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Showing posts with label CUSTODY SWITCHING SCHEMES. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CUSTODY SWITCHING SCHEMES. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2019


Testimony Regarding How Child Abuse Allegations are Ignored in Family Court and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is used as a Rationale to Award Custody of Children to an Abusive Parent

Joan Meier, JD
Professor of Law, George Washington University
Founder, DV LEAP
February 4, 2019

My name is Joan Meier, a law Professor at George Washington University and Founder of DV LEAP, an advocacy group for expert appellate litigation to reverse unjust trial court rulings and to protect the legal rights of women and children victimized by family violence. We would like to take this opportunity to testify and express our concern for current legislation being introduced to promote the use of Parental Alienation Syndrome as a tool to abuse domestic violence (DV) victims in family court.

Dr. Joan Meier

The Problem

“Protecting our children is one of the most important things that we can do for society. Unfortunately, some courtsare overlooking potential signs of abuse and are relying on scientifically unsound factors to make decisions that impact a child’s life.” Congressman Ted Poe

Despite numerous legislative and policy reforms designed to protect DV victims, many survivors and their children are denied legal protections in family court. Expert commentators assert that family courts are awarding unfettered access or custody to abusive fathers, and increasingly cutting children completely off from their protective mothers. This has been observed especially where mothers allege child sexual abuse. Studies show that an abuser will invoke the “alienation” defense, accusing the mother of trying to turn the children against him, rather than the court acknowledging that his abusive behavior has driven the children away. 

Studies also have identified a trend toward favoring fathers, in contrast to widespread assumptions that mothers are favored in custody litigation. The findings reveal a pattern of family court failures to consider evidence of intimate partner violence, disrespectful treatment of battered women, gender biased treatment of mothers, and granting of physical custody to perpetrators of intimate partner violence.  One study found that court preferences for joint custody and the “friendly parent” principle outweighed judicial consideration of abuse claims. More in-depth empirical research has examined the lack of expertise in domestic violence and child abuse—particularly child sexual abuse—among forensic custody evaluators, who are relied on heavily by the courts. 



A primary mechanism giving evaluators and courts a quasi- scientific rationale for rejecting or ignoring abuse allegations is the theory of “parental alienation (PA),” originally called “parental alienation syndrome (PAS),” and also called “child alienation,” or simply “alienation.” PAS is a construct invented and promoted by Richard Gardner to describe a “syndrome” whereby vengeful mothers employed child abuse allegations in litigation as a powerful weapon to punish ex-husbands and ensure custody to themselves. Gardner claimed that child sexual abuse allegations were rampant in custody litigation, and that the vast majority of such claims are false, designed by the mother to “alienate” the child from the father and drive him out of the child’s life. Gardner also characterized PAS as profoundly destructive to children’s mental health and as risking their relationships with their (purportedly falsely accused) fathers for life. Recommended remedies to PAS were often draconian, including a complete cutoff from the mother in order to “deprogram” the child. PAS quickly became widely incorporated into custody litigation when any abuse—not just child sexual abuse—was alleged. 

The Solution

On September 25, 2018, The U.S. House of Representatives passed H Con Res 72, a concurrent resolution urging state courts to determine family violence claims and risks to children before considering other ‘best interest’ factors. The resolution, backed by dozens of organizations advocating for protection of women and children*, encourages states to ensure courts rely only on admissible evidence and qualified experts, and adopt qualification standards for third-party appointees.  It also affirms that Congress is prepared to use its oversight authority to protect at-risk children. The resolution also asks for   strengthened evidence admissibility standards to help ensure only scientific facts or qualified expert testimony are used to prove or disprove child abuse allegations.

It urges Congress to:
  • identify child safety as the first priority in custody and visitation adjudications, considering it before all other interest factors;
  • allow only qualified scientific evidence and certified expert testimony to be introduced in cases involving child abuse claims; and
  • mandate Congressional hearings around the practices of family courts when handling family violence allegations.
DV LEAP also partnered with the Dept. of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women on a 2-year cooperative agreement to improve the family court system’s ability to protect children in custody cases involving domestic violence or child abuse. The agreement has concluded but great accomplishments and resources were achieved. In partnership with the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, we provided education on critical issues that often determine case outcomes, such as the misuse of flawed parental alienation theories and failure to consider evidence of abuse. One particularly powerful aspect of the Project’s work was the development of a unique database of cases that have “Turned Around.”  These are cases in which the initial custody order placed a child (or children) in dangerous contact with an abusive parent and a subsequent order protected the child. Analysis of these cases provided valuable understanding of how and why custody evaluations so frequently fail to identify or predict actual risk to children who are victims of family violence.

As as result of this Cooperative Agreement, DV LEAP and the Leadership Council produced a number of written tools and resource materials to assist professionals working in the family court system.  Links to each of the documents are provided below.

I. Resources on the misuse of Parental Alienation Syndrome/Parental Alienation

II. Resources for attorneys and advocates representing protective parents

III. Research Summaries

IV. Other Resource Materials
Critiques and Case Reports of GALs’ Failures to Protect Children in Custody and Abuse Cases

Data on False Allegations in Custody Context.

We respectfully suggest that any family court legislation involving custody, PAS, allegations of child abuse and  DV be thoroughly vetted by experts in the field of Domestic Violence.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this written testimony. I can be reached with any questions at

*The list of organizations that have been advocating for passage of H. Con. Res 72 includes Advocates for Child Empowerment & Safety (ACES); California Protective Parents Association (CPPA); Center for Judicial Excellence (CJE); City of Covina; Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP); ACTION OHIO Coalition For Battered Women; Azusa City Council; Battered Mothers’ Custody Conference; California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV); Center for Child Protection and Family Support; Child Abuse Forensic Institute (CAFI); Child Abuse Solutions, Inc.; Child Justice; Child Protection Institute (CPI) at Liberty University; Child USA; Children’s Civil Rights Union (CCRU); Children’s Justice Fund; Coalition Against Domestic Violence – Lynchburg VA; Courageous Kids Network (CKN); Darkness to Light; Distinction in Family Courts (DFC); Families Against Court Travesties; Family Violence Appellate Project (FVAP); Futures Without Violence (FUTURES); Incest Survivors Speakers Bureau (ISSB); Joan of Arc Lawyers Foundation, Inc.; Justice for Children; Kids Are Human; Legislative Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse; Legal Momentum; Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Lundy Bancroft; MassKids (Massachusetts Citizens for Children); Moms Fight Back; Mothers of Lost Children; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV); National Coalition for Family Justice (NCFJ); National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV); National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS); National Organization for Women (NOW); National Partnership to End Interpersonal Violence (NPEIV); National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence; Peace Over Violence; Piqui’s Justice; Senator Ed Hernandez; SOAR for Justice; Stop Abuse Campaign; Support Network of Advocates for Protective Parents (SNAPP); Talk About Abuse to Liberate Kids (TAALK); The Hofheimer Family Law Firm; The Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence; The Nurtured Parent; and Wings for Justice.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


Some of you may be familiar with the situation where a judge, citing Strobel v. Strobel, gives an order that certain Family Court litigants can no longer file motions to the Court without permission. I know Susan Skipp has faced this kind of order and it is also in place in connection to the Mathew Couloute case.  

For a long time, I actually laughed at this order and made light of it. I couldn't believe that Family Court would actuallly have the nerve to cut off litigants' access to justice.  As it turns out, however, the joke is on me because such an order is alive and well.  This is what motivated me to take a look at the Strobel v. Strobel order and the case itself that gave rise to it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


It is with sadness that I have to report the death of Jonathan P. Wiegand who died suddenly on Friday August 11, 2017.  See link:

During the 1990s, as a child of 4, Jonathan was in the center of an extremely controversial custody case in which his mother, Linda Wiegand, accused the stepfather, Thomas Wilkinson, of sexually abusing his stepson, Jonathan, and their younger son, Ben (3).  At one point, Ms. Wiegand fled to Las Vegas and two years later was discovered and charged with custodial interference.  

Jonathan P. Wiegand
This case set the stage for future custody switching schemes in which protective mothers in the State of Connecticut have lost custody, and indeed, all access to their children who are then transferred into the sole custody of the fathers who abused them.  The players in her case subsequently went on to become involved in other cases where good parents lost custody of their children.  This includes Judge Herbert Barall, Dr. Kenneth Robson, Attorney Louis Kiefer, and Dr. James C. Black.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


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:

All communications will be held strictly confidential. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


For some time now, I have been trying to wrap my head around the involvement of Attorney Bradford Barneys as Attorney for the Minor Child (AMC) in the Stvan v. Stvan case.   As you all may recall, I had written an extensive series of articles about the Stvan case which are located at the following link:  

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Many of us have come to believe that our own attorney was working for the other side. However, when we confronted our attorneys about our suspicions or brought the issue up before the Court, we have been scoffed at and mocked.  

In the letter below, you will see how one litigant, Roisin Cassidy, actually caught out two of her attorneys working in coordination together and with the opposing attorney so that she would lose custody through a scheme that revolved around court rules in regard to discovery.  What the attorneys did was collude with each other in a post judgment custody switching scheme to allow the abusive father discovery, while Ms. Cassidy was prohibited from doing so.

Monday, January 16, 2017


Linda Wiegand and her son in happier times
The Linda Wiegand Case:  Part I

So What Happened?  The Linda Wiegand Case:  Part II

Linda Wiegand Case:  Part III He Said

Linda Wiegand:  Part IV She Said

Linda Wiegand, Part V:  The Judge Said

Linda Wiegand, Part VI:  Rambo Said

Part VII:  Linda Wiegand, A Pedophile Conspiracy

Part VIII:  Linda Wiegand, Conclusion


Gifts of Love and a Surprising Twist

Clayton R. Douglas of "The Free American" Comments on the Linda Wiegand Case

Charges Dropped Against Linda Wiegand

Saturday, November 5, 2016


On Febrary 12, 2005, Ms. Paige Stvan's then husband, Mr. Thomas Stvan, yelled at her, telling her to "shut the fuck up", told her that she was "worthless" and continued to call her all sorts of names. Finally, he became extremely violent, grabbed a glass from her hand and crushed it on her head."  To protect herself, Ms. Stvan threatened to call the police, at which point her ex left the apartment and for some reason only known to him went to the police to preemptively report himself.  He was immediately arrested and an order of protection was issued on Ms. Paige Stvan's behalf.  

Needless to say, Ms. Paige Stvan is a victim of domestic violence.  This observation has been backed up by mental health professionals as follows:

Dr. Linda Gunsberg on Paige Stvan, "She has been going through a divorce and re-litigation until now and there is no end in sight.  Her ruthless and will only stop when he has totally devastated Ms. [Stvan] financially and emotionally...As a result of this abusive marriage and endless Court appearances, Ms. [Stvan] is not only the victim of Domestic Violence, but also suffers from PTSD.  She lives in constant fear of what her ex-husband will do to her and her [child] next."  

Dr. Gunsberg's diagnosis?  Spouse Violence, Physical: V15.41 and Spouse Abuse, Psychological:  995.82.

Social Worker Ashley Adamson, "Ms. [Stvan] presents with a traumatic history of abuse and neglect [which includes] continuous Domestic Violence since her marriage to Mr. Thomas Stvan...With this in mind, treatment has focused on helping Ms. [Stvan] to understand how her past experiences with emotional and physical violence have impacted her current relationships...and to process...her sudden separation from her child after acting as the primary caregiver for the past twelve years."  

Ms. Adamson commends Ms. Stvan on her ability to "continue to advocate for herself despite constant accusations and hostility from her ex-husband."  

So how does it end up that at the same time that Ms. Paige Stvan receives treatment as the victim of domestic violence and remains currently a client of one of the State's well known domestic violence centers, Judge Gerald Adelman has Ms. Paige Steven down as a perpetrator, not a victim?  Let me make a stab at providing an answer to this puzzling phenomenon.  

Of course, we are all now well aware that the State of Connecticut has the highest dual arrest rate in the nation.  However, in addition to this, Ms. Stvan's case points to a  situation that has been well documented, for example, in a Forbes article by Jeff Landers who reports that abusers are "upending domestic violence laws" in order to get the upper hand in divorce.  As Landers put it, "this ploy is just as ugly as it sounds", "some men..[are getting their wives who are actually the victims] arrested, prosecuted and even sentenced as abusers."  Such men have learned to "reshape domestic violence laws into another weapon of abuse."  

In particular, the Women's Justice Center has posted information about how tougher domestic violence laws have inadvertently resulted in skyrocketing arrest rates of women for domestic violence to the point where arrests of women for domestic violence are now 30 to 40 percent greater than before.  

Another striking point this organization makes is that despite the higher arrest rates, the conviction rates for men versus women remain essentially the same.  While 90 to 95% of males arrested end up being convicted, only 6% of arrested women are convicted, essentially because there isn't sufficient evidence. Basically, they are innocent. According to the Women's Justice Center, this means that "in a significant number of these cases, the officers are mistakenly arresting the victim of domestic violence and not the perpetrator."  

In Ms. Paige Stvan's case this appears to be exactly what occurred.  

I have looked at a considerable amount of the documents filed in the Stvan v. Stvan case.  What strikes me in general is how, at every juncture, Ms. Paige Stvan sought co-parenting therapy, suggested mediation, spoke out about resolving conflicts between the parents for the best interests of the child, attempted to avoid confrontations, avoided calling the police or in any way attempting to get her ex in trouble.  

In contrast, Mr. Thomas Stvan used every single opportunity he could find to report Ms. Stvan to authorities whenever he had the chance.  Simply reading one of his court motions demonstrates an individual who is condemnatory at every turn, mean spirited, harsh, judgmental and blaming.  This is hardly how you speak in regard to the mother of your child, particularly the one who, for the better part, has almost single handedly raised her for 12 years.  

Going beyond that, there is the record of the case itself when it comes to economic abuse.  Clearly, the Stvan's were used to a wealthy style of life.  They had an apartment close to Central Park worth at least $1 million, most likely considerably more.  Mr. Stvan earned a six digit salary while working in the publishing industry for 30 years, and clearly had some family money which helped make their lives even more comfortable.  Ms. Paige Stvan was primarily a homemaker who took care of their child.   

Mr. Thomas Stvan's financial position was sufficiently solid that, at the time that the couple separated in 2008, the Court felt it was reasonable for him to pay monthly support of $4,500 as well as the mortgage for their apartment (As a side note, the couple obtained a legal separation in 2008, and then divorced in 2013).  The agreement also included a provision that would allow Ms Page Stvan and her child to remain in the apartment until the child turned 18.

Still, in the years leading up to that financial agreement and subsequently, Mr. Thomas Stvan regularly withheld and randomized these payments, making sure that Ms. Paige Stvan and her daughter's lives were perilous and uncertain.  Ms. Stvan could never be sure when her ex's failure to pay would lead her to default on her mortgage, when the lack of financial support, or a circumstance where her ex's decision to empty out the bank account, would force her to lean on her credit cards.  

Then Mr. Stvan met and presumably married his current wife, an attorney who worked in civil litigation and who is now a real estate investor.  From then on the situation went from bad to worse.  Starting in 2012, Mr. Stvan returned to court and asked to have his financial obligations to Ms. Paige Stvan lowered.  From that time on, the Court lowered and lowered his obligation until in 2015 it was reduced to nothing.  His way of doing this was the always the same.  Each time Mr. Thomas Stvan would report Ms. Paige Stvan to the police for one concocted excuse or another, and then he would simultaneously go to Court to request a reduction in his payments and, due to his repeated, yet unfounded, claims of being a victim, he would end up being successful.  He also continued to harass Ms. Stvan by repeatedly requesting that the police make wellness visits to check up on their daughter, as well as reporting her to CPS.

As a consequence of this constant emotional and financial pressure, naturally, Ms. Paige Stvan ended up in counseling.  Once that was so, Mr. Stvan then began to use the fact that she was in counseling to accuse her of mental illness in all of his Court documents.  At every court hearing, whenever the police were called (and Mr. Stvan called the police frequently), at every CPS investigation, Mr. Thomas Stvan would tell elaborate stories about how he was a victim of domestic violence and how his ex wife was seriously mentally ill, and with every hearing these stories would become more and more elaborate.  Since Mr. Thomas Stvan was not required to provide any documentary or testimonial evidence to support his lurid tales, he simply got away with it, and one success inevitably built upon that next.    

In one situation, on February 8, 2013, Mr. Stvan had Paige Stvan arrested by claiming that she had broken his glasses and headphone during an argument outside their apartment building.  What is interesting is the wording of the complaint where the police officer stated repeatedly, "I am informed by Thomas Stvan".  There was nothing in the report to indicate that police had checked with Ms. Paige Stvan to obtain her side of the story, and her perspective wasn't included in the report. 

As it turned out, in that situation, because Thomas Stvan insisted upon pressing charges, police handcuffed Ms. Paige Stvan's wrists in front of her daughter before she was taken to the police station.  Then when they arrived at the police station, Mr. Stvan informed the police that his ex-wife had mental illness and so the police, as a matter of regulations, handcuffed her feet as well.  Then since it was Friday and the Court wasn't in session until Monday, Ms. Stvan was then held in a prison cell for the entire weekend.  

Predictably, these charges were ultimately dropped.  On another, very similar, occasion Mr. Thomas Stvan had Paige Stvan arrested for not obeying a court order she'd never seen before, and that the judicial marshal had not even delivered to her yet.  This is the power of Mr. Thomas Stvan to persuade people to do his bidding.  Later, again, these charges were dropped.

However, the fact that the Court decided not to follow up by prosecuting these incidents doesn't appear to matter.   Mr. Thomas Stvan could now claim, as he did in subsequent court hearings, that Ms. Paige Stvan had been previously arrested for domestic violence against him, and for disobeying court orders.  At the behest of Mr. Thomas Stvan, after the 2013 incident, based upon mere allegations, the Court granted Mr. Thomas Stvan a restraining order, custody of his daughter and supervised visitation for Ms. Paige Stvan until the outcome of a CPS investigation, which of course, he instigated by claiming his daughter was present during the incident when, in fact, she hadn't been.  During the entire incident the child was inside the apartment building far away from where it took place.  Of course, it didn't seem to bother police or Mr. Stvan when Paige Stvan was arrested and placed in handcuffs in front of the child.

Again, at that time, during the CPS investigation, caseworkers heard ominous reports of Ms. Paige Stan's mental health status and tendency towards violence from Mr. Stvan, all of which were ultimately found insignificant as Ms. Paige Stvan's parental rights were fully restored five months later.  

Of course, even if Ms. Stvan was cleared of allegations of child abuse, this did not stop Mr. Thomas Stvan from telling the court during his next hearing that his ex wife had been investigated by CPS for child abuse.  

Interestingly enough, when you look at the timing of these attacks on Ms. Paige Stvan they usually parallel a situation where Mr. Thomas Stvan wanted to force Ms. Stvan into an agreement she might not want to sign.  For instance, the arrest and destructive aftermath of the alleged incident re the eyeglasses occurred when Mr. Stvan sought to force Paige Stvan to agree to the sale of her apartment.  A month after Paige Stvan signed the sale papers, she got her daughter back.  

If I can see this pattern so easily, I'm not sure why it is so hard for Attorney Rosa Rebimbas to see it if she makes a proper investigation.  I saw it and nobody's paying me thousands of dollars to figure it out.  

I also want to make the observation that it appears to me that men obtain restraining orders for frivolous reasons, in contrast to women for whom judges raise the bar very high.  For instance, in the arrest on February 8, 2013 the allegation was "Paige broke my glasses."  On June 25, 2015, Mr. Thomas Stvan obtained another restraining order by claiming Ms. Paige Stvan made a few off color remarks to him.  

Do folks remember how Arianne Oyola was unable to obtain a restraining order after reporting that the father of her child pushed and shoved her, violated a prior restraining order twice, threatened to kill her, dismember her body and destroy it with acid, and interfered with her access to her child?  Now that is a credible domestic violence complaint, not the silly nonsense Mr. Thomas Svan came up with.  You have to have a child tossed off a bridge to his death to remind Judges of their responsibility towards women experiencing intimate partner violence.  Men, however, all they have to say is, "She gave me a boo boo." and court professionals roll out the red carpet.  

Throughout this process, Ms. Paige Stvan was represented by a series of attorneys who did nothing to defend her and sucked out of her as much money as they could get without lifting a finger.  This is also a very common experience that abused women have.  While many attorneys will work for men on a sliding scale or establish a payment agreement, for women, particularly those dealing with domestic violence, attorneys want all their money in cash up front.  This gross disparity in the quality of legal representation speaks volumes in regard to why intimate partner violence persists and why so many thousands of women remain trapped in these abusive relationships.  In this situation it affected a vulnerable mother and child who had no defense from a legal system that refused to enforce the law and ensure their safety and wellbeing.  

In his final act of abuse, on September 25, 2015, Mr. Thomas Stvan wrested their child from Ms. Paige Stvan's custody during a rigged legal proceeding where the mother was denied an evidentiary hearing, and then cut off from all access to her child.  As Ms. Stvan explains, during their entire marriage, Mr. Stvan was always able to control her because he would threaten to take her child and never let her see the child again.  As it turns out, even though Paige Stvan did all she could to cooperate with her ex, this is exactly what he did.  

Mr. Thomas Stvan claims that he is the victim.  But how could that be true?  He is the one who no longer has to make any support payments to his ex wife a mere two years after their 2013 divorce.  He is the one who now has sole custody of their child and has been able to cut the mother off from all access.  Only abusers do stuff like that. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


On October 26, 2015, Roisin Cassidy, a protective mother residing in San Mateo, CA received very bad news. Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter, the custody evaluator in her case, had written a 45 page custody evaluation recommending that the court shift primary custody of her two boys to her ex husband, Stephen Tyrrell, who lives outside of California in Washington State, even though she had been the primary caretaker of the children for 15 years. The result would be a situation where Roisin lost all legal custody of her children to the father. Further, Roisin Cassidy would have to get permission from her ex-husband in order to travel outside of the country, whether she had her children with her or not.

Roisin Cassidy is a fighter, particularly when it comes to her children, so instead of giving up in the face of Dr. Perlmutter's assault on her parenthood, Ms. Cassidy decided to hire an attorney and fight the Perlmutter report. To do so, Ms. Cassidy hired Attorney Jennifer Ani based out of San Rafael, California. At the time that she was hired, by all accounts, Attorney Ani, even though she would later deny it, was completely on board with disputing Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter's custody evaluation and fighting to assist Roisin Cassidy in holding onto custody of her two boys.

In fact, in a letter to the opposing attorney, Christiana Samuels dated December 6, 2015, Attorney Ani affirmed Ms. Cassidy's right to fight for custody stating, "My client has a right to contest the recommendations, she has a right to a trial and a due process right to have that trial take an appropriate length of time."  Within weeks of trial Attorney Ani was affirming her client Raisin Cassidy's right to fight for custody, stating in an email to Roisin dated January 23, 2016, "But this [i.e. going to trial] is worth it. If I can do this [get the expert witness testimony and reports], I do think that we have a good chance to defeat the move-away."

Even as close as ten days before trial, Attorney Ani was claiming that she intended to fight for Roisin Cassidy to maintain custody of her children. Further, at that time, Ms. Cassidy paid Attorney Ani $20,000 in attorney's fees for her services based upon her assertion that she was fighting for custody.

Further, in the months leading up to trial, based upon Attorney Ani's claim that she would strenuously oppose Dr. Perlmutter's recommendation of a change in custody, Roisin Cassidy went to see three experts that Attorney Ani recommended. Also, based upon Attorney Ani's assertions, Ms. Cassidy anticipated that these experts would provide expert reports and testimony to dispute Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter's evaluation. These experts were as follows: Dr. Thomas A. Gonda, M.D., Dr. Robert Kaufman, Ph.D., and Beth Miller, M.A.. In preparation, during the months of November 2015 and December 2015, Roisin Cassidy met with these mental health professionals and paid them for the evaluations with the understanding that they were eventually going to be testifying in court regarding their work with her.

As the day of trial approached, however, Roisin Cassidy began to notice warnings signs.  For instance, Ms. Cassidy and Attorney Jennifer Ani were supposed to meet on the weekend of January 30-31 to discuss preparations for trial which was scheduled for February 10, 2016, but Attorney Ani cancelled those arrangements and told her she had to fly to another state for an important criminal trial. Whenever Roisin Cassidy asked Attorney Ani to review some of her questions for trial or share the contents of expert witnesses' reports, the attorney was unwilling to do so.  In essence, right from the start, Attorney Ani evaded and avoided any meetings with Roisin Cassidy necessary to prepare for trial, and didn't bother to do any preparation on her own.

Still, nothing prepared Roisin Cassidy for the shock and surprise she experienced, when, within days of the trial, Attorney Ani submitted to the court a motion to withdraw from the case, essentially abandoning her client.

So how did this outrageous situation unfold?

The trial in this matter, as I have stated, was set for February 10, 2016. Essentially, what happened is that on or around February 3-5, 2016, Attorney Jennifer Ani dropped all pretense of attempting to fight for custody and pretty much  told Roisin to agree to put her oldest son on a plane to Washington state where her ex husband, Steve Tyrell, lived by the end of the week, and also agree to do the same with her youngest son once school was over. If Roisin Cassidy did not agree to this immediately, Attorney Ani stated she would no longer represent Ms. Cassidy. What made this plan particularly egregious was the fact that both of the children have medical issues, so any change in their living situation required proper advanced preparations. This was an issue that clearly the father and the attorneys involved couldn't care less about.

Of course, Roisin Cassidy did not want to agree to this; she had just spent the last three months preparing for and paying for a defense of her role as residential parent to her children. It was a bit sudden for her to be doing an about face.

Once Attorney Jennifer Ani realized that Roisin was not going to cooperate in wrecking her own case, Attorney Ani then  violated her professional ethics as an attorney by misrepresenting the facts of the case.

Thus, in emails to Roisin Cassidy and in documents submitted to the Court, Attorney Ani lied directly, and blamed her decision to withdraw on Ms. Cassidy, falsely stating that Roisin did not intend to pay the fees required for expert witnesses to appear in court and provide their testimony.

Along this line, on February 6, 2016, Attorney Jennifer Ani wrote a letter to Ms. Roisin Cassidy stating, "You are aware that each expert requires to be paid in advance of trial. You are also aware that fees remain outstanding." Further, in an email dated February 8, 2016, Attorney Ani stated, "This email confirms that you have not paid Dr. Kaufman's bill, Beth Miller's bill, and Dr. Gonda's bill ."

In fact, Roisin Cassidy had already paid Attorney Ani $3,400 for Dr. Kaufman's appearance in court. She had also paid Attorney Jennifer Ani $5,000 to assure Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter's appearance in court.

However, before paying any further fees and throwing good money after bad, in an email to Attorney Ani on February 6, 2016, Roisin stated that she was only willing to pay the remaining expert witness fees if Attorney Ani agreed to advocate diligently on her behalf using those witnesses. Would Attorney Ani agree to do so, she asked. Otherwise, what would be the point? Attorney Ani did not respond to that question.

In her motion to withdraw dated February 10, 2016, Attorney Ani stated in her declaration, under Item #3, pretty much that Roisin Cassidy is responsible for paying all expert witness fees, and essentially implied to the Court that Ms. Cassidy had not done so.  Indeed, Roisin Cassidy had paid for the majority of the expert witness fees and was prepared to pay them in full, if Attorney Ani would agree to use those witnesses to full advantage.  What Attorney Ani had done was make it clear she had no intention of doing so.

All of this is damning in terms of Attorney Jennifer Ani's behavior. Not only did she abandon her client just before trial, Attorney Ani then sought to place the blame for her actions on her client in an attempt to destroy Ms. Cassidy's reputation and undercut her custody case. Such actions are a complete violation of Attorney Jennifer Ani's attorney ethics.

The actual responsibility for the collapse of Roisin Cassidy's case lay directly on Attorney Jennifer Ani's shoulders and had nothing to do with Roisin.  This following explains why.

According to San Mateo, CA local rules for a long cause trial (which is what had been scheduled), if you intend to have expert witnesses appear in court, and if those witnesses intend to provide reports to be submitted to court as evidence, your attorney must submit a brief including the names of the witnesses and their reports must be provided to the opposing attorney five days before the trial date in order that the opposing side can exercise its due process right to prepare a response. The same goes for any exhibits that your side is intending to present to the Court.  All these need to be provided in advance in that brief.

Since Attorney Ani failed to provide the required advanced notice in regard to her expert witnesses, their reports, and any exhibits she intended to submit to the Court in advance, the judge excluded all of them from trial.  This was fatal to the case well before anyone stepped foot in the courtroom. Attorney Ani is the trained legal professional; she is the one who has been educated in court rules, not Roisin, and so to blame her client for her own failures makes no sense.

Still, Attorney Jennifer Ani did have Dr. Kenneth Perlmutter available for trial since the other side had called him in as a witness as well.

In fact, she had stated very specifically that her primary strategy was to demonstrate that Dr. Perlmutter's report was inaccurate. If Attorney Ani had conducted a skilled cross examination exposing the factual errors and exploring the numerous contradictions of Perlmutter's report, she could have succeeded easily.  So how could she possibly claim that not having additional expert witnesses would render it impossible for her to proceed with the case?

All Attorney Ani really had to do was present to the court all the exhibits Roisin Cassidy had provided to her indicating that Dr. Perlmutter's report was riddled with mistakes.  Attorney Ani herself was the one who chose not to do so.  She was the one who simply ignored the San Mateo local rule requiring her to alert the opposing side of these exhibits so Roisin was unable to use them.

What is even more disgraceful in Attorney Jennifer Ani's behavior in this case is not only did she lie about Roisin Cassidy's willingness to pay for her witnesses, she also attempted to slander Ms. Cassidy's reputation further by stating in her motion to withdraw that Ms. Cassidy was pursuing her case "without probable cause and for the purpose of harassing or maliciously injuring [a] person."

This is absolutely and categorically untrue, and all the emails and correspondence conducted in this case back that assertion.  Raisin Cassidy pursued her case specifically because Attorney Jennifer Ani told her it was winnable and for no other reason.

Attorney ethics require that when an attorney withdraws from a case he or she does so in a manner that causes the least possible damage to her client.  Attorney Ani, in slandering her client twice, specifically violated that directive.

As it turned out, when Attorney Ani's motion to withdraw came before the court, these falsehoods were so transparent that Judge Franchi, who heard the motion, refused to grant it.  Still, even though Attorney Ani wasn't allowed to leave, Roisin Cassidy herself asked that Attorney Ani be removed from the case after watching the attorney make a complete mess of her defense at trial. That's how badly Attorney Ani bungled the case while in court.

The question I was left with in the end was, did the Roisin Cassidy case represent a setup in which Attorney Jennifer Ani was complicit. I believe this is possible.

First of all, how else can you understand a major custody trial which was scheduled to last only three hours. When Roisin attempted to have this time frame expanded, her request was repeatedly denied. How is it possible to believe that any court would schedule a custody trial for three hours, knowing it has a lengthy history and required a 45 page custody report? Further, in a motion presented to the court on December 10, 2015, Attorney Ani had made it clear that she required at least 2 1/2 days to present her case.

Further, how else can you understand a situation where you have a major custody trial and the attorney for the defendant has simply failed to exchange lists of exhibits or the names of expert witnesses in advance which is required according to court rules.

Finally, how else are you going to understand a situation where the attorney representing the mother in the case suddenly, practically the day before trial, files a motion to withdraw based upon purely fabricated reasons, and then engages in a hateful rant against her former client as a means to break her spirit!

In the end, Roisin Cassidy paid at least $50,000 in legal fees to defend her right to parent, all of which led to nothing. Why?  Because Attorney Jennifer Ani simply abandoned her client, lied about her client, and then attempted to withdraw from the case while inflicting the maximum damage possible, all in violation of her professional ethics.  As Roisin said to me, "How could this happen?" We'd also like to know the answer to that question as well.