by Nicholas Bala establishes that fathers in contested custody cases are sixteen times more likely to make deliberately false complaints. The complaints by mothers are more important to the well being of children and far more likely to be true than father’s complaints and yet in contested custody cases fathers receive custody or joint custody between 70 and 83% of the time. Clearly courts are not making decisions based upon the reality experienced by children or approaches that benefit children.

The worst custody decisions provide custody to the alleged abuser and supervised or no visitation to the safe, protective mother who is the primary attachment figure for the child. These decisions are virtually always wrong because they are based on punishing the mother for believing the father is dangerous and not on concerns for the well being of children. The findings are usually wrong because of the flawed practices, but the outcome would be wrong if the findings were correct because courts rarely weigh the harm they are causing with whatever benefit they seek to create. The harm of denying the child their primary attachment figure is far greater than any benefit the court believes it is providing. Significantly, we rarely see evaluation reports or court decisions that weigh the benefits and harm of a decision they are considering. This is the kind of result we see when courts fail to consider current scientific research in their decisions. Judges may believe the mental health professionals involved in the case provide this expertise, but the professionals relied on by the courts are rarely familiar with current scientific research and courts don’t disqualify or even discredit evaluators and other mental health professionals for being unfamiliar with current research.

Mothers partnered with abusive fathers are in an impossible situation. If they fail to protect their children from the dangerous abusers, they can lose custody for failure to protect. The mothers hear repeated messages that they should leave him, but when they do and try to protect their children, they are punished for interfering with the relationship between the children and the abusive father. The result is too many courtrooms in which courts recreate the pretend world the mother sought to escape.

In fairness to the custody courts, they were forced to develop practices to respond to domestic violence cases at a time when no research was available. Many other entities were slow to understand the best ways to respond to domestic violence. Police officers were trained for many years to separate the parties when called to a home and have the abuser walk around the block to calm down. Eventually they switched to a pro-arrest policy after research demonstrated this practice was ineffective. Domestic violence homicides were reduced as communities moved towards practices designed to hold the abuser accountable. Even domestic violence agencies have not always been as supportive of protective mothers as they deserved, but with the increase in Custody-Visitation Scandal Cases and increase in domestic violence homicides as a result of mothers staying with their abusers because of the dangers created by custody courts, the domestic violence community has made child custody an important priority. It has taken a while for academicians to realize the harm in common custody court practices. Initial research supported shared parenting, but more comprehensive research has demonstrated shared parenting is harmful to children even when there is no domestic violence, but too often it is used in domestic violence cases because court professionals have difficulty in recognizing domestic violence. Current scientific research confirms complaints by protective mothers that the custody courts are mistreating them and harming their children. Government agencies now seem to understand the custody courts are harming children. Their understanding is based upon the research now available. The problem is that child custody issues have historically and constitutionally been left to the states and their courts.

Psychologists and other mental health professionals engaged in research have come to understand the harm of the standard practices in domestic violence custody cases. Most mental health professionals are not involved in the custody court system, but have failed to impose ethical standards on mental health professionals involved in questionable practices in the custody courts. The professional associations have permitted ethically challenged psychologists and other professionals to make recommendations unsupported by current scientific research, engage in biased practices that favor abusers and make diagnoses that are not found in the DSM IV because they don’t exist. Although ethical considerations would require the professionals to consult with experts on subjects in which they don’t have expertise, like domestic violence, the professionals in custody courts routinely fail to consult domestic violence experts, wrongly believing they have this expertise. This has led to frequent mistakes in domestic violence custody cases. These unqualified mental health professionals have played an important role in misleading custody courts and creating an illusion that there is a scientific basis for the mistaken practices commonly used in custody courts.

Judge Sol Gothard often trains other judges because of his expertise in domestic violence and child abuse. He was featured in the PBS documentary BREAKING THE SILENCE: CHILDREN’S STORIES. He wrote that if the courts had commissioned a study on how the present practices are working, they would have found the research contained in DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. This research demonstrates that the present practices are working poorly for children. The outdated and discredited practices routinely relied on by custody courts lead to the pretend world of custody courts we have discussed in this article. We must encourage judges and other court professionals to be open to the current scientific research and stop closing their eyes and ears to information that undermines their long-held beliefs and assumptions.

Barry Goldstein is a nationally recognized domestic violence expert, speaker, writer and consultant. He is the co-editor with Mo Therese Hannah of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ABUSE and CHILD CUSTODY. Barry can be reached by email at their web site

5 thoughts on “The Pretend World of Custody Courts

  1. Barry, you are an amazing man. Keep up the fight. I learned that Ashley Judd’s interest is in fighting social issues. Could she be a source you could use?

  2. Dear LetsGetHonest,

    I’m not a “leader” or a follower.

    I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a Christian and a citizen of the United States of America.

    It appears that you and I are working for the same goals, each in our own way. I hope we can achieve those goals soon and wish you all the best..


  3. Dear Family Court in America —

    It is possible to respect people without applying titles to them they don’t legally hold. To me, their disbarment (in BOTH cases) reflects on the legal system and state bars’ motivations..

    What a pity more people will not take the time to process Richard Fine’s case history in “The Money Trail”

    “The Best Courts (Your) Money Could Buy”

    You’ve probably never even heard about it, but our LA County Supervisors have been giving local superior court judges an illegal bonus (now an extra $57,000 a year per judge), even though doing so is plainly prohibited by California’s Constitution. (Judges already receive about $179,000 a year in salary from the State, plus another $30,000 in benefits, and they’ll continue to receive as much as 80% of the packages in retirement benefits.)

    “There are letters, reports and memos which prove there were no doubts the givers and receivers all knew and understood that the payments were illegal, but they’ve been doing it anyway for more than 20 years.

    “Why would the County pay out such a huge amount of money (about $300 million so far) when it didn’t have to? When it was illegal to? (And now the County is suffering from a monstrous budget “crisis”, for heaven’s sake! Might this be a clue as to why?) They’ve said it was to “attract and keep quality judges”, but that explanation ignores the fact that judges are elected and We The People decide which ones we’ll keep, and it ignores the thousands of qualified lawyers who’d gladly fill the judgeships at the legal base pay rate. (These LA County judges are receiving far more than any other group of judges in America, even more than the judges of the California Court of Appeal, the California Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court.) So the reasons given can’t possibly be true, not to mention the glaring fact that we’ve now paid more only to have gotten an entire bench of judges acting illegally. Whose definition of “quality” are we going by here? ”

    After shortly before, attending a recent BMCC conference, which I noted for the same qualities, another mother (who also reports to an extent on the HHS money trail’s influence in child custody decisions), wrote THIS (it’s dated 1-01-11 (I heard of the post only afterwards)…
    “Marketing To Survivors of Domestic Violence”

    “It appears there is an entire industry that profits from the misery of women who have been in abusive relationships and are desperately seeking justice in the court system that is supposed to protect them and their children. For many of them, that justice will never come because they are unaware that with all the knowledge and understanding they are seeking for themselves, the system which holds the power and makes the decisions could give a flying *%!& about them and the books they are reading.

    “What purpose does a book on domestic violence and the law serve if it is not a required reading for every family law judge?

    “What purpose does this book serve if the judges are not required to follow the laws that are referenced? If the judges are not held accountable for their actions?

    “What purpose does this book serve if a book with opposing ideas (ie parity in domestic violence) is being promoted and distributed to judges simulataneously? A book which confirms beliefs that they already have and thus subjects them to confirmation bias?

    “How many books must we come up with before mothers get their children back? Will we need a second edition?

    “Are these books any different from the ones that came out decades ago, when this same fight was still going on?

    “Who is advertising this book? And to whom? It seems that the mothers are the ones doing all the marketing for these books, in hopes that some attorney, or some social worker will take heed. Mothers are doing the work of promoting the books without getting a percentage of the sales. This scenario isn’t even as good as Amway/Quixtar; there is no small kickback because the only reward that is worthy, is the return of her children.”

    I know, Ms Fletcher (I think this is you, right?), that you prefer for others to “get it together” and reform things. In this, you are no leader — which is OK. There are mothers, survivors, who are. Part of the trouble is getting them to respect themselves and their own knowledge, rather than clinging to the coattails of whoever first promises them help and recognition (Lundy Bancroft, Barry Goldstein), especially if they were male.

    I am a product of women who grasped at those straws while casting about diligently for other help as it became clear my ex was going to abduct my kids (clue: He’d threatened to enough times, had motive, and had friends who participated in making life hell for the children while they lived with their mother, through frivllous court litigation, withholding of child support without warning and significantly, and harassing me at every contact, which was court-ordered-frequent.

    I know now — no thanks to any DV advocate, individual or nonprofit — that these are hallmarks of the involvement of fathers’ rights FUNDING programs at the local court level. You are welcome to continue thinking in terms of the Sociopath Next Door — but I’d highly recommend actually reading Mr. Fine’s case history and diligently processing the information at — as well as ordering the custody packet from (it’s cheap — about 1/3 the cost of the book that doesn’t even mention Wade Horn, HHS, Access/Visitation, or such. I recommend you download (free) the CANOW 2002 Family Court Report and get a clue who the AFCC is. This costs only time — yours.

    It took me a while for the material to sink in, helped by street-level, ongoing observation of my own (and many other women’s) court cases. It takes determination to get reasonable answers.

    RE: last paragraph in your moderate, polite response:

    “My point is that I’m becoming more and more certain that all of this is not about those who expose the racketeering vs. those who don’t. It’s not about Republican vs. Democrats. Or men vs. women. Or Islamism vs. Judaism vs. Christianity vs. Atheism.

    It’s about “the ruthless vs. the rest of us”, or as some would say, “good vs. evil”.

    I feel sorry for you. It absolutely IS about those who expose the racketeering vs. those who don’t. Mr. Fine had the guts and at age 69 went to coercive solitary confinement exposing this — and they were unable to break his spirit. And you say you respect him? Then read his writings and act on them! He has recently shown how to recuse any judge with conflicts of interest in a case. Other have repeatedly shown how to find out when that exists.

    You omitted racism — it’s in there, too.

    Your statement that this is not about men vs. women, or religion is simply ignorant of the origins of the family law system, religion itself (ever heard of an honor killing), or the entire Wade Horn, Don Eberly (OFfice of Faith-Based Inititiatives), etc. These elements absolutely DO figure into why so many in this country (including perps) feel that incest is acceptable, and “all in the family.” Or why it’s so hard for mothers to do anything to stop it once it’s been identified.

    Don’t worry, I wont be troubling your blog — I’m not a moderate, and when I recognize a good leader and honest person who REPORTS what he finds (which Mr. Goldstein has not fully done) — I will follow and reblog his work. See SFWeekly California Family Courts article series for a sense of where the sociopaths are, and what good it does attempting to engage with any of them… (I took personal threats to harm off-line from someone who claims to know something about the case and have access to the court records).


    “Luckily, we have more people on our team! Yay team!
    Now we just have to figure out a way to work together to actually do something about what we all know.”

    Are you a former (or current) elementary school teacher? ….. Good INACTIVE people are not team players, they are team hitchhikers. Ask me — I reported and asked for help to stop my husband from hitting, throwing (to floor, or wall), slapping, at times kicking, putting his hands on my neck, etc. in front of the kids during marriage. I worked, but my working threatened him, so work was repeatedly sabotaged and we held no joint checking account ever. Many years of marriage I had no access to any bank account, even if I was working. I had to seek charity help for basics for the kids in times was not working (raincoats, boots, etc.) was kept without transportation and had my mail intercept. Many nonpathological people knew of this and did nothing, sought not referrals, reporting nothing (including mandated reporters) and this, as well as what I could provide for them as a mother, was what my kids witnessed growing up.

    Then we got free — for less than 3 years (length of nonobserved restraining order, but it did put us & him in a different home, at least — so it was safer in that sense). Then family law system, which basically meant different kind of abuse, psychological and financial primarily, destroying my work life further and downgrading their educational options by constantly disrupting schooling. The more I set boundaries, they more they were violated; eventually as I was closing in on the child support issue — the children were simply taken. Overnight.

    later I learned that overseeing this entire process was the federal child support enforcement div. of HHS (the “OCSE”). Now, why wasn’t that made more public earlier?

    If you cannot handle people being angry with you, or threatening you for taking a stand on what’s right, you cannot lead. Did even Gandhi accomplish things in this manner? Did he coverup colonization of his people?

    Then why are others covering up the colonization of mothers and children through the family court system — and also fathers are at times extorted into custody action they don’t even want, through the child support system.

    Key nonprofit FR groups are activist in this, betraying the men also (one of the key Richard Fine cases was a child-support-paying father, Silva v. Garcetti. You should read it — perhaps this may change your anemic, nonreporting, approach to these things. The people running these groups benefit financially (federal funds) from inciting frivolous (no true cause of action) custody litigation, and then bringing in sometimes extra court professionals when a clear reading of the facts and file would show the professionals are needless.

    But again, I say — don’t worry. Even this blog is too vague & pale for my tastes — it’s not black and white, it’s grey text on a grey background. Somehow this seems to match the blogger’s tone. Which is absolutely fine for you — and I’ll take my thoughts elsewhere, OK?

  4. Dear Let’s Get Honest,

    Attorney Goldstein seems to be a genuinely decent individual. (I usually refer to those with well-deserved titles with those well-deserved titles intact. I also refer to Attorney Richard Fine in the same way.)

    I agree with you about this: he does appear to be in this to fight the good fight for the long haul.

    I also agree that the mess in our family courts looks and smells like racketeering.

    I also wonder, like you, why many experts in this field haven’t exposed the illegal activities associated with the money trail.

    Maybe they’re afraid. Who can blame them? Where’s the Justice Department and where’s the F.B.I. to investigate this illegal activity in our nation’s family courts?

    The evidence is all over the place and the racketeering using Gardner’s scam has clearly spread to other countries. Why isn’t Interpol investigating?

    If we laypeople know about all of this, why doesn’t the mainstream media?

    This is definitely an overwhelming situation, but it’s not hopeless.

    If there’s one good thing about all of this, it’s that there are more of “us” than there are of “them”.

    There’s a great book by Dr. Martha Stout’s called, The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless vs. The Rest of Us.

    According to Dr. Stout, the statistics indicate that 1 in 25 individuals have no conscience. She warns in her book that those 1 in 25 who lurk among us are usually bright and manipulative and that they crawl to the top to positions of power by stepping on the rest of us to get there. Think about it. What kinds of positions are “at the top”?

    Dr. Stout says that most of us have no idea that 1 in 25 of us don’t have a conscience. She says we’re taught many things, but we’re not taught how to tell whether or not someone is a sociopath. If 1 in 25 are sociopaths and most of us have no idea, that’s a scary thought and it might explain why there’s such a mess to clean up in our nation’s family court system.

    My point is that I’m becoming more and more certain that all of this is not about those who expose the racketeering vs. those who don’t. It’s not about Republican vs. Democrats. Or men vs. women. Or Islamism vs. Judaism vs. Christianity vs. Atheism.

    It’s about “the ruthless vs. the rest of us”, or as some would say, “good vs. evil”.

    Luckily, we have more people on our team! Yay team!

    Now we just have to figure out a way to work together to actually do something about what we all know.

  5. By the time one gets through these paragraphs, it’s clear that the premise is — we just need more experts (such as Mr. Goldstein) and that the family court decisions to place children with abusers, or remove them from supportive parents are all just big mistakes.

    I’m incredulous that Mr. Goldstein could cite this and fail to understand that some money changed hands in the process, that there are federal incentives to states (USA) to remove children improperly from their homes:

    “Many years ago I tried to help a teenage girl whose father was sexually abusing her. She finally found a therapist she could trust and the courage to share her secret. He called the child protective agency, but their response was to remove the girl from her home so the father’s life would not be disrupted. They put her in a home for girls that included those there for criminal behavior. While at this home, she was assaulted and robbed.

    “The caseworker refused to permit her to continue working with her therapist just when she needed him most and pressured her to recant her allegations. The caseworker threatened to send her to an even worse facility and she was also concerned about the trouble her father would face. When she recanted her allegations she was sent back to her home and forced to engage in therapy based upon the false assumption her allegations of abuse were wrong. At a time when she needed therapy in response to years of abuse, she was forced to engage in therapy to determine why she made false allegations.”

    Does that sound like a well-meaning caseworker that just misunderstood the young woman — or someone who had an ulterior motive for the decisions made?

    Or talk like this:
    “In fairness to the custody courts, they were forced to develop practices to respond to domestic violence cases at a time when no research was available…”

    I hate to break the news, but this up-to-date research (i.e., Mo Hannah/Barry Goldstein, eds., book by Civic Research Institute and more “research”) is not God’s gift to battered women or mothers/fathers trying to protect their kids from abuse. Moreover, continuing to push this is promoting a lie — that the courts just didn’t know, were mistaken, meant well, but failed to notice domestic violence.

    That is simply not reality. It’s neither fiscal, political, or judicial reality. The plain truth is much more straightforward… — and didn’t even get a chapter in this book they are promoting….

    “the professionals in custody courts routinely fail to consult domestic violence experts…”

    Tell me, who is going to pay for the local domestic violence expert? The victim? Or the public? And what are mental health professionals doing all over the courts? Well, so glad you asked — the answer is, creating market niches to captive audiences.

    It doesn’t appear to me that Mr. Goldstein has even completely analyzed of grasped what happened in the Shockome case that ended up in him losing his “Esq.’ (though I’m not in a position to say whether properly or not. From what I know of this system, probably not ……).

    This site appears to be a chronological summary of that case, saying people could probably get transcript from either parent, and quoting it.

    Typical family court behavior, sounds like. this is no “failing to understand” child abuse or domestic violence, but a clear attempt to cover it up and give custody to the identified abuser: (recommend see the blog)

    “Every time mother tried to respond she was cut off, talked over, yelled at and threatened with jail (T:09/12/2002, pp. 8, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, 29). The court removed all protection for children and every meaningful protection for the mother (Order of 09/12/2002). Court also placed restrictions on mother although father had no family offense petition pending (T:9/12/02, pp. 24-27).

    On January 17, 2003, without an evidentiary hearing or written decision explaining the extreme actions taken against the mother and children, court took children from mother and limited her to supervised visitation (Custody Order of 01/17/2003, and Supervised Visitation Order of 01/17/2003). The court also barred the mother from speaking with the children’s teachers, doctors or other providers (Custody Order of 01/17/2003). The court stated on these two orders that they were temporary but did nothing to expedite a final ruling. Instead of running to pick up his children from school, the father ran to the court’s clerk and filed petition for child support to be received from Genia Shockome (Father’s Petition for child support 1/17/2003)”

    Child Support is not even mentioned in the large “Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Custody” book being promoted here (indirectly, in this post — pretty transparent….). This case has clear presence of the HHS-sponsored Access/Visitation funds (and misuse of them) in it — both from Supervised Visitation Coordinator Viola Stroud’s “Little Angels” and fro the Dutchess County YWCA. Viola Stroud’s group was under investigation for fraud and embezzlement at least in 2004 (she later went to jail for this and grand larceny).

    Viola was CRC-New York Director, but I have yet to hear Mr. Goldstein even mention the Children’s Rights Council — extremely influential, a “primary promoter and supporter of litigation for fathers in custody cases.”

    Article here:
    “Mahopac Woman Convicted of Grand Larceny

    Viola Stroud abused responsibility as guardian of incapacitated persons {elderly)

    “Putnam County District Attorney Kevin L. Wright announced the grand larceny conviction of Viola Stroud, age sixty two of Mahopac, after a long investigation. regarding her activities as a court appointed guardian on behalf of incapacitated persons. Mr. Wright said Investigator Edward Johnston of the District Attorney’s Office, arrested. Stroud on August 26, 2005, capping a year long probe of her activities by Wright’s Office. County District Attorney Wright said Stroud entered a guilty plea June 16, 2006, before County Court Judge Richard Molea, to Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a Class D Felony and faces jail, probation or a combination of both at sentencing which is scheduled for August 25, 2006. Stroud will also be ordered to make restitution of $3,150 to the remaining victim in the investigation.

    “Stroud had already been court ordered to repay over $30,000 in. restitution. regarding her illegal handling of such client fiduciary responsibilities, but had not been charged criminally. District Attorney Wright said her June 16th felony criminal conviction for theft of funds, which Stroud ad claimed were monies owed to her for services she performed, showed that Stroud’s actions went well beyond her original explanations of her poor bookkeeping as the cause her difficulties with the law.

    “Wright said that anyone taking advantage of a special relationship to defraud an incapacitated person was a loathsome, vile act and would be prosecuted criminally by the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office.”

    She created a nonprofit front group, apparently, and funneled money from elderly people’s estates to her own “Little Angels” center…udge Molea was brought up from Westchester County to hear the case due to the recusal of Putnam’s two County Court Judges, who as many of the other judges throughout Putnam over the years, had become familiar with Stroud in her various capacities as head. of *** Little Angels a court family visitation service,*** or as head of the Alternate Dispute Resolution. (ADR) Program in the Town of Carmel Justice Court.”

    “Checks written to self Stroud has also served as a court-appointed guardian for mentally incapacitated adults and, in September, published reports said she wrote tens of thousands of dollars in checks to herself, to ”cash” and to Little Angels after she was given control over the finances of three Putnam women”

    According to Liz Richards’ info (, which I have, vendor payments for the county showed that the Judge in the case had a court clerk who signed payment approvals for $14,536.50 — to the father’s attorney. He did not qualify, not being indigent, for this aid. Mothers coming to custody courts don’t know that they are likely to be up against free legal coaching, AND possibly improper payments to personnel (including the opposing counsel) in their case from federal program funds.

    They don’t know this because their Domestic Violence Expert Professionals, such as Mr. Goldstein — who have been informed of this, often enough — still do not publicize this information. Such cases are rigged, and it doesn’t matter how much “research” is put in front of a crooked player in the court, now, does it?

    Failure to even refer to these things has to be a form of negligence — for professions where there are ethical qualifications to be upheld. I don’t think selling HOPE (that training will make the difference) and HALF-INFORMATION to distressed mothers or victims of DV has such ethical guidelines, though….

    I am thankful for this person’s moral support that most contested custody cases are domestic violence cases (it appears to be so) and he is certainly in here for the long haul — but very nonplussed by his nonresponse to the HHS (federal grants) or CRC factor. Probably not yet ready to acknowledge how former colleagues (i.e., attorneys) could include some truly corrupt ones, not just misguided ones…. Maybe someday I’ll get an answer on that one.

    Does this particular “court” sound like it would be amenable to training, or changing its opinion?

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