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.
Showing posts with label SELF HELP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SELF HELP. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


If you represent yourself in family court, you will have a difficult challenge ahead of you as I've explained in previous posts.  

What is your status?

The official position of the CT Judicial Branch in family court is articulated in a handout that they give you when you submit your appearance as a self represented party.  It states as follows:

"A self-represented person must abide by the same rules of procedure and the rules of evidence as lawyers. It is the responsibility of self represented parties to determine what needs to be done and to take the necessary action."

While this seems reasonable on face value, if you dig down deeper, keeping things equal between self represented parties and attorneys is literally impossible.

One reason for this is that the Rules of Procedure in "The CT Practice Book", and the Rules of Evidence are encylopedic and there is no way an average person would be able to wade through them and figure them out on time for a hearing or anything of that kind.

Second, self represented parties do not have the same power and authority that attorneys do when it comes to obtaining documents and ensuring that their witnesses are available for Court hearings and/or trials.  While attorneys have the power to issue subpoenas at will, self represented parties cannot do so.  

In other words, self represented parties do not have subpoena power. Unlike attorneys, if they wish to issue a subpoena, self represented parties must ask a judge for permission, and God help them if the judge doesn't want to give them permission.

What is a subpoena?

According to Findlaw, a subpoena is "a request for the production of documents, or a request to appear in court or other legal proceeding." There are two kinds of subpoenas. One is a subpoena duces tecum (pronounced "doo-seez tee-kum"), which requires you to produce documents, materials, or other tangible evidence. The second is a subpoena ad testificandum (pronounced "ad test- te-fi-kan-dum"), requires you to testify before a court, or other legal authority.

Why is this important?  Because proceedings in family court are testimony driven and evidence driven (through documents, tape recordings, video, etc.).  If you want to prove the correctness of your legal position in family court, you will need both.  Without them, you will lose your case. Period.

This is why the power of subpoena is so vital and why not having that power in a family court proceeding is so damaging to self represented parties and why it puts such parties in a position of considerable weakness in contrast to attorneys.

So how does the Family Court system handle subpoenas with self represented parties?

What it does is require self represented parties to request that a judge sign off on all subpoenas.  So if you want to subpoena either evidence or witnesses, you must file an application with a judge, who will then be required to approve it. I will post the link to the application form you would use below. At the same time as you file an application, you must also fill out the subpoena itself and file it along with your application form.  See below:

Application for Subpoena:


This seems logical, doesn't it!  Ok, but this is the problem.  Most judges will simply refuse to approve your request for a subpoena.  They just won't.  You'd think you would have the procedural due process right to command the presence of your witnesses and obtain necessary documents to prove your position in Court, but you don't--at least not according to CT Family Court judges.  Lawyers do, not self-represented parties.

In my experience, when it came to obtaining documents from banks and corporations, my Judge declined to sign subpoenas on my behalf but instead ordered my ex to sign authorizations to obtain access to the documents.  So how did my ex sign those authorizations?  Slowly.  Further, as all judges and attorneys know, authorizations do not have the force of law. This means the banks and corporations essentially refused to cooperate, or later cooperated with great reluctance so getting the documents ended up being like pulling teeth, and I still didn't get the entire set.  Plus, I had to pay for the entire expense, not only for the copies of documents for me, but an additional set of copies for my ex.  Go figure.

So this is the paradox.  They tell you that you must act in Court exactly like an attorney, but then they don't give you the same power and authority of an attorney to pursue your case.  Not fair? Well, too bad for you.

Is there any recourse if a judge refuses to grant your application for a subpoena?

My recommendation is that whenever you submit a request for a subpoena that you attach to that request an affidavit indicating why the subpoena is necessary.  In addition to a very clear and concise statement as to the need for that particular witness or documentary evidence, the content of this affidavit would be as follows:

If the subpoena is for an expert witness, then you would include  the following information:  1)  The date when you submitted the required "Notice of Expert Witness" to the Court; 2) Confirmation that you sent the expert witness' report to the opposing party as required by Court Rules and that you have included the witness' name in your trial compliance in advance of trial.  

If you have a fact witness, then you would simply indicate that you have included the witness' name in your trial compliance in advance of trial.  

In regard to documents that you wish to subpoena, include in your affidavit exactly why those documents are important and indicate that you have listed the documents you anticipate receiving via the subpoena in your trial compliance.  So even though you don't have them yet, you list them and put the word (anticipated) in brackets to indicate you expect them to be produced per your due process right.  If you don't know quite what they are exactly, you come up with a reasonably fitting description.  This way your request is on the record in another location.

If it turns out that, despite the fact that you carefully filled out the forms appropriately and you submitted a well written affidavit, the judge still denies your request for a subpoena, as often occurs, you still have the option of requesting a hearing to have your application reconsidered.  See below the form you would need to fill out for such a hearing.

Request For Hearing/Denied Application for Issuance of a Subpoena

Of course, this is ridiculous.  Can you imagine how much time it takes to fill out the forms, be denied, submit an affidavit, resubmit request, be denied, request a hearing, wait for hearing, be denied, etc. etc. etc.  This can continue for weeks, meanwhile the day of trial is looming on the horizon and you have no idea whether you can actually present your case in a competent manner because you are being denied access to witnesses and documentation necessary to do so!

But that's all in a day's work when it comes to how the CT Family Court screws self-represented parties.  I am aware that, since my day, the website for the CT Judicial Branch has been crammed with all sorts of information and advice for self represented parties.  If you didn't know how the system works and you just looked at the website, you'd think life was delightful for self represented parties.  Bottom line, however, is that no matter how they have prettied up the website in a PR campaign, the practice of the law in family court has remained unchanged and self represented parties are just as disadvantaged as ever before.  I hope everyone gets that from this discussion.

Where do you stand if you are able to jump all these hoops?

For one thing, you are completely stressed out because in the weeks prior to trial you just didn't know if you'd have the witnesses or documents you needed to present your case.  You've probably done double or triple the work preparing to argue a case despite not having what you needed.  Then you ended up getting discovery after all.  At the last minute, you might have found new documents with completely new evidence.  You realize that the expert you thought wouldn't come is now going to be there.   So now you have to rewrite your argument again.  That's one scenario.

Another scenario is that the opposing party will simply ignore the subpoena or dispute the subpoena. What the judge is supposed to do is enforce the subpoena, but often he or she just won't do that. The same goes for subpoenas sent to banks or other corporations--they'll ignore them or dispute them, and you won't be able to do anything to force them to comply because the judge will refuse to take action on your behalf.

This is not all the aggravation you are likely to deal with.  For instance, when you get all your witnesses to Court, most likely at considerable expense--most require several thousands of dollars to appear--the Judge will refuse to allow them to provide testimony.  No, the Judge may not be so blatant as to say you can't put your witnesses on the stand!  What the Judge might do is continue the trial to a later date so you would have to go through another round of requesting subpoenas to get them to come back.  Plus, you would have to pay the witnesses additional witness fees. As for any documentary evidence you may wish to submit, unless you have memorized every detail of the Rules of Evidence, good luck getting them accepted by the Court as evidence!  In my case, I had 90% of my exhibits denied admission as evidence.

I hope you see how self-represented parties are completely screwed here.  This is why I consider them so heroic because the odds against them are extraordinary.  This is one observation I have in regard to the subpoena situation for self represented parties.  The other observation I have is how hypocritical the CT Family Court system is to conduct business in this manner.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Reporter Amy Norton of HealthDay News reports as follows:

"Duke University researchers found that among nearly 16,000 U.S. adults followed over two decades, those who were divorced at some point had a higher heart attack risk than those who stayed married.

The connection seemed stronger among women, but there was no evidence that a second marriage improved their situation. Women who remarried were still 35 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who stayed with their first husband..."

For more on this topic, please click on the link below:

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Panama Publishing writes detailed, informative, litigant friendly guidebooks on how to navigate your way through the family court system.  You may wish to look them up at:

Thursday, May 23, 2013


At the Annual 2012 meeting of judges in Connecticut, Judge Chase Rogers expressed concern about the rising number of self represented parties in the judicial system today.  Right now, at least 85% of cases in family court have one or both parties representing him or herself. 
Like many other States around the country, Connecticut has been trying to adjust the way it does business in order to respond to this situation. 
For example, most courthouses in Connecticut have a Court Service Center available for self-represented parties where there are computers, fax and copy machines, as well as a telephones which they can use free of charge.  Some of these Centers have clerks working there who are available to provide litigants with court forms and answer basic questions about how to navigate your way around the court system. The larger court service centers have regular hours where marshalls are available to take papers that need to be served. 
In addition, some courthouses have volunteer attorneys available once a week to answer questions on a first come, first serve basis. 
Also, the Connecticut Judicial Website has tutorials and videos to keep self represented parties informed about some of the more basic procedures they are required to follow, i.e. information on how to file an appearance. 
Now, if judges approve the new addition to The Connecticut Practice Book proposed for this year, Section (b) of Rule 3-8 Appearance for Represented Party, the Chief Court Administrator will be authorized to establish a pilot program for Limited Scope Representation (or what is informally known as "unbundling") by attorneys in one or more judicial districts throughout the state. 
What is Limited Scope Representation?  This is a concept originally attributed to UCLA law Professor Forrest S. Mosten who, in 2000, wrote the book "Unbundling Legal Services:  A Guide to Delivering Legal Services a la Carte."  It consists of a method of legal representation in the United States where an attorney and client limit the scope of the attorney's involvement in a lawsuit to specific aspects of the case and leaving the remaining aspects to the client as a means to save money.
As with other things, when it comes to innovative practices like this, we in the State of Connecticut are somewhat slow about getting cutting edge practices such as Limited Scope Representation implemented.  Thus, according to a an article written in 2010 by Susan Cartier Liebel, "Is 'Unbundling' in Your Future?  It Better Be or You May Have No Future," "Forty-one states, including California and New Hampshire, have [already] adopted a model rule drafted by the American Bar Association" 
Why is this happening and why is Limited Scope Representation so popular?  According to Ms. Liebel, litigants simply cannot afford to spend lots of money on legal representation in these difficult economic times.  Not only that, the spread of information on the internet combined with a judicial system that itself provides litigants with considerable information has empowered people to the point where they want more input into what happens in their cases. 
Connecticut's new Limited Scope Representation laws will come with some limitations.  For example, only attorneys affiliated with this pilot program would be able to file a Limited Scope Appearance.  Attorneys will not be allowed to file limited appearances in connection to criminal or juvenile cases. 
And for those who are interested, this still does not constitute side by side representation where a self represented party conducts the case on an equal basis with the attorney.  In any matters for which the self represented party has legal representation, the self represented party must step aside and allow the attorney full authority. 
On the other hand, interestingly enough, an attorney will not be able to file a limited scope appearance until the self represented party has filed his or her appearance. 
The Practice Book has other suggested rule changes to accommodate limited scope representation. Such rule changes are as follows: 
Under Rule 1.5 Fees, Section (b), newly proposed rules require the attorney to file an appearance for the specific services he will provide and then he is required to file a Certificate of Completion once those services have been provided. 
Under Rule 1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation, an attorney who provides limited scope representation will not have to ask permission from a judge in order to terminate his representation.  For those of us who have suffered because of attorneys who will not go away, this will be a considerable improvement!
Rule 3-8 Appearance For Represented Party, Section (b) gives the attorney specific instructions on how to file an appearance when providing limited scope representation stating, among other things, that the attorney in this situation will only receive copies of documents related to the matter he will be working on. 
Section 3-9 Withdrawal of Appearance provides details on how to file a Certificate of Completion regarding the matter for which an attorney provided limited scope representation. 
Under Rules of Professional Ethics 4-2 Communication With a Person Represented by Counsel, the opposing counsel is not allowed to discuss with the self-represented party any matters that will be handled for that party by an attorney under a limited scope representation agreement.
Rules from Chapter 4-2 Signing of the Pleading states that if an attorney assisted a self represented party in writing a pleading (ghostwriting!), that attorney is not required to sign the pleading, but there should be an acknowledgement of that attorney's assistance in the pleading. 
Some well known attorneys in Connecticut have already begun to take advantage of this approach.  For example, Attorney Susan Wakefield of Connecticut Legal Coaching. 

For more information on Attorney Wakefield, see the link below:

Attorney Wakefield is an attorney with over 22 years of experience who has put together a law film with the expressed intention of assisting litigants who are representing themselves in their divorce, custody, or post-divorce matter. 
As she puts it, "Legal Coaching, with its unique pay-as-you-go and "A La Carte" structure makes quality legal services accessible to all individuals so they can acquire the knowledge and tools needed to navigate through the system on their own." 
There is also Greenwich Attorney Barbara Shea with her unbundled legal services known as "Partners-in-Law", a part of the law firm that allows people to represent themselves with some legal guidance to point them in the right direction."  Journalist Debra Cassens Weiss reports Shea as saying, "Instead of letting someone dump everything on my desk, I teach them the smart way to solve a case...The concept is based on giving clients choice and control over their legal matters."  

I would add more on contacting Attorney Barbara Shea because I do like her ideas, but she has been reprimanded by the Statewide Grievance Committee on more than one occasion.  So working with her is all at your own risk.  I don't know what to say about her history, except that I know of people who have done so much worse that she did who are walking around scott free.  People can be redeemable, but every litigant has to make up his or her own mind. 

 Finally, attorneys have raised some ethical concerns in regard to this practice.  For example, limited scope representation could allow attorneys to evade the legal consequences of malpractice by simply saying, I didn't represent the client in that area. 
There could be problems with communication which result in a situation where the attorney and the client are unsure of who is responsible for what aspect of the case, and then someone drops the ball on some vital area of the case as a consequence and both end up blaming the other. 
In terms of legal ghostwriting, if an attorney writes documents for a self represented party, this could give the self represented party an advantage in situations where judges allow self represented parties more leeway.  Proposed Connecticut Rules do require a litigant to acknowledge the assistance of an attorney, but who is to know how faithfully such rules will be followed. 
Despite these criticisms, with more than 40 states on board, it doesn't look like anything will be able to stop the momentum behind the movement to provide Limited Scope Representation.  Online businesses such as LegalZoom and "Ask an Attorney" websites are prospering in the busy, chaotic, fairly unregulated internet marketplace and there are no signs of them stopping any time soon. 


ABA White Paper,

Sunday, December 16, 2012


About Jennifer
Jennifer's mother, Holly Collins is a former battered mother who was the first American to receive asylum in Europe.  Despite the fact that the Family Court judge acknowledged that Holly was a victim of domestic violence, he  decided that she was too traumatized from the abuse to care for her own children. 
As a result, Jennifer and her older brother, Zachery, were placed in the sole custody of their abusive father, even while the judge decided to place the youngest brother, Christopher in the mother's care.  This decision was made despite clearcut evidence that the father was beating the children. 
In desperation, Holly and her children, including Jennifer, fled the country in 1994 and were later granted asylum in Holland.  Their story is told eloquently in the documentary "No Way Out But One."
About Jeff
Jeff has been in the court system for ten years starting at the age of seven.  At that time, his sisters reported that their Dad had been molesting them and Jeff felt that the story rang true because he'd been aware that his father would go to the room and get into bed with them. This began the divorce proceedings which led them to Family Court.
After totally fraudulent reports from the custody evaluator and the GAL, the judge placed Jeff and his sisters in his Father's custody, and they were not allowed to see their Mom who was accused of PAS.  Eventually, when Jeff was 17 he simply packed his bags, left and went to live with his mother.  He lives with sadness and pain because he knows that his younger sisters are still trapped with their abusive Father.
About Fatima
Originally, Fatima was living with her mother and her parents had joint custody.  Then when she was 8 years old, her father took her to CPS and accused the mother of abusing Fatima.  The CPS worker asked Fatima if her mother ever spanked her.  Once in a while, Fatima's mother would swat her on the bottom for discipline, so Fatima responded with a yes.  Then, suddenly, Fatima's mother was accused of child abuse and she lost custody of Fatima to the father. 
When Fatima was in her father's home, her father ignored her and neglected her, and her stepmother also verbally abused her.  Fatima's father told her that her mother didn't want her any more, and that the mother was a drug abuser.
Eventually, Fatima ran away from home and was placed in foster care, and then eventually was able to return to live with her mother where she is now.  She says, "I have little respect, trust, or regard for the California family court system and I will be emotionally scarred for life because my father was able to use the courts as he willed to retaliate against my mother and I."
These are the stories of the many courageous kids who have endured high conflict divorces in the family court system in states all over America, sometimes remaining in the system for ten years or more.  They can be found on the website for The Courageous Kids Network located at the following link:
According to Courageous Kids Network, the Network "is a growing group of young people, whose childhoods were shattered by inhumane court rulings, which forced us to live with our abusive parent, while restricting or sometimes completely eliminating contact with our loving and protective parent." 
These young people have survived the trauma and matured, and gotten to the point where they are able to speak out about the torture and pain they endured from their abusers and by the family court that did nothing to protect them.  According to Courageous Kids, by establishing this network, they are "joining together to find strength and healing."
At this point, this Network of young people is reaching out to other kids who have undergone the same struggles and they provide an opportunity for these kids to tell their stories and obtain support from other suvivors of family court abuse. 
They provide a list of suggestions on how to survive living with a batterer or molester so that you can fight your way out of an abusive situation.  A highlight of this website is a birthday cupcake ready for those who are 18 and legally allowed to live where they please and associate with whom they please. 

Courageous Kids are those who were physically, emotionally, and some sexually abused by one of their parents.  Sometimes, despite witnesses or medical evidence of the abuse, family court did not believe it happened.

Instead, family court said the children who spoke up, or the protective parent was lying.  Then family court punished the parent who was trying to protect the children, most often by completely cutting off all access to these children.

Thousands of children have been and are still taken from their protective parent and put with their abusers per court orders.  Some children are forced to live with their abuser for years, or when they are finally able to leave, they are forced to leave younger siblings behind.

They are fearful of speaking out against their abuser because they are afraid that the family court will punish them and their protective parent if they do so. 

If you are a young person, and what you have read about these young people is the same as your situation, that you are a Courageous Kid, and this network can help you.
For those of you still out there struggling in a court ordered abusive living situation, you are not alone.  Connect with others who are or who have been where you are at right now at the Courageous Kids Network.  If you want to write to Network, the address is below:

Courageous Kids Network
P.O. Box 1903
Davis, CA  95617

or you can email them at:


Saturday, August 4, 2012


When it came to the decision on child support and alimony during my divorce, the attorneys in the case who were all biased in support of my X kept on emphasizing my X's W-2 forms and referring to that form as the sole source of information in regard to my X's income.  In fact, there are multiple ways to locate income when the time comes to establishing what your X's income is. 

You can see this in the "Show Me the Money Worksheet" provided by The Modern Woman 's Divorce guide.  Some of these sources of income are in your X's tax returns, so be sure to examine them closely! 

According the the worksheet, the following are sources of income, some of them hidden or not immediately obvious, which you should be aware of when making financial decisions during your divorce:

1.  Accounts Receivable - It could be that your X has not yet reported income for his business because he has made an arrangement with the client to be paid after the divorce.  In such a situation, you would have to proceed with discovery of your X's business to find out if there are any outstanding fees owed;

2.  Accrued vacation or sick time payable in cash - I know this kind of income is particularly available to teachers, but you should check it out in any situation where this might be an issue, particularly if your X has been working with that particular employer for a lengthy period of time;

3.  Bonuses - Many employees receive bonuses around Christmas time and they vary from year to year.  You would want to specifically designate in your agreement what percent of that bonus would be taken into consideration for purposes of child support and alimony;

4.  Capital Gains - If the value of the stock your X owns rises then you would want to know the details of that;

5.  Commissions - Some people work on commission and that would be over and above a base salary that appears on the -W-2 form;

6.  Deferred Compensation - Sometimes there are retirement plans than only become vested after a certain number of years.  You would want full disclosure from your X's employer in order to be informed of these;

7.  Depletion allowance from oil and gas interests;

8.  Depreciation on assets - If you own a rental property for an extended number of years, you would deduct some of that depreciation from capital gains taxes when you sell the property;

9.  Disability benefits;

10.  Dividends - these would be reported on Schedule D of your X's tax returns;

11. Interest Income - This would be reported on Schedule B of your X's tax returns, which, by the way, is a great way to locate your X's bank accounts.  If he has interest free accounts, then you won't be in luck;

12.  Military benefits;

13.  Reimbursement for employment expenses -  This means transportation such as air flights, hotels, rental cars, entertainment, etc.  You would want to check with the employer through to find out what their policy is in regard to employment expenses.  This can amount to a considerable amount of money, so don't overlook it!

14.  Rental property income - For this you would look in Schedule E of your X's tax returns.  Even if mortage and maintenance exceed rental income, it still exists as income, so it should be included;

15.  Retained business earnings - If you X does consultant work of any kind, they would report that income, or should report it on 1099 forms.  Many people simply don't have their clients fill out the 1099s so they can evade the responsibility of reporting their income.  Be aware of that!

16.  Regular Salary;

17.  Social Security Benefits;

18.  Stock and stock options;

19.  Veterans benefits;

20.  Voluntary contributions to pension, retirement or savings plans;

Some ways I saw my X use to hide money was to overpay the taxes to the IRS and keep hidden from me that he was anticipating a large refund check.  Also, he overpaid credit cards so that there was a large credit balance.  The other thing my X did was to put sums of money into small independent banks over a period of time so that it would be difficult to trace them.

For more information check out the following link:


Sunday, April 8, 2012


Before you take psychotherapists into your confidence, make sure you consider what the legal consequences might be of doing so. There are legal limits to confidentiality and you might find that your therapist will end up on the stand with his testimony used against you. Attorney Jim Gottstein of Psychrights comments on these issues in the article below. See link:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


I am going to provide for you verbatim a description of this book from the Barnes and Noble website.  These are not my words, but the words of the person at Barnes and Noble who wrote the review.  I think everyone concerned about the issues raised by a high conflict divorce, those who have been moved to say "that is my story" when reading Lundy Bancroft's books, should also pay attention to this new book Coercive Control by Evan Stark of Rutgers University.  Please read below:

Despite its great achievements, the domestic violence revolution is stalled, Evan Stark argues, a provocative conclusion he documents by showing that interventions have failed to improve women's long-term safety in relationships or to hold perpetrators accountable.  Stark traces this failure to a startling paradox, that the singular focus on violence against women masks an even more devastating reality.  In millions of abusive relationships, men use a largely unidentified form of subjugation that more closely resembles kidnapping or indentured servitude than assault.  He calls this pattern coercive control.  Drawing on sources that range from FBI statistics and film to dozens of actual cases from his thirty years of experience as an award-winning researcher, advocate, and forensic expert, Stark shows in terrifying detail how men can use coercive control to extend their dominance over time and through social space in ways that subvert women's autonomy, isolate them, and infiltrate the most intimate corners of their lives.  Against this backdrop, Stark analyzes the cases of three women tried for crimes committed in the context of abuse, showing that their reactions are only intelligible when they are reframed as victims of coercive control rather than as battered wives.

The story of physical and sexual violence against women has been told often.  But this is the first book to show that most abused women who seek help do so because their rights and liberties have been jeopardized, not because they have been injured.  The coercive control model Stark develops resolves three of the most perplexing challenges posed by abuse:  why these relationships endure, why abused women develop a profile of problems seen among no other group of assault victims, and why the legal system has failed to win them justice.

Elevating coercive control from a second-class misdemeanor to a human rights violation, Stark explains why law, policy, and advocacy must shift its focus to emphasize how coercive control jeopardizes women's freedom in everyday life.

Fiercely argued and eminently readable, Stark's work is certain to breathe new life into the domestic violence revolution.

See the Amazon.Com link that follows to order your copy of the book:

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I am not a big fan of alternative therapies, but I have been alerted about a technique which has been helpful to folks called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)  Some people say it has helped them a great deal.  It is supposed to reduce stress, expand physical wellbeing, and maintain positive attitudes towards life.  You don't need an expert in order to apply this technique, just follow the directions at the following link:

If you go to this website and apply this technique and find it helpful, please get back to me in the comment section so other people can benefit from this experience, or if not, stay away from it, and let us know about that experience as well.  Thanks!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


So how bad is it when it comes to women and their hearts?  Here are the statistics: 

-According to the American Heart Association, "heart disease is the number one killer of women in America." 

-What is even more interesting is the mortality rate of women to men, "Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease and the gap between men and women's survival continues to widen." 

-More than 42 million women in the United States are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. 

-Women are less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment after a heart attack.
-Also, women make up only 27% of participants in all heart-related research studies.  So treatment protocols are largely experimented with on men and then applied to women, even though it cannot and should not be assumed that what works with men will also work with women. 

So what are the physical indications of heart problems in women?

According to the American Heart Association,
"Heart disease - also called cardiovascular disease - is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.  As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke."

So what can we do to reduce this plaque and reduce our chances of heart attack? 

The Mayo Clinic recommends five medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease which  are as follows: 

1.  Don't smoke or use tobacco

Smoking can damage your heart and blood vessels leading to the narrowing of the arteries going to your heart (atherosclerosis).  Also, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by narrowing your blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure.  Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood.  This leads to higher blood pressure because then your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen.

2.  Exercise for 30 minutes each day

Physical activity can reduce your weight and reduce your chances of getting high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes--conditions which can adversely affect your heart.  And getting exercise doesn't have to be expensive.  Just park your car at a long distance from court so you have to walk to get there!  Walk up and down the staircase in the judicial building!

3.  Eat a heart-healthy diet

This means food that is low in cholesterol and salt.  Eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.  Beans and fish such as salmon and mackerel are also good for you.  Avoid processed foods, or pretty much anything purchased in a box.  Have one glass of wine or grape juice a day, and also have a single baby aspirin per day.

4.  Maintain a healthy weight

If it is really hard for you to get out of bed in the morning, if you wheeze and huff when you get up out of a low chair, and if your knees hurt when you have to lift yourself up, you definitely need to lose some of those extra pounds!

5.  Get regular health screenings

Regular blood pressure screenings, blood tests for cholesterol levels, and screenings for diabetes make sense. 

Oh, and always carry a bottle of water with you so you don't get dehydrated! 

Developing a Spiritual Center:  Reducing stress is also vital to heart health, but that is tough to say to protective mothers such as ourselves who face stress every single moment of our lives.  To reduce the effect of stress on our bodies, and most particularly our hearts, we need to learn how to center ourselves spiritually so that we can withstand the wear and tear of ongoing and daily confrontations with the judicial system.  This means developing a relationship with a higher power, adhering to systems of stress reduction such as biofeedback, yoga, or meditation, or whatever helps to nurture our spiritual wellbeing.  Each of us has to find a method that makes sense to us.

There is a book out there with a title that states "Fat is a Feminist Issue".  That's true.  but also, "Heart Health is a Feminist Issue".  Moms, always remember, you are important, not only to yourselves, but also to your children.  Your children are OK as long as you are OK. 

So don't think that everyone else's health comes before your health. Your health comes first.  When you take a flight on an airplane, the stewardess always reminds you that unless you give yourself oxygen first, you may lose consciousness before you can give oxygen to your children.  Likewise, if you don't save your hearts first, you may not live to be able to save your children's.  So start with your hearts first.

Friday, February 10, 2012


It happened just after I filed for divorce.  I was in my kitchen stacking the dishwasher, struggling with thoughts about what would happen to my children, when I found that I was having trouble breathing.  I felt as though my heart was skipping beats, and the blood seemed to slosh back and forth in my veins. 

Immediately, I told a friend who was in the kitchen with me and she drove me to the nearest supermarket where I used one of their public blood pressure machines.  My blood pressure was well off the charts and my pulse was over 100.

In the months and years that followed as my divorce case crawled its way through Family Court and I experienced the roller coaster ride of a custody battle over my children, I continued to make my trips to the supermarket.  Eventually, I began to take blood pressure medication, and thus began my ongoing battle to maintain the health of my heart. 

To be honest, I had never had a serious medical problem until I ended up in family court.  But as soon as the divorce broke out with the accompanying bullying and harassment from my ex, and added to it my fear of what he was willing to do in order to get custody, and what he was willing to do even if he didn't get custody, simply to frighten and horrify me, it was then that I truly discovered what it means to be an ongoing invalid. 

Literally, the custody battle over my children broke my heart.  And, I am sure, it breaks the hearts of numerous other Protective Mothers who literally put their lives on the line in order to save their children. 

I was lucky because I had a few good friends who had also had heart problems, so instead of ignoring the problem I was able to address it immediately.  That is why I am here today able to tell you my story. 

However, even though I was able to obtain blood pressure medication which lowered my risk, I still didn't have a clue regarding how serious the problem was.  Even after the initial warning incident in the kitchen, I continued to ignore my symptoms and mistook them for something else. 

Every once in a while as time went on, I kept on experiencing severe back pain just around my bra area.  And what I thought was that the bra was too tight.  When I took off the bra and still had the pain, I just thought that I had back pain and probably needed to see a chiropractor.  It never occurred to me that what I was experiencing was one of the most prominent symptoms of heart attack.
So, to make sure that you don't make the same mistake that I made, let me list for you all the symptoms of heart attack:

1.  Discomfort, tightness, uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or comes and goes;

2.  Crushing chest pain;

3.  Pressure or pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms;

4.  Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, or nausea;

5.  Clammy sweats, heart flutters, or paleness;

6.  Unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness--especially with exertion;

7.  Heartburn, indigestion, stomach or abdominal pain;

8.  Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing;

9.  An impending sense of doom;

10.  Prolonged pain in the upper abdomen. 

It is also important to keep in mind that the fact that you aren't feeling any pain doesn't mean you don't have a heart problem.  Some women have no symptoms when their hearts aren't functioning, but they are still at risk for the damage to the heart caused by heart problems. 

If you think you might have a heart problem, even if you have the slightest bit of concern, be sure to make an appointment with a cardiologist to check yourself out.  A doctor can give you an EKG (electrocardiogram) to see if you have any heart problems, or else he could do a blood enzyme test or conduct a cardiac stress test (a workout on a treadmill that traces how well your heart is performing). 

And just to emphasize how important it is to do all these tests, my brother in law suspected he might have had a heart attack.  So he went into the hospital and had the EKG and the stress test which indicated everything was normal.  They were all ready to discharge him when they received the results from the enzyme test which indicated that he'd had a heart attack.  They ended up doing surgery and the doctor came out of the operation and said that the veins to my brother in law's heart were 90% blocked. 

So, don't neglect yourself.  Make sure you take your heart health seriously and have yourself checked regularly while you are involved in a custody battle.  If you end up ill and in a hospital unable to function who is going to suffer for that--yes, you, but also your children.  Don't be so focused on your children that you forget that your wellbeing is essential to their wellbeing.  Be good to your heart.  Protect yourselves, Protect your hearts, and by doing so Protect your Children!

Friday, January 13, 2012


If you are truly being serious as a self represented party, sooner or later you are going to have to send out Subpoenas to obtain your witnesses and documents that you need for trial. 

You know how we are admonished as self represented parties that we are going to be expected to follow all the procedures just the same as lawyers, etc., etc.  That doesn't mean that you have the same rights as lawyers, by any means.  So keep that in mind as you approach the issue of subpoenas. 

I believe that as Citizens of the United States of America we have the constitutional right to bring our witnesses to trial and to subpoena documents to trial.  Perhaps some of my readers who are particularly familiar with constitutional law can comment on this point.  However, if you are self represented, that so called right is somewhat curtailed. 

This means that you can't just fill out a Subpoena and call in your witness and/or demand documents.  To get a Subpoena, you must first fill out an Application for a Subpoena (Form JD-CV-62) and request permission to obtain such a Subpoena from a judge.  If the judge says, "No, you can't have a Subpoena." then you are stuck.  I mean, how successful are you going to be at trial if you aren't allowed to bring in your witnesses or obtain the evidence you need?  Not very successful, I can assure you. 

You would think that obtaining a witness for a trial or in order to conduct a deposition would be approved by judges as a matter of course.  In fact, this is not the case.  I have frequently been turned down when I applied for a Subpoena, and for no good reason as far as I can tell.  Here is some advice on how to go through the process of obtaining a Subpoena so that you are more likely to obtain one. 

Obtain Form JD-CV-62, the Application for a Subpoena, and fill it out completely.  Use only one form per person or per financial institution that you are sending it to.  I know it says that you can put in the names of two people, but don't.  It just causes confusion. 

Under the section where you are supposed to list the names and addresses of the people you are sending your Subpoena to, the form asks you to to finish up the statement "I believe testimony from this person is necessary because..."  Don't just write out a quick answer here of one or two sentences long. 

Instead, write up a formal affidavit explaining who the witness is, what relationship the witness has to the case, what specific information this witness will provide, and explain why this testimony is essential to your case and attach it to your application.  Make this affidavit at least one page long double spaced and typed and then have the affidavit notarized.  You can have this done for free by one of the assistants at the Court Service Center.  You are much more likely to get your application approved if you do this. 

If you submit an application without such an affidavit and you are turned down for a subpoena by the judge, simply resubmit your request with your attached affidavit explaining in detail why you need the Subpoena.  If you did include the affidavit, rewrite it and make it more forceful and again resubmit it. Just because you get turned down once, that is no reason for you to just give up.  When at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again! 

If you are turned down for a Subpoena and the judge continues to deny you that Subpoena, make sure that the case detail reflects that the Subpoena was denied.  I had four Subpoenas which a judge denied and the case detail listed them as "issued". 

You can imagine that when your case comes up for trial, and your own witnesses don't show up in response to Subpoenas that the court has on record were issued you will end up looking extremely bad.  Also, when the Appellate Court reviews your case on appeal, they will say, what's her problem, she got her Subpoenas.  And if the record says you got them, even though you didn't, who is in trouble?  That's! 

So keep your eye on the case detail to be sure the outcome of your application as listed is accurate.  What happened when my Subpoenas were improperly listed as issued, when they were not, is that I spoke to the judge's clerk.  She acknowledged they had not been issued, but because once a statement is put into the case detail, even if wrongly, they aren't able or allowed or desirous of fixing the "mistake" (or what we suspect is a deliberate misrepresentation!) so instead what the clerk did was replace the entry saying the subpoena had been issued with a statement that the subpoena entry had been moved.  I am not sure what that means, but it sounded better than that it had been issued when it hadn't been! 

Can you believe that the Court plays all these games with Self Represented Parties.  You always have to be on your guard with the Court.  

In addition, if the judge refuses to allow you a Subpoena to bring your witnesses to Court, at some point during the trial, remember to make one or two additional requests for Subpoenas for your witnesses during the trial, and object when the Judge denies you the Subpoenas.  That way, not only do you have a written record of that denial in the case detail, you have a transcript indicating you repeated your request for Subpoenas and that you objected when the request was denied.  This will provide a strong record to the Appellate Court indicating that you wanted Subpoenas and you were not silent and that you objected when those Subpoenas were denied.  This is very important when it comes to an appeal.

Once you have filled out the Application for the Subpoena, you then have to fill out the actual Subpoena which gets sent out.  Be sure to write in the date and time of trial or the deposition you are requiring the witness to come to, and remember to put in the telephone number of the ADA Coordinator in your area if the witness may need assistance getting to the Courthouse. 

Once the Subpoena is approved by the judge, it must be hand delivered to the witness by a Marshall (a proper officer or indifferent person), who will then provide certification to the court that the document was physically given to your witness. 

To obtain a Marshall go the Court Service Center or the Trial Clerk's office and obtain a list of available Marshalls.   Such a list is also available online on the Judicial Website.  For your information, a Marshall sits around in the Court Service Center for one hour during lunch and another hour later in the afternoon waiting for litigants who need assistance.  The problem with these particular Marshalls is that sometimes they have a considerable number of documents they need to deliver and they might not get to your subpoena until two or three or even more days after they receive it.  So if you need your subpoena delivered without any kind of delay because your trial is happening soon or you need those documents quickly, I wouldn't use the Marshalls at the Court Service Center.  And you are well within your rights to ask a Marshall when exactly he intends to deliver the Subpoena. 

You will receive confirmation that the Marshall delivered the Subpoena in the mail, and he will also put a confirmation in your court file. 

The cost of a Marshall is variable or negotiable depending upon how you strike him.  If he thinks you are rich, you can go as high as $70.00, but if you come across as less wealthy, you can pay around $40.00 or so.  Usually the Marshall at the Court Service Center charges less.  Otherwise, if you are truly desperate and can't afford these charges, you can apply for a Fee Waiver.  For further information regarding Subpoenas, check the judicial website at: