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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.)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An important letter sets an example for retired state workers to help children and youth

Delaware's Family Law Commission encouraged formation of the Blue Ribbon Task Force that is reviewing state policies to make recommendations regarding Family Court. A long-time social worker wrote this letter. We need more retirees to promote specific reforms of state agencies and court systems. Along with our concerns about Rhode Island's Family Court and Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), we are interested in hearing confidentially from those with experience inside the Training School.

Family Court from social worker's perspective

The following letter was sent to the Family Court task force with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.
My name is Brendan Buschi. I have lived in Delaware since 1996. I am semi-retired and currently reside in Milton. I have been continuously licensed as an independent social work practitioner since 1975. I have had clinical licenses in New York, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland and Delaware. At various times I have testified in family court proceedings in all of the above mentioned states plus New Hampshire.
I have received a mental health advocate award in New York State and the distinguished alumni award from my graduate school. I have served as an advisor to the Suffolk County Health Committee in New York and was appointed by Gov. Minner to Delaware’s Child Placement Review Board.
I am no stranger to Family Court. My perspective has been formed by my experiences in six states. Whether Family Court proceedings should be “open” or held behind “closed doors” should depend upon what is most likely to benefit the children whose lives are severely impacted by what happens in Family Court.
The most common outcome I have observed over the years I have functioned as both an active and expert witness at these proceedings is the further, long term abuse of the children involved.
Children are the victims of their parents’ actions in regards to family court matters. They are not the only victims, but they are the most vulnerable victims. Providing an advocate for the child does not seem to change the distress heaped upon the children as a result of Family Court proceedings.
The issues of child support and child custody are the overriding issues at Family Court. Regardless of how the lawyers spin their clients’ cases, money and property are the underlying concerns. Children are the cannon fodder. Children are just part of the property to be settled.
Once in New Hampshire, I advised a Family Court judge that a particular child was at risk. I testified that what was going on in the court was only making matters worse. The judge was none too happy with my assessment and dismissed my recommendations.
Three years later when the child committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in a parking lot the judge and attorneys and advocate and other contributors to this tragedy were nowhere to be found.
This certainly was the worst outcome I personally observed from any Family Court hearing I attended. Other outcomes resulted in physical and sexual abuse of children. I’ve seen children lose their extended families, friends and neighbors. It is not uncommon for children to become estranged from one parent or one set of grandparents and assorted uncles and aunts, cousins and even siblings.
I cannot help but feel that opening up family court proceeding to the light of day would be a significant inhibitor to the disturbing things that go on in those courts. That is certainly not the only thing that needs to be done, but it is the single thing that will set the stage for how the various Family Court actors behave.
Most muggings take place on dark streets and alleyways.
Finally, I would like to say that I have had decades of experience with the issue of client “confidentiality.” While I agree that this is an important issue, I regret to say that I have most often seen the issue raised by practitioners who seek to avoid accountability for the various malpractices they themselves have been guilty of.
Make no mistake, what takes place in Family Court reverberates in the households, schools and communities throughout Delaware. Poor school performance, poor work performance, crime, substance abuse, and severe, incapacitating emotional distress are just some of the Family Court byproducts.
Ask yourself “who always gains from Family Court proceedings?” The judges, the lawyers, the therapists, and the advocates always come away with a financial benefit. You can’t say the same for the children.
Brendan Buschi, MSW, LCSW (retired)
Milton, DE

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Disciplinary Counsel seeks Supreme Court action against Attorney William Holt

Disciplinary counsel accuses R.I. lawyer of misconduct in divorce cases

PROVIDENCE — The Supreme Court disciplinary counsel accuses well-known Family Court lawyer William F. Holt of professional misconduct over his handling of four divorce cases.
Chief Disciplinary Counsel David D. Curtin last week petitioned the Supreme Court disciplinary board to consider taking action against Holt. He asks that the disciplinary board hear testimony on the allegations.
The petition outlines instances in which Holt is accused of misleading Family Court judges by submitting orders that had not been agreed to by the parties. In one case, Holt is alleged to have removed a divorce filing from the clerk’s office, thus delaying his client from being served and allowing the client the opportunity to remove items from the home.
Holt’s lawyer, John A. Tarantino, said Holt “is going to contest each of the allegations and present his side of the story.”
If the board finds Holt committed violations, it could recommend that sanctions ranging from censure to disbarment be imposed. It could also dismiss the complaint.
In the case of Brian and Lynn Auclair, Holt is alleged in June to have presented Magistrate John J. O’Brien with a proposed “consent order” to sign that authorized Brian to enter their home and remove any items he chose. Holt represented Brian, who had filed for divorce a year earlier after Lynn obtained an order granting her exclusive use of the home and barring Brian from contacting her. Brian was given a date, in July 2012, to retrieve his belongings.
The petition states that Holt failed to notify Lynn’s lawyer about the proposed order allowing Brian access to the home. Lynn became aware of the order when Brian was found in her house.
In the case of Michelle and Dennis Bonnollo, Holt is accused of removing Michelle’s divorce filing from the clerk’s office, and, as a result, disrupting the distribution of the couple’s assets.
Michelle’s lawyer, Lois Iannone, filed for divorce on her client’s behalf in late June. On July 8, Michelle told Iannone that Dennis had assaulted her and removed 95 percent of the belongings from their house.
Iannone obtained a protective order on Michelle’s behalf, the petition states. Iannone learned from Holt, Dennis’ lawyer, at the courthouse that he had taken the divorce filings from the clerk’s office. That meant that Dennis was not served with the papers. As a result, Michelle was denied court protections with regard to their possessions, the petition says.
In Melissa and Anthony Pallini’s divorce, Holt is accused of presenting Judge Laureen A. D’Ambra in September 2012 with an order to sign that was significantly different from the divorce terms finalized 11 years earlier.
Holt, Melissa’s lawyer, did not notify Anthony about any proposed changes, the petition states. Anthony learned of the revisions when the Town of Johnston altered the pension he had been receiving as a retired assistant fire chief.
Holt then, according to the petition, failed to inform Melissa about court action Anthony took to have that order vacated. Judge John E. McCann III vacated the order after finding that Holt had committed fraud upon the court.
The final case involves Gregory and Jessyca Colembowski’s divorce. Holt is alleged to have misrepresented D’Ambra’s June ruling that Jessyca “may stay” with her parents in Florida pending a hearing once school for her three children let out. Instead, Holt is accused of preparing an order that his client, Jessyca, “shall be allowed to relocate to the state of Florida” with the three minor children.
D’Ambra in July reaffirmed that she had not authorized the relocation of the children after Gregory’s lawyer, Arthur Read, raised objections. D’Ambra found that Holt had misrepresented her earlier bench decision.

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

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

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: