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Dear Judge - Letter from a Decimated Parent

December 13, 2017

Dear Judge:

 

You won. I’m about to give up. Here’s my dismissal. Merry Christmas.

 

Wait a minute; don’t put down that gavel so fast. I have some things I want to tell you… some things I HAVE to tell you, and some questions I want to ask.

 

Do you want to know WHY I’m considering withdrawing my petition to modify custody? I didn’t think so, but I’m going to tell you anyway: it’s because I never had a chance.

 

 

When I walked into the courtroom, you were locked and loaded. To you, I was just another pro se father – someone surely just trying to get out of his support obligations. But guess what, Your Honor? I dismissed my petition to modify support. I was never motivated by the money.  Sure, it would be nice to reduce the amount paid to my ex, but that wasn’t what motivated my petition to modify custody. 

 

But you treated me like a common criminal. I didn’t know all of the procedural niceties – a crime far worse, in your eyes, than child abuse.  You yelled – YELLED – at me for not knowing all of these finer points.  And you did this all in front of my ex, who I am sure relished it, as there could be nothing sweeter than your confirmation that I am the worst person on the planet. 

 

I can’t imagine anything I could have done to merit such hostility. I apologized for the inconvenience I must have caused by sending copies of my motions directly to your office, but that couldn’t have incited your aggression toward me. It seems to me that you could’ve simply told me, “Sir, there is no need to send a copy of your motion directly to me.” That’s pretty easy to comprehend; I would’ve certainly complied with that instruction. Did you have to bellow at me like a dog bolting into the street? It wasn’t necessary – except, perhaps, if you had some ulterior motive. Perhaps you simply needed to exorcise some inner demon by taking it out on a humble pro se litigant standing before you. I don’t know, and I guess I’ll never know.    

 

You even barked at me for something I didn’t do: call your clerk. You reprimanded me and directed me NEVER to call your clerk or your office for any assistance.  But I hadn’t done what you found so offensive – and never intended to. I understand that clerks aren’t there to give me legal advice. But I guess you felt entitled to assume I had, didn’t you, Your Honor? Because pro se litigants "can’t help themselves" and eventually call your clerk for legal advice. You even threatened to instruct the court clerk to reject any filings that breached this injunction, merits be damned.

 

Judge, I hate to remind you, but you are a family court judge. That means that the people before you are broken, bruised and traumatized. A little empathy would go a long way towards healing. Shouting at one of the parties for missing arcane procedural nonsense will accomplish exactly the opposite. Perhaps that’s what you intended, but then why did you choose to become a family court judge? 

 

Worst of all, you didn’t even read my petition, my brief or any of the exhibits I filed. I was exhorted to do my homework. Do my homework? Did you not read my brief in which I cited numerous relevant cases from your jurisdiction that supported my position? In which I cited experts in psychology and social psychology who have documented the pathology that is happening, along with the dire consequences to my children if left untreated? What about all of the factual justification I provided – my affidavit, the exhibits showing all the communication and attempts to communicate with my ex and my children? Was it my pro se standing that you took as justification to dismiss all that as drivel without as much as a look? To let yourself off the hook while passing hurried judgment on me?

 

How could I have possibly gotten a fair hearing if you weren’t even going to read my pleadings?

 

After the hearing, I did some research on you, Your Honor. I found out that my ex’s attorney contributed to your recent campaign to be elected to the bench. Great. A pro se dad going up against an attorney who bought and paid for you: where do you think this was headed, Your Honor? I never stood a chance.

 

Your Honor, the only thing I wanted was to save my children. My ex has engaged in pathogenic parenting that has resulted in significant damage to their attachment system. This means that they believe untruths about me as their father, and that I haven’t had meaningful communication with my children in over two years. This is child abuse.[1] They are suffering, Your Honor. So I turned to the one institution that should be on the side of justice to enter an order that allowed for appropriate intervention. Maybe you couldn’t understand the psychological principles involved, but certainly you should’ve understood this: it isn’t natural for a child to shun a parent.  When that happens, the court – you, Your Honor – should ask “Why? What is causing this to happen?” I had the answer to that question, had you only asked. I also had the solution to the problem, if only you had bothered to read my pleadings.  Is it too much to ask that you do your job?

 

Your disdain for me only serves to embolden the alienator and help cement the break in my relationship with my children. You are effectively colluding with a child abuser.  My children now face a life of loneliness, depression, sleep problems, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, eating disorders, diminished activity, school dysfunction, anxiety, social identity problems, diminished attention span, lack of friends, gender identity damage, and anger directed at both parents.[2] The impacts reach into adulthood and include depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, low self-esteem, problems with trusting, and alienation from their own children.[3] Sentencing my children to that – by dismissing me so callously – came so easy to you. Honestly, I don’t know how you sleep at night.

 

And guess what else, Judge? I speak for hundreds and thousands of parents just like me around the world. When all we want is to rescue our children, the family courts fail them because we don’t even stand a chance.

 

 

 

[1] The appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis is V995.51, Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.  See, e.g., Childress, An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations (2015)

 

[2] Clawar and Rivlin, Children Held Hostage: Identifying Brainwashed Children, Presenting a Case, and Crafting Solutions, Second Edition, American Bar Association (2013)

 

[3] Baker, Amy J.L., Parental Alienation Is Emotional Abuse of Children, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/caught-between-parents/201106/parental-alienation-is-emotional-abuse-children (2011)

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