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Showing posts with label CUSTODY EVALUATIONS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CUSTODY EVALUATIONS. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE CT JUDICIAL BRANCH FAMILY CIVIL INTAKE FORM: IS IT A PATRIARCHAL TOOL OF OPPRESSION!

*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.

INTRODUCTION
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 HISTORY OF THE INTAKE SCREEN
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?

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE INTAKE SCREEN
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 BASIS FOR DEVELOPING THE SCREEN
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 SCREEN IS A FATHER’S RIGHTS INSTRUMENT
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.

WHAT DOES THE SCREEN MEASURE?
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.

CONCLUSION

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.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

HAVE YOU BEEN HARMED AND DAMAGED BY CUSTODY EVALUATOR DR. JAMES CONNOLLY? WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

For many years now, there have been many complaints from protective mothers in regard to custody evaluator Dr. James Connolly.  Are you one such victim?  If so, this website would be interested in hearing from you.   

If you believe that Dr. Connolly invented the information he placed in your custody evaluation, if he misrepresented the facts in your case, if you discovered he deceived you into believing you had his support when you did not, if he charged you large sums of money for his work and did not deliver, if he failed to adhere to the APA standards for custody evaluations, if he inserted quack science such as parental alienation syndrome (PAS) or its equivalent in your evaluation, if he allowed your ex to put your children at risk of injury and did nothing about it, or committed any other malfeasance of this kind, please let us know.  

We can be contacted at the following email address:  Slopercathy@gmail.com.

All communications will be held strictly confidential. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CHANGES TO CT PRACTICE BOOK SEC. 25-60 RE FAMILY SERVICES EVALUATIONS PUT LITIGANTS AT RISK!

PAGE 42-43 SUGGESTED PRACTICE BOOK REVISION-THIS WOULD BE ADDED TO SECTION 25-60 ON FAMILY COURT PRACTICE AND POTENTIALLY RESTRICT LITIGANTS' ACCESS TO VITAL INFORMATION NECESSARY TO ARGUE THEIR CASES!  SEE BELOW THE SUGGESTED ADDITION:


"(d) The file compiled by the Family Services Unit in the course of preparing any mediation report or conflict resolution conference report shall not be available for inspection or copying unless otherwise ordered by the judicial authority. The file compiled by the Family Services Unit in the course of preparing an evaluation or study conducted pursuant to Section 25-61 that has been completed and filed with the clerk in accordance with subsection (b) shall be available for inspection only to counsel of record, guardians ad litem, and the parties to the action to the extent permitted by any applicable authorization for release of information; and further provided that copies of documents, notes, information or other material in the file shall only be provided to such individuals if they make the request in writing and certify that it is requested for legitimate purposes of trial preparation and/or trial proceedings in the case in which the evaluation or study was filed. For purposes of this section, the word ‘‘file’’ shall include any documents, notes, information or other material retained by the Family Services Unit in any format.

(e) Any information or copies of the file disclosed pursuant to this section shall not be further disclosed unless otherwise ordered by the judicial authority or as otherwise authorized in this section." 

THE CT JUDICIAL BRANCH'S COMMENTARY ON THIS SECTION'S INCLUSION:

COMMENTARY: The changes to this section clarify what information from Family Services files compiled in connection with the reports, evaluations and studies under this section are subject to inspection and copying and by whom, to whom those copies can be provided, and for what purpose can they be requested. The changes also provide that any information or copies disclosed may not be further disclosed except as otherwise ordered or authorized.* 

*In other words you can be subjected to endless, unnecessary obstruction to your access to vital evidence in your case.  While issues of confidentiality regarding certain documents is important, I think the wording of this revision is so careless it could end up restricting family court litigants from accessing important information they need for their own cases.  If the purpose of this revision is to safeguard confidentiality, it must be rewritten to ensure that it does not inadvertently end up cutting off the parties themselves from being able to review important documents in their cases.  As it looks now, the way this revision is worded, the latter could very easily happen.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EMPOWER A BULLY: THE TRAGEDY OF MATHEW COULOUTE!

There are few cases that present the spectacle of the foolishness of family court here in CT quite as effectively as the Mathew Couloute versus Lauren Haiden versus Stacey Blitsch cases.  

Mathew Couloute, for those who are interested, is a native son, born and raised here in CT and said to be an associate of Gov. Dan Malloy.  An attorney and formerly a state prosecutor, Mr. Couloute is a talented, intelligent, capable if not brilliant professional with some unfortunately fatal character flaws, one being an inability to maintain a steady and law abiding career path, and the other, a complete inability to maintain a decent and courteous relationship with the mothers of his two children currently aged 11 and 5.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

ARE FORENSIC EVALUATIONS OR PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATIONS LEGAL IN FAMILY COURT PROCEEDINGS? "WONDER WOMAN" OF THE GOLDEN LASSO BLOG SUGGESTS THAT THEY ARE NOT!

USC 42 § 12101 – 12203 and the NPRM and Judicial Conferences have provided functional regulations re: confidentiality, all of which impacts the legality of the decision to conduct forensic evaluations and psychological evaluations and how the results of those evaluations will be used.

Monday, August 15, 2016

DOES A CHILD'S PREFERENCES MATTER DURING A CUSTODY DISPUTE?

My parents were married for over 60 years, but it wasn't all a bed of roses.  I will never forget how, after one of their big fights, my father asked me who I wanted to live with once they divorced--him or my Mom.  I wasn't going to be stupid and answer a question like that--even at ten I knew better!  Sure enough, they made up and the question became moot.  

However, if I'd thought it was a serious question, this is what I might have answered.  I would have said I wanted to live with my Mom, not because she was the better parent, but because she needed me more because of her drug and alcohol addiction.  I'm not sure that would have been such a good idea, however!  

So how do judges decide who gets the children--do they just ask the kids or what?   

The question of who gets custody of the children after a divorce remains a complex and difficult question in some divorce cases.  Luckily, most people see the common sense of keeping Mother in charge when she has been the primary parent on an ongoing basis and allowing for generous visitation from Dad.  But in divorces where custody is under dispute, how does the Court make the decision in regard to custody, and do judges in these cases take into account the preferences of the children involved?  

In CT, under 46b-56(b) the following factors are supposed to be taken into account as follows:
  1. The child's developmental needs
  2. Each parent's ability to meet the child's needs
  3. Each parent's desire to have custody
  4. The child's relationship with each parent, siblings, and anyone else living in either parent's home that may affect the child's best interests
  5. The stability of each parent's residence
  6. Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  7. Whether either parent tries to manipulate the child or involve him or her in the parent's dispute
  8. Each parent's ability to be actively involved in the child's life
  9. The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  10. The length of time the child has lived in the current environment if it's stable
  11. The child and parents' mental and physical health
  12. The child's cultural background
  13. Either parent's history of domestic violence
  14. Whether the child has been abused and neglected
  15. The child's wishes as to custody, and
  16. Any other factors relevant to custody
As you can see, the child's wishes are way down there under 15.  It is not highlighted as a major factor.  

However, what I find really interesting when I talk to people who have not yet been to Court over custody is how many parents believe judges put a lot of weight on what the child wants.  In fact, what the child wants, even when he or she is a teenager, often isn't a major consideration in regard to custody decisions.  I hear so many parents say my daughter or son wants to live with me and he is 8, or 10, or 12 or whatever age, and can now decide.  Well, no, that is not the case.  Ultimately, the judge decides and the decisions will be made based upon the judges' assessment of all the factors under consideration listed 1 - 16 above, even one as vague as #16 "any other factors relevant to custody." 

In addition, keep in mind that the final decision is supposed to be based upon that often vague and greatly vilified standard "the best interests of the child."  

I hope all of you noted the "friendly parent" factor that so many protective mother advocates hate item #6 on the list above.  We do have a friendly parent factor in the State of Connecticut!  

So, despite the limitations involved that I have mentioned, at what age can the Judge begin to take into account the preferences of the child?  In the State of CT at younger than 5, the opinion of the child is not a consideration.  At 13, the child's preferences have a much greater impact. Between 5 and 13, Judges will consider the child's preferences on a case by case basis, whatever that means.  In California, FYI, the age at which a child's preferences are considered is 14.  

However, Judges ultimately have complete discretion regarding the impact a child's preferences will have on a custody decision.  If the Judge thinks that a child's preferences are based on poor judgment, he or she is unlikely to consider them.  As Divorcenet stated "A court can disregard a child's preference when the judge believes it's not in the child's best interests."  

Notoriously, if judges believe that a child's preference is founded upon "Parental Alienation Syndrome" PAS, that judge will be unlikely to grant custody to the alleged offending parent no matter what the child says. This is what happened in the Kathi Sorrentino case where the child was 15 and expressed a preference to be with his mother. However, the child's preference, on the most frivolous grounds, was determined to be an expression of PAS so father was given sole custody.  

Therefore, people who think their child can make up his or her own mind at the age of 13, this is simply not the case.   Case law supports this wishy washy approach as in Knock v. Knock, 224 Conn. 776, 788-9 (1991) where the Supreme Court ruled that the Court "does not require that the trial court award custody to whomever the child wishes, it requires only that the court take the child's wishes into consideration."  So a Judge may or may not take a child's preferences into consideration.  

So, how does the judge discover what a child's preferences may be.  In Divorcenet, there was a complete discussion regarding judges determining a child's preferences by interviewing the child in chambers along with a discussion of how an attorney should manage that kind of interview.  In all my time hearing about divorce and custody matters in Connecticut during the last decade, I have never known a judge to interview a child in chambers about his or her preferences.  It could be this does happen and I just don't know about it, but still.

Also, there was a discussion of when children can testify in open Court regarding their preferences.  I have known many parents to insist that their children ought to have the right to testify in Court regarding their preferences. As far as I can see, judges absolutely frown on parents who insist upon putting their children through the trauma of testifying in Court.  This is so certain that I can pretty much say that if you insist upon having your children testify while your ex doesn't, that's about a guarantee that you will not get custody of your children!  

For the better part, if there is a custody dispute, what happens is that if your child is under 13, the court will appoint a GAL, a custody evaluator, or a family relations officer to do a thorough investigation of your circumstances in order to present a recommendation to the court which will ordinarily be accepted.  If the child is 13 or older, it is likely the child will be assigned an attorney of the minor child in order to advocate for that child's wishes.  But all of this is really not rigidly adhered to.  I've seen children who have both a GAL and an AMC. I've seen children over 13 who only have a GAL.  It all depends upon the politics of your particular case.  

The real danger of these investigators is that you have to rely on their word that when they report the wishes of the children that they are actually telling the truth.  I have no doubt that they lie on occasion.  Thus, if you have any concerns about the investigator in your case, you might want to have your child sit down and write to the investigator stating what his or her preference is so that it is on the record.  If the custody evaluator or GAL will not accept it, which is what happened to me, you can simply submit it directly to the Court.

You may be accused of manipulating your child to write the letter, but if you have concerns about the truthfulness of the professionals in your case, it is better to be thought of as manipulative than not have your child's preferences considered at all.  

Bottom line is, the State of Connecticut has a presumption of joint legal custody if both of you agree to that.  What is interesting is how few attorneys actually explain that to their clients.  What you are actually fighting over most of the time is which parent is going to be the residential parent, i.e. the home where the children primarily reside, i.e. what is considered their residence legally speaking for matters such as school attendance.  Other than that, the sky is the limit in terms of how much actual time each parent gets to spend with the children.  

Traditionally, the visitation is set for one or two evenings a week and every other weekend for the non-residential parent, but I have known people to renegotiate that for more time for the non-residential parent.  

When you get down to it, fighting over this day here or that day there to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars is pretty silly, and most couples left to their own devices will work out a modus vivendi.  

The question is do you truly want to create an unpleasant atmosphere by quarreling at every turn.  Many abusive family court attorneys and vendors would love you to, but it is your job to see through them and move forward. Trust me, ten years later when you are considering college tuition fees, you will be happy you did so. 

Bottom line, again, when it comes to the children's preferences, do not count on them to get you custody because it is not an absolute.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

MORE COMMENTS ON THE DECISION OF THE FAMILY COMMISSION TO RETREAT BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!

Denying the parents access to the Custody Study is a common and old scam. Here's a paragraph from the minutes of the January 21, 2015 Family Commission meeting which deals with the issue:

"Item 01-06J concerns Practice Book Section 25-60A. The request is that any private evaluation not be given to the parties or any attorneys in a case without a court order regarding the report’s dissemination. The members of the Commission discussed whether or not the ADA preempts Practice Book Rule 25- 60A. The members of the Commission agreed that once an evaluation is marked as an exhibit at trial that the Confrontation Clause and Due Process Clause of the Constitution would require that the evaluation be made available. Concerns were raised about how a case can be resolved without knowing the contents of an evaluation. Another consideration discussed by the members of the Commission involved trying to protect children from the contents of the evaluation. Evaluation contents have been known to turn up on the internet and on social media where children and even the public can see it. The Commission will ask the Legal Services Unit to research the issue of whether the ADA preempts Practice Book Section 25-60A. Judge Dranginis, Steven Dembo, and Thomas Parrino will work on draft language for the members of the Commission to consider at the next meeting."


The general idea is to make the parents pay for a Custody Study and then allow the judge to base orders on the Custody Study without revealing the contents to the parents. 

The Family Commission minutes suggest that once the study is marked as an exhibit at trial, the Confrontation Clause and Due Process Clause require it to be made available. 

This discussion shows how little constitutional law family law judges and lawyers know. The Confrontation Clause is part of the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution. It provides that in all CRIMINAL matters, the accused has the right to be confronted with witnesses against him. 

I'm sure that parents may feel like criminal defendants in family court, but the provision does not apply. 

The 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause does apply, and it applies much more broadly than the Family Commission minutes suggest. In fact, parents have a constitutional due process right to see the report before the judge uses it to justify any action. Moreover, since they paid for the report, the parents may very well own it. It is their report. By denying them access to it, the court violates their liberty interest in their own property. 

Of course this latter issue is present every time the a family court judge orders parents to pay the divorce industry. 

In short, Connecticut family courts just blatantly violate parents' constitutional rights as a matter of practice. 

The January 21, 2015 Family Commission minutes are interesting in that, for the first time ever, the judges and divorce lawyers actually purport to address a constitutional issue. And of course their analysis is horribly wrong.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

MORE RESPONSES TO NEWS THAT FAMILY COMMISSION IS DISBANDING, RETREATING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!


Here is my favorite Munro story: 

The psychologists that were big into the "custody study" business realized that it if they actually had to write a custody study, someone might actually read it and realize that there was no scientific, psychological or other basis for anything in the report. 

So Horowitz & Krieger perfected the art of delaying, deferring, demanding "feedback sessions" and other dirty tricks to avoid ever having to issue the report. 

Of course, they still got paid for their work but they'd try to make the case settle without having to write anything for which they could be held accountable. The other psychologists started to copy their methods. Then the game became how to bill the greatest number of hours and make life as difficult as possible for the parents to force the family to settle (or just let the crazy people kill each other or the kids) and never have to issue a report. 

However, in some rare cases, they actually had to write a report, which some logical litigant might actually read. 

What to do? 

Answer: get the judge to order that the parents not be permitted to read the report. You make up some reason like the parents might release the report to the public in a manner that would hurt the kids. 

(Remember, in family court fantasyland, the PARENTS are bad for the kids, while the DIVORCE INDUSTRY is good for the kids.) 

Thus, in a Stamford matter, Munro ordered the parents to take the kids to (I think) Horowitz, pay him whatever he asked for, then Munro ordered that the parents not be permitted to read the Custody Evaluation, and then she started issuing orders based on the Custody Evaluation that she had forbade the parents from even reading. At this point, the ultimate goal has been realized: the parents role has been reduced to simply writing checks to the divorce industry. 

True story. This is due process in Connecticut family court. You get to write the check, or you will lose custody of your kids and be incarcerated.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

FURTHER TEST RESULTS: THE COLLEEN KERWICK STORY, PART IV

I've pretty much covered all the significant points that were in the Savino custody evaluation.  But there were a few additional areas of investigation that are worth reviewing before we continue on.  

For example, just so all of the curious know, at the end of 2011 when Dr. Sidney Horowitz was conducting the custody evaluation with Colleen Kerwick it looks as though she was ambulating well.  Ken was ambulating well too.   You wouldn't want any bad ambulators around.

Further, both were "oriented in all spheres."  I mean if either had one of the spheres excluded and didn't bring it up to speed, we'd definitely have a problem, I am sure.  

Doesn't look as if either had any dysmorphic features--I mean God forbid.  

Both appeared to have euthymic affect.  Hmmmm.  

No thoughts of killing themselves or others.  Glad to hear that, or it would be rather alarming.  

In short, both Colleen Kerwick and Kenneth Savino appear to have the exact same mental status.  Like I said, in the "both are wrong" world, everything kind of goes bing, bong, ding, dong.  

Ambulating forward, I do take note that apparently Colleen has "a relative weakness in visual motor integration."  Oh. my. God!!!  Do you think this will affect her parenting skills?  

But, wait a minute, look at that Kenneth!  Dr. Horowitz has offered that "a relative weakness in his nonverbal abilities is noted!"  

I mean without nonverbal abilities, I'm feeling very ambivalent.  I mean a Dad without proper nonverbal abilities--can you really trust him around a very young child?  This is, indeed, something we must carefully consider.  

And, under the circumstances, one must balance out the relative importance of visual motor integration problems versus nonverbal communication skills.  In the scheme of things, perhaps it would be better to have a parent who is better at nonverbal communication skills even though that parent isn't so great at visual motor integration problems.  

But then again, we mustn't take these features out of context as Dr. Sidney Horowitz states in his "caveat--redux" in the section on Kenneth Savino where he again repeats that "the psychological test interpretations presented herein are hypotheses, etc. etc." 

Again, ambulating along, based upon the Hooper Test, looks like both parents have a very low likelihood of neurological impairment in regard to vision--so looking good, looks like when they are diapering the baby they will both be able to identify where to plant the diaper.  

Score for Colleen Kerwick!  It looks as though she does not have any learning disabilities.  

However, the CTMT for Kenneth brings us some more problematic results.  

Specifically, "the results suggest that Mr. Savino is functioning in the average range on the easier trails, but shows a huge disparity ranging from the 6th percentile to the 62nd percentile on more difficult trails."  

What this means is that "The aforementioned "relative weakness" in the perceptual domain coupled with what will later be described as an underlying anxiety, may account for his performance on the test."  

But that doesn't mean he has any anxiety at all as Dr. Sidney Horowitz reassures us, "That said, there is no indication of a formal underlying neuropsychological deficit per se."  

Whew!  I am glad to hear that or I would have been worried.  

I think everyone reading this blog will also be glad to hear that the results of the Slosson Oral Reading Test - Third Edition - indicate that both Colleen Kerwick and Kenneth Savino both know how to read at the high school level.  

I mean, what would we do if Colleen, an aviation attorney who has passed the bar couldn't read at a high school level.  What would we be required to do?  Revoke her law degree?  And as for Kenneth, no more wealth management for you, bad boy.  Not reading on the high school level, you should be ashamed.  

Ok, that was just an imaginative scenario.  But seriously, if it turned out that, say, Kenneth, didn't know how to read, would they truly deny him custody?  Is there some rule out there stating that literate parents are superior and more effective as parents than non-literate parents--is there some body of research we have out there which proves the value of reading in parents over non-readers?  

Finally, there were some very interesting parent/child observations, one with Colleen Kerwick and also with Kenneth Savino.  

In the parent/child visit with Colleen Kerwick, the child went on a search for toy trucks and began to whine when he couldn't find the trucks.  Ms. Kerwick attempted to redirect the child's attention away from the trucks, asking him to read books instead.  

[Of course, I, zee grrreat doktor had hidden away all zee trrrucks, but that is my secret!  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!]

Still, no matter what Mother did the child continued to express the fact that he wanted to play with trucks.  Trucks being effectively a symbol of the masculine, clearly the child had a specific need to identify with that masculine activity as opposed to the feminine activity of reading a book.  

Mother's refusal to play with trucks probably reflects her inability to come to terms with the masculine in her life and in the life of the child.  

Dr. Horowitz plans on paying close attention to the child's truck playing for the future.  I mean, if mother cannot accept trucks as a legitimate toy playing activity, it may not be appropriate for her to be the primary parent.  

This is a serious consideration.  

As for the father, during his parent/child activity, he was able to find some cars in the toy box which the child was very happy to play with.  Both father and son practiced using the word "poopy" in a he man type way which was reminiscent of burping games young men play in local bars, so clearly a very healthy father/son type activity.  

I'm sorry folks, when it comes to game playing and letting boys be boys, father as primary parent is looking a little bit better than mother.  Repeat after me, "Mommy is a sissy."  Mommy is a sissy..."

[Vat are you crrrying for, young man, big boyz don't do zee crrrying!]

To be continued...

Friday, May 1, 2015

FINDING OUT THE TRUTH: THE COLLEEN SAVINO STORY, PART III

In looking at a custody case like the one Savino v. Savino, it can be really difficult to be sure who is telling the truth.  So many cases are just a "he said, she said situation" and there is a lot of white noise which makes it hard to tell.  

However, what I think is particularly persuasive for a writer like me is the ultimate outcome.  During the time that I have known Colleen Kerwick she has always stated how important it is for the father to share in the life of her child.  She has repeatedly stated she would never want to eliminate him from her child's life, and in the custody report she specifically stated, "I don't want him out of my son's life, but I need to be involved too."  

Furthermore, much to my annoyance she has come out firmly in support of shared parenting which would give 50/50 parenting time to both parents.  

In contrast, I can see that Kenneth Savino has repeatedly attempted to have Colleen arrested, seized total control of their child based upon a fake amber alert, and has done whatever he could to push her out of their child's life.  I don't know what the context was for Dr. Sidney Horowitz in 2012, but in 2015, I can confirm that when it comes to Colleen's statements that she was abused, her statements that Kenneth was trying to remove her from the life of their child, time has proven them to be true.  

It is sort of a situation where murder will out!  

As a trained therapist, I am not sure why Dr. Horowitz didn't pick up on this except for the common money making goal so many mental health professionals have that persuades them to go by the model "both are wrong" no matter what contrary evidence exists.  There is no doubt that Dr. Sidney Horowitz was at considerable pains to tweak the results the way he wanted them to go.

One point I am clear on is that Dr. Horowitz didn't care to acknowledge that Colleen Kerwick was a victim of domestic violence and sorry to say, in writing up his evaluation, he pretty much painted her as a liar because she reported the abuse she'd experienced.  I can relate to what Colleen went through here, because when I reported the abuse I was enduring, the evaluator in my case did pretty much the same thing. 

I think this denial occurs simply because mental health professionals can't bear to acknowledge that abuse occurs in a great many middle class homes.  But also age plays a role here--both Colleen and I married considerably older men.  Doctors such as Horowitz, and the psychiatrist in my case, like to characterize women like us as manipulative bitches who are financially and emotionally exploiting our much older and more well established ex-husbands because it taps into a primordial fear that the majority of successful men like themselves have buried deep down in their psyche.  

Specifically, Colleen was 17 years younger than her ex-husband and I am 15 years younger than mine.  Inevitably that age difference makes a poor impression on these male doctors who just assume that if a woman marries an older man, it must be for some nefarious purpose.  

Thus, it is striking that Dr. Horowitz' report never mentions that Colleen Kerwick was employed as an aviation attorney and is a fluent Irish speaker, but does mention that Ken Savino "is employed in the wealth management business."  By withholding information on Colleen's professional background, Dr. Horowitz appears to imply that Colleen is the kind of woman who intended to sit at home eating bon bons and counting Kenneth's money while Ken Savino was at work!  

Isn't that what those cute younger babes do--marry up!  

And how do women like Colleen manage to exploit their husbands like that?  They do that with their superior cleverness; thus, even though both Colleen and Kenneth had almost identical scores on the IQ tests they both took, Dr. Sidney Horowitz describes Colleen as having above average intelligence and then describes Kenneth as having only average intelligence.  

Dr. Horowitz also skewed and misrepresented test results in order to make it look as though Colleen Kerwick was a deceptive individual but Kenneth was not.  For instance, Dr. Horowitz used the Paulhus Deception Scale to measure the degree of faking in the psychological testing.  In regard to Colleen, he reported that Colleen scored in the 99.98% for impression management and scored 70.75% in self-deception, the latter actually being a somewhat average score. In his assessment of these scores, he indicated they should lead anyone to view her remarks with "a great deal of" caution.  

On the other hand, Kenneth Savino scored in the 84th% for impression management, and Dr. Horowitz conveniently withholds the score he received for self-deception, but says it was average--so why doesn't he just share the results with us?  (More about that later)  Keep in mind, also, that Ken Savino's score on impression management is only 16 percent lower than Colleen's score, and it is still in the very high range. Nonetheless, Dr. Horowitz would have us believe that, in contrast to Colleen, based on these results, we can approach what Kenneth says "with some degree of caution".  

Dr. Horowitz makes Kenneth look as though he is so very honest in contrast to Colleen.  But is this what the tests really indicate?

I have an explanation for Colleen's high score in terms of impression management.  It is the consequence of her European background which places an extensive emphasis on impression management.  I feel I can say this because my parents were European as well.  

Unlike Americans who believe they can let everything hang out and express their authenticity, European culture emphasizes making a good impression on others, exercising good manners and adhering to proper social expectations as among their highest values when it comes to behavior.  You never, never air your private and personal matters in public.  Naturally, then, as a native of Ireland, Colleen would score highly on impression management.  I'll bet I would too.  It is very important to note that as a result of these cultural differences many Europeans dislike Americans.  

If Dr. Sidney Horowitz failed to be sensitive to cultural differences when he conducted the forensic evaluation, even though he is required to do so, this is certainly a problem.  But still, as I said, keep in mind that in regard to impression management even though Colleen's score is extremely high, Kenneth's score really isn't that far behind!

So what about Kenneth Savino's mysterious self-deception score?  Later in the report, we are told that in the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) Mr. Savino had a very high level of self-defensiveness which measured in the 89.74% which Dr. Horowitz stated could make him  "minimize, deny, or even be unaware of his shortcomings"--this sounds suspiciously similar to the self-deception score that Dr. Horowitz didn't want to share with us earlier on.  

So if you looked at the test scores properly Colleen is very high in impression management, but fairly low in self-deception.  In contrast, Kenneth is somewhat lower in impression management than Colleen, but considerably higher in self-deception than Colleen--approximately 20% higher.  

So when Dr. Horowitz speaks of Colleen and says you should be considerably more cautious about believing her than you would be in believing Kenneth, he is full of garbage because his own test results prove otherwise.  If you are going to look at the numbers, the two actually balance each other out, although Kenneth clearly has a considerably lower capacity for insight.  

The only way you can actually figure out what is going on is to look at the context, and for that all we have to do is look at the reality of the abuse that Colleen Kerwick experienced. 

Dr. Sidney Horowitz cast a shadow of doubt on Colleen Kerwick's statements in regard to abuse because she came in with a bound notebook full of emails as evidence of his abuse, which I understand Dr. Horowitz chose to ignore. I mean, God forbid she bring in actual concrete evidence.  

Also, she came in with her domestic violence counselor, Ms. Shanthi Roe and other support persons.  In a mocking and skeptical manner, Dr. Horowitz states, "Ms Kerwick Savino would have this evaluator believe that Mr. Savino is a manipulative, mosogynistic, controlling and hostile individual."  [Surprisingly enough, or not, however you see it, Dr. Sidney Horowitz never expresses a similar skepticism regarding the lurid accusations Kenneth Savino made about Colleen!]

Still, the reality is that Dr. Sidney Horowitz own test results regarding Kenneth Savino absolutely support Colleen Savino's remarks.  To quote Dr. Horowitz' report regarding Kenneth Savino, "The respondent's [Kenneth Savino's] interpersonal style seems best characterized as being domineering and over controlling.  He has strong needs to control others and... likely has little tolerance for those who disagree with his plans and desires.  Others view him as being rather overbearing and dictatorial.  Although able to express some degree of warmth, his need to be in control in relationships probably taxes the endurance of those who are close to him."  

In commentary a little further on, Dr. Horowitz states, "He appears to compensate for [anxiety and self doubt] by acting in a controlling (if not bullying) fashion in an attempt to bolster his hindered self-esteem."  

This means that despite Dr. Sidney Horowitz mockery of Colleen Savino's observations regarding her ex husband, in fact the test results indicate that her statements were perfectly accurate despite the need to view her observations with -- what does the report say? -- a great deal of caution.  What is more, Kenneth Savino's own behavior since he took these tests, which I described earlier in this blog, also back up what Colleen has stated.

Finally, Colleen reported that Kenneth Savino had an extensive history of mental health difficulties prior to and during their marriage, but surprise surprise, Dr. Horowitz suppressed that evidence by playing phone tag with Mr. Savino's psychiatrist and never actually speaking to him.  That's a great way to skew a custody evaluation in favor of the father.  Just prevent data from his mental health background from ever making it onto the record!  

In this clever way, by simply manipulating the psychological test results to cast an unwarranted shadow of doubt on Colleen Kerwick's truthfulness and downplaying or hiding the data on Kenneth Savino's abusive behavior and mental health difficulties, Dr. Sidney Horowitz was able to present the classic results typical of custody evaluations that underlie the majority of high conflict divorces, results that indicate "both are wrong".  

Unfortunately, both were not wrong, and this is what led to so much tragedy and suffering in this case for both Colleen and her child.

To be continued...