PLEASE NOTE: This blog is a bigotry free zone open to all persons, regardless of age, race, religion, color, national origin, sex, political affiliations, marital status, physical or mental disability, age, or sexual orientation. Further, this blog is open to the broad variety of opinions out there and will not delete any comments based upon point of view. However, comments will be deleted if they are worded in an abusive manner and show disrespect for the intellectual process.

Saturday, November 7, 2015


It was six months into my divorce when I finally realized that my attorney was acting in a way that was seriously incompetent.  As a result, I recognized that I had to find a new attorney and so I started the process of interviewing attorneys to see who would be a good replacement.  

It was then that I ran into Attorney James T. Flaherty who immediately asked me for a copy of my parenting plan. "Parenting Plan, I responded, "I don't have a parenting plan!"  Apparently, the fact that I had no parenting plan was extraordinary and Attorney Flaherty seemed truly surprised that I didn't have one. Why was Flaherty surprised?  Well, that was a bit of play acting, but more on that just a bit later.   

Apparently, in December 2002, the Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children came out.  This report was the basis for major statutory changes in the way divorces are supposed to be handled in the State of Connecticut.  Included in these changes was the requirement that divorcing couples submit a parenting plan to the Court within the early weeks of the divorce and obey a list of automatic orders which assures that the parties don't dissipate the marital assets, among other things.  

Nonetheless, as you can see, I soon learned that it was standard for attorneys to blow off parenting plans and allow their clients to violate the automatic orders at will. Attorneys did this intentionally to gain advantage in the case, to generally disrupt the process, and get as much money as possible from their clients.

In spite of that, if you then asked such attorneys, why do we have so many problems with family court, they'd never mention the ignored Connecticut Statutes I just talked about. Instead they'd blame the mentally ill--as per usual.  So goes the politics of mental illness within the Judicial Branch, i.e. if under fire, or facing criticism, put the responsibility on the shoulders of the "crazy people." This approach is, as we will see, a fundamentally feminist issue.

If you look at the discussion which preceded the results of the Commission Report--i.e. the Report of the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children of December 2002--the Commission placed responsibility for the problems of Family Court squarely on the shoulders of "a small minority of parents [who] engage in persistent conflict because of anger, characterological or mental health problems."  

Twelve years later, another group gathered together to investigate problems with Family Court in Connecticut, i.e. the Task Force to Study Legal Disputes Involving the Care and Custody of Minor Children of 2014.  This Task Force published an additional report.  

Hearing about this Task Force, dozens of citizens came forward to provide their testimony in person during Task Force hearings while many others wrote letters and sent emails contributing information regarding their personal experiences of Family Court.  

However, instead of addressing the concerns these citizens spoke about, the Task Force Report  simply borrowed a lengthy quotation from the 2002 Commission Report in place of a discussion. The authors of the Report apparently did not even think to add one single bit of additional insight they might have acquired from lessons learned in the twelve years since the prior report.  Even worse, in a terribly short sighted manner, the particular section the report quoted was the one that put the blame on people with mental illness.

The fact that those responsible for writing the 2014 Task Force Report were so lazy they had not a single original idea to put into a discussion says boatloads about the lack of commitment of those individuals to the process of investigation that they were involved in.  

In that regard, I would like folks to recall that when the two co-chairs were appointed--Attorney Sue Cousineau and Attorney Sharon Dornfeld--there was widespread discontent with these appointments, but the legislators responsible didn't want to hear about it.  Thus, the careless,  derivative, negligent, and divisive report that the Task Force of 2014 ultimately produced is the outcome of these legislators' poor choices.  

Mental illness, the spotlight of both reports, is a feminist issue given that Family Court uses accusations of mental illness as a means to deny mothers custody.  Thus, another aspect of the original Commission Report of 2002 and the Task Force of 2014 which I find quite striking is how both are weighted to benefit the father's rights agenda.  

The Members of the Governor's Commission is practically a who's who of father's rights people.  Both Thomas C. Foley and Mr. Pat D'Angelo are long time father's rights people.  I believe Pat D'Angelo was among the original founders of the Divorced Men's Association of Connecticut. Other people such as Dr. Kenneth Robson, Judge Lynda B. Munro, Dr. Sidney Horowitz, and Judge Herbert Gruendel are notorious for their stands in opposition to mothers.  

Likewise, in the Task Force of 2014, members Jennifer Verraneault and retired Judge Thomas Weissmuller are both father's rights advocates.  I don't believe there is an abusive father that Dr. Elizabeth Thayer won't embrace. You have Stephen Grant in the Commission of 2002 and Joseph DiTunno in the Task Force of 2014 both responsible for the distribution of federal government fatherhood initiative money within the CT Judicial Branch.  We can assume they both support fathers in that role.  

The end result, of course, were reports on Family Court that largely support policies and programs that benefit the interests of men.  

For instance, in the Task Force of 2014 there is an extended section on how the CT State Legislature could establish a policy of shared parenting in this state. Shared parenting would be an absolute disaster for the women of the State of Connecticut, particularly those who are victims of domestic violence.  

It is typical of father's rights people that even though so many of the citizens who demanded a hearing on the abuses of family court and who came to testify were women, this Task Force, weighted with father's rights activists, simply took advantage of the political influence these women provided them and pushed forward a father's rights agenda in their final report, thus stabbing those women in the back.  

But this is not my primary point.  I want to address the issue that has now come up in two reports -- this business of blaming people with mental illness for the problem of Family Court abuse.  Can you imagine for a minute if these reports had said something like, the problems of family court arise because of the various character flaws of African-Americans (or whichever minority group is currently unpopular--the Jews, the Hispanics, the Muslims).  

If any group tried to publish a report blaming a particular group based upon race, gender, sexual orientation, class etc.  they would be stopped immediately.  So, why is it acceptable for these reports to make unfounded accusations at folks labeled with mental illness? Somehow this is acceptable?  Isn't this just like the whole gun discussion.  We know that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violence than perpetrators, and yet all these conversations in the media about stopping gun violence are all about taking civil rights from people diagnosed with mental illness, even though it has been proven that mental illness is not a decisive factor.  

I'd like to dig in a little deeper here:  who do we mean when we talk about parties who have mental illness? Aren't we really talking about women?  As you know, in our society where gender discrimination and oppression remain rampant, women have many more mental health difficulties than men, particularly depression as the result of the ongoing deprivation of rights and the disrespectful manner in which they are treated.  Not only that, women are far more willing to get the help that they need from mental health professionals because they feel more comfortable with caretaking and helping types of professionals.  

As a result, when women walk into Family Court, they are considerably more likely to have documented mental health histories than men are.  These histories are immediately used against women in family court when custody is under dispute.  

So what these two reports are saying--the Commission Report of 2002 and the Task Force Report of 2014--is that the problem isn't just folks with mental illness; it's those crazy women.  

Such attitudes accord well with what we know about the influence that the massive influx of fatherhood initiative money into Connecticut was having starting in 1996.  This money would have been flowing into Connecticut in a very healthy manner by 2002, just in time for the Commission report.  

But again, this is still not my entire point.  Ok, so the problem is this difficulty with all these women who have mental illness.  Here is what bothers me.   What this really means is that the CT Judicial Branch has no intention of adjusting its methods to address the needs of this very special population--cultural sensitivity be damned.  Instead, it prefers to exploit prejudice and social stigma and declare itself helpless to deal with this group, even though there is every evidence that with the proper accommodations and protections against discrimination, the outcome of legal proceedings can be quite successful with folks who have mental health challenges.

Instead, the way members of the Commission and the Task Force reported it, the Judicial Branch is helpless against this enormous, impenetrable monolith of mental illness that resists any and all attempts the Family Court system implements to address it.  

Based upon this bigoted attitude towards mental illness--in other words, that it is unchangeable and always a negative, family court has used mental health diagnosis as a litmus test for who should get custody, i.e. the fathers.  

But why?  Why this presumption of hopelessness?

Even the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has adopted the recovery model in the work it does here in Connecticut with people who are dealing with mental health and substance abuse problems.  This means that they operate with the underlying assumption that people can change and that they can improve.  

Unfortunately, the Connecticut Judicial Branch is far from having that approach. The Branch prefers to maintain this hopeless view of people with mental illness so they can use it to advantage in custody switching schemes perpetrated against women. The only reason that Family Court in the State of Connecticut orders psychological evaluations of parties in family court is so that they can find some kind of damning diagnosis (usually for a mother) so that diagnosis can be used to deny custody. For example, a fabricated diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) usually does the trick!

The Connecticut Judicial Branch maintains a policy of discriminating against people with mental health disabilities because it works to their advantage in their war against women.  For years the record shows that the Branch has been rigorous in refusing to comply with the Americans With Disability Act, and particularly disregards its prohibitions against discriminating against people who have disabilities.  This means that people with mental health disabilities who face legal proceedings in custody matters routinely do not receive the accommodations they require under the ADA in order to access those proceedings.  The majority of these people are mothers who are essentially excluded from the process.  

You would think, under the circumstances, that mental health professionals could bring some equity to the situation, but this is not the case.  This is because a good many of these diagnoses are fabricated and pinned on mothers as part of custody switching schemes to transfer custody to abusive fathers.   But there are other reasons as well.

The Commission Report includes some of the history of custody and divorce in Connecticut and mentions how starting in the late 1950s, the Judicial Branch began to bring mental health professionals into the Branch to assist the Courts in custody matters.  This is also when the family services unit of the court was established.  

If mental illness were the problem, you would think that the influx of all these  mental health professionals into the process would eliminate that supposed group with mental illness that is causing the big problem.  However, this is not the case.  

Often, psychologists or psychiatrists hired to do this work produce lengthy and detailed investigative reports full of unsupported gossip and innuendo that simply adds another layer of lies and inaccuracies to the entire proceedings.  Since many of these mental health professionals are adherents of the father's rights movement or receiving father's rights money to write these reports, they are again, frequently weighted against the mothers and used to deny mothers custody.  

What is interesting is that no one tracks what these mental health professionals are doing and holds them accountable.  How can it be that even judges are subjected to performance evaluations, but not mental health professionals?  Is there any evidence at all, anything beyond an intuitive assumption, to indicate that the involvement of mental health professionals in divorce improves outcomes?  Where is the data?  

One guess I would like to venture, however, prior to any such investigation, is that the outcome will show that for the better part, particularly since the influx of fatherhood initiative funding into the family courts, Judges have used older, white male psychologists or psychiatrists such as Dr. Kenneth Robson, men in their 60s and 70s to trash women and transfer custody to the fathers.  

These women who lose custody are the "mentally ill" of the two reports, because, as we all know, mothers will fight for their children to the bitter end and thus "inconvenience" the Court.  Of course, those mothers have to be crazy.  

What this means is that when the two reports talk about people with mental illness causing the problems in family court, they are really talking about mothers.  But what these reports do is describe them in code language that professional insiders within Family Court immediately recognize.  Essentially, this means that women haven't benefited from either of these two investigations into family court abuse.  As per usual, our voices and our life experiences remain absent from the public discussion, as we are labeled as mentally ill and not considered worthy of consideration.  The time has come to change that dynamic.


  1. You know, I'm all for having both parents in the lives of the children. However, I notice that the kinds of people who say that as their primary point are the first to advocate eliminating the mother completely if she won't do what she is told.

  2. Would you report how the complaint with the civil rights office of the DOJ is going? This is the type of discrimination (gender/disability) embedded within the system that seems they would investigate.

    1. Attorney John Hughes and Attorney Deirdre Daly promised a report would be forthcoming in August 2015 but failed to produce such a report. I know that the DOJ has hired new people and it could be that they just didn't have sufficient personnel to get the job done. Of course, the question we all will have even if something gets done in the near future is how could our government allow this widespread, rampant abuse of women and children in the State of Connecticut. What is with that?

    2. Don't count on the DOJ taking the Ct Judicial Branch to task. The law firm of Finn Dixon Herling, of which Deirdre Daly's husband Alfred Pavlis is a partner, was recently named counsel to the state's Retirement Security Board. Conflict of interest?

    3. Ultimately, it gets to the point that individuals who have the authority need to make the decision to do what is right. There is always that point where whomever makes that choice. I trust that will eventually happen. Meanwhile, we all need to continue to fight for justice on whichever level we find ourselves.

    4. If there is a conflict with her office, why not place a call to D.C. and have someone else outside of CT assigned.

    5. Ok, so why exactly do you think that D.C. (who in D.C.????) is going to take MY phone call or anyone elses?

    6. See NY Times article 8/19/15: "Justice Dept. Presses Civil Rights Agenda in Local Courts." Included are disability rights. Says AG Loretta Lynch continues agenda of former AG Eric Holder.

    7. This is an article that addresses indigent people (which have been of historical interest to the federal government), gay, transgender, and prison populations. This is not our group, clearly.


  3. Director: Michael Alston
    OCR Main Line: 202-307-0690
    Fax: 202-354-4380
    TDD/TTY: 202-307-2027

  4. Try this:

    Vanita Gupta
    Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
    Civil Rights Division
    (202) 514-4609
    Telephone Device for the Deaf (TTY) (202) 514-0716

    1. To the person who has provided this information above regarding names, have you ever called these people and gotten results because I can assure you there are large communities of activist folks who have made phone calls and they are simply ignored. So are you providing these numbers because you have actually gotten results or because you looked them up and these names are there. Also, there is a vast difference between the press releases that get posted versus the reality of the fact that people have gone to those who should be addressing these issues, the FBI, the DOJ, and they have simply been ignored. People across this country have been reporting on the injustices in family court for years and this is not at all new. So again, have you had results, or is this just what you got from google?

    2. Eric Holder hasn't done a thing for disability rights--shall we get real. There is no record of any DOJ case that upheld the rights of people with disabilities in the Court System.

    3. Ok to correct that, people with mental health disabilities.

  5. I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but I don't think there is a gender angle the way you describe. Instead, in my experience it is all about money. Basically, the divorce lawyers and family court appointed people (and there are a lot of those!) will violate standing orders and, statutes and constitutional rights in whatever way puts the most money in their pockets. They will do that whether it involves screwing the dad, the mom and/or the kids. I will agree, however, that once this nonsense starts it often takes longer for women to realize they are being screwed and they are often less willing to stand up and object to the this behavior, particularly when the judges are condoning if not encouraging it.

    1. Correct. It is all about the cash. Women how realize their lawyer, the GAL, etc. are out to screw them do just was well as the men. The problem is, women are usually too trusting.

  6. 7 years in divorce with a personal injury attorney....why? Trust. Discovery. Just wait Delay delay for lining pockets and I trusted my first attorney in new york.I was sick most of those years with multiple dental surgeries and more. Trust is the issue. He was a liar corrupt and did not defend me. On paperwork it does. The attornies and judges know how to generate the paperwork to protect their ass. My first attorney harmed me by allowing me to leave my spouse in my home since he was paying tuition for my son which also was a lie. He took out compounding high interest loans as an attorney and made sure they were in his son's name to hold him financial hostage with a pendente lite which is not being enforced by my 2nd attorney "like a daughter" to the Judge. He stated this in court... when she threatened to leave me "get along kids she is like a daughter to me" but it never found it's way to the transcript... much of what was said was not found in the transcript.. intentionally. I called the court reporter who denied everything. Court reporters are protecting the judge too along with everyone else in the court. It is beyond belief. The Judges need to be removed or there needs total reform....the system is out of control biased and psychotic. Those attornies and judges manipulating and controlling the system are the insane people and their court possee in house are the wild wild west of abuse and criminal behavior..