The courts never intervene to stop the chaos and absurdity—if it smells like a grievance, talks like a grievance and sounds like a grievance (regardless of how trivial, absurd and harassing), the court, the attorneys and the other bottom-feeders, will be HAPPY to “help.” That is how they earn their living.
I have always said that if what has been happening to me had been told to me by someone else, I would have a hard time believing it. I do not doubt any story I hear anymore….they all ring of the same underlying problem. The “system” we believe is there to provide justice is allowed to violate the rights of law abiding tax paying citizens and invoke irreversible damage to families and children without any judicial counter-balance. When a parent is wrongly accused and justice is not actually justice—the only alternatives left are filing BAR complaints or judicial complaints—all of which end up in the bottom of someone’s trash—never to be investigated. When I tell people that I have been brought into family court on repeated occasions to face criminal contempt charges, been threatened with jail and warrants for my arrest and the most devastating, continuous threats of losing custody of my child, anyone who knows me or my son, thinks I am joking—I only wish I were.
I share my story as a Mom who has been through 2 years of domestic emotional and verbal abuse, followed by 9 years (and still ongoing) of the court system providing the venue for the continued abuse, threats, blackmail, and manipulation. I have spent every dime I have defending myself against frivolous allegations meant to intimidate and threaten me into submission, and now have three mortgages on the home I simply want to provide for my son and I. Throughout the continuous legal filings—the restraining order preventing me from leaving the State of Texas (although the father lived and still lives in CA), enforcement actions, show cause hearings, custody filings to remove my son from our home and the two contempt motions–my attorneys have happily taken my money, but have never put on a case, thinking the allegations were so ridiculous that they would never be heard by a court….only to have the court beat me to near exhaustion over frivolous actions instilling judicial punishment through further threats of jail time, warrants and punitive fines to be paid to the father.
Meanwhile, my son is a happy, healthy, respectful, well-adjusted, straight A student—a model child by any standards while my life is dedicated to him. You would think the court would care about the actual welfare of the child–but this is not about the welfare of a child. I will remain vigilant in fighting for my child—the system will not.
My 9 years of court turmoil began in Texas in 1996 when my son’s father filed a paternity action, and has continued in Florida with my move here 3½ years ago. While I grew intimately familiar with the Texas courts, system and processes, by the time I was familiar with what my attorney should/should not have done, the worst had already occurred. The 1995 paternity action resulted in a Joint Custody Order, the changing of my son’s name and the court waiving over $15,000 in back child support, unpaid by the father. The one right I was given in the order was the “Right to determine domicile of myself and my son”. After 5 ½ years of living in Texas by myself (no family—I was relocated to Texas from Connecticut in 1996 by my employer), I notified my son’s father (who lived and had always lived in CA) that I would be moving to FL to be near my family. Apparently I only had the right to determine domicile until I opted to exercise that right. My departing gift from Texas and the father was a Restraining Order to prevent me from leaving the state of TX, a contempt/enforcement action alleging 19 counts of CRIMINAL CONTEMPT with a request that I be incarcerated, fined and put on probation for each violation, and a Motion for Custody to be awarded to the father (son was 6 and had NEVER lived with father).
The only thing I had ever been guilty of was in failing to document every conversation, to send all communications with the father via Certified Mail/Return Receipt requested. But who could know that a person could file allegations, true or not, and the court would not only entertain the allegations, but would also act on them. I learned the hard way—that “I was guilty until I proved myself innocent” and I also learned that the court really does not care about the truth. I was “permitted” to leave the State of Texas with the agreement that I would return to Texas for all court hearings. Nine months and $90K later, I was denied the right to testify and refute allegations (father testified for 6 hours saying “I don’t know if she has or has not provided me what information she has–because I don’t know what I don’t know”).
CONTEMPT MOTION #1 Filed in Texas, July 1996
- Mother failed and refused to timely provide father with information regarding the health, education and welfare of the child.
- Mother failed and refused to confer with the father before making decisions regarding health, education and welfare of the child
- Mother has failed and refused to timely provide father with the name of the child’s primary care provider preventing father from have access to child’s medical records.
- Mother has failed and refused to timely provide to father the name of the child’s primary care provider thereby preventing father from consulting with primary care physician.
- Mother failed and refused to timely provide names of other medical providers thereby preventing father access to child’s medical records.
- Mother failed and refused to timely provide names of other medical providers thereby preventing father from consulting with other medical providers.
- Mother has failed and refused to timely provide father with the name of the child’s dentist preventing father from have access to child’s dental records.
- Mother has failed and refused to timely provide to father the name of the child’s dentist thereby preventing father from consulting with child’s dentist.
- Mother has failed and refused to timely provide father with the name of the child’s psychologist preventing father from have access to child’s counseling records.
- Mother has failed and refused to timely provide to father the name of the child’s psychological providers thereby preventing father from consulting with child’s counselors.
- Mother failed and refused to timely provide father with name of child’s child care facility or educational provider preventing father from accessing child care or school records.
- Mother failed and refused to timely provide father with name of child’s child care facility or educational provider preventing father from consulting officials regarding child’s welfare and educational status, including school activities.
- Mother failed and refused to timely provide father with name of child’s child care facility or educational provider preventing father from attending school activities.
- Mother failed and refused to designate father as person to be notified in case of emergency
- Mother failed and refused to deliver child to airport for father’s period of extended visitation
- From June 17, 2001 to June 23, 2001, Mother failed and refused to permit telephone access to the child by father.
- From June 24, 2001 to June 30, 2001, Mother failed and refused to permit telephone access to the child by father
- Mother failed and refused to provide father with official medical insurance card, copy of health insurance policy and certificate, claim forms and other information necessary for the father to file a claim for healthcare through the insurance provided by mother for child
- Mother failed and refused (after court change child’s name) to change all relevant registries to reflect court ordered name.
For this, despite the fact that I had letters from father and letters between the attorneys that documented the “alleged information not being provided” was in fact provided on multiple occasions, I was found guilty of 19 counts of criminal contempt and ordered to pay all of father’s attorney fees (the court would not order the father to show proof of costs or bills paid), told I was lucky I was not jailed, ordered to appear for a Show Cause hearing to “prove” that I was in compliance with something I had never violated and ordered to pay a bond of $10K to the father—which would be returned to me “IF I DID NOT APPEAL” the District Court’s decision. Given the violation of my right to testify and defend myself against the allegations, I of course appealed and lost. You CANNOT overturn “discretionary rulings”.
My son’s father, empowered by the power of a contempt motion, continued with a 2nd contempt filing in Florida with this being the first in an effort to further prejudice a new court in the state where my son and I now reside (although I’m not sure what else can be done other than removing my son from our home). For simply making a decision to move to Florida to be near my family to obtain emotional support and surround my son with family, I have now been accused of VENUE SHOPPING. I keep telling my attorney that the father’s attorney will be going into court and telling the court right out of the gate how I was held in contempt for “19 criminal counts” in Texas–but will fail to tell the magistrate or judge that I was never allowed to testify, or that the alleged “criminal counts” were not “criminal actions” at all. It doesn’t seem to matter how ridiculous the allegations or that I was convicted based on the father’s testimony alone–no evidence of any wrong-doing and my not being able to testify and refute any of the allegations.
I was not married to my son’s father. When my son was born, I gave him my legal name. In the initial paternity filing in July 1996, the father petitioned the court to change my son’s name. When my son was 3 years old, the court honored the father’s request and ordered that my son’s name be changed. Knowing that this was simply a position of empowerment for the father, I of course appealed this decision as there was no basis for changing his name (Parent proposing a name change for a minor must show that the current name is detrimental to a child). There was no such evidence—only the father stating that “it was a father’s right to have a child bear his name”. By the time the ruling to change my son’s name ran the appellate clock and was affirmed– my son was 6 years old and had been using his birth name throughout his life. At the point the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, all legal documents were then changed to the court ordered name. The father had already changed the birth certificate and SSN card upon the initial court ruling. All school, medical, and extracurricular forms contain the court ordered name.
My greatest fear when the court changed my son’s name was how EMPOWERING this was for an abuser. Having the name changed on all school and medical files was not enough. He wanted me to be told by the court to force my son to call himself BB and asked the court to issue an order that told me to correct anyone, including my son if they referred to him by any name but the court ordered name. Fine–that is being done. Then came Contempt Action #2
CONTEMPT MOTION #2 Filed in Florida, May 2004
- 1.) Mother failed to insure that school uses court ordered name on all documents. (Father requested a copy of my son’s report card and the teacher had mistakenly written the name my son tells everyone he wants to go by, (Contempt Complaint #1-Report card)–I have since spoken to the school about this again.
- 2.) Mother failed to insure that all school publications contained the court ordered name (father got hold of an old school yearbook where one year they printed B G and the following year they printed B G-B (Contempt Complaint #2-Yearbook).
- 3.) Mother fails to encourage the child to use the court ordered name. (I sent my son on the plane to visit his dad with a thermal bag containing snacks for the plane ride. The bag I sent with the snacks was a bag that I had used for the first year after my son’s birth to hold nursing milk that I pumped while at work– and later we used as a church snack bag–the inside flap of the bag says “G” (Contempt Complaint #3-thermal bag having my name and not the father’s).
- 4.) Mother failed to insure that school “lunch coupons” are issued with the child’s court ordered name (I have no idea what this is since my son’s school does not issue lunch coupons (Contempt Complaint #4)
- 5.) Mother fails to insure that child writes court ordered name on all school work completed in classroom (father picked my son up from school one Friday a month when he travels from California for visitation–on one of these pick-ups–apparently my son brought a piece of school work to show him and had written “B G” on the top—(Contempt Complaint #5–my son writing his name on the top of a piece of school work that does not say his court ordered name),
- 6.) Mother fails to identify child on medical insurance by court ordered name (Father claims that medical insurance card lists my son as “B G-B” –I have no idea what he is talking about since the only cards I have list either ONLY my name or list both our names and list my name as E G and his as BB (Contempt Complaint #6–Medical Insurance Card).
- 7.) Mother failed to revise child’s name on tax returns with court ordered name (I have had tax returns prepared by the same accountant for approx 8 years–apparently I failed to advise them to change the name of my dependent from BG to BB (Contempt Complaint #7–failure to revise tax forms to reflect court ordered name),
- 8.) Mother partially removed a label from a prescription bottle (Whenever I send prescribed medication with my son on his visits with his father–I have removed the top of the label containing the Rx # as sometimes items I send do not come back—he alleges that I have removed the name BB from the bottle) (Contempt Complaint #8–removal of name from prescription bottle).
- 9.) Mother removed a label containing child’s name from a Game Boy (Father bought him a Game Boy and had an inscribed sticker with the name “BB” put on the side of the game. My son took it off–and was afraid to tell his father that it was he that removed the label. (Contempt Complaint #9-Removal of a name tag from a Game Boy)
- 10.) Mother failed to deliver “a card” sent via USPS to child (Father sent a St. Patrick’s Day card to son that arrived at my home while my son was visiting with his father in CA. Father asked son if he had received the card, son said no.)
For 9 years, I have paid 50% of all costs (airfare, hotel, car rental and car park in CA) for my son’s father to exercise visitation. Contempt Action #2 was settled by my agreeing to pay the father additional monies (he wanted me to pay grocery expenses while he exercised visitation) and agreed to additional rules aimed at his being able to force me into further communication with him. Again—the courts do not care about my fear of the communication and contact based on threats by father. These are small inroads by the father—“do what I want or I will take you back to court”—using the court to blackmail and extract agreements or fear being hauled back into court on trumped up allegations with the threat that he will ask court to remove my son from our home.
I feel the pain of those I have read about and talked to through Court Watch–and cannot tell you how many times I have gotten to a path of absolute desperation, felt I could not take another day, another accusation, another feeling of not knowing what could or would happen to me and my son the next time I am hauled into court. The feeling that there has not been and never will be any justice. No care for the truth and no care for BEST INTERESTS OF A CHILD–only opinionated and ALL POWERFUL judges who feel free to wield their ALL POWERFUL decisions from the safety of their BENCH and never a care for the future of the child(ren).
Sometimes I have felt like I am going insane trying to fight the system. I have exhausted myself emotionally, financially and physically, all in vain, trying to protect my child and escape the stalking and harassment by a father who, under the guise of wanting a relationship with his son, can and has used a joint custody order to harass and stalk me. In his own words “to punish me for the rest of my life” or “I’ll make you pay for the rest of your life”. But alas—when I have conveyed these threats to the court, I’m met with silence or accusations that I’m making up a story to alienate the father and doing nothing short of concocting a story to serve my own purpose (what purpose?).
I have contemplated simply giving up—I have cried for days—but somehow, somewhere inside myself, I always know to give up my child to insure my own sanity would be a crime worse than what the courts are perpetuating. It has taken me a long time to realize that the focus on the punishment is against me (after all—I did have a child out of wedlock) as well as to insure that the rights of a biological father are protected without regard to the consequence of that protection. The Best Interest Standard and the discretionary rules afforded to the Family Courts insure that a child’s needs are NEVER addressed and punishments that are meted out with impunity are the only means for settling disagreements.
I know that I can never lose focus of the fact that although I’m paying the price now, I don’t want my son to pay the price for the rest of his life. This cannot become a “win” in the eyes of the court, or opposing counsel. This is not about a “winner” as it sometimes appears to be when the court rules one way or another. It is about taking care of my son, fighting until my last breath to insure that I have done everything I can, with no regrets. The court and the father want me to give up. I have educated myself and will make my own case and arguments going forward. Attorneys cannot and will not make the same argument that I KNOW needs to be made. Attorneys are concerned about the next time they will be in front of “the judge”—and given a choice between their career and the life of my son and me, they will choose themselves. I will not give up; giving up may give my son’s father and the court some satisfaction, but my son would then be left to fend for himself. I pray everyday for strength, for guidance and for the peace I need to keep doing what I know in my heart and gut to be the RIGHT thing. In the end, I count the days until my son turns 18—and the father can no longer hold threats of retaliation through the courts over my head. I hope I can hold it together until this day and I pray that righteousness will win.