Color of Law Custody Cases

Color of Law Custody Cases
Rhode Island and other states often violate civil rights in civil courts when officials threaten to separate children from protective parents who are their lifeline. These cases may include "color of law" abuses that push the boundaries of law. Judges who allow color of law abuse in their courtrooms are guilty of "color of office."

In Family Court, we give judges ultimate power over people’s lives while taking away their curiosity, concern, and even their ability to inquire about what is really happening in these cases. This transfers the power to guardians ad litem and lawyers. These officers of the court can convince a judge--through false allegations that are frequently off the record--to remove children, imprison innocent parents, then bankrupt them through years of frivolous motions, and forbid them to talk about it--all under color of law.

In domestic abuse custody cases, this enables the abusive parent to gain extraordinary power and control over the protective parent and the children.

Here is more information about color of law:

Friday, March 9, 2012

10.K. Searching for Best Practices

Yesterday was Dr. Ronitte Vilker's final day on the witness stand.

Once again, Attorney Cynthia Gifford tried to get the psychotherapist to discredit her patient, "Tracy," with a series of hypothetical questions and misleading assertions cherry-picked from an email Tracy had sent to their daughter "Jenny" twenty-nine months ago and from a 25-page letter Tracy had sent to "Barbara" nearly four years ago.

Attorney Keven McKenna objected repeatedly, but Judge Debra DiSegna overruled him.

Dr. Vilker insisted that Gifford's questions ignored the context for Tracy's remarks and the way in which a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might normally respond to the pressure she was feeling.

Gifford tried to get Vilker to imply that Tracy could suffer from other psychiatric conditions than ASD and PTSD. Judge DiSegna pushed the HIPAA envelope by asking whether Vilker would refer her patient for further tests. Dr. Vilker's discomfort was visible.

She looked at Tracy, who nodded.

Dr. Vilker said she wanted to continue working with Tracy, who had voluntarily sought her help. She would recommend that Tracy also work with a doctor who specializes in helping patients with ASD to develop skills for examining their thoughts before expressing them in ways that may prove counterproductive.

DiSegna inquired: Could the Court order specify that Tracy must cooperate with her therapist?

Vilker responded emphatically: No! That would undermine the therapy.

Vilker said she would never return to the courtroom, and DiSegna assured her she was not subject to the Court in any way.

This important exchange underscores what I've seen over two decades of Family Court custody cases: a few psychologists are doing enormous harm to children and families by delivering Court-ordered "evaluations" as a business--similar to the testimony Attorney Gifford kept trying to extract from Dr. Vilker.

Attorney McKenna asserted that the Court is not qualified or authorized to be in the business of behavior-modification. He asked whether it is harmful for a child to be separated from a parent for two and a half years when there has been no evidence of abuse by that parent. The therapist agreed.

I have been listening to delightfully engaging interviews of David Finch, author of the new book, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband.

David and his spouse, Kristen, describe the undeniable challenges in their relationship and how they are overcoming them together.

This raises yet another hypothetical question:

How much better off would Jenny and her parents be today if Barbara had known in advance what Dr. Vilker has learned? If only she had stayed far, far away from Gifford, Perkins, and the adversarial mindset of Family Court.