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Thursday, December 14, 2017


By Doreen Ludwig,
Author of "Motherless America: Confronting Welfare's Fatherhood Custody Program"

Does Family Court offer protection to mothers and children who are victims of domestic violence? Many believe that the answer is no because father's rights extremists have been able to establish government programs which keep women and children vulnerable to ongoing abuse from violent men.

One such program is the Fathering After Violence Initiative.

Based upon this Initiative, instead of protecting women and children who have been abused, the Family Court System has a government mandate to foster and encourage the violent father's relationship with the children he has abused, regardless of the damaging consequences. Thus, in cases of domestic violence, the primary Family Court service offered to women and children who have suffered from a father's physical violence is supervised visits with the primary end goal of reuniting the father and children, even when these fathers will very likely continue to be violent and abusive.

In other words, according to an assessment prepared by Dr. Jessica Pearson, the Co-Director of the Center For Policy Research, (a part of the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network - FRPN), and the California Access and Visitation report to legislators, violent dads are given “step” visitation, i.e. supervised visits leading to unsupervised custody in as little as ten visits.

Based upon an article on high-conflict parent education written by Peter Salem, Executive Director of the AFCC, we know that the overarching intent of Family Court Services is to change the behavior of violent fathers and promote shared parenting, not to protect mothers and children from abuse and negative behaviors. While doing so, Family Court Services do not assess the ability abusers have to change, i.e. whether they are indeed capable of it, and furthermore there is no vehicle for assessing whether such change has occurred. This leaves victims vulnerable to ongoing abuse.

Meanwhile, supervised visitation, which was originally intended to protect victims of domestic violence is being turned on its head and directed as a weapon against mothers rather than being used for its intended purpose, which is to protect victims. In 2007, Juan Carlos Arean wrote a pamphlet, “Fathering After Violence: Working With Abusive Fathers in Supervised Visitation” using a OVA Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) grant. Arean provides guidelines to supervised visitation centers on how to heal violent dads. What is interesting about this report is page 6 where it states “in some centers mothers make up almost half of the (supervised) visit caseload, yet this document was designed to target in particular visiting fathers who have been violent with their intimate partners.” 

What can explain this conundrum of supervised visitation centers intended to be used with violent fathers ending up providing services to mothers instead, and then being used as a means to deny them custody?

To informed mothers and advocates, this is not a mystery. The data Arean reports makes sense when you realize that any mothers who have merely attempted to protect their children are being ordered to supervised visits, often under claims of Parental Alienation. This seems like an incredible betrayal, to learn that OVW is funding help for violent dads while ignoring the plight of abused mothers for which they are partially responsible. In this regard, the bolded and blocked statement on that same page gives a clue to the policy all government agencies, including OVW, are being strong armed into endorsing, policies of supporting fathers regardless of the harmful consequences to abused mothers and children.

Thus, it seems safe to conclude that the Family Violence Prevention Fund and OVW are promoting patriarchy. They certainly are not helping battered mothers and children to leave abuse. Instead, they are using their resources to encourage and force victims into long-term shared parenting situations with abusers that ignore their unrelieved potential for violence, and the vast array of non-physical, psychologically coercive assaults of which they are capable. Mothers who resist will eventually find themselves court-ordered to supervised visits where their presence will be ignored by OVW grant funding. Their failure to cooperate with fathers will be documented and they will lose custody, if not all access to their children. 

The majority of battered mothers involved in contested custody cases have reached out to their local and national domestic violence group and been turned away. Why? After examining the literature from the Fathering After Violence programs, it appears that OVW and FVPN collude to get abusive men custody by using supervised visits to create a specious record of healing and changed behavior. Subsequently, when women refuse to go along with such farcical records, they are accused of parental alienation, or parental alienation syndrome, custody is switched to the abusive father, and such mothers are cut off from meaningful contact with their children.

“Fathering After Violence” is a national initiative whose stated aim is to help end violence against women by motivating men to renounce their abuse and become better fathers (or father figures) and more supportive parenting partners using fatherhood (custody) as a leading approach. Typical of the thinking behind such programs is the following statement from Juan Carlos Arean's document: “Men who use violence can be held accountable for their behavior and simultaneously be encouraged to change it; and women and children can benefit from this approach.” Once again, two recurring themes are highlighted. First, the unfounded claim that men will change and, second, that mothers and children benefit from contact with these abusive men. Such programs have been implemented without any adequate research to be sure that such policies will work or that they will be beneficial to mothers and children.

The philosophy behind "Fathering After Violence" programs is an unthinking endorsement of the patriarchy. The message it conveys is that fatherhood is the vehicle for creating behavior change and that women must sacrifice their safety in order to make it possible. According to this reasoning, the goal of having men be fathers is so vitally important, that it is more important than the safety and wellbeing of abused mothers and children. In the entire report, in the rush to endorse violent men as fathers, there is no acknowledgement that abusive men have a higher probability of abusing their children, including sexual abuse. Further, we can only assume these programs do not assess whether or not father uses multiple tactics to control, intimidate, isolate and subjugate because it is not held to be a priority. 

In assessing the history of supervised visit centers, Mr. Juan Carlos Arean notes that the amount of supervised visit centers grew in the 1990’s “due in large part to custody and visitation between separated parents.” On the other hand, the report does not acknowledge early father’s rights connections to creating supervised visit centers. Yet it does acknowledge that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA 2000) funded OVW to establish the Safe Havens grant program.

The report tells centers to treat the violent father in a manner that does not dehumanize him. It does not acknowledge that abusers dehumanize the targets of their abuse. 

The YWCA in Springfield, Massachusetts is listed as one contributing center. This is the center that Kathy Jones, mother of John, was ordered to supervised visits for “alienation” due to her refusal to ignore the father's sexual abuse of their very young son. During each visit, John would disclose dads’ repeated sexual abuse, including anal penetration, in front of center staff who never filed as a mandated reporter. John, now 14, still lives with his sexually abusive father and has no contact with his mother and grandmother. 

Fathering after violence programs and policies endorse the following slogans without any basis in the facts:

“Giving abusive fathers (and all men) more opportunities for change and healing is an essential component of ending violence against women and children.”

“Abuse is a learned behavior and deliberate choice and therefore can be unlearned.”

Policies based upon such flawed and unsubstantiated concepts are bound to cause harm and damage to women and children. For instance, we know that pedophiles do not change. Why are we to believe it is any more likely that batterers will change their engrained behaviors? Even if we grant such unverified ideas, at the very least, change is going a require a little more than ten supervised visits.

Fathering After Violence confirms that for some years FVPN has been exploring the concept of using fatherhood programs as the leading approach to engage abusive men in renouncing their violence. In other words, “Centers show fathers the effects of witnessing and experiencing violence on children, and therefore create an impact that might persuade them to renounce their violence. Fathers are more likely to develop empathy towards their children than their partners (mothers) and this pathway to empathy can help some men reflect upon and change abusive and violent conduct."

Nonetheless, this report lists key characteristics of abusers including intimidation, psychological abuse, an inflated sense of self-entitlement, physical abuse, control, selfishness, superiority, possessiveness, confusion of love and abuse, externalization of responsibility, denial, minimization and victim blaming, and serial battering, visitation staff are advised not to stereotype and over-generalize by assigning these characteristics to batterers under supervision. Typical traits identified by Bancroft and Silverman, experts in working with battering men, such as authoritarianism, under-involvement, neglect and irresponsibility, undermining of the mother’s parenting and authority, self-centeredness, manipulativeness and ability to perform under observation are also discounted in their importance to assessing an abuser’s potential for changed behavior. 

Meanwhile, we are supposed to believe claims such as that despite these damning characteristics, mothers still want such men to participate in the lives of their children. For instance, Fathering After Violence claims women want the abuse to end but not necessarily the relationship, i.e. “Some mothers who have experienced violence still want their ex-partners to change and become better fathers for their children.” Along these lines, Tubbs and Williams conducted a focus group with 43 African American women and concluded their work “indicated shared parenting was perceived as a necessary obligation of parenting even with safety concerns for self and child.” These conclusions appear so unlikely, I can't help but consider them a clear cut example of observer bias in research. It appears that this research team was going to wring out father positive conclusions from those focus groups no matter what the mothers said.

Advocates are well aware of the phenomenon of batterers going to diversionary programs where the staff is predisposed to exonerate them quickly. Such behavior is so widespread that even Mr. Arean's pamphlet mentions the possibility that staff could collude with male batterers, and, that male staff tended to collude more than women staff, both consciously and unconsciously. The thrust of such programs appears to be to reward staff who ignore and discount the wide array of batterer characteristics and traits, and who collude to “cure” the abuser and document him as fit for custody regardless of whether he is or not. In assessing his danger and risk, staff are coached to merely look at levels of violence, incident-specific abuse, and his behavior during supervised visits, not his attitudes, motivations and character traits that would predict potential for continued abuse and future attacks or the potential of his abusing his child(ren) once he graduates from the program.

As with Pearson, Mr. Arean's pamphlet states that poverty corresponds to higher levels of violence, yet it does not explain why poor men appear to have higher levels of violence. This author, Doreen Ludwig, proposes that women in relationships with higher incomes have more to lose: social status and income. Public shame is greater in higher income communities. Wealthy men receive greater amounts of political protection, including local police force; police are less likely to process charges against higher income males. Thus, while there appears to be lip service to the idea that domestic violence cuts across all racial and economic divides, the reality is that policy makers and experts in the field of Domestic Violence continue assume that only the underprivileged are affected or need to be provided with services. This leaves the needs of higher income victims unattended to.

Often, Visitation Centers act as conduits to assisting abusive fathers to obtain custody from their victims. For instance, many Visitation Centers are advised to establish a relationship with fatherhood programs (page 35). Some centers have fatherhood programs on-site. Curiously, the report states “these programs are different from so-called “father’s rights” groups and can offer expertise and materials on positive father engagement.” Yet the report goes on to state “most of these programs could also clearly benefit from receiving training to advance their understanding of domestic violence dynamics.” The Office of Violence Against Women is telling supervised visit centers to refer violent men to fatherhood programs whose chief partnership is with courts to get men custody, all the while acknowledging that fatherhood programs know nothing about abuse and claiming those programs are not agents of male supremacy! 

What the Juan Carlos Arean report highlights is the shameful fact that OVW and VAWA have not protected women and child victims of abuse and instead have bought into unfounded theories that abusers can change their behavior. When discussing conducting orientation sessions, even the report itself acknowledges the reality of these custody switching policies in favor of men stating, “in most centers some (if not many parents ordered to visits) are mothers, some of whom might be in fact victims, rather than perpetrators of domestic violence (page 45).”

Fathering After Violence advises staff to tell dads to show respect to their children’s mother regardless of his feelings about her. Not seeing lack of empathy as a precursor to future episodes of abuse, the report states men are “more empathetic as fathers than as intimate partners or ex-partners.” It is not assessed if Dad's empathy is an “act” meant to gain custody in order to direct his abuse toward his child, an unprotected person, since mother has chosen to end their intimate relationship. We also have no idea how the report measured father's empathy in connection to their children, and would suspect that is is merely a fabricated assessment created for the purpose of justifying a policy that has long caused harm and damage to numerous protective mothers and their children.

Mary Jane King’s son, Thomas was horribly sexually violated by his father. Mary Jane worked diligently to document the abuse and she attempted to get him treatment at the Yale Child Sex Abuse Clinic. All the while family court blocked Thomas from getting treatment, hid the abuse while calling mother an alienator, and eventually cut off her contact with Thomas. 

Mary Jane posted on facebook “In CT all DV funding is "partnered" with fatherhood initiative legislation, so increasing access of abusive males to victims is the controlling law of DV funding.” Thus, the most popular private program funded by the State of Connecticut is David Mandel's Safe & Together Institute which provides lip service to DV mandates while essentially advocating to have violent fathers in the lives of their children. This is done in conferences held in sought after vacation resorts all over the world--Florida, Australia etc. etc.

In CT and across the United States, as a victim of domestic violence, you have a great deal to fear as you approach the Family Court System. The father's rights movement has subverted approaches that were put into place to protect women, and they are now being used against victims. Domestic Violence Centers, from which you expect support, will not assist you in protecting your children from the abuser because they receive government fatherhood funding that motivates them to place the rights and the needs of fathers first. Even worse, the OVA and others in the Domestic Violence industry have abandoned battered mothers and accepted millions of dollars in fatherhood funding to pay their salaries and to increase their profiles which has meant they have had to buy into father friendly, perpetrator blind policies. As a result, the battered, protective mother of today is a mother betrayed.

For more information on this subject, please click on the link below:

Friday, December 1, 2017


In the wake of all these sex scandals including Bill O'Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Roy Moore, etc. there has been increased scrutiny surrounding powerful men who exploit their positions in order to sexually abuse or assault vulnerable women.

Often, people have asked how come no one spoke up about what was going on even though everyone knew what was happening. One of the reasons why so many men have gotten away with this kind of abusive behavior for years is because some women accepted settlements, signed confidentiality agreements, and simply faded away. This meant the perpetrators were free to abuse other women who were drawn into their orbit.  In connection to Family Court, we may have exactly that kind of situation in connection to well known Family Court psychologist, Dr. Donald Hiebel.

Over two years ago, on November 3, 2014, Attorney Leslie Gold McFadden filed a complaint against psychologist Dr. Donald Hiebel, a major proponent of a quack theory known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). In this complaint, he was accused of conducting an affair with a female client 30 years his junior, and receiving massages from another female client in exchange for favors in her custody case.

Given the recent allegations in the news about these other powerful men, I asked a colleague, who is also a family court activist, what has been going on with Dr. Donald Hiebel's case. Apparently, the case has entirely gone away, Dr. Donald Hiebel has retained his license despite his blatant sexual abuse of two former clients who were under his care, and he remains in practice as a consultant for family court cases in the State of Connecticut. This colleague stated that he knew of a specific family court case to which Dr. Donald Hiebel had been assigned. 

I was absolutely appalled to hear of this situation and so I immediately looked up Dr. Hiebel on the Connecticut Judicial Branch website. When I looked up his name, the November 3, 2014 case didn't appear. It had been erased from the record. I also looked up the divorce case that his wife filed against him and later withdrew. That also had been erased from the record. How does this happen that while the cases of family court litigants get placed on the internet via FindLaw where the public all over the world can read them. But whenever there is attorney wrongdoing, it simply disappears. I think we'd all like to know!

In addition to looking up the case on the CT Judicial website in regard to the Dr. Donald Hiebel sexual abuse case, I also contacted the lawyer for the victims, i.e. Attorney Leslie Gold McPadden. She refused to comment on the case stating tersely in a November 18, 2016 email, "Result was confidential." What this essentially means is that Dr. Donald Heibel, after having faced zero consequences for his abusive and unethical behavior, is free to go out and do it all over again. Dr. Donald Heibel's actions were broadly reported on this website and elsewhere and it is highly improbable that the majority of judges and attorneys are unaware of his unprofessional behavior. Yet he is being recruited on an ongoing basis to take on cases? He is allowed to aquire additional individual patients? How grossly irresponsible is that? 

If anyone was wondering what family court reformers are complaining about, this is what we are complaining about. We are complaining about a CT Judicial Branch full of employees who have no problem putting professionals in charge of sensitive family court cases whose moral fiber and criminal behavior is indistinguishable from the Harvey Weinsteins of this world. I also want to point out that I suspect the situation is much worse. I only met with Dr. Donald Hiebel for one session in his West Hartford office and that meeting was sufficient for me to file a complaint that filled an entire one inch notebook. This is the kind of fool who is now working in family court and destroying lives and our Department of Public Health that knows full well about this situation and our legislators who also know since so many people have come to the LOB and testified about what is going on, and yet they sit around on their hands and do nothing.

I do not want to hear any further the boo hoo about sexual assault and sexual abuse from CT Judicial Branch employees, members of the State Legislature and CT State Agencies such as the Department of Public Health when they are so blatantly complicit in allowing it to happen.

For those who are interested, from this part of the article forward I have included the details of Dr. Donald Heibel's offenses from my prior article on the subject which was published when the news became public in November 2014. See below:

At the time the alleged assaults occurred, Dr. Donald Hiebel was affiliated with Roeder and Polansky Family and Child Associates located in Middletown, CT and he also had a private office in West Hartford. The first client, designated as "Jane Doe" received psychotherapy from Dr. Donald Hiebel from January 21, 2013 until approximately July 9, 2013.

According to the Complaint, from January to July 2013, Dr. Donald Hiebel provided psychotherapy for Jane Doe in order to assist her in obtaining shared custody of her minor son and to help her with emotional and psychological problems. Then in the summer and fall of 2013, Dr. Hiebel and his patient, Jane Doe, began to spend a considerable amount of time together. Allegedly, Dr. Hiebel told Jane Doe that he intended to divorce his wife so he and the client could be together. Allegedly, during that time they had several sexual encounters in Dr. Hiebel's West Hartford office, at Heibel's homes and also other locations.

Further, according to the complaint, Dr. Donald Hiebel advised Jane Doe to break up with her boyfriend at the time who was paying for her apartment, her mental health fees, as well as her attorney fees. Then Dr. Hiebel borrowed $5,000.00 from a friend and used that money to pay all of Jane Doe's living expenses. According to the allegations, this money was funneled through his company, Roeder and Polansky Family and Child Associates checking account and corporate credit card. When Jane Doe considered having therapy with another mental health professional, Dr. Hiebel advised against it.

As a consequence of this alleged inappropriate sexual relationship, Jane Doe claimed in her complaint that she suffered various damages including "shock, mistrust of medical professionals, extreme emotional disturbance, hospitalizations, instability, humiliation, emotional devastations, and extreme emotional disturbance." She also ended up losing custody of her son. As a result, she complained that she would be "forced to expend sums of money for additional custody litigation and medical care."

The allegations against Dr. Hiebel continued on and even more shocking is that Dr. Donald Hiebel's business partner, Dr. Keith Roeder, was alleged to be aware of this relationship and advised Jane Doe to hide relationship from the father of her child. The Complaint alleged further that Dr. Keith Roeder "advised Doe to show the child's father a former apartment rather than her current apartment that she shared with Hiebel." Eventually, in January 2014, when Dr. Hiebel decided to return to his wife, the complaint stated that Jane Doe became extremely upset and was eventually hospitalized. 

Dr. Donald Hiebel's wife, Navarre Hiebel, apparently filed for divorce in May 2014, but withdrew the complaint, possibly when it became clear that the affair was truly over.

The Complaint continued on to state that a consultant was hired to evaluate the case records regarding Dr. Donald Hiebel and Jane Doe. This consultant allegedly provided an initial opinion that there "appeared to be multiple gross lapses of professional judgment and standards of care on the part of Dr. Donald Hiebel and his associate, Dr. Keith Roeder" in the conduct of psychotherapy with Jane Doe. This included on Dr. Hiebel's part a lack of proper documentation of Jane Doe's record, concealing the fact that Jane Doe had a history of substance abuse, as well as possibly filing fraudulent reports to the Court in regard to her custody matter.

Another troubling aspect of the relationship Jane Doe reportedly had with Dr. Donald Hiebel is that apparently Jane Doe assisted Dr. Hiebel in his practice typing his reports on other patients, noting down his voicemail messages, as well as other tasks. In fact, during her meeting with the consultant, Jane Doe stated that "she still had a box of records from [Dr. Hiebel's] office in the trunk of her car--including the records of an individual who had sued Dr. Hiebel..."

The Complaint also details a relationship Dr. Donald Hiebel maintained with a second woman, a friend of Jane Doe's, and a former patient of Dr. Hiebel, who provided massages to Dr. Hiebel in exchange for coaching assistance in her custody matter. The consultant report states that Dr. Donald Hiebel and this friend "vacationed together and spent some holidays together as well (Christmas)."

Prior to these offenses, Dr. Donald Hiebel was one of the most beloved, trusted, and highly respected psychologists in family court today. In fact, when Jane Doe was advised to work with Dr. Hiebel, she was told that he "is like a God before the Court." Judges and attorneys have regularly requested Dr. Hiebel's services for co-parenting management as well as custody related mental health treatments and evaluations. They have done this despite the fact that multiple family court litigants over the years have complained vociferously about his unprofessional behavior and incompetent treatment. I would suspect that Dr. Donald Hiebel's behavior with these two women is just the tip of the iceberg.

It is worth noting that despite the fact that previously litigants have submitted formal complaints to the Department of Public Health against Dr. Donald Hiebel, these complaints have been consistently ignored and summarily dismissed. One can only speculate what harm and damage might be avoided for many current and former clients of Dr. Hiebel if the Department of Public Health would take these complaints seriously.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


*Ms. Doreen Ludwig, author of "Motherless America" provided the original inspiration for this article as well as a considerable amount of the material included in the article.  The Divorce in Connecticut website would like to acknowledge Ms. Ludwig's outstanding contributions on behalf of Protective Mothers and their children.

This website has often spoken about the fatherhood funding provided by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services which has been pouring into the States by the billions and billions of dollars.  We have tracked how much of that money has been spent supporting abusive fathers in their custody battles in CT Family Court.  

In the early days of spending on fathers, the CT Judicial Branch took on the development of the Family Civil Intake Screen, a form which Family Services now uses to screen people when they apply to them for services.  The CT Judicial Branch is incredibly proud of this form.  In fact, this Intake Screen has been shipped around as a model of excellence to other State Family Court systems throughout the country.  

But is the Intake Screen worth the paper it is written on?  Is it merely another tool of the father's rights movement to harry, bully and oppress women in Family Court not only throughout Connecticut but also throughout the country?   For the better part, I would say the answer to that last question is yes. 

The mid 90s and on into the 2000s was the timeframe within which CT power brokers were involved in the systematic alteration of the Family Court system to accommodate policies which favor fathers, switch custody to fathers even in cases of abuse, expand the Judicial Branch’s access to fatherhood funding, and thereby enrich family court professionals.  

In 1996, the Clinton administration passed the Welfare Reform Act.  In 2001 Governor Rowland established the Governor's Commission on Custody, Divorce, and Children which issued its report in 2002.  The names of the members of that task force are a who's who of names that have come up repeatedly in outrageous divorce cases where protective mothers lost custody of their children in extremely unjust circumstances. 2002, the year in which the Commission report was issued, marks the beginning of the massive increase in Family Court custody battles which took place in the subsequent decade.  

According to a Pace Law Review article on the Screen published in 2007, work on the the Family Civil Intake Screen began in 2002.  It was then tried out in pilot programs in select courtrooms in 2003 and 2004, and then rolled out in the Family Court system statewide in 2005.  There was then a followup study on the effectiveness of the Screen which the Branch conducted in 2009. (Just for context, the multi-agency memorandum of understanding between all CT State agencies to promote the interests of fathers was signed in 2010.) Conclusions in the followup were generally positive, but were they justified?

In its followup, the CT Judicial Branch tried to draw conclusions regarding the Family Civil Intake Screen as to whether it is or is not effective.  For them, effectiveness has meant more fathers gaining access to their children, and more mothers silenced through a new focus on "cooperation" and "agreement" rather than fitness to parent.

According to their results, they were able to reduce caseloads considerably and save the CT Judical Branch a good deal of money, up to $400,000.  I rather suspect that's a drop in the bucket to an Agency as well funded as the CT Judicial Branch.  Be that as it may, along the way, they also attempted to draw conclusions about whether Family Services itself is effective.  

However, doing so is actually quite impossible because there is no consistency regarding who among divorcing couples is and is not referred to Family Services, which, by the way, is free of charge.  

In other words, there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason as to who receives Family Services and who does not;access to these services doesn’t appear to be income based.  I am aware of some very wealthy people who have used Family Services and many who are not.  Although there are signs that indicate you are not allowed to go in front of a judge before meeting with a Family Services Counselor many do in spite of the rule.  Other people never see a Family Services Counselor at all, ever.

Compounding this problem is the fact that it is impossible to determine exactly how you get referred to Family Services in order to take the intake screen.  If you look at the CT Judicial Branch website under Family Services, Item #19 appears to state that you would first take the Intake Screen and then get a Court Order for services while Item #21 appears to state that you would get the Court Order first and then take the Intake Screen to obtain services.  Bottom line, the guidelines are written in such a confusing way, who knows what is the proper approach to  obtaining services.  This means that all sorts of people, particularly those who are self represented, must be falling through the cracks and not getting the help they need. Many are probably getting help, but not necessarily through the application of the Intake Screen, which makes any conclusions regarding the Screen and its value fundamentally inaccurate.

The CT Judicial Branch decided that it needed to develop a Family Civil Intake Screen because of what it described as a dramatic increase in the number of high conflict custody disputes starting in 1996.  In the early 1990s the numbers of divorce cases was quite low.  However, according to the CT Judicial Branch, since the early 2000s, approximately 30,000 new divorce cases are filed each year. 1/3 of them, or 10,000 or so, end up in custody battles.  This is hardly the minority of individuals that the Branch would like us to believe has difficulties in Family Court.  

The problem of the massive increase in high stakes custody battles started with the Federal Government’s gender biased promotion of father’s rights which really took off as of 1996.  For instance, one reason the Pace Law Review article on the Screen cites for the increase in custody battles is that nowadays society has a much greater recognition of the importance of fathers in bringing up kids.  This is the result of massive father’s rights propaganda paid for with fatherhood funding money.  Another reason is that the increased focus on paternity tests and fathers paying child support has had motivated access and visitation programs to attempt custody switches in favor of fathers. The article also directly mentions father's rights organizations and gender related political interests that have led fathers to sue for custody at record numbers.

The CT Judicial Branch's current emphasis on the forcible removal of mothers from the lives of their children via accusations of PAS and other charges such as the refusal to co-parent effectively has led to a substantial increase in single father led homes.  Meanwhile, these fathers are freely allowed to exclude mothers from the lives of their children, even when those mothers were the primary caretakers of those children for years.  Fathers are not censured for PAS type behavior or the failure to co-parent in the way mothers are, and they are given free rein to do as they please in family court, which includes refusing to obey court orders.

The triage program was developed by consultants from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, or what is more commonly known as the AFCC in coordination with employees of the CT Judicial Branch.  According to Doreen Ludwig, author of the highly regarded book "Motherless America", "The AFCC has roots in the father's rights movement, promotes an agenda of maximizing custody awards for fathers regardless of their parental caregiving history, fitness or ability." She also states "AFCC members have built a family court industry which ignores the existence and effects of, abuse on children, supplanting protection and autonomy for targets of the abuse with calls for conciliation." 

The names on this project are Peter Salem who is a founder of the AFCC, Dr. Robin Deutsch, Dr. Janet John Johnson, Attorney Andrew Shepherd, and Dr. Marsha Kline, all members of the AFCC. Dr. Pruett herself was the head of the AFCC at the time this project was being coordinated. Additionally, I find it alarming that AFCC member Janet Johnston played a central role in creating this Intake Screen because she is a father's rights person known for criticizing women who defend themselves from domestic violence and redefining domestic violence as common couples violence. You can see her victim blaming influence very clearly in the Intake Screen.  

The authors of the article discussing the Intake Screen insist that it is research based and evidence based. What does that mean? It appears that this means the creators of the Family Civil Intake Screen consulted with their own people in order to acquire the information they felt they needed to create the Screen. This includes AFCC members working at the CT Judicial Branch or their associates.  They did not consult with litigants who were actually receiving the services and would actually be taking the Screens.    

If you then look at the extensive bibliography at the end of the Pace Law article on the screen, it looks as though all the professionals that they consulted, with few exceptions, are members of the father's rights movement as well.  Most notably, they consulted 7 of Janet Johnston’s research papers.

The primary difficulty with the Family Court Intake Screen is that all it does is investigate how effectively they communicate and co-parent and ignores issues related to abuse. In general, the Family Civil Intake Form appears to reflect DHHS policy to increase custody for fathers and to ignore child abuse, alcohol and substance abuse, anger issues or domestic violence.  Thus, the Screen doesn’t measure or evaluate the level of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse present in the relationship.  

A protective mother who refuses to work well with an abuser is likely to get a very poor rating in the Screen.  Furthermore, the Screen investigates whether one or the other parent has the tendency to make unilateral decisions.  There is no consideration as to whether one parent always made unilateral decisions in a particular family because one party did all of the child care and the other was uninvolved. 

Once the screening has taken place, the primary services that Family Services offers is mediation and conflict resolution which experts have generally stated is not advisable in situations where there has been domestic violence.  Most people have found that Family Services doesn’t care whether there has been proven domestic violence, the department will still push mediation services regardless.  Other than that, Family Services will provide custody evaluations and also issue focused evaluations, but both rarely take into account the trauma that survivors of domestic violence experience.  This results in outcomes that are unfavorable to victims of domestic violence and their children.


Despite widespread lip service to the damage that domestic violence does to mothers and children in the State of CT, statewide policies that favor men continue to dominate our Family Court system. While there appears to be considerable funding for fatherhood programs and support for fathers in their custody battles, there is little support for mothers.  

When Arianna Oyola attempted to obtain a restraining order for herself and her child, there were no financial resources available to her to provide an attorney or a domestic violence advocate to assist her.  Later, the father who had violated at least two previous restraining orders, threw the baby off a bridge in Middletown. 

The Family Civil Intake form is merely another means that the Fatherhood movement here in CT has used to continue to oppress women and discriminate against them and their children. Now this form is being marketed to other States and used to expand policies which favor fathers over mothers and continue to burden and oppress victims of domestic violence. As advocates, we need to take steps to reverse this trend.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


It has been interesting for me to read articles in "The Greenwich Times" about the horrific divorce cases which have taken place in Connecticut.  These are cases where mothers often lose everything that they have, not only their financial base, but also their children.  

Unfortunately, the focus in these articles has been on what litigants in family court have done rather than on the primary source of the problem, i.e. Family Court attorneys. So here for the uninitiated is a list of 25 things that Family Court attorneys do in order to generate conflict among family court litigants and profit from their distress. In no particular order, they are as follows. Such attorneys will:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


In the light of Ronan Farrow's exposure of the allegations against Harry Weinstein, the Woody Allen Child Sexual Abuse scandal has again caught notice. Why is it that Harvey Weinstein faces such overall condemnation in the movie industry and yet Woody Allen has not?

For instance, one reporter -- Molly Fitzpatrick of "Splinter News" -- investigated how actors have responded to Dylan Farrow's sexual abuse accusations against Woody Allen. Below are the names of actors she checked up on: Cate Blanchett, Alex Baldwin, Wallace Shawn, Diane Keaton, Louis CK, Scarlett Johansson, Marcia Gay Harden, Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins, Mariel Hemingway, Emma Stone, Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Anna Camp, Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively. Their responses have been neutral, indifferent, or a resounding "It's none of my business."

Monday, October 16, 2017


I feel somewhat out of my depth when it comes to discussing divorcing couples who deal in millions when it comes to their Court matter, but I will try in my modest way to draw some parallels between my case and that of the O'Briens.  I can't imagine having so much money to play around with and fight over!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


On February 26, 2010, several CT State Agencies came together to sign a multi-agency agreement to coordinate efforts to further the interests of fathers over that of mothers. These Agencies were the Department of Social Services, The Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Department of Public Health. The beginning of this agreement made several statements in order to justify this promotion of father's interests over that of mothers in violation of the CT Constitution Article I, Section 20 which forbids discrimination based upon gender. One such statement was as follows, "Children who grow up in families headed by single mothers are five times more likely than two parent families to live in poverty." Subsequent statements continued on to blame single mothers for a high percentage of high school drop outs, juvenile delinquency, drug use, teen pregnancy and mental illness. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


I was driving around my neighborhood, and I happened to see the truck you see above in this blog. I immediately jumped out of my car to take a few pictures.  

You may think what you want about Linda Wiegand, but the fact is that no matter what has been said about her, she has left behind a legacy of giving that says volumes about the kind of person that she was.  

Monday, September 11, 2017


As a feminist, there is nothing worse in my mind than a situation where women do not support other women.  This is particularly true when it comes to the Protective Mothers who are the victims of Family Court.  Let me tell you how this impacted me recently.  

On March 13, 2017, I received an email from the Three College Luncheon organization inviting me to a luncheon where guest speaker Attorney Kathy Flaherty, Wellesley Class of 1988 and Harvard Law Class of 1994, was going to make a presentation about her service on the Governor's Sandy Hook Commission.  She is currently the Executive Director of the Connecticut legal rights Project, Inc. a State funded non-profit agency which provides legal services to support the rights of low income individuals with mental health disabilities.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


I obtained the following list of facts from an anonymous mother on the internet.  I don't know who originated the information, but it is all profoundly true. See below:

1. Women do not have an advantage in court. That is a lie. Long ago yes - now NOT AT ALL. 

*Quit the lie. Statistics show in cases tried in court, women lose 82 percent of the time.

2. Don't leave an abusive marriage if you have children. I'm serious. Don't. Until there are changes in DV, society, etc it is too great of a risk.

3. If a parent - man or woman has stayed home for years - giving up careers etc to raise the kids- then damn right they should get alimony. I suggest NEVER give up your career. Too great of a risk.

4. The truth is NEVER told in court and no one is punished for lies and NO ONE cares. Colleagues, friends, everyone will let you down in court because suddenly they don't want to be involved. Promise. You remind them of incidences and they are afraid. Don't expect help from your church either. They will probably suggest you pray more as though you haven't been doing that for years.

5. People don't care about your struggle. They don't really believe the system is crooked and assume you did something really wrong.....promise.

6. Lawyers do NOT care about you. They instigate and they are friends with opposing counsel and the judge. They talk about your case outside of the court. Promise. They are friends in Facebook, instagram.

7. A settlement, divorce agreement - its merely paper."