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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Bristol Palin loses full custody of her son after ex-fiance wins $100,000 court battle


February 27, 2016

Source: Blastingnews.com

Sarah Palin’s daughter has lost a court battle, giving up full custody of her 7-year-old son Tripp.

Bristol-Palin

The daughter of former half term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was on the losing end of a legal battle that cost over $100,000. After having full custody of her first child, Tripp, Bristol Palin will now take part in a joint custody agreement with her ex-fiance , as reported by EOnline on Feb. 24.

Bristol beginning

Heading into the 2008 presidential election, Republicans knew that they needed a spark to defeat the popular Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. With Arizona Sen. John McCain named the party’s nominee, senior advisors recommended Palin to join the ticket.

Sarah-Palin-2016

Despite her limit experience, the Tea Party favorite was able to add life to the GOP, but was quickly exposed for her lack of political knowledge, ending in a quick defeat that November. Along the campaign trail, Bristol Palin joined her mother with then fiance Levi, announcing that she was pregnant at only 17-years-old. Shortly after the election defeat, the teen couple separated which led to a legal battle that has lasted over seven years.

Court battle

Since their break up in 2009, Johnston alleges that the Palin family have made it difficult for him to see his son. In 2010, Levi and Bristol worked out an agreement that would allow the child to his see father twice a week, each Wednesday and Saturday. Since the courts never finalized the agreement, Johnston filed a petition in 2013 asking for joint custody.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Johnston announced that he had won the court battle. “I’m so happy to have my son in my life,” Johnston said, noting, “I’m happy now to be successfully co-parenting.” Elaborating further on the details of the case, “It might have taken me 7 years and cost me around $100,000 in lawyer fees, spread out among 3 different lawyers, as well as a lot of patience, but it was all worth it.”

The Palin family hasn’t released an official statement, but Bristol posted a meme on Instagram after the court’s decision, which read, “Always be careful of what you hear about a woman. Rumours either come from a man that can’t have her or a woman who can’t compete with her.”

Last December, Bristol gave birth to her second child, her daughter named Sailor Grace Palin. The child’s father is Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer, who has since taken legal action, also pushing for joint custody.

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Is sharing residency better for children’s mental health?


January 25, 2016

Source: The Guardian

Divorce and separation can have a hugely detrimental impact on children. But Swedish studies show that having them live with each parent half the time is the best way to help them cope.

Young boy on father's back playing airplane

Why don’t children bounce back from divorce? They’re resilient little things, yet the research shows a relentless association between parental break-ups and poor academic achievement, stress, ill health and depression in children. So with warnings last week that couples who stay together for the “sake of the children” aren’t necessarily doing the best thing, what’s the least-worst thing parents can do?

The solution

The answer to this, as for so many things, may come from Sweden. In the 1980s, 1% of Swedish parents who divorced had shared residency – children stayed with each parent half the time (or at least 35% of the time). Now the number of shared residencies is close to 50%. In the UK, it is between 9% and 12%.

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Intuitively, this seems like a terrible idea. How can parents who are splitting up share their children’s everyday lives? Isn’t it confusing for children to repeatedly move between houses? Won’t they be exposed to constant rows? There are, handily, more than 40 studies that compare children in shared residence arrangements with those living primarily with one parent. The latest, from Emma Fransson’s team at the esteemed Stockholm University and Karolinska Institute, looked specifically at the psychological wellbeing of 4,684 children. It asked if they felt sad, angry, had poor concentration or were tense and nervous. Unlike other studies, the researchers found the same level of psychological complaints in children in shared residency as in those in nuclear families. Children living with one parent had higher levels of psychological complaints. The study took into account the financial status of the parents, but this did not significantly affect the results. The weight of evidence from the other studies, according to a summary in the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, is that children do better if parenting is shared, even allowing for the fact that couples who share parenting tend to have higher incomes and less conflict.

Shared residency doesn’t work so well if there is conflict (if there is violence, then sharing is not an option), if the children are adolescents (less keen on two homes), or if the children don’t like one parent. It is easy to selectively pick the research to suit your argument – studies are mostly not high quality and mix divorced couples and those who have split up after cohabiting, which may be different. Also, children whose parents have more money, a better education and stay on friendly terms will often do better, whatever the parenting plan. But the research is clear that children benefit from two parents being interested in them, and sharing residency encourages this.

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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.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 23.59.06

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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One Parents Story, Bringing Parental Alienation To The Press #PAS – Your Chance To Be Heard and Help


May 28, 2015

Source: Children Reunited 

As each day goes by, it seems that cumulatively we are getting more and more opportunities to bring awareness of Parental Alienation and Parental Abduction to the forefront of people’s minds. Including the media, UK governments and US governments, Congress etc.

PAS_Parental-alienation

As much as we don’t like to use the word “victim”, many Left Behind Parents (LBP)  are exactly that – but the true victims in all of this, our the children. The children that are lost in the system, the children who don’t have a voice. The children who are torn from loving and healthy homes and placed in situations that leave them vulnerable, unloved and abused. More and more parents are falling at the hands of unjust rulings in the family courts and it’s no surprise that they feel like a victim at times. It’s not that they feel sorry for themselves – but who would blame them. It’s not that they feel beaten and defeated every day – but there are good days and there are and ones. What they do want and need – is YOU and your support.
We have seen in the media, that those affected aren’t just your ordinary folks – it can happen to anyone as I’m sure, Kelly Rutherford can testify to. Recently actress and mother, Kelly Rutherford was successful in finally getting a California court to grant her full legal and physical custody of her children, after a long and arduous battle in the courts rooms over the last 3 years or so. As part of her plight and campaign, she created a petition that she asked everyone to sign and needed to meet the threshold of 100k signatures on order to get The Whitehouse to read details of her endeavors.

stop-pas

As we said, this happens to the ordinary Mom and Dad too and as part of our continued campaigning and drive to bring awareness to the public eye, we are helping one Mom attempt to achieve what Kelly has done and campaign in order for her to be reunited with her son. Like Kelly, she needs 100K signatures in order for the Whitehouse to review her case.

For those of reading in the UK, you can still help. This is an International Custody Case, involving a British Mother who had full custody of her son per the UK courts in 2010, subsequently given permission to move to California for work (father was never a resident nor a citizen of the UK, so she wasn’t taking the child away from the father). No sooner had her and her son arrived in the US, the father started a hate campaign and embarked on obtaining full custody off the child. An eternal bachelor, things changed when he met someone (now his wife) on a dating website and the rest we say, is history. Fueled by his father who had also obtained custody of him and his sister back in the day, coupled with a torrid of awful accusations in that case – it seemed the apple wasn’t falling far from the tree and they were determined that history would repeat itself.

The US court failed to acknowledge the UK court order which had been granted a mere 2 months prior and new proceedings started. The landscape that was painted very clear when the Father told a California court that the Mother had kidnapped the child and was in the States illegally and should have been stopped by Interpol – all this despite her having and presenting the court with her new court order, which the Father was also in receipt of……..and then the vile, emotional and heart wrenching custody journey begins. Her attorney called it “form shopping” and it was clear that lies, manipulation and false allegations were going to be the order of the day and important ingredients for the onslaught the Mother did not see coming.

sad-child

We will be publishing her journal that she kept – a very detailed journal of the plight, the journey and the corruption and bias that was becoming ever evident in her case in particular.

Hearing about the journey Kelly Rutherford went on, it became clear that it didn’t matter what color, creed, race, religion or famous background you come with – bias is bias, corruption is corruption and no-one is safe from the unjust rulings that take place in the court room.

We don’t always blame the Judges – but in this particular case, we do!

We know that Judges, Attorney’s GAL’s, therapists etc need to be educated more to know what they are dealing with in the court room and in their offices. Parental Alienation is on the rise and although many courts or mental health organizations DO NOT recognize it as defined condition – too many courts are using it as a basis to change custody for example. Narcissism, Borderline Personality Disorders etc are present in the court rooms and Judges can’t see the wood for the trees.

This particular case is riddled with errors, all of which are documented and ready for retrial.  Whilst we understand people think, “oh there must be something else to the story” there is also the simple truth of prominent corruption and pure bias in the courts and the sticking together of the old boys etc. In court transcripts, the father of the child admitted under oath that he paid off a custody evaluator who was one of the “Old Boys Club” in excess of $50,000 and this was proven in court. There was a plethora of evidence to show bias in the custody evaluation report. Including but not limited to a plethora of sworn declarations and testimonies from the child’s therapist, mothers at the child’s school, child’s principal at school and soccer/football coaches.

Abducted_American_japanese-children

Also the fact that the custody evaluator’s are NOT ALLOWED to have ex part communication with either party after the repot is submitted to the courts – yet we have documented and emailed prove that the evaluator and FATHER were in constant contact, including the weekend of February 16 in 2013 and the evaluator was sent a HUGE box of papers, copies of emails and copies of a deposition in August 2013 – 8 MONTHS AFTER the report had been submitted and prior to any proposal of trial. The law in California states very clearly that this would invalidate any report and the report CAN NOT be used as evidence!
….and the evaluator repeatedly contradicted himself in the report – going as far as stating and this is a direct excerpt from the report
Page 110 of the 730 Custody Evaluation Report…….
“Child is “well and strongly bonded to his mother” and then writes that psychiatric data indicates that a discontinuance of that primary parent/child bond at such a young age can have dire and lifetime consequences for the child’s development, maturation and psychological and interpersonal well being”

Here is another excerpt from just one of the many many signed declarations signed and submitted under the penalty of perjury from the child’s therapist (who is also a court appointed custody evaluator nonetheless) and she also testified to this in court – yet the Judge did NOTHING!…..

“Dr. ????? told me that Petitioner was to blame for Respondent’s lack of bonding with their son, and that his job was to make sure Respondent got custody of minor child. He also indicated to me he had “carte blanche” authority to make whatever recommendations he wanted. That was why he essentially ordered the parties to initiate visitation according to his schedule. This was radically different from the schedule before he was appointed to the case and I did not agree with his abrupt change, and I observed marked differences in child as a result of the schedule imposed on the parties by Dr. ??????.

We need your help to get the US and UK Government to listen and take heed of what is happening in their court rooms, but probably aren’t aware.

We are currently talking to 2 national newspapers and ready to bring this to the forefront, but we also need your help – yes YOU! Please SIGN and SHARE this WHITEHOUSE PETITION. We have PAS National Awareness Day, We have the UN speaking with EU and recognizing PAS to be present and to be considered as Child Abuse – now we need YOU.

Please help. If you are an alienated parent, affected by alienation or know someone that has or is being affected, please simply take 5 mins out of your day and sign this petition and share it.

As one voice, we may sound like a whisper but together, we can ROAR and make a difference.

Thank you

Parental child abduction – We offer needed support
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Parental Kidnapping – How to Help a Child Recover From Child Abduction Trauma


January 1, 2014

Source: huffingtonpost

An abduction victim’s recovery is largely dependent on the relationship with their primary caretakers. Children take their lead from their parents, and if their parents cope in a positive way with an impossible situation, then their children will feel that they can recover and move forward as well. Therefore, it is very important for parents to know their children and know their children’s history.

Parental Alienation PAS

Children react to trauma in proportion to their past traumas. If they have a strong family of origin, are well-bonded and have not experienced trauma before the abduction, they are more likely to have a positive outcome. Children who have been traumatized by illness, abuse or discordant households, on the other hand, will have a more difficult time.

Listening empathically to children after a trauma, without judgment, is one of the greatest tools parents have. Through listening to their children, parents are letting them know that they are still valued and validated, regardless of what damage they may have experienced. Furthermore, by letting children express their feelings, parents give them a chance to grieve. This requires tremendous courage and composure on the part of parents, who are themselves grieving.

While listening, it is constructive to both confirm and validate what your children have been through and how they feel about it. On the other hand, never burden your children with how you feel about the trauma that they have experienced.

It is also important not to burden your children with the emotional reactions of others. If a parent or primary caretaker tells a child that everything will be all right, then he or she will believe that everything will be all right. Children take their cues from the adults around them.

Child Depression

Abduction and the abuse that comes from holding someone against their will may cause post-traumatic stress in victims. The insecurity that accompanies such trauma can be devastating, as children are removed from the safe and intimate world they know. Children that have been held captive in what can only be referred to as a prison mindset may now experience regressive behaviors such as insecurity, fear, hypersensitivity, sleep disorders, depression, free-floating anxiety and a heightened sense of death and destruction. Thus, helping children re-enter their families of origin can be quite difficult, and may take a considerable amount of outside counseling and time.

Parents and primary caretakers can help their children by creating a structure in which to re-establish a sense of sameness and routine. This will allow their children to, once again, feel secure.

Parents should not press their children for the details of their ordeal, but rather allow such information to unfold. Art therapy, talk therapy, music therapy and role-playing are all helpful ways for children to express the unthinkable. When words fail or cannot be used, these approaches can help children tell their painful story.

Younger children can use dolls in order to role-play what they have experienced. Art therapy, including drawing and painting, is also a way in which children can convey the unthinkable: their feelings of such terror, that words cannot lend voice to them. Outside counseling offers the proper container for such activities, to help guide parents and children through this emotional minefield.

This is the time to truly parent, compassionately and empathically. Encourage children to talk about their feelings, without pressuring them, which can only cause more anxiety and trauma. Observe your children and, with young children, observe their play. This is where they can freely act out their feelings, without attention or reprisal. Pay attention to their artwork and their schoolwork, and look for any signs of change. For all practical purposes, abducted children are going through post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, the main role that a parent has at this time is to re-establish a sense of balance, peace, calm, and security.

Parental Kidnapping Recovery

Make sure that you tell your children how much you love them, and how grateful you are that they are home, alive and safe. Impress upon them that there is nothing that they could have done or can ever do to make them lose your love. Explain that they were captives and it is not their fault; that they were just children and an adult took their freedom away. Then, most importantly, reassure your children that what happened to them does not define them; that what happened to them is not who they are; that they can move on with their lives. Reassure them that though some of their life was in captivity, the rest of their life will be free, and that though someone took away some of their life, they will not allow them to take anymore. Make sure that young survivors know that this is what they are: survivors. Be sure they receive professional support and counseling.

Don’t allow your children to comfort you; you are the adult. For feelings of self-blame, doubt, or depression, parents should seek their own, separate professional help. Group therapy or support groups can offer invaluable assistance to parents. Adults need to garner their support and reassurance from other adults — not to have a role-reversal with their children.

In the final analysis, the way back from the shadow is through the light. There is an ancient Jewish proverb, that when the heart is broken, it can mend — though there will always be a scar. It is from this wound that we can offer empathy and compassion to others.

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How Family Court cases like Wylie vs Wylie provoke fugitive parents


October 6 , 2014

Source: The Australian

Some women who feel betrayed by the Family Court resort to desperate measures. 

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WE had dinner in May 2013, almost a year before the abduction.

Over pasta and salad she said there were dark and terrible things I needed to know about the matter of Wylie v Wylie, the pseudonymous title the Family Court of Australia gave its published judgments in one of the most bitter and complex cases in its 38-year history. “Ms Wylie” was bright, well-spoken and tortured by the belief that her husband, “Mr Wylie”, was sexually abusing their six-year-old twin daughters. She asked if I could help her. I could not.

On June 7, 2013, Family Court judge Justice Peter Tree, “after eight days of trial before me of fiercely contested competing parenting applications relating to the parties’ six-year-old twin girls”, ordered that Mr Wylie have sole parental responsibility for the major long-term care of his children and that Ms Wylie ask her GP for referral to a psychiatrist. “I am satisfied, on the material before me, that the concerns which inevitably would otherwise have flowed from the mother’s notice of abuse, have been sufficiently addressed by the evidence,” said Justice Tree.

That evidence included documents detailing the outcome of an investigation conducted by the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Child Safety into Ms Wylie’s child abuse ­allegations against her husband that found: “Nil physical evidence of sexual abuse indicated through medical examination; nil verbal reports from the children of abuse over four interviews with QPS and Child Safety; verbal report from [one twin] to QPS and Child Safety citing coaching from her mother to make statements.”

On February 14 this year, Ms Wylie sent me a 1549-word email: “I have now seen two psychiatrists, four psychologists and a victims-of-crime counsellor who have all said that I am sane. The father and the Family Court believe I am not, so I just keep being sent to another mental health professional. I believe that this will keep happening until one of them says what the court wants to hear.

“Everything is being done by those who should be protecting my children to protect their abuser, and [the twins] are still forced to live with him.

“One in four children are sexually abused. Only one in 100 pedophiles see the inside of a prison cell. It is not because children aren’t talking, it is that they aren’t believed, and, more often than not, if their abuser is their father, he is given custody.”

On April 1, Ms Wylie sent a message to me that was also sent to Acting Inspector Craig Weatherley of the Queensland Police Child Safety and Sexual Crime Group: “I have tried and tried to have faith that the people who are paid to protect my children would do so. This situation needs to be made very public. It is ­horrifying on so many levels.”

On April 3, Ms Wylie emailed me a photograph of one of her girls. She was smiling, in a red dress, wearing the same kind of purple angel wings that my own seven-year-old daughter wears on occasion. “This is a photo of [her] BEFORE she started bleeding from her rectum and contracting another vaginal infection,” Ms Wylie wrote. “Painfully thin, eyes sunken in her head, and apparently absolutely no need for concern in regards to how well she is being ‘cared’ for. Can you imagine what state she is in now? They say a picture says a thousand words. This is the reality of her life right now.”

Child-abduction

The next day, April 4, Mr Wylie dropped his girls at the gate of the school they attend. It was between 8.30am and 8.40am, the last day of school before the Easter holidays. He watched his daughters walk 30m from the car to the school gate, amid the usual chaos of school drop-off; kids running left and right, parents zipping back and forth. His eyes zeroed in on his children and he said to himself, “Gee, they’re getting big those girls.”

Sometime between entering the school gate and the sound of the morning bell, the girls vanished. The Family Court issued a media release that spread across the country: “Fugitive mother of two [Ms Wylie] remains on the run more than a week after she is believed to have abducted her twin daughters from their … primary school. By now, she could quite literally be ­anywhere in Australia.

“The suspected abduction is unlawful and in breach of Family Court orders which [Ms Wylie] consented to … It is inevitable that someone has seen the trio in their travels, and may even know their present whereabouts. Any assistance knowingly provided to a criminal to avoid punishment is itself a serious crime.

“Their father is deeply concerned and desperately seeking public help.”

Ms Wylie was issued one of the 520 recovery orders made by the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court in the past year, orders that Chief Justice Diana Bryant calls a “last resort” when parents don’t voluntarily return children, or take them on the run.

I went back over the emails Ms Wylie had sent me throughout the past year and my thoughts kept returning to her message of April 1, three days before the abduction. Her desperate course was mapped in two lines. “I have had enough of playing nice,” she wrote. “Following the rules does not work.”

I’m looking at Mr Wylie as he’s talking, ­telling me what it feels like to be a father of two kids still on the run with their mother, five long months after they disappeared. I’m studying his teeth, his hair, his skin and his speech to make foolish and unqualified gut assessments about whether or not he speaks the truth. He will get this for the rest of his life and he knows it. The stain of the allegation. “You have your best friends asking you outright, ‘Tell me now, did you do it or not?’” he says.

He cries when he says this, screws his face up, grits his teeth. The thought has a physical impact on him. “They want to help but they don’t want to be put in a position where they’re supporting someone who is a child abuser.

“One police officer said to me, ‘It’s the easiest allegation to make but the hardest one to prove and if you hate someone enough, that would be the way to go.’”

He pulls a small red rental car into a carpark on Brisbane’s suburban northside, where police have had unconfirmed sightings of Ms Wylie and her two daughters. “We used to live here,” he says. “She knows the area well.”

He pops his boot, takes a block of A4 posters marked, “ABDUCTED/MISSING $10,000 REWARD. For information leading to the location of missing 7-year-old non-identical twins… abducted by non-custodial parent in breach of court orders”. His girls beam in school uniform photos, one daughter missing her two front teeth. He sticks the posters to light poles, public noticeboards; hands them out to strangers.

“I came back to school at 3pm that afternoon to pick them up,” he says. “There were kids coming out and one little girl with her dad says to me, ‘What’s wrong with [one of the twins]? She wasn’t at school today.’ I thought she was just confused.

“Then I went in to where they wait to be picked up and there was no one there. I went up to their classroom and the teacher came out and said, ‘They haven’t been here all day.’” He shakes his head. “That’s not good.”

Tears fill his eyes again. “They found her car and the kids’ uniforms and school bags abandoned in the car about five minutes away from the school,” he says. “I don’t know whether she was waiting there, but, obviously, there’s been a changeover of cars.”

He shows me the text message he sent her immediately that afternoon: “Call me urgently.”

“I knew immediately it was [her]. I thought it was almost inevitable. She was getting to the end of the line. In terms of trying to push that line she was going with. There was no further way she could push it through the court. The only thing that was left for her was to take them.”

Mr Wylie met Ms Wylie in a public gym. They married in 2000, bought and renovated and sold houses in the property boom, travelled and worked through Europe. Their twin girls were born through IVF in 2007, when Mr Wylie was establishing his own small business.

“We had arguments,” he says. “We’d had a bit of conflict — mortgages, business debts. It was the usual thing, money. She had her ideas on business, I had mine. We had differences in parenting. We were fighting after the girls had gone to bed. Eventually I said we should split up.”

The-Branch-of-Divorce-Law

And the war began. Fights over debt, fights over houses, legal fights over custody arrangements, accusations of domestic violence. Then Mr Wylie received a text message from Ms Wylie: “You need to talk to the Department of Child Safety, they’ve got some concerns.” A mandatory report had been made to the department alleging, Mr Wylie says, that one of the twins made a disclosure to an occupational ­therapist: “Daddy hurts me down here.”

A departmental “Assessment of Harm and Risk of Harm”, however, later determined that “the children are at risk of emotional harm as a result of the allegations being made that their father is sexually harming them. Their mother has advised that she was sexually abused as a child and believes that [Mr Wylie] is doing exactly the same things to her daughters. A parent who has been harmed as a child is more likely to display harmful parenting patterns relating to what they were subjected to themselves as a child.

“There is previous child protection history in relation to [Ms Wylie] alleging the girls were being sexually harmed by their father. The outcome of this investigation was Unsubstantiated as [the twin] advised that the rash was caused by her underpants being too tight.

“[Ms Wylie] appears to be experiencing a high degree of stress as a result of her relationship breakdown with [Mr Wylie].”

Mr Wylie sips water at a small cafe before setting off to walk the streets handing out ­pictures of his girls. “It’s vigilantism,” he says. “It’s laughing in the face of the law.”

He looks down at one of his reward leaflets. “The hardest thing to think about is the stuff they’re experiencing right now,” he says. “The fear, the anxiety, the ideas being put into their heads: ‘Daddy’s not safe.’”

In the five months she’s been on the run, somewhere across Australia, Ms Wylie’s story has spilled from the courts into the slaughterhouse of the internet. One men’s rights website has dubbed her a “child abuser, child abductor, fugitive, feminist”. A “Friends of…” website, on the other hand, lists testimonials about Ms Wylie’s character from family and friends, including Professor Ros Thorpe, emeritus professor of social work at James Cook University and president of the Family Inclusion Network Townsville, which considers the interests of both children and ­parents in the child ­protection process.

Almost a year ago, Ms Wylie made an aside to Thorpe, her friend. “It might come to the point where I might have to take off with them,” Ms Wylie said.

“I said to her, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea because the consequences for you will be bad,’” says Thorpe. “I was shocked [but] I wasn’t ­surprised because she’s been tortured by this. I don’t think she’s mentally unbalanced at all. She has no psychopathology. She’s not crazy.”

Thorpe and her long-time friend Dr Freda Briggs AO, emeritus professor in child development at the University of South Australia, had been staunch advocates for Ms Wylie prior to the abduction. They believed her, heart and soul. They still do. They’ve called for a reinvestigation of the case, saying key witnesses — including family members who allege to have heard direct disclosures of abuse by the girls — were not interviewed during the harrowing investigations and court hearings.

Briggs is working on multiple cases of ­mothers who feel betrayed by the Family Court. “Why would these mums give up their jobs, their homes, their positions, their support ­networks and flee with their children if it wasn’t something serious? They are taking the children into hiding to protect them from the parent and the Family Court.”

Briggs analysed interview transcripts from the Wylie case and claimed “inappropriate questioning of the children” by police. “How does a police inspector know what language would have been developmentally appropriate for kids aged four and five?” she says. “It requires great sensitivity and special skill in interviewing young children. You need a child-­focused environment and you are required to spend a great deal of time with the child. Those children were interviewed all over the place, in police stations and in the school office. The police said the father… was safe and that he would never do anything to harm them. No responsible professional would make such a statement because no one can be sure what went on in that home.”

Mr Wylie counters: “Their argument is, ‘Police bullied the kids, they’re not experts in child development.’ Well, the Child Protection and Investigation Unit is specifically tasked with dealing with these issues and questioning these kids. Officers from Brisbane were flown up to interview the kids again, for the fourth time after this complaint was made. These were the best of the best, the head of all the CPI units in Queensland brought his senior detective up, the one who trains all the other CPI detectives. And it was exactly the same outcome. And then the supporters are like, ‘Well, it’s obvious the father is coaching them.’

“That’s what I put to Freda Briggs. I mapped it all out and I said, ‘What more possible investigation could there be?’ ”

Briggs says the case ­highlights a growing problem within Australian family law. “The Family Court was set up for divorces,” she says. “It was not set up for child abuse cases.

“These situations happen so frequently that now family lawyers and the women’s legal services advise the mothers to not tell the Family Court about child abuse because you are likely to be labelled as delusional or malicious and you become the bad parent. The focus goes on the mother and the mother loses the child.

“What we would really like is to be able to get child abuse cases out of the Family Court or ensure that judges or participants are experts in child development and child abuse which, currently, they are not.”

When he retired from the Parramatta Family Court last year, seasoned judge Justice David Collier made a rare public statement about an increase in accusations of child abuse in hostile cases. “I’m satisfied that a number of people who have appeared before me have known that it is one of the ways of completely shutting ­husbands out of the child’s life,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s a horrible weapon.”

fighting-over-child-divorce

Alastair Nicholson was Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia from 1988 to 2004. “I have a lot of time for David Collier but I wouldn’t put it as strongly as that,” he says. “I think, on the other hand, these fights get very bitter and you certainly will get some cases where that will happen. Of course, the real risk anyone takes who makes a false allegation is that if you make false allegations, and knowingly do so, the court’s very likely to say, ‘Well, you’re really not fit to be a parent of the child because you’ve been prepared to use the child in this way.’ So it may all go very pear-shaped from that person’s point of view. To say nothing of the child.”

A separate specialist court to process such matters is not the answer, according to ­Nicholson. “There’s only so far you can go with this specialist concept,” he says. “You’d go crazy ­hearing these cases all the time. The judge does. You have to have a break from it. I’d be very ­worried about the effect of having a specialist court just dealing with these cases.”

He welcomes, however, a broader system that better connects the long-disconnected ­systems of state and commonwealth. “It’s pie-in-the-sky stuff, but I’ve long thought that instead of having state child protection courts and the federal family court with a child protection capacity, there should be one system throughout Australia because, otherwise, it really doesn’t work very well. There’s more co-operation than there used to be but it’s still not an ideal system.”

Either way, he says, and “despite the determination of individuals, there has to be a stop somewhere” — meaning a legal decision that all parties must live with.

“It is, of course, easy to make an allegation,” Nicholson says. “Of course, you get some outright liars, but in my experience there were a lot of cases where a suspicion had arisen and the person becomes convinced that the suspicion is reality. They’ll blame the systems, they’ll blame the experts, and you always have that ­terrible feeling, ‘Well, maybe they have got it right.’ It’s one of those things that you lie awake at night about.”

Dad, I am so angry right now. I cannot believe that my own father would lie to me for my whole life and just pretend like everything is OK … I will not wait any longer for my psychopathic father to tell the truth. I have already given you more than 10 years … I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t been destroyed by your lies. You NEED TO GET HELP NOW. Don’t end your life living with a lie. Make the most of the rest of your life and get help. You are a very special person to me, make sure you remember that. I will never stop loving you but I absolutely HATE your behaviour.

Abbey [surname withheld]

That is an edited letter written by a 14-year-old West Australian girl to her father in December 2010. In May last year, Abbey ­disclosed to her mother that her father sexually assaulted her repeatedly between the ages of three and seven. In November last year, Abbey took her own life, aged 17.

In 2002, Abbey’s father was charged with the sexual assault of Abbey’s best friend when she was seven. It would take Abbey years to disclose that she, too, had been assaulted by her father with her best friend on regular sleepovers.

In 2005, her father was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, released on parole after two years. Upon his release, despite protestations from Abbey’s mother, the father was granted access visits with his three children by the Family Court of Western Australia. “In my attempts to protect my children, I was treated as a hysterical woman by the Family Court, even though [the father] had been charged with child sexual offences at the time,” Abbey’s mother says. “I was made to look like a vindictive wife instead of what I was, a protective mother.”

She has called on the state government to launch an inquest into her daughter’s death. Meanwhile, national child protection advocate Bravehearts has launched Abbey’s Project in her daughter’s name, calling for and recording exhaustive statements from Australians who have experienced “instances where deficiencies in the Family Court practices, policies and procedures have resulted in children being assaulted and placed at serious risk of sexual harm”, ­culminating in a report to be submitted to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston hopes the project will be “the precursor for a much larger and broader inquiry into the operations of the Family Court of Australia and related child protection organisations and institutions”. She says: “Every week in Australia, the Family Courts are ordering children into contact with, and even into the custody of parents who are dangerous, toxic and abusive because Family Courts do not have the powers, expertise and resources to competently investigate allegations of child abuse.”

Court-ordered contact with her father left a pre-teen Abbey deeply confused, says her mother, seeding the anorexia and self-loathing that plagued her teens. “I know why [Ms Wylie] is running,” says Abbey’s mother. “Because she’s alone. It makes you feel sick. For 10 years I have felt sick. All I was trying to do was protect my kids through the Family Court but I was so alone. No one heard me. And now Abbey’s dead.

“I know why mothers run. I wish I had run myself. Abbey would still be here.”

Ms Wylie’s parents live on a sprawling Queensland cattle property. It keeps them busy; keeps their minds off thoughts about where on Earth their daughter and grandchildren might be. They say their daughter is a resourceful woman, as at home in a tent by a creek bed as she is in a plush hotel suite.

The couple has been receiving counselling through the past five months. “I worry where they are,” Ms Wylie’s mum says. “Are they OK? It gets cold and I think, ‘Are they warm enough?’ I know they’ll be happy with their mother though. She will spend her time trying to make them happy.”

Family Court of Australia Chief Justice Diana Bryant has a far grimmer picture in her head. “Abduction of children always has a detrimental impact on the children,” she says. “First, there is the removal from familiar surroundings, school, friends and family, and especially the other parent. Then there is the subterfuge and hiding and often the adoption of false identities. Children may also be kept away from school to avoid detection.

“In order to live in this situation and where children are old enough to ask questions, a regime of denigration and rejection of the other parent is often necessary to justify the circumstances. This is likely to have a long-term detrimental psychological impact on the children.

“Once located, the possibility that the children could be removed from the abducting ­parent will also be traumatic for them. When a parent abducts a child and goes into hiding, the children will inevitably be harmed and will always be the losers in these situations.”

“The grandparents want the children to live with them,” says Briggs, referring to the Wylie case. “It’s not going to happen, is it? He’ll get the kids back and she’ll go to jail.”

“What do you mean, ‘What if he is innocent?’ ” asks Professor Thorpe. “You mean, ‘How would I react?’ Well, I would find it very hard to believe and accept, just as his supporters find it hard to believe that he has abused the girls.”

Every day, meanwhile, Ms Wylie’s parents finish their day’s work on the farm and then go inside and wait by the phone for news of their daughter. The only way they can communicate with her is through news pieces such as this. “Take care,” her dad says. “And we love you.”

Sometimes the phone rings late in the night, wakes them up. “Hello?” her dad says. “Hello?”

But there’s no response. Only silence.

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