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Thursday, May 31, 2012

MISSION STATEMENT: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

Five years ago, I spent a few days at the Rieger Memorial Conference Against Violence talking with Mr. Lundy Bancroft, author of numerous books including "Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men".  Together we discussed the subject of domestic violence and the inadequate response of the judicial system to that violence.  After reflecting upon his comments, I have come up with a suggested Mission Statement in regard to how the Protective Mother's Movement should move forward here in Connecticut. 

CONNECTING!
Previously, I stated that we need to find one another.  This still remains a priority.  So many of us end up in trial court and under fire and believe that we are somehow unique.  In fact, there has been a war on women, and, most particularly a war against mothers and their children, here in Connecticut for a considerable period of time.  This has to stop.  We need to find ways to locate one another so that we can meet, share experiences and support each other through these difficult times.  I know many of us are frightened and terrified of retaliation.  We don't want anyone to find out that we have taken steps to find each other.  We are afraid of connecting and revealing our identities just in case there are spies or moles out there.  It is time to get over that, stand up and be counted.  Those who are more bold can be more public, and those who cannot be bold because they are still in fear, can help in many ways behind the scenes.  Still, we all need to move forward shoulder to shoulder in order to create change for the better.

MAKING THE WAVE!
We need to pursue our agenda and communicate and implement our goals community by community and court by court, judge by judge, attorney by attorney, GAL by GAL, and evaluator by evaluator.  We need to meet people one on one and in groups and educate them regarding the harm that the current system is doing to mothers and children throughout the state, and also, by implication the harm done to men who abuse by allowing them to continue on with criminal behavior which ultimately destroys their humanity. 

In the past, I stated that we need to create a grass roots movement here in Connecticut and form a visible organization which can represent our interests to the judicial system, to the State legislature, and to the media and command their attention, demand they respond to our concerns, and implement the necessary changes we request. We had considerable success in doing this in 2014 with the establishment of the CT Coalition For Family Court Reform.  Unfortunately, since that time it has been overtaken by a minority of father's rights extremists, and it is unclear at this time whether this is a situation that can be corrected.  This is something we will continue to work for on an ongoing basis.  Meanwhile, we will continued to fight for the rights of protective mothers, at least on this blog.

PROPOSED MEMBERSHIP!
Persons eligible for membership in this organization would be women who have been or who are currently involved in a high conflict divorce, children of parents who have been or who are currently in a high conflict divorce 18 or older, as well as family and friends of those who have been or who are currently in a high conflict divorce.   

IMPLEMENTING CHANGE:

In order to defend protective mothers and their children, we need to do the following:

1.  Improve the Quality of Custody Evaluations:  I understand that in some states litigants are not allowed to look at the custody evaluations that are written for their cases.  For once, I have to say that our judicial system here in Connecticut does not act as badly as that.  I do believe that it is unethical to use a custody evaluation in a custody dispute without examining the evaluator prior to trial in a thorough and detailed deposition providing both sides the opportunity to ask questions.  Also, I do think that there should be more clearcut guidelines regarding the contents of such reports.  Rather than be an opportunity for the accumulation of a broad range of hearsay mixed in with the subjective judgments of the evaluator, reports should be written according to very specific guidelines that ultimately revolve around who does the concrete job of parenting.  Who takes the children to the doctor?  Who meets with the teachers at parent/teacher conferences?  Who takes the children off the bus at the end of the school day?  Who drives the children to their activities?  It is interesting that during my very lengthy custody evaluation, the evaluator asked my X to name the principal of the school, the childrens' guidance counselors, and the teachers.  He was barely able to remember the names of these people because he had nothing to do with them because he simply wasn't the primary caretaker. 

2.  Establish Reliable Standards for Determining the Presence of Domestic Violence:   It is vital that we have uniform, objective methods for how a domestic violence allegation should be investigated.  The manner in which such an investigation takes place should be very clearly delineated and should use generally accepted assessment tools with a high level of accuracy such as HITS (Hurt, Insult, Threaten, and Scream), WAST (Women Abuse Screening Tool), PVS (Partner Violence Screen) or the AAS which is frequently used with young, low income women.  There are many other screening instruments which are very reliable.  But the methods should be solid and trustworthy.  Also, we need to work for the passage of the Protective Mothers Act which would prevent trial courts from routinely denying custody and visitation to mothers who make sexual abuse allegations in good faith, but those allegations prove to be untrue.

3.  Pursue Judicial Accountability:  The vast majority of litigants believe that they have to accept the decisions of the trial judge.  As a consequence, few continue on after trial to go to the Appellate Court and subsequently Supreme Court.  However, a recent Department of Justice study indicates that if women continue on to Appellate Court, they will very likely be able to overturn an unjust verdict on appeal.  As a result, it is important to caution women in high conflict divorce to conserve their financial resources so that they will be able to continue on to appeal.  In fact, at every point in trial, they should be thinking ahead, making certain to preserve errors for appeal, and making sure to take those necessary steps to preserve the right to appeal once the verdict comes in.  Among other things, this means meeting all the required deadlines.  Although moving forward to Appellate Court seems daunting to the beginner, it is, in fact, not such a big deal.  It is manageable and well worth doing, even, if you have to do so as a self represented party.  Until women who are legally abused give notice that they will not accept judicial misconduct and indicate that they will go on to appeal if necessary, judges will continue to mock and violate litigants' rights.  Therefore, we need to support and encourage women to pursue their appeals in the face of injustice.

4.  Enforce Connecticut Practice Book Rules:  Rules were made for a reason, and, in particular, the rules of the Connecticut Practice Book were made for a reason--because history shows that they work.  In my divorce, it was particularly devastating that both my attorneys and the opposing attorney simply flouted those rules, and, as a result, my case quickly descended into chaos and ended up taking years and years to resolve.  I hear this again and again when it comes to high conflict divorces.  We need to be sure that attorneys and litigants obey the rules and procedures of the courtroom, and we need to eliminate the situations where the favored litigant is able to evade them. For example, during my divorce my X simply refused to disclose the financial documents I requested through subpoena and the trial court never demanded that he comply with my requests that he turn them over.  He was also never required to obey stipulations or court orders.  In contrast, I was severely punished if I so much as failed to obey a tiny fraction of these rules.  This left me feeling exposed, vulnerable, traumatized, and frightened.

5.  Enforce the Approximation Standard:  What this means is that whatever the arrangement was before the divorce was filed should remain in place to the greatest extent possible.  This means that, in the case of a dispute, whichever parent was the primarily caretaker before the divorce should continue on as the primary caretaker.  This would probably settle matters in 99.9% of cases and eliminate the need for ongoing expensive litigation that consumes all marital assets including the childrens' college funds.  It would be like floride in the proverbial legal waters.  In so many cases, abusive men sue for the custody of the children, win custody, and then immediately hand over the care and upbringing of the children to various nannies, while they continue on with lengthy hours at work and extensive business trips.  What in the world is the point of that?

6.  Build Bridges With Other Groups Who Have Related Interests:  There are many other groups who deal with family court who have very similar interests.  For example, there are protective fathers who face very similar injustice and discrimination in family court and are not heard when they describe the abuse they have suffered.  In addition, many responsible fathers have not had their day in court and have been subject to similar arbitrary court rulings and kangaroo court proceedings.  These are really powerful agents for change for the better and we would do well to work with them on creating positive change.  In addition, there is the larger disability community that is also terribly mishandled within the courtroom setting.  These are folks with both visible and invisible disabilities who find that the simple fact that they have some kind of disability gets used as a basis for denying them access to their children, or places them in a situation where they are subjected to crushing financial losses in family court simply by virtue of having a disability.  If we work together with folks like this, I think we can really make a considerable impact on creating changes for the better in family court.

7.  Enforcement of the ADA and the ADAAA:  The vast majority of women in high conflict divorce face multiple challenges in family court where so many of the procedures and processes have broken down.  As a result, many are experiencing legal abuse syndrome or some other form of post traumatic stress disorder.  Others may have developed both physical and psychiatric difficulties as a consequence of living with an abuser.  For that reason, we need to ensure that women such as this receive reasonable accommodations and protection against discrimination based upon their disability.  Preferably, we need to develop a strong group of ADA Advocates trained by Dr. Karin Huffer of Equal Access Associates to accompany litigants into family court to ensure that litigant's ADA and ADAAA rights are enforced.  We need to work with family court to educate court personnel in regard to the rights of litigants under the ADA and the ADAAA and we need to continue to insist that litigants with disabilities receive the rights to which they are entitled.

FINAL REMARKS:
What I have written here in this mission statement is simply a template arising from Mr. Bancrofts ideas.  I've mixed in my own thoughts based upon my experiences in my own custody battle.  I am happy to change and adjust this statement as people continue to propose their ideas and recommendations.  However, without a clear statement of purpose, I think it will be difficult for our movement to be organized and effective.  So at the start of our campaign, I thought I would simply throw out this mission statement so you would all have an opportunity to reflect upon it, and hopefully it will provide us with a solid foundation to build upon.   


4 comments:

  1. I hope there will be a protective parents' as opposed to protective mothers' movement in recognition of the fact that women can be perpetrators and fathers victims.

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  2. I do have item 6, building bridges, about connecting with these fathers. I am not sure what to do about the idea of including men in our organization because we have so many women who have trauma related to men. I have adrenaline surges just hearing a baritone voice and I would rather not have to deal with that in a meeting. I went to the Parent Education Classes and there was one man in the class and every time he spoke I tensed up. So, don't mistake me, some of the most supportive folks I know in this movement to reform family court ARE men, but I am not sure how best to work with them so I'm not traumatized all the time. I don't know if anyone else has a comment.

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  3. I looked up this conference mentioned up top -- it's not familiar to me perhaps because I'm on the West, not East, Coast (although I look up things across the country, in many states).

    http://melanieriegerconference.com/common/agenda.php
    The 2012 conference here -- scroll down through the workshop presenters to see Howard Kreiger, Ph.D. of Connecticut Resource Group.  This is exactly who Anie Nistiophain was blogging along with Dr. Horowitz, in Ground Zero. In other words, the Rieger Conference is giving a nice platform to people who help cover up rape of a little boy in Connecticut, and breaking the back of his mother financially $1.5 million in fees).


    I show the upcoming Los Angeles 2013 AFCC conference Agenda, and how Judge Lynda Munro, Howard Krieger, Sidney S. Horowitz and one more attorney (also known to serve as a GAL) are presenting.  i think it's page 14, workshop 53.
    http://www.afccnet.org/Portals/0/PublicDocuments/Conferences/AFCC%2050th%20Anniversary%20Conference%20brochure%20w90.pdf Operative Concept here, who is AFCC? What do they do?
    They are in business together, and the money flow is both ordered services (overbilled, as the WT articles clearly show) and with state or other (i.e., govt) contracting involved too.    The courts are simply what helps haul the parents in for subjecting them to more services, to the point that sometimes they are forced to turn over their life savings, eventually (if it applies) real estate, at the previously strategized setup of the corps. running the courts.

    Riegers: Small foundation, but its assets have tripled in about 5 years? per this:
    http://charitystat.com/melanie-ilene-rieger-memorial-foundation-inc/~C76882
    EIN20-0190271
    http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/200/200191271/200191271_201112_990EZ.pdf

    Interesting how such a small org. is increasing its base steadily, conference workshops involving so many gov't personnel/offices. Always look things up! I don't see this registered in CT as a corp or charity, but it may not have to. Conferences about $23K, what do the conferences accomplish?

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  4. Hi, you are bringing me back to last year here. I actually decided to go to this conference because protective mothers in CT alerted me to the fact that the Rieger Conference was happening and inviting Dr. Howard Krieger and also inviting Lundy Bancroft at the same time. We wanted to know why this was going on and so I was dispatched to the conference to find out. Dr. Krieger did a presentation on relieving stress in our daily lives while Lundy did an overview of what do we need to do to stop coercive control and domestic violence towards women. Interestingly enough, Krieger did his presentation and then stayed on to listen to Lundy and was sitting just a few seats away from me. Can you imagine sitting just a few seats away from Hitler or Goebels, well, that is what I experienced. The primary speaker at the Rieger Conference talked about the aftermath of 911. Lundy gave a keynote talk about violence towards women and how to identify coercive control. I am not sure where I am going with this comment, but this is what happened, when I look back.

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