USA: Taken from mom, teen flees dad and waits for 18th birthday


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Hannah Mills was 15 when two strangers woke her in a hotel room. One waved handcuffs in her face while taunting her: “We’re not afraid to use them on children.”

The two strangers, who had taken Hannah from a Shiawassee County courtroom to the motel, then drove her to the Detroit airport where they held a towel over her head and escorted her to an airplane.

Hours later, she landed in California where she joined her father and younger brother at a reunification program – called Family Bridges – designed to repair Hannah’s relationship with a father she says she hated, but who was given sole custody of her after a bitter custody battle with her mother.

“They showed us dumb videos that said your mom is wrong and dad is right,” Hannah said. “They threatened to send me to a housing unit in Utah until I was 18. I was only 15. I had to say, ‘I love you, dad’ and participate. … They said if I did, I could see my mom.”

Hannah’s father, Kurt Mills, of Owosso, sees it differently. He believes the reunification program was a necessity to address “the parental alienation” tactics his ex-wife, Candy Mezey, used to poison Hannah’s attitude and feelings toward him.

Parental alienation describes a situation where a child chooses not to have a relationship with one parent because of the influence of the other parent.

Kurt Mills said the program helped his relationship with his now-17-year-old daughter. He admits that he hasn’t seen Hannah in months, because she left his home when she turned 17 and hasn’t told him where she is living.

“Candy always tells the kids bad things about me and my family,” he said, adding that comments included how his family doesn’t love the children. “The first couple years, my ex-wife denied (visitation).

“After enough brainwashing, the kids said they didn’t want to go with me. … After a while, my kids were referring to me as ‘sperm donor,’ ‘deadbeat dad,’ (and) ‘loser,’” Kurt Mills added. “The judge labeled (ours) the worst case in the courthouse.”

Shared parenting

Michigan still follows the Child Custody Act of 1970, which puts the power of which parent receives custody in the hands of the court. The decision is determined based on what is known as “best interest” factors for the child, including financial resources and education.

But, addressing child custody in Michigan has become a hot topic button as lawmakers consider House Bill 4691, the Michigan Shared Parenting Act, which passed the House Judiciary Committee in June and is headed for the House floor in the fall.

The proposed bill establishes a presumption of shared parenting – both legal and physical – that means neither parent would have more than 200 days per year, or about 54%, with the child. If passed, HB 4691 would not make custody an automatic right as exceptions in cases of domestic violence, child abuse or unfitness would still apply, and those custody decisions would revert to the 1970 law.

Advocates of the bill say it would fix an ineffective family court system across Michigan that pits parents against one another. Opponents argue it assumes that one sort of custody is best for all families and could create more conflict that places children in the middle of their parents’ fight.

In June, Judges Kathleen Feeney and Brian Kirkham of the Michigan Judges Association wrote in testimony prepared for the judicial committee that the presumption of an established custodial environment by both parents “disregards the actual facts as to which parent provides day-to-day support, maintenance and nurturing of the child and instead substitutes mere presence of a parent.”

Linda Wright, chairperson of the Michigan chapter of the National Parents Organization, said it is difficult to ascertain who is the better parent based on the best interest factors when “a lot of custody cases” are decided after “10 minutes in front of a judge,” who cannot get an accurate picture of the family dynamics in such a short time.

“The current law is not working,” she said. “… Without there being a standard, it really doesn’t depend on who is the best parent. It depends on what judge you have and what county you’re in.

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“There is a wide discrepancy between counties on what parents may get – joint custody or equal parenting time,” Wright added.

Statewide, joint custody ranged from a high of 70% in some counties to as low as 14% in others. Livingston County ranked in the middle with mothers awarded custody in 50.4% of the cases while 7.3% of fathers receive custody, according to statistics from the NPO. Joint custody is awarded in 41.7% of the cases.

In Michigan, an estimated 85% of divorce cases involving children end with one parent receiving sole custody. Of those parents awarded sole custody, an estimated 83% are women, the NPO reports.

“That is not enough time to establish the bonds and maintain the parent role for children,” Wright said.

Children’s interest

Candy and Kurt Mills married June 28, 2003.

According to court documents, the couple had an apparently tumultuous relationship that led to multiple filings seeking a divorce. The couple reunited several times, until December 2009, when their final judgment of divorce entered.

At the time, Candy Mills had custody of the couple’s two children while Kurt was given parental visitation rights on alternate weekends from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday and one overnight each Wednesday. The couple alternated major holidays with Kurt Mills having the children on Father’s Day and for three consecutive weeks in the summer.

However, about two months after the divorce was final, Candy Mills filed court documents alleging her former husband “has never exercised” his rights to see the children, and she asked the judge to stop the Wednesday overnight visit.

“She is doing everything possible to keep them from me,” Kurt Mills told the court, according to court records. “I have always been a good, involved dad and have always taken good care of my kids.”

That latter statement remains true today, Kurt said.

Hannah disagrees.

She remembers “my dad was not around a lot.” She said there “was a lot of violence and hostility” and that her father was physically and verbally abusive toward her mother. She said she witnessed her father “throw” her mother off beds and “shove her into walls.”

Hannah remembers her father would leave during the arguments, sometimes to stay at another house he owned or to travel for work. She also remembers her father telling her “you’re a mistake” and that she “should never have been born.”

“The hostility was so high,” she said.

Court battle

Court records show both parents hurled accusations at the other.

Candy Mills accused her ex-husband of driving without a license with their son in the vehicle and of excessive alcohol consumption in front of the children. She also alleged Kurt Mills’s family members taught the children how to roll cigarettes, showed porn to the children and offered the children alcoholic Jello shots at a family gathering.

Kurt said a family member did roll cigarettes in the children’s presence but did not teach them. He also acknowledges there were Jello shots at a party but said none were offered to the children, and he admits “driving drunk once” when he went to Candy Mills’s home at her request.

Kurt Mills said ex-wife continually made false allegations to Child Protective Services, which could “not substantiate” Candy’s claims.

Hannah said she complained her father denied her food as punishment, but CPS gave her father a warning they would visit, which prompted him to stock the house with food. She said CPS told her that, since “he didn’t use a stick or weapons,” his treatment of her “wasn’t child abuse.”

“Obviously, you’re not going to leave your house bad if you know they’re coming,” she said.

CPS does not comment on investigations.

Court records show that Kurt’s son threatened to “break everything (Kurt) owns” if he was forced to visit his father, and Hannah told her father, “I hate you.”

Hannah, then a freshman in high school, threatened suicide and began cutting herself.

As the custody dispute, which centered on the children’s unwillingness to visit their father, raged on, the judge and CPS appeared to get frustrated.

CPS, tasked with investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect, asked the judge to force Candy Mills to give her ex-husband his parenting time, and they asked that Candy Mills receive a 20-hour community service sentence.

Kurt Mills said it was CPS who suggested “parent alienation” was at play. He said that clicked, explaining the children’s disrespect and hostility, and his ex-wife’s denial of his parenting time.

“I simply wanted to be a consistent part of my kids’ life,” Kurt said.

In August 2015, Judge Matthew Stewart had apparently had enough and awarded Kurt physical and legal custody of both children.

Family Bridges

Hannah said she and her younger brother were told they were going to court on Aug. 10, 2015, to tell the judge their opinion about where they should live.

Instead, Hannah was ordered to go with “these people,” two strangers Hannah now refers to as “psychos.” They told her she could no longer have contact with her mother, patted her down and escorted her to a hotel.

Candy Mills had been ordered by the judge to immediately leave the courthouse and to stay 5 miles away until close of business that day. She learned her children were in California when a pharmacist called to discuss refilling a prescription for Hannah.

“I call it kidnapping,” Candy Mills said. “Two people took off with my child. They were strangers.”

In California, Hannah said she was forced to participate in the Family Bridges program operated by Randy Rand, who has since had his license as a psychologist revoked because of misconduct in Florida and California.

Programs like Family Bridges, which bills itself as a multi-day educational program, have sprung up in the past decade to address parental alienation.

Opponents argue the programs, which can cost upwards of $40,000, are shams that provide a way for lawyers, psychologists and social workers to profit from parents in a bitter custody battle. Proponents say parental alienation is psychologically damaging and reunification programs like Family Bridges are the best way to reunite an estranged parent and children.

Kurt Mills said he felt he had no choice.

“I had concerns for a year because of what was happening to my kids was absolutely horrific,” he said. “This was the only hope there was. … I was trying to open their minds up and not be tunnel vision by just what their mom said.”

Hannah said her father had pre-arranged her “escort” as he had purchased her airline ticket before the conclusion of a custody hearing. Kurt said it was necessary due to Hannah’s hostility toward him.

He believes the program helped. Hannah disagrees.

Candy Mills’s attorney, William Mollison, filed a motion in January 2016 seeking to return custody of Hannah and her younger brother their mother. The judge denied the request.

Changing the law

Kurt believes Michigan’s Legislature needs to seriously consider HB 4691.

“The laws have to change in the state of Michigan,” he said. “I would think when children are being damaged so severely someone should stand up and do something about it. … I think both parents need to put their hate and anger aside and think about the kids.”

Research shows that shared parenting is best for children. NPO reports that children without shared parenting are two times more likely to drop out of high school and four times more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems.

“That is the promise of this bill,” Wright said. “It’s to allow the children to keep both parents and both extended families. There’s a trickle-down effect to this that when one parent is eliminated … (children) also lose that whole other side of their village – the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.”

Hannah left her father’s home at 17. She arranged with a family she met at church to live with them and attend Brighton High School.

She said she’s been advised that, as long as she emails her father at least once a month to let him know that she is OK, he cannot report her missing or as a runaway. She has denied his requests to meet for dinner at a restaurant, and she’s revoked permission for school officials to give her father information.

“Not once has he asked me to come back,” Hannah noted.

She visits her mother, but only on her mother’s court-ordered weekends because she fears, if she detours from that schedule, her mother could be accused of violating court orders.

“She went to jail for a night because we refused to visit our dad,” Hannah said. “She was threatened with 30 days. I don’t want to be the one who puts my mom in jail.”

Hannah said is waiting for the day she turns 18 so she can have her mother back in her life 100% of the time.

She works at a local Subway store to support herself and is planning a mission trip to Africa with her church. She entered her senior year of high school and has found a renewed interest in dance, which she lost when “I was taken away from my mom.”

“I’m glad he’s out of my life,” Hannah said about her father.

“I was so depressed for so long, obviously. I was cutting myself and attempting suicide, but at this point, I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “I remember when I was 13 and counting the days to 18. … I can make something good out of all of this. I want to save other children.”

USA: Right Against Self-Incrimination Preserved For Parents In Cases Involving Child Sexual Abuse


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Thankfully, sexual abuse allegations against parents do not often arise in the context of a divorce typical. However, when those scenarios do arise, they bring lawyers, litigants and judges alike in to unchartered territory where they sometimes have to sift through various accounts to get at the truth of the matter.

Twenty years ago, the Appellate Division succinctly described the dilemma Courts often face when dealing with sexual abuse allegations:

This case is an example of a tragic but recurring dilemma in certain family court cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse. On the one hand, there are clearly cases of imagined or even fabricated charges against a parent, especially when raised during the pendency of divorce proceedings. For a parent to stand accused of such an offense is devastating both to that individual, and to the child’s lifelong relationship with the parent. On the other hand, proof of such abuse, especially involving a very young child, is rarely clear, and the potential danger to a child from a reoccurrence, if the suspicions and accusations are well-founded, is enormous.

[P.T. v. M.S., 325 N.J. Super. 193, 198 (App. Div. 1999)].

In a subsequent case several years later, the Appellate Division in Segal v. Lynch, 413 N.J.Super. 171 (App. Div. 2010) even carved out a cause of action wherein one parent can sue the other for money damages on the grounds of parental alienation when one makes false sexual abuse allegations against the other:

[W]e are not blind to scenarios in which one parent intentionally or recklessly imbues a child with such calumnious accounts of the other parent, so wicked in their intent and so destructive in their effect, that the situation necessitates civil redress. For example, a case in which one parent falsely and intentionally accuses the other parent of sexually abusing the child is so despicable on its face and so destructive in its effect on the innocent parent that it cries out for compensation which is not available in the Family Part or even in the criminal courts. The same can be said of cases involving parental abduction, where one parent, unlawfully and without the knowledge or consent of the other parent, removes the child to a foreign jurisdiction with the intent of frustrating any lawful means for returning the kidnapped child to the aggrieved parent. In such cases, sound public policy demands that the aggrieved parent and, by extension the innocent abducted child, be given compensation beyond just reunification. Id. (emphasis added).

The recent published decision of E.S. v. H.A., A-3230-14T2 and A-3256-14T2, speaks to a different kind of scenario involving sexual abuse; one where the allegations have been sustained and the parent-child relationship hangs in the balance.

In E.S. the parties had a long history of contentious litigation, involving various domestic violence claims, motions, and the like. Ultimately, the Division of Child Permanency and Placement (DCPP) became involved with the family when allegations were made of sexual abuse against the father as to the parties’ child, Richard.

After various proceedings by the DCPP, at least some of the sexual abuse allegations against the father were sustained.  Thereafter, the mother moved for a suspension of the father’s parenting time.

Following a hearing, the trial court found, by clear and convincing evident, that the father had sexually abused Richard, granted the mother sole legal and physical custody of Richard and denied the father parenting time.  The resulting order further required the father to “comply with certain requirement prior to making any application for parenting time with his some”, including the following:

a.         Admission of wrongdoing;

b.         A psychosexual evaluation by a professional specializing in same; and

c.         Individual therapy.

The father’s subsequent appeal primarily concerned the above requirement that the be required to make an “admission of wrongdoing” prior to making an application for parenting time.  The father argued that requiring him to do so would violate the right against self-incrimination.

Indeed, the right against self-incrimination, although not protected by the New Jersey constitution, is deeply rooted in our jurisprudence and codified in N.J.S.A. 2A:84A-19, which states that every person in New Jersey “has a right to refuse to disclose in an action…any matter that will incriminate him or expose him to penalty…”

Both the United States Supreme Court and our New Jersey courts have consistently held that the state may not force an individual to choose between his or her Fifth Amendment right and another important interest because such choices are deemed to be inherently coercive. It does not matter whether the particular proceeding is itself a criminal prosecution. Rather, “the Fifth Amendment is violated ‘when a State compels testimony by threatening to inflict potent sanctions unless the constitutional privilege is surrendered.’” State v. P.Z., 152 N.J. 86, 106 (1997).

After a full examination of the case law and surrounding circumstances, the Appellate Division in E.S. reversed the trial court’s decision requiring the father to admit to the sexual abuse allegations prior to making an application for parenting time. Its reasoning was as follows:

Here, the November 2013 and January 2014 orders conditioned any future request by defendant for parenting time upon his admission of “wrongdoing,” which we presume, based on [the expert’s] testimony, means defendant must admit that he sexually abused Richard. Such a requirement compels defendant to waive his privilege against self-incrimination and violates his rights under the Fifth Amendment and our State Constitution.

The Appellate Division further vacated the remaining preconditions that the trial court imposed on the father “prior to any application for parenting time”, reasoning that, “imposition of these other preconditions violated defendant’s right to invoke the equitable powers of the Family Part to modify its order denying him any parenting time.” While the Appellate Division noted that these application may fail absent the father’s efforts to address the issues that the court saw as vital to the reintroduction of parenting time, it made clear that the court should not reach that conclusion in advance of such a request.

Cases involving sexual abuse pose special problems and considerations for our courts.  But this decision makes clear that it is important to note that our judiciary is required to preserve and protect the due process rights of everyone involved in the litigation.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental alienation or parental child abduction feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

USA: Orono mom found dead with 5-year-old son left suicide note lamenting custody rift


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An Orono woman discovered dead with her 5-year-old son Monday left a suicide note lamenting her long-running court battle with the father over custody that ended with them having joint parenting rights, according to a search warrant filed Wednesday.

Police have called the hangings of Gina Ilene Summers, 46, and her son Jude a murder-suicide. It appears to follow a lengthy custody dispute between Summers and the boy’s father, 51-year-old Jeff Sandberg, of Minnetonka.

Officers first stopped by the home Monday, after Sandberg notified police that he could not reach anyone there to arrange for picking up his son at 5 p.m., Police Chief Correy Farniok said. Summers and Sandberg have joint custody of the boy.

The home was locked and no one answered the door, Farniok said. Sandberg was advised to call back later if the situation remained the same, the chief said.

After the father called again, a relative who lived nearby and had keys let police in about 8 p.m. That’s when the bodies were found in the basement and a preliminary determination of murder-suicide was made, the chief said.

Summers’ typed and signed note, which was discovered nearby, “talked about prior domestic abuse and issues with the system and allowing a child to be ripped from his mother,” and it ended with, “Don’t let this happen to another child and mother.”

Sandberg released a statement late Thursday through his attorney pointing out how he went from enjoying a family fishing trip a week ago to the Boundary Waters with his 5-year-old son and others to now “planning the funeral for Jude, murdered by his mother, Gina Summers, when he was getting ready for his first day of Ready Start Kindergarten.”

Sandberg challenged the mother’s allegations, writing that Summers “since the onset of the case in January 2015 when she falsely accused the father of domestic abuse, never missed an opportunity to disrupt the established father-son relationship, both inside and outside of the Family Court paternity proceedings.”

He said Summers traumatized him and his family over the past 2½ years with “her actions and inactions, including her scheduling of multiple motions before the court, not only before but also after the trial, and subsequently to the Court of Appeals, and her absolute refusal to participate in ordered mediation.”

Police searched Summers’ house and found documents, including court and mental health papers. A camera system was also installed at the property.

According to court documents in their disputes over Jude’s custody and care, Summers and Sandberg began a romantic relationship in 2008, and the next year discussed having a child through in vitro fertilization. After several failed pregnancy attempts, Jude was born in August 2012.

By July 2015, the relationship had become toxic. Summers received an order for protection against Sandberg, saying he had been physically abusing her since 2009. That petition was eventually settled and dismissed.

But the two continued to fight over the pregnancy costs and how to care for the boy. They filed court motions against one another over which school district he should attend. On Friday, Hennepin County District Judge Edward Wahl ruled in Sandberg’s favor.

The court records include many of the boy’s report cards, pictures and assessments. His preschool teacher wrote that the boy is “doing great in class! He is such a smiley and loving boy!”

Summers worked as a Realtor in the west metro. In an online biography, she spoke at length about activities with her son, that ranged “from reading to painting, from racing cars to swimming with them, from gardening to building, all ball sports, and not to mention teaching him to downhill ski at 17 months old; the list of fun goes

If you have any questions or concerns regarding parental alienation feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

For multi-national families, breaking up can lead to tragedy


Parents can face lengthy court battles, or become permanently estranged from their children

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KATE BAGGOTT and her two children live in a tiny converted attic in a village near Frankfurt. Ms Baggott, who is Canadian, has a temporary residence permit and cannot work or receive benefits. The trio arrived in Germany in October with a day’s notice to get on the plane, after a Canadian court order gave them a month to return, and a last-minute motion to stay failed. Ms Baggott’s ex-husband, a Canadian living in Germany, had revoked his permission for the children’s move to Canada after they had been there nearly a year, alleging “parental child abduction”. A German court has given Ms Baggott full custody, but she must stay until an appeal is over.

Such ordeals are becoming more common as the number of multi-national and footloose families grows. Across the European Union, for example, one in seven births is to a woman who is a foreign citizen. In London a whopping two-thirds of newborns in 2015 had at least one parent who was born abroad. In Denmark, Spain and Sweden more than a tenth of divorces end marriages in which at least one partner is a non-citizen.

The first question in a cross-border break-up is which country’s laws apply. When lots of money is at stake there is an incentive to “forum shop”. Some jurisdictions are friendlier to the richer partner. Germany and Sweden exclude assets owned before the marriage from any settlement. Ongoing financial support of one partner by the other is rare in France and Texas—and ruled out in another American state, Georgia, if the spouse seeking support was adulterous.

Under English law, by contrast, family fortunes are generally split evenly, including anything owned before the marriage. Prenuptial agreements, especially if drawn up by a lawyer representing both spouses, are often ignored. The wife of a Russian oligarch or a Malaysian tycoon can file for divorce in London if she can persuade a judge that she has sufficient links to England. A judge, says David Hodson, a family lawyer in London, might be presented with a list of items supporting her claim, which may be as trivial as which sports team the husband roots for, or where the family poodle gets a trim.

Across the European Union, until recently the rule has been that the courts of the country in which divorce papers are filed first gets to hear the case. The result was that couples often rushed to file rather than attempting to fix marital problems. But in some countries that is changing: last year Estonia became the 17th EU country since 2010 to sign an agreement known as Rome III that specifies how to decide which country’s law applies (usually the couple’s most recent country of residence, unless they agree otherwise). Though the deal brings welcome clarity, it can mean that courts in one country have to apply another country’s unfamiliar laws. And one spouse may be tricked or bullied into agreeing to a divorce under the rules that best suit the other.

The bitterest battles, though, are about children, not money. Approaches to custody vary wildly from place to place. Getting children back if an ex-partner has taken them abroad can be impossible. And when a cross-border marriage ends, one partner’s right to stay in the country where the couple lived may end, too, if it depended on the other’s nationality or visa.

Under the Hague Abduction Convention, a treaty signed by 95 countries, decisions about custody and relocation fall to courts in the child’s country of “habitual residence”. If one parent takes a child abroad without the other’s consent or a court order, that counts as child abduction. The destination country must arrange the child’s return.

But plenty of countries have not signed, including Egypt, India and Nigeria. They can be havens for abducting parents. Around 1,800 children are abducted from EU countries each year. More than 600 were taken from America in 2015; about 500 abductions to America are reported to the country’s authorities each year.

Some countries, including Australia and New Zealand, often regard themselves as a child’s habitual residence from the moment the child arrives. The EU sets the threshold at three months. America differs from state to state: six months’ residence is usually what counts. GlobalARRK, a British charity that helps parents like Ms Baggott, is campaigning for information on such rules to be included among the documents issued to families for their move abroad. It also lobbies for a standard threshold of one year for habitual residence and advises parents to sign a pre-move contract stating that the child can go home at any time. Though such contracts are not watertight, they would at least alert parents to the issue.

Britain is comparatively generous to foreign parents who seek a child’s return: it provides help with legal advice and translation. But plenty of countries do little or nothing. Family judges in many places favour their compatriots, though they may dress up their decisions as being in the child’s interests. Parents who can no longer pay their way through foreign courts may never see their children again.

Some parents do not realise they are committing a crime when they take the children abroad, says Alison Shalaby of Reunite, a British charity that supports families involved in cross-border custody disputes. Even the authorities may not know the law. Michael, whose former partner took their children from Britain to France in 2015, was told by police that no crime had been committed. After he arranged for Reunite to brief them, it took more than five months to get a French court order for the children’s return.

Other countries are slower still, often because there are no designated judges familiar with international laws. Over a third of abductions from America to Brazil, for example, drag on for at least 18 months. When a case is eventually heard the children may be well settled, and the judge reluctant to order their return.

A renewed push is under way to cut the number of child abductions, and to resolve cases quickly. The EU is considering setting an 18-week deadline for the completion of all return proceedings and making the process cheaper by abolishing various court fees. And more countries are signing up to the Hague convention: Pakistan, where about 40 to 50 British children are taken each year, will sign next month. India, one of the main destinations for abducting parents, recently launched a public consultation on whether to sign up, too.

But the convention has a big flaw: it makes no mention of domestic violence. Many of the parents it classifies as abductors are women fleeing abusive partners. One eastern European woman who moved to Britain shortly before giving birth and fled her violent fiancé four months later, says she was turned away by women’s shelters and denied benefits because she had lived in Britain for such a short time. For the past year she has lived on charity from friends. The police have taken her passport to stop her leaving Britain with the baby. Another European woman, living in New Zealand, says she fears being deported without her toddlers when her visa expires in a few months. She fled domestic abuse with the children and a bag of clothes in December, and has been moving from one friend’s house to another ever since.

Child abduction is often a desperate parent’s move of last resort, says GlobalARRK’s founder, Roz Osborne. One parent, who has residence rights, may have been granted sole or joint custody, meaning the children cannot be taken abroad without permission. But the other parent may have entered on a spousal visa which lapses when the marriage ends. Even if permission to remain is granted, it may be without the right to work or receive state benefits. In such cases, the decision of a family court guaranteeing visiting rights or joint custody can be close to meaningless.

Britain’s departure from the EU could mean many more divorcing parents find themselves in this desperate state. Around 3.3m citizens of other EU countries live in Britain, and 1.2m Britons have moved in the opposite direction; so far it is unclear whether they will continue to have the right to stay put and work. And in America, says Jeremy Morley, a lawyer in New York who specialises in international family law, immigration issues are increasingly used as weapons in child-custody cases. Judges in family courts, he says, often pay little attention to immigration issues when ruling on custody, because they know few people are deported solely because their visas have expired. But under Donald Trump, that may change.

Many parents have no idea what they sign up for when they agree to follow a spouse abroad, says Ms Osborne. They may mistakenly believe that if things do not work out, they can simply bring the children back home. Ms Baggott’s move to Germany was supposed to be a five-year adventure, the duration of her husband’s work visa. Instead, she says, she has endured “a decade of hell”.

Correction (April 5th): This article originally stated that a Canadian court gave Ms Baggott and her children a day’s notice to return to Germany. In fact, they were given a month’s notice, of which only a day remained when a motion to stay that order failed.

This article appeared in the International section of the print edition under the headline “Unhappily ever after”
If you have any questions or concerns regarding a child abducted to, or from the EU please feel free to contact us 24 / 7.  We are always available at contact@abpworld.com or by calling our offices – +1 (805) CHILD-11 (+18052445311)

Understanding Stages of Grief applied to Parents Affected by Parental Child Abduction / Alienation / Retention


June 23, 2016

Source: Medium.com

“The death of a child is indisputably one of the most incredibly horrible tragedies one can imagine. Whether by sudden accidental circumstance, or by a more lengthy cause as in illness, the loss of a child is undeniably painful to experience. Painful to the parents, parents to the family, and painful to anyone related to the child. Never knowing the laughter of that child again or the tears, the joys and the accomplishments is a pain no parent should ever have to endure, and yet it happens. No one might be to blame. It can just happen”. (Tim Line)


Imagine a similar pain and the same sense of loss, with one exception-the parent is very much aware that the child is alive.

Parental Alienation PAS

The effects of Parental Alienation, Parental Child Abduction and retention are very similar to the loss of a child in some other way. However, the bereavement cannot end.

This feeling of bereavement can also affect the child that an abducting/alienating parent claims to love and can have serious emotional scars that can remain for a long period of time – If not for a lifetime.

Yet, parental child abduction and parental alienation remain as silent abuses that the effects never seem to be fully understood unless you or your family have to cope with this trauma yourselves.

Even parents that are lucky enough to have any contact whatsoever with their children, Parental Alienation, where a custodial parent maliciously tries to destroy the relationship between the child and target parent, rips the innocent child from their arms slowly. They witness the suffering. They witness the effects but they feel powerless to do anything about it.

The very sad part of this is it is not unique. There are hundreds of thousands of children and parents affected by Parental alienation and also thousands of cases involving parental child abduction but it is only recently that law professionals are starting to sit up and take notice of the traumatic emotional damage that this can cause target families and children.

If you are a parent, spend a moment to look at your children and imagine what it would be like if you woke tomorrow morning to find that they are not there and you have no idea where they have been taken to or if you will ever see them again. Imagine the minefield of legal litigation required to locate and reunite with your children once they have been found to have been abducted abroad?

Imagine pleading for help from authorities, courts, family, friends and groups but they are powerless or reluctant to help to reunite you with your child and can even facilitate the abduction, alienation and retention by their inaction.

People find it very difficult to understand the effects on a target parent. Many feel that eventually, time should allow you to “get over it” and just carry on with life but it is not that simple.

Let us look at an extended Kübler-Ross model that tries to explain the stages of grieving and see how that can be applied to a parent who is retained from their children’s lives.

Stage 1: SHOCK AND DENIAL.

In many cases, a target parent can actually identify the signs that abduction and alienation might occur but they are often given false reassurances that this will not happen or is not happening by authorities and legal professionals. When it does, the initial trauma is one of shock and numbness. However, there is a belief that everybody around will be just as horrified at the situation and will do everything they can to find a resolution to return the child to the situation prior to abduction/retention

Stage 2: EMOTIONS ERUPT.

Unlike a bereavement resulting from death, the shock never really passes as a target parent fails to understand how the situation could have occurred and begins questioning people around them. One minute they were a loving parent sharing their children’s lives and the next, it is taken away from them, often through no or little fault of the affected parent. Emotions can overflow their usual boundaries. They are expressed in ways ranging from wrenching sobs to gentle tears.

sad child

The strongest try to look for a resolution quickly and place their trust in authorities, lawyers, courts and organisations to help them resolve the situation. These emotions heighten even further if heinous “tactics” are used by the other parent to achieve their alienating objectives such as false allegations. This stage in the grieving process is also without end.

Stage 3: ANGER.

Mixed with the hurt, many people feel angry. “How could the other parent do this to them?”, “Why aren’t people doing enough to help?”, in cases where false allegations are used as a mechanism to aliene and retain their child, “Why are the authorities listening to them? This is NOT me that they are talking about!” They sometimes want to retaliate. Although the anger is towards the other parent for their actions, it can also be transferred to other areas such as the lawyers and authorities for their apathy and inaction. The anger can also be misdirected at people closest to the target parent through their absolute despair of the situation and this can affect friendships, relationships and support. This anger one feels can reappear so once again is another stage in the process than can be without end

Stage 4: SICKNESS.

Often the body acts out the pain being felt through actual physical symptoms. Nausea, headaches, diarrhoea, extreme fatigue, lack of sleep are common. In some cases, panic attacks can occur that can be compared to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) especially in situation such as family court proceedings. Once again, as these litigation processes can be ongoing, so can recurrences of the sickness stage.

Stage 5: PANIC.

Along with a time of sickness and emotional upset, people begin to realise that they aren’t acting like themselves anymore. They begin to worry, wondering if they are becoming mentally ill. They frequently ask themselves “What is happening to me?”. From the outsiders point of view, this is often met with wrongful judgement. They can lose sight of the person they really are and just start to see the shell of the person that the target parent might be becoming without the help to keep them strong and focused. The longer it takes for resolution, the harder it is for the target parent to cope. Apathy often occurs in other aspects of the target parents lives that could affect their work and personal lives.

Stage 6: GUILT.

Personal guilt feelings build up as people wonder whether they are somehow to blame for the situation they find themselves in. They ask themselves if they could have done something to make it different…. “if only . . .”

Stage 7: DEPRESSION AND LONELINESS.

The pain of their loss often causes people to withdraw into themselves. As the depression deepens, friends and family find it harder to draw the person out, to talk them into participating in regular activities again. Many suffer detachment issues in their relationships with others. Mixed with the other stages that are still present in some form, without understanding of family and friends, it can appear as though the target parent does not WANT to be around people who care when it is, in fact, quite the opposite.

Stage 8: RE-ENTRY TROUBLES.

Once the effort is made to get back into the normal routine, the pain of loss makes it difficult to be as trusting and open as before the loss. Suspicion must be battled constantly. Friends and families are tested again and again.

Stage 9: HOPE.

Only the very strongest emotionally of the target parents can maintain this. They focus on areas that might be able to help others in a similar situation. They identify the failures in the system that do not seem to protect and try to do something about it. Some try to become advocates or write a book about their experiences. Raise awareness in whatever way they can. Some affected parents can never reach this stage as they feel defeated, betrayed and can even result in major depression or even suicide.

Stage 10: ACCEPTING AND AFFIRMING REALITY.

Sadly, a parent who continues to be subjected to alienation and retention can never fully reach this stage. Many are forced into a position where they have to box all of the emotions that they feel and “give up” on finding a solution as a means of self preservation. Although they do not give up on their love for their children, they give up hope of ever being a parent to that child again.


Conclusion

In conclusion to this short paper, it appears that when a child is retained, alienated and/or abducted the grieving processes begins but can NEVER end until there is resolution. Unfortunately, in many cases, this forced “living bereavement” goes without deterrent or accountability in the family courts or by authorities which continues to subject families to this abuse.

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International Parental Abduction specialists team up with left behind parents to present educational conference


January 5, 2016

Source: Washington Square Institute

International Parental Abduction specialists team up with left behind parents to present conference on “The Loss of a Parent to the Child And the Loss of the Child to the Parent: Investigation of Relocation, Parental Alienation, and Parental Child Abduction.

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Please register no later than February 10, 2016 since seating capacity is limited. Register Here: Registration form

Washington Square Institute

Friday Feb. 26, 2016, 8:30 am – 5:00 pm
Washington Square Institute  
41 E. 11th St. (between Broadway and University Pl), 4th Fl., NYC

Conference Fee: $150*
Full-time students with school ID: $75
*(Limited number of partial scholarships available – please email Linda Gunsberg for further information, lindagunsberg@yahoo.com )
PRESENTATIONS

Relocation
Philip Stahl, PhD, ABPP
Complexities of Relocation in Separation and Divorce
Relocation cases are among the most difficult in family law. This presentation will focus on both risk and protective factors, as well the limited research available regarding relocation. Dr. Stahl will also address how Courts, mediators, evaluators, consultants, and attorneys can work together to help parents solve difficult problems regarding relocation. 
Hon. Helen Sturm
Relocation from the Judicial Perspective
This presentation will begin with a brief summary of the Tropea case, which sets forth the factors that are to be considered in New York State relocation cases. Judge Sturm will then discuss two cases she decided, one an application by a parent to relocate to Texas with 2 young children, and the other an application to relocate to Australia with an infant.

Parental Alienation
Linda Gunsberg, PhD  
Parental Alienation: Clinical Issues
It is essential for psychotherapists of children, adolescents and adults to understand both the parental influences and the child/adolescent contributions to the destructive phenomenon referred to as Parental Alienation. Therapists who work with adults need to be familiar with how a mother or father may be fostering or stimulating alienation of the child from the other parent. The adult patient may be the alienating parent or the alienated parent. Dr. Gunsberg will discuss techniques that can help therapists elicit information about the parent’s contribution to Parental Alienation, as well as treatment and psychoeducational interventions that are useful in Parental Alienation cases.

Melissa Fenton, MBA
Resilience in the Face of Parental Alienation
This presentation will focus on Ms. Fenton’s experience of being an alienated parent, and the knowledge she has gained of the New York City Family Court System and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act laws (UCCJEA).

Parental Child Abduction
Colin Jones, JD, LLM
Family Law for Whom? Why Japan is Different
This talk about Japanese family law will likely challenge some basic Western assumptions about the role of law and courts in family-related matters, and will offer a better understanding of the problems of child abduction in Japan.
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Samuel Lui, JD
Dead Dad Walking: Moving on in Life without Your Child Who Depended 
on You
Child abduction coupled with parental alienation is one of the worst kinds of domestic violence against both the child and the left-behind parent. The left-behind parent continues to think and care about his child, but there is nothing he can do. He never gets any news about the welfare of his child, causing continuous anxiety. Other people are expecting him to function and work on a regular basis like a normal person. However, the trauma of losing his child lingers in his mind. He is like a man whose purpose in life has been stolen from him.  Mr. Lui will share what it is like to live like this for the past 16 years.

Brian Prager, MA
Erasure of the Father: Coercive Practices, Corrosive Effects in Japanese International Parental Child Abduction
Erasure of the father, the expulsion of a caregiving natural parent from the lives of young children, is epidemic in Japan. Today, roughly three million children in Japan have meager-to-no contact with one parent after divorce, due to the absence of parental rights and protection of the parent-child relationship in family law. This induces parental child abduction, and also the disappearance of parents who despair the loss of the close bonds they previously had with their children. Mr. Prager will highlight factors contributing to the devastation and bereavement suffered by overmatched parents who lose their children to parental abduction in an unresponsive institutional environment.



Ellen B. Holtzman, JD Moderator


Conference educational objectives 
  • Be able to define and describe relocation, parental alienation, and parental child abduction in nuanced legal and psychological terms 
  • Understand the specific losses in the parent – child relationship as a result of relocation, parental alienation, and parental child abduction 
  • Become knowledgeable regarding the legal, treatment, and psychoeducational options available to families facing relocation, parental alienation, and parental child abduction
Bios of Presenters

Philip Stahl is a forensic psychologist in private practice, living in Maricopa County, Arizona. His current area of specialty is relocation cases, including complex international relocations . He provides consultation and expert witness testimony in child custody litigation throughout the United States, and conducts child custody evaluations. His teaching includes trainings throughout the United States and internationally for attorneys, child custody evaluators, and judges. He is on the faculty of the National Judicial College, is a Specialist Provider in Family Law for the California State Bar, and is Adjunct Faculty at Arizona Summit Law School (Phoenix). Dr. Stahl is an Invited Speaker at the Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program, Washington Square Institute. Dr. Stahl has written extensively in the area of high conflict divorce for over 25 years. His latest works are: Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review, Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony (2013); Emerging Issues in Relocation Cases (2014); and Analysis in Child Custody Evaluation Reports: A Crucial Component (2014). Dr. Stahl’s child custody evaluation was cited by the California Supreme Court in its landmark decision modifying 8 years of relocation case law following Burgess (In re Marriage of LaMusga (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1072, 12 Cal.Rptr.3d 356, 88 P.3d 81).

Judge Sturm received her JD, with Honors, from Brooklyn Law School in 1976, and began her career in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. In 1983, Judge Sturm relocated to New Mexico where she was Chief of the Medicaid Fraud Unit in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. In 1988, Judge Sturm returned to New York and to the District Attorney’s Office where she remained until she was appointed to the bench in 1999.
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During the years she served as an Assistant District Attorney, Judge Sturm was the Bureau Chief of the Juvenile Crimes Bureau, created the first Child Abuse Unit, and tried numerous homicide and related cases. As a judge, she was assigned to Family Court where she presided over thousands of custody, visitation and family offense matters. Judge Sturm is currently the Administrative and Compliance Manager for the Mt. Sinai Hospital Adolescent Health Care Unit, maintains a private practice in Divorce Mediation and Consultation, and is an Administrative Law Judge with the New York State Comptroller’s Office where she hears and determines matters relating to pension entitlements.

Linda Gunsberg is Chair of the Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program at Washington Square Institute. She created this program almost 20 years ago, with the goal of training mental health professionals, attorneys for children, matrimonial attorneys, and judges from an interdisciplinary perspective. Within family litigation, Dr. Gunsberg has served as a forensic expert on issues such as divorce, child custody and parenting plans, grandparents rights, relocation, parental alienation, parental child abduction, child abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional), battered woman syndrome and domestic violence, Hague Convention cases, and adoption. She works within the United States and internationally. Dr. Gunsberg conducts and supervises forensic evaluations, consults with attorneys for children regarding child interviews, is a trial consultant to legal teams (domestic and international) and conducts work product reviews of child custody evaluations. She also is a parent coordinator, parent – child facilitator, and facilitator for a support group for alienated parents. Dr. Gunsberg was past Clinical and Research Director for Take Root, the only organization in the United States for adults who were parentally abducted as children. She is Co-Chair since 1999 of the Psychoanalysis and Law Discussion Group of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Dr. Gunsberg has co-edited and written chapters in the volumes, A Handbook of Divorce and Custody: Forensic, Developmental, and Clinical Perspectives (2005), and Fathers and Their Families (1989). She has co-edited and contributed to the monographs for Psychoanalytic Inquiry, The Psychoanalyst in the Courtroom (2009), and The Adoption Journey (2010). She has lectured on numerous forensic topics, most recently the best interests of the child, parental alienation, factors critical to the child/adolescent’s paradoxical preference to live with the batterer in child custody cases, and complex issues regarding overnights for infants and toddlers. Dr. Gunsberg is also in private practice where she sees children of all ages, and adults. She feels very fortunate that her work as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst is informed by forensic issues.

Melissa Fenton is a Fundraising, Event and Communications consultant within non-profit and corporate sectors.  She has served as the Chief Development and Communications Officer and interim Chief Financial Officer with charter schools; and a Principal Strategy Consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, assisting Fortune 500 companies and higher education. She was the Executive Director of City Lights Youth Theatre, a non-profit organization that offers after-school, in-school and summer theater classes and productions to young people in New York City, ages 3-19. She has produced several theater based discussions on topics facing youth such as gun and school violence, persecution for sexual orientation, and the challenges of assimilation after immigration. Ms. Fenton has worked in the Frauds Bureau in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as a trial preparation assistant, dealing with white collar crime, sex crimes and racketeering cases.

Colin Jones is Professor of Law, Doshisha Law School, Kyoto, Japan. He is author of the book, The Child Abduction Problem: How the Japanese legal system tears parents and children apart ( 2011). He also has written the following academic articles: 19th century rules over 21st reality – legal parentage under Japanese law, Family Law Quarterly (2015); Will the child abduction treaty become more “Asian”? A first look at the efforts of Singapore and Japan to implement the Hague Convention, Denver Journal of International Law & Policy (2014); No more excuses: Why recent penal code amendments should (but probably won’t) stop international parental child abduction to Japan, Whittier Journal of Child and Family Advocacy (2007); and, In the Best Interests of the Court: What American lawyers need to know about child custody and visitation in Japan, Asia-Pacific Law and Policy Journal (2007).

Sam Lui has a B.A. in Japanese Language and Literature from University of California, Irvine and his J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law. He is currently working for Manhattan Legal Services as an attorney in the areas of family and immigration law.

Brian Prager has an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and Education from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a Left-Behind-Parent whose young son disappeared into Japan in a scripted, pre-meditated parental abduction in June, 2010. He participated in the United States Department of State Town Hall Meetings in 2011 and 2012 on Japanese International Parental Child Abduction (JIPCA). Mr. Prager submitted testimony to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2011 regarding International Child Abduction. He also has been a participant in left-behind-parent organizations such as Bring Abducted Children Home (BAC-HOME) and Kizuna – Child Parent Reunion (Kizuna-CPR). Presently, he teaches at the City University of New York.


Ellen B. Holtzman concentrates her practice in domestic relations and has represented clients in all aspects of matrimonial and family law, including parental alienation, relocation and parental child abduction. Recently she was successful as the lead attorney in a Hague Convention case, and the decision was upheld on appeal. Ms. Holtzman has frequently lectured at Continuing Legal Education programs on Representing Domestic Violence Victims in Matrimonial Actions. For the Center for Safety and Change, she also educates attorneys in the techniques of representing battered women in divorce proceedings. Ms. Holtzman was a panelist at the American Psychoanalytic Association on The Intersection between Legal, Psychological and Judicial Concepts of Best Interests of the Child’ (2012), and a panelist at the New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis on Where are We Now Regarding the Best Interests of the Child Standard? – The Interface between Legal, Judicial and Psychoanalytic Perspectives (2013). Ms. Holtzman is a past President of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) and is presently President of the Women’s Bar Foundation of WBASNY. She is the 2007 recipient of the Association’s Joan E. Ellenbogen Founder’s Award and she was honored by the Rockland County Women’s Bar Association with the Belle Mayer Zeck Award . She is Director of Legal Training at the Family Law and Family Forensics Training Program, Washington Square Institute.
Family abductions

Registration  

Please register no later than February 10, 2016 since seating capacity is limited

You can download the registration form here.
Registration is by check only, payable to Washington Square Institute. Mail your check with the registration form to:
Linda Gunsberg, PhD
130 W. 56th St. (Fl. 2)
New York, NY 10019

Refund & Cancellation Policy
Full refund of registration fee will be granted if cancellation request is prior to February 19, 2016. No refunds for no-shows on the day of the conference.


 Continuing Education Credits: 6.5 hrs
  • Washington Square Institute for Psychotherapy & Mental Health is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (#0269). 
  • WSI is approved by the  APA (American Psychological Association) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists.
  • Application has been submitted and is pending for CLE credits for lawyers    (6.5 hrs-skills)

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Custody battle – Kids Locked Up for Refusing to Have Lunch With Dad


July 17, 2015

Source: Yahoo.com

“I felt like I was watching them be executed,” Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni said of the moment that she heard a judge sentence her three children to juvenile detention until age 18 for refusing to have a relationship with their father. 

Abduction PAS Alienation

In a ruling that one attorney tells Yahoo Parenting is flat-out “bizarre,” a judge sent three kids to a juvenile detention facility for being in contempt of court and refusing to go to lunch with their father.

“I felt like I was watching them be executed,” Maya Eibschitz-Tsimhoni, the mother of the children, ages 15, 10, and 9, told Fox 2 about the mandate from Oakland County Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca during a hearing about supervised parenting time with her ex-husband, Omer Tsimhoni, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on June 24. “No matter how bad the divorce gets, I think the court should not punish the kids for that.”

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But the kids were punished for not submitting to the judge’s demand that they foster a “healthy relationship” with their dad, according to Fox 2. “There is no reason why you do not have a relationship with your father,” another outlet reports the judge told the eldest child in court, during the latest episode in a bitter family feud that has included allegations of abuse and fear of parental kidnapping. “Your father has never been charged with anything. Your father’s never been convicted of anything. Your father doesn’t have a personal protection order against him. … You, young man, have got it wrong. I think your father is a great man who has gone through hoops for you to have a relationship with you.” 

When all the kids remained resistant, Gorcyca ruled them in contempt and sent them to Children’s Village’s juvenile detention center until age 18. The trio have reportedly since been separated from each other, as well as both of their parents, who aren’t even allowed to visit. 

divorce_Law

“After more than five years in court and dozens of court appearances, Dr. Eibschitz-Tsimhoni is continuing to demonstrate her disregard for the well-being of the children and disrespect for the law and due process,” Omer Tsimhoni’s lawyer, Keri Middleditch, wrote in a statement to Yahoo Parenting. “This situation is traumatic for everyone involved, and it is unfortunate that the children are in shelter care due to the actions of their mother. [She] has continued to endorse the children’s behavior that she successfully instilled in them, effectively alienating them from their father. The court took severe action to attempt to remedy a heart-wrenching situation.”

Eibschitz-Tsimhoni’s attorney, Lisa Stern, didn’t respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment, but she told Fox 2 the mother is upset. “I think the judge was very concerned about reunification of this family but went about it the wrong way,” Stern told Fox 2. “I know laws were violated, and I know that the children were punished for crimes they did not commit.”

Attorney Henry Gornbein — who has represented Eibschitz-Tsimhoni in the past during her bitter five-year divorce saga and custody battle with her ex husband — tells Yahoo Parenting that in his 45 years in practice he has never heard of such a contempt-of-court ruling for children during a family hearing. “This has been a high-conflict divorce,” he says, “a very nasty conflict from the get-go that has obviously spun out of control.” It’s “highly unusual” he adds. “I’ve seen cases where you might threaten or sentence a parent for refusing to comply with a judge’s order, but I’ve never heard of a case where children themselves were incarcerated. This is bizarre.”

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