Let these two stories, among hundreds of thousands, be read by judges who will act to change the status of children ordered to live with their abusers. If you truly care about children as you claim, then do something to educate your associates to the facts of abusers tactics in courts. aA
We hope that the stories of victims below and on this website will touch the hearts and minds of all judges and court personnel.
Please take a moment to read Dear Custody Court Judge by Barry Goldstein before reading on.
Domestic violence education should include discussion of the following anthology: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ABUSE AND CHILD CUSTODY. This 2010 anthology was written by the most respected domestic violence and legal experts in our nation. Training should include hearing the stories of victims failed by the courts and from attorneys who have often represented victims. Courtwatchbrevard has no financial or other involvement with the book.
We need to advocate for current comprehensive domestic violence and child abuse education in Florida law schools.
VICTIM ADVOCATES should be allowed to sit with the petitioner at all times during civil cases including during testimony. Victims are physically and psychologically disadvantaged because of the abuse suffered. If you feel compelled to instruct the victim advocate and petitioner to not speak during the hearing or for the advocate not to give the victim legal advice - do so - but please do not prevent the advocated from sitting next to the victim - especially when the respondent has an attorney and the victim is pro se.
Florida statute: 741:30 (7)The court shall allow an advocate from a state attorney’s office, an advocate from a law enforcement agency, or an advocate from a certified domestic violence center who is registered under s. 39.905 to be present with the petitioner or respondent during any court proceedings or hearings related to the injunction for protection, provided the petitioner or respondent has made such a request and the advocate is able to be present.
The Victim’s address should remain confidential. Florida Statute: 741.403
Consider that men can be victims of domestic violence.
Read Report: When Battered Women Lose Custody
What happened to the children I was charged with protecting?
This is what happened
At the time she wrote this, Alanna was a 16 year old victim of the family court system. She is now a college graduate and working to change the system.
July 17, 2000
LETTING CHILDREN SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES:
Youth in Court Need Attorneys Who Represents Their Interests Fairly, Strongly
By Alanna Krause
Hundreds of years of legal history have lead the United States to implement a system that ensures that every party in a legal proceeding gets a voice. We rest assured that, unlike in other nations, we cannot be incarcerated without our day in court, lawyer by our side. What a country we live in: so civilized, so well thought out. God bless America.
But there is a forgotten minority that is not afforded these basic rights. They are not criminals or foreign aliens. In contrast, they are a group we all hold dear - one innocent and well meaning, with no hidden agendas or twisted motives - children.
Instead of actually being represented, children get their "best interests" represented by adults. We children have no choice and no recourse when those adults have their own agendas.
A case in point? Mine.
My parents separated when I was 5-years-old, sparking a custody battle that lasted nine years. I never doubted that I wanted to be with my mother. My father Marshall Krause, is an abuser, and living with him was a mental and physical hell and definitely not in my best interests. Yet, In Marin Family Court, that seemed to be irrelevant. My family court experience consisted of lawyers, judges, evaluators and social workers who turned their backs on their consciences and their professional oaths. They're worked contrary to not only my best interests, but to my health and safety.
My father, a wealthy and well-connected lawyer, used his influence and money to manipulate the system. And he didn't work alone. The court-appointed evaluator, Edward Oklan, M.D., fell under his spell and ignored my reports of my father's abuse of drugs and of me. The lawyer appointed to represent my "best interests," Sandra Acevedo, spent her allotted time with me parroting my father's words, attempting to convince me that I really wanted to live with him. She ignored my reports of abuse. And the therapist my father made me see, Lana Clark, LCSW, was far from objective - she was sleeping with him.
The judge, Sylvia Shapiro-Pritchard, an admitted long-time friend of my father's, rubberstamped any order my father requested. I wrote the judge letters, called her office and did everything I could to make myself heard. She ignored my pleas. I had no rights. I couldn't replace my lawyer with one who would speak for me nor could I speak for myself in court. I couldn't cross examine the court evaluators or therapists and their claims were thus untouchable. I felt like I was witnessing the proceedings from the wrong side of soundproof glass.
My mother tried her best, but she was a David facing Goliath - except in my story, she didn't even have a sling. After years of valiant struggle gaining nothing but legal fees, she had to let go and put her life back together in the hopes that someday I could get out on my own.
While living with my father, I did what I could to survive. I made nine reports to Child Protective Services and several calls to the police over the years, to no avail. They would always tell me that unless I had witnesses or bruises, they couldn't substantiate my claims of abuse. Finally, one day my father threw me into a stone wall at school and a teacher called Child Protective Services.
He's never said as much, but my father panicked. He had worked so hard to build a delicate set of lies and twisted truths to present himself as the well-meaning parent whose "unstable" ex-wife had given his troubled daughter "alienating parent syndrome," resulting in abuse "delusions." The truth was his worst fear.
Acting quickly, he had my therapist, his lover, suddenly decide I was dangerously troubled and needed to be locked up. So I, an 11-year-old straight-A student who had never tried sex, drugs or alcohol, nor ever been in a fight, found myself in an out-of-state lockdown facility with 17-year-old drug-dealing gang-banging street kids. I was beaten up, taunted and was blocked from communicating with the outside world. I was forced into therapy where they tried to brainwash me into believing my mother was insane, that my father's drug use didn't exist and that the abuse my father inflicted on me was all in my head.
When I realized the truth was getting me nowhere, I lied and parroted back their words. It took me 6 months to convince them I was "cured." Holding onto the truth was the hardest thing I have ever done.
After my release, my father, thankfully, shipped me out to a nice boarding school. My two years there were my best years since my mother and I were separated. When I went back to live with him at age 13, I couldn't take it anymore. Knowing I'd never find justice in Marin, I ran away, hoping to find a judicious jurisdiction elsewhere. I ended up in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Juvenile Court took my case and placed me in a safe home. Court investigators and evaluators found my mother to be a fit parent and my father to be dangerous. My father hired an expensive lawyer and tried to play his old tricks, but the judge had none of it. Full custody was awarded to my mother, and visitation with my father was left at my discretion.
In Los Angeles, I was a party in my case, whereas in Marin, I was only leverage in my parent's battle. Los Angeles was heaven.
The practice of trying to ascertain what is in a child's best interest exists because minors supposedly cannot speak for themselves. Yet at 11, I could speak for myself. I had a mind and a set of opinions, but no one seemed to care. The judge denied my right to legal representation, especially when the court-appointed lawyer wouldn't speak my truth. Granted, there is no guarantee that hearing me would have inspired the judge to untwist her motives and unclench her hold on personal allegiances and biases, but who knows? At least it would have been in the court record.
My right as an American is to have legal representation in court proceedings, but when my lawyer wouldn't speak for me, I was allowed no voice.
No American should be locked up without a trial in front of a jury of peers, or some sort of legal equivalent, but it happens to minors all the time. We have an elaborate system to keep innocent adults out of jail, but no system to prevent the false imprisonment of youth in mental hospitals and discipline institutions.
Children are not parties in divorce proceedings - we are property to be divided. Yet children are people too. As citizens, we must be afforded our human and legal rights. And when those adults who are supposed to speak for us fail, we need some recourse.
--- Alanna Krause,
This is what happened
Little 5 year old Lauren ate her own fingers off and hid knives in her diapers (that she had reverted to wearing) because she was starved, severely sexually, emotionally/mentally tortured- to death- only 7 months after a judge gave her father custody...Lauren was completely healthy when she was with her mother. This is not a rare case. Lauren was not able to survive her abuse because they poisoned her with salt. Do you think that Lauren cried for her mother? What if she did get to see her mother, say, during supervised or weekend visits? The courts took away her right to help her child. Who would have or could have helped Lauren when hospital personnel, mandatory reporters, and all the other experts fell for her father’s lies. What becomes of children who survive?
THE LAST DAYS OF LAURENS LIFE In the months leading up to her death, 5-year-old Lauren McConniel was treated twice at Ball Memorial Hospital, once at Southway Urgent Care Center, once at St. Vincent Randolph Hospital in Winchester and three times at Merdian Services, a behavioral health care provider. Despite staff seeing broken fingers, malnutrition, a head injury, weight loss, unusual vaginal appearance and bizarre behavior, only one of these professional caregivers called Child Protective Services (CPS), which was just a 1-800 telephone call away, police say. Karen Royer --a counselor at Meridian who reported that in all of her years of dealing with kids she had never heard of such bizarre behavior, and who believed the girl was being seriously sexually abused -- did contact CPS. Lauren looked exhausted, frail and fragile to Royer. But that was on March 1, and the target of the sexual abuse allegation was not the girl's father, Ryan, or stepmother, Brittany, who had custody of Lauren. The target was Amber Huggins, the girl's natural mother who was living in Knoxville, Tenn. Huggins had last seen her daughter seven months earlier, when Lauren was in good health, and Huggins had been desperately searching for her. By March 3, Lauren was hospitalized at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she developed seizures, respiratory failure and shock. She died there six days later. “Child Protective Services was contacted by Karen Royer over allegations of sexual abuse that Ryan and Brittany made about the natural mother," said Muncie police Sgt. Jimmy Gibson. "The trouble is, Karen Royer believed Ryan and Brittany. They were believable. But I don't suspect the natural mom at all. The natural mom hadn't had contact with the child since August, and here this (allegation) was coming up in February and March. When the natural mom had custody of her, her weight was normal and the pictures showed she was healthy and happy." And those weren't the only lies the McConniel’s told to caregivers, Gibson said. They also claimed that Lauren was being treated for malnutrition by a Winchester physician, who had never even seen her once. Also, at Southway Urgent Care on Feb. 4, theMcConniels presented themselves as rescuers of the child, claiming they had just recently obtained custody of the girl. "When questioned about the girl's weight, they acted concerned and blamed the natural mom," Gibson said. "And they were convincing."
Bill Gosnell, a nurse at Southway who treated Lauren, declined comment, saying, "This is going to trial." On Dec. 8, Lauren was treated by physician Tom Mengelt in the emergency department at BMH for broken right fingers from jumping on the bed." I don't know why they didn't report that to (CPS)," Gibson said. "People don't want to believe that parents would hurt their kids that way. They think surely the parents care or they wouldn't bring a kid in with broken fingers." The child was seen again at BMH on March 2 for a head injury caused by a fall. A clinical impression of malnutrition and behavioral problems
was also noted during that visit. The hospital sent Lauren home after treatment including a CT scan. On that same day, the McConniels took the child to Valle Vista Health Systems in Greenwood for psychiatric treatment (the couple were unable to contact Meridian).Ellen Harrington, a counselor at Valle Vista, diagnosed the girl's problem as lack of supervision, failure to thrive, malnutrition and medical neglect. Harrington referred Lauren to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she was taken in the early morning hours of March 3. She died there on March 9."We can't comment regarding any specific patient or related processes, but we are cooperating fully with the investigation, and our hearts go out to the family," BMH spokesman Neil Gifford said. Hank Milius, president of Meridian Services, said, "We at Meridian Services are deeply saddened by the death of Lauren McConniel. While privacy laws prevent us from commenting specifically on this case, in the event there is a suspected case of child abuse or neglect, Meridian staff are trained to make a report to the Indiana Department of Child Services." Gibson credits Southway with referring Lauren to Meridian Services, and he credits Meridian Services for contacting CPS…
This is what happened
A COURT GAVE HIS FATHER CUSTODY- HE USED HIS SON TO HURT HIS EX WIFE
Records of the Indiana Department of Child Services reveal that Christian Choate, a boy who authorities claim lived locked in a cage and died from savage abuse, wrote letters describing his situation and saying that he wanted to die.
According to the Chicago Tribune, DCS visited with the Choate family in Gary, Indiana more than a dozen times starting in 1999, investigating allegations of abuse and neglect. Authorities never discovered what prosecutors claim was the true depth of the misery in which young Christian lived.
Based on accounts from his sister and stepsister, Christian, who died in 2009 at age 13, spent much of the last year of his life locked in a three-foot-high dog cage, with little food and drink and few opportunities to leave. When he did get out of the cage, he endured savage beatings from his father Riley.
One night in April of 2009, Christian was too weak to keep his food down. His father allegedly beat him to the point of unconsciousness, then locked his limp body in the cage.
The next morning, his sister Christina found him dead.
According to investigators, Riley then buried the boy in a shallow grave, covered his body in concrete, and moved with Christina to Kentucky, where he threatened to harm her if she ever told anyone about his death. It would be two years before his body was found.
One of the reasons his absence wasn't noticed was that his stepmother, Kimberly Kubina, took him out of school, saying that he was being home-schooled.
*** How did this happen...News report
CROWN POINT | The custody and whereabouts of Christina Choate, the sister of slain Christian Choate, remained unclear Thursday.
Court documents filed by Aimee Estrada, Christina's mother, indicate the girl's custody may be fought across state lines.
The documents show Estrada's attorney, Mindy Heidel, of Merrillville, filed an emergency motion for custody May 13.
Heidel argues Christina's father, Riley Choate -- now charged along with his wife, Kimberly Kubina-Choate, with murder in 13-year-old Christian's death -- began intimidating Estrada in 2005 after gaining custody of the children, according to court documents.
Riley Choate is alleged to have moved many times so that in 2007, Estrada, of Calumet Township, completely lost track of the children's whereabouts.
On May 1, Estrada's husband, Silas Estrada, received a telephone call from Robert Hamby, the brother of Kubina-Choate, saying Christian had been murdered and Christina accused her father of killing him, the documents state. A body believed to be Christian's was pulled from a shallow grave May 4 at a mobile home park in Gary's Black Oak section.
Hamby is reported to have told Estrada a Kentucky court had granted Hamby temporary guardianship.
At the time, Christina had been living in Kentucky with Hamby, not a blood relative, for about four weeks after being abandoned by Kubina-Choate, according to documents.
Heidel argues it's not in Christina's best interest to be in the custody of a family member of her brother's accused killer.
According to the documents, Christina contends her stepmother's family in Kentucky has "put a price on her head." She also wants a maternal aunt to call the police if anything happens to her.
However, Hamby contends Christina was safe while living with him, and he was actually the target of threats, not Christina.
"I might be Kim's brother by birth but by choice, right now I am not," Hamby told The Times on Thursday. "I'm the one that turned her in (to police), and I want nothing to do with her. I just want what is best for Christina."
Hamby has hired a lawyer in Kentucky to deal with the custody proceedings.
Court documents filed by Heidel indicate a hearing on the matter was set for May 19 in Lake Juvenile Court.
But the outcomes of that hearing and another on May 24 were unavailable Thursday.
Heidel did not return a message left Thursday with her office.
Hammond attorney Scott Yahne, again serving as Christina's court-appointed guardian ad litem, cited confidentiality rules against disclosing juvenile court proceedings.
Yahne was first appointed guardian ad litem to Christina and Christian when Riley Choate successfully pursued custody of the children in 2004.
Yahne said his involvement ended in 2005, and that he has had no further contact until recently.
"I understand that people want answers about the process of how this tragedy occurred," Yahne said.
"However, what I might like to share and what our community might like to hear could undermine Christian's obtaining justice and Christina being given the support and help needed to get through all of this," he said. Read more...
Jack Straton, Ph.D.
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
I will point out that since men are nearly always the batterers in domestic violence and women are nearly always the primary caretakers for the children, adoption of the primary caretaker criterion for custody would enormously relieve both the courts and advocates for battered women of much of their work around custody decisions.
Their extreme cognitive dissonance indicates that courts are clearly loathe to deprive men of a "right" of access to and control over their children, though the same cannot be said of such "rights" for women. The paradigm in which these jurists are trying to stuff reality is leftover from the 19th century notions of men’s ownership of both children and women. If the "best interests" criterion can encompass such bizarre rationalization, it is time we moved on to a new paradigm of relationship between men and women and children. READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE
It may be hard to believe that an abusive partner can ever make good on his threat to gain custody of the children from his victim. After all, he has a history of violent behavior and she almost never does. Unfortunately, a surprising number of battered women lose custody of their children (e.g., Saccuzzo & Johnson, 2004). This document describes how this can happen through uninformed and biased courts, court staff, evaluators, and attorneys and how the very act of protecting ones' children can lead to their loss. It also describes the major legal and social trends surrounding custody and visitation decisions and the social science evidence supporting the need to consider domestic violence in these decisions. It ends with some recommendations for custody and visitation in domestic violence cases.
Saunders, D. (2007, October). Child custody and visitation decisions in domestic violence cases: Legal trends, risk factors, and safety concerns.. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on DomesticViolence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved month/day/year, from: http://www.vawnet.org
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