AddThis

Bookmark and Share

Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Family Court Quacktitioners vs. the American Psychiatric Association


In response to requests for more information on PAS for professionals who want to be better prepared in the courtroom, I recommend resources listed at the Leadership Council's website:
http://leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/faq.htm#PAS

The American Psychiatric Association, in updating its much-anticipated next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for clinicians, has decisively rejected a doctrine that has long been standard operating procedure in Rhode Island Family Court: a junk science called “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS).

For more than two decades Rhode Island family court litigants and their children have been subjected to court-ordered “therapy” under psychologists Brian Hayden, John Parsons, Lori Meyerson, Bernice Kelly, Judith Lubiner, Peter Kosseff, licensed clinical social worker Haven Myles, and others who adhered to PAS and used the disgraced doctrine in their clinical reports. Children sent to them were often forbidden to see their own trusted counselors in the midst of the most frightening trauma of their lives.

For the most part, Family Court judges do not want to hear about the anguish of children who pull out their hair in clumps, pluck out their eyelashes, suffer gastrointestinal distress, and wake up screaming with night terrors.  Why?

“I don’t have any psychological training,” one judge told me. Lawyers say judges use court-ordered “psych evaluations” in order to hang their “hats” on “hat-racks,” as if to justify their judicial decisions with “expert” opinions.  Perhaps these judges sleep better at night than those of us who deal directly with children traumatized by judicial orders that deprive them of the very parent and therapist they trust and need the most.

Instead, judges rely on “therapists” carefully recruited by attorneys with a vested interest, as Lise Iwon did in the case I have written about at http://littlehostages.blogspot.com/2009/12/why-did-lise-iwon-do-it.html

Though Iwon was supposed to be a neutral guardian ad litem, she described herself as a member of the “team” and sat with the father's lawyers in the courtroom. Iwon’s bill shows her urgent search for a therapist amenable to the father's defense strategy of “parental alienation.” Then-DCYF Director Patricia Martinez told me she had given Iwon permission to contract for up to $30,000 for a psychiatric evaluation. The resulting document showed that Iwon instructed the clinician in PAS.


The defense strategy of “parental alienation” blames one parent for a child’s aversion to the other parent without examining the evidence that the despised parent is in fact abusive and sometimes criminally so. It’s a cunning strategy that has brought buckets of gold to attorneys and psychologists. It has worked better on judges than previous strategies that urged clinicians to diagnose a battered mother as having borderline personality disorder or Munchausen's syndrome by proxy without ever asking whether her accuser might be a charming psychopath. Whenever lawyers drag a clinician's couch into the courtroom, their plan depends on disseminating a carefully contrived, and often completely fraudulent, narrative. Lawyers train litigants and “experts” in the narratives that work best on judges.  

In the Iwon case cited above, I appealed to Child Advocate Jametta Alston, who had already been told that this mother was “coaching” her children against their father—a common term in parental alienation narratives.  An Associate Justice, who declined to take the case, was told another common narrative--that this case began as a simple divorce case and the mother later claimed that her child had been sexually abused. Court documents showed the exact opposite: DCYF had indicated the father for sexual abuse in January 2004, and the mother reluctantly filed for divorce in April 2004. The defense team was already skewing the truth to get this case so mired in Family Court that it would never get to where it belonged—before a jury in Superior Court.  

An entire section in the 2004 training manual, Guardian ad Litem Practice in Rhode Island, developed by a committee headed by then Associate Justice Haiganush Bedrosian and staffed by former Chief Judge Jeremiah S. Jeremiah’s top assistant, David Tassoni, made “parental alienation” seem like an acceptable argument in the courtroom. In a tumultuous custody case that same year involving a Family Court deputy sheriff with a long history of domestic violence against his wife and girlfriend, Tassoni told me that he was searching for a psychologist who “understood parental alienation.” He found Lori Meyerson in a cramped office and brought her in to write a chilling report recommending sole custody to the deputy sheriff. Meyerson became a court favorite and set up her psychology practice at the Regency Plaza. Tassoni left the court under a cloud in 2011 when the newly appointed Chief Judge Bedrosian and state police found that he had neither the college nor law school credentials he claimed.     

As recently as this Spring, Attorney Barbara A. Barrows concluded her article, “Parental Alienation Syndrome in Divorce,” in the Rhode Island Bar Journal (March/April 2012 , pp. 31-32) with the disingenuous statement: “If a parent chooses to play the alienation game, it is the children who ultimately pay.” In fact, it is defense lawyers themselves who devised this game because it pays so handsomely.  

The American Psychiatric Association holds that “parental alienation” is neither a “syndrome” nor a mental disorder, and it does not belong in the APA’s  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Nor does it belong in Rhode Island’s Family Court. It is finally time for those in charge to make this clear. 

For more on the APA  decision, see:   

As always, Anne Grant welcomes comments and corrections to this article. You may also send your experiences, both positive and negative, with Family Court, DCYF, and court-ordered clinicians to her confidentially at ParentingProject@verizon.net 




About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit http://LittleHostages.blogspot.com


About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to parentingproject@verizon.net

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here:

www.centerforjudicialexcellence.org/PhotoExhibit.htm
www.child-justice.org
www.leadershipcouncil.org
www.evawintl.org provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:
www.haguedv.org

more about domestic violence in law enforcement:
http://behindthebluewall.blogspot.com/



Followers