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Separated From Their Kids, Parents Unite Against One Court Guardian/ citypages.com

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http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2015/02/separated_from_their_kids_parents_unite_against_one_court_guardian.php

It’s a bleak Wednesday morning as E.J. sits at her kitchen table, poring over boxes of court documents. She lives in a three-bedroom apartment just north of the metro, where the walls are covered with her children’s crayon drawings. The table is spread with toys and picture books; overhead, a Thomas the Tank Engine poster spells “Happy Birthday” in bright blue.

She hoists a slender cat onto her lap as she points out the pictures on the fridge. There’s her son, a brown-eyed boy smiling in a pressed shirt. There’s her daughter with a missing tooth.

The children live about 25 miles away with their father now. They visit only once a month.

The exact location of E.J.’s apartment is a secret. Her driver’s license lists her address as a P.O. box because she’s enrolled in the secretary of state’s Safe at Home program for victims of domestic violence. The names of all the families in this story have been changed to protect the children’s privacy.

Shrunken behind her files and slow to make eye contact, E.J. struggles to recount a mind-boggling 180-degree shift in custody arrangements that played out over eight years in family court. She recounts brutal physical abuse at the hands of her ex-partner, of getting picked up and slammed down repeatedly in front of their son. Her ex admits to a history of crack cocaine and alcohol abuse, and his criminal record includes burglary, check-forging, and defrauding a St. Paul food bank of $24,000. His abuse eventually forced her out onto the streets, their two children in tow, E.J. says. They were homeless for 18 months.

E.J. says she fought to keep her kids out of their dad’s reach, but over time his improved behavior began to win him unsupervised visitation rights. He got joint custody of their son, and eventually sole custody of both children. E.J.’s access dwindled. She went from full custody of her children to monthly visits.

That the tables turned so radically is a testament to the up-and-down nature of custody battles. But E.J. says there’s more to it. She accuses the courts of ignoring her children’s reports of abuse while in their father’s care. (E.J.’s ex-boyfriend declined to comment through his lawyer.)

Asked where her case went wrong, E.J. points to a single woman, Jamie Manning, the court-appointed guardian ad litem. She is not alone.

The Guardian ad Litem
In high-conflict custody cases, parents accuse each other of every sin under the sun, from domestic violence and child abuse to drug and sex addiction. They call each other crazy, depraved. Cutthroat lawyers tell stories so wildly incongruous that they seem to be describing different families.

The kids can get lost in the madness.

That’s where a guardian ad litem comes in. The state may appoint a guardian to advocate for the children in family court. Families shoulder the cost: $1,500 from each parent every six months the guardian works their case. It’s the guardian’s job to weigh what the children want against their interactions with both parents. Guardians interview teachers and therapists, collect medical and criminal records, and sift through acrimonious family accounts. They place competing parents’ mental and physical health, criminal background, family history, their every action and comment under microscopic scrutiny. Ultimately, the judge decides whether to adopt a guardian’s recommendations. But in practice, guardians have major influence over whether parents get to see — and have a relationship with — their kids.

There are 21 state-employed guardians in Hennepin County and seven in Ramsey. A full-time guardian might juggle up to 40 cases at a time. There are also part-time and volunteer guardians.

Jamie Manning started as a guardian ad litem for Carver County in 1996. She completed her guardian ad litem training two years later, and began working full-time in Hennepin County in 2001. She has a bachelor’s in education from University of Minnesota, though there are no degree requirements to become a guardian.

Suzanne Alliegro, the director of the state guardian ad litem program, says when it comes to family court, rarely are both parties happy with the judge’s ruling, and the parent who loses out invariably starts raging against the system. That’s why guardians, who are tasked to make independent recommendations, receive judicial immunity.

“In family court we do try as much as possible to point out the strengths of the parents instead of just the weaknesses because I know it’s very difficult for parents to see that in print,” Alliegro says. Guardians attract undue criticism when people assume they’re the ones making the decisions, she adds.

At the same time, says Alliegro, she’s never seen so much collective hatred toward a single guardian.

Click on the link above to continue.

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

February 22, 2015 at 5:46 am

Building a Broad-Based Movement for Family Justice / Lundy Bancroft

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Originally posted on Lundy Bancroft’s Prevention, Response, and Healing for Domestic Abuse and Child Maltreatment blog ( link below).
FYI ; this was written before PMA became international ( PMA International)

As always Thank you for your involvement, and support, Lundy. We love and support you back.

http://www.lundybancroft.com/child-custody-justice/building-a-broad-based-movement-for-family-justice?fb_action_ids=558939527570999&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=feed_opengraph&action_object_map=%7B%22558939527570999%22%3A525395174249000%7D&action_type_map=%7B%22558939527570999%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

In the long term, the only reliable way to keep children safe is to bring about a revolutionary change in how family law courts across the continent respond to child custody and visitation disputes, especially those containing reports of domestic violence or severe psychological abuse, child physical abuse, and child sexual abuse. These reforms need to require the courts to follow rules of evidence and operate in an unbiased way, and need to involve better oversight of courts by administrators and by appeals courts. We probably also need to move away from the single-judge system, which gives an unreasonable amount of power to one individual over decisions that can harm children (and parents) for the rest of their lives. These reforms also need to specifically address gender bias in the child custody system, because mothers are being targeted for especially horrible treatment in the courts. Finally, the system by which attorneys, custody evaluators, guardians, and psychological evaluators are paid need dramatic reformation, so that a family’s resources go primarily to the children’s future, not into the pockets of professionals.
The key to building a successful movement for family justice is to have protective mothers themselves occupying the key positions of leadership within the movement. Allies also have an important role to play. For example, there are many men who are interested in being active in building this movement, especially the brothers, fathers, and new partners (new husbands and boyfriends) of protective mothers, who have witnessed up close what happens when a woman attempts to protect her children from a violent father post-separation.
There are many organizations nationally working for custody justice for protective mothers, and for protective parents of both sexes. A national organization that I am part of, the Protective Mothers Alliance, is committed to promoting the leadership of protective mothers themselves and to helping build a coordinated national movement of mothers and their allies.

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Putnam County, WV, Family Law Judge, William Watkins, May 23, 2012 MELTDOWN!!!!!/ ABA Journal

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http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judge_who_shouted_shut_up_at_litigants_is_removed_top_state_court_cites_soc/

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An admittedly intemperate family court judge has been suspended without pay for the remaining years of his term by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

In one angry rant from the bench that has been viewed on YouTube more than 200,000 times, Putnam County Circuit Court Family Law Judge William M. Watkins III repeatedly told a pastor appearing before him to “shut up.” And this was far from the only time he spoke to parties using inappropriate language, according to the opinion (PDF) filed Tuesday by the supreme court.

In one hearing, the opinion says, when speaking to a woman who was seeking an order of protection against her then-husband in a domestic violence case, Watkins blamed the woman for “shooting off your fat mouth about what happened,” told her to “Shut up!” and then continued:

“Shut up! You stupid woman. Can’t even act properly. One more word out of you that you aren’t asked a question you’re out of here, and you will be found in direct contempt of court and I will fine you appropriately. So, shut your mouth.You know I hate it when people are just acting out of sheer spite and stupidity.”

The court also criticized Watkins for failing to make timely rulings, failing to comply with court orders to do so and failing to see that his staff timely completed required tasks, such as entering protective orders into the state’s domestic violence registry.

The Charleston Gazette says Watkins did not respond to a Tuesday phone call seeking comment and notes that the court entered an order that retains Deloris Nibert, a former Mason County family court judge who was appointed by the court in December to handle Watkins’ caseload after he took an emergency medical leave.

Watkins did not contest the conduct cited by a hearing board of the Judicial Investigation Commission when it recommended that he be suspended without pay for the remainder of his term in office, which concludes on Dec. 31, 2016.

However, he argued that the sanction amounted to removal from office, which the state constitution allows only the West Virginia legislature to do, by impeachment. Hence, the judge said, the supreme court didn’t have the power to suspend him for the rest of his term.

The court disagreed, distinguishing impeachment, which would also have stripped Watkins of his pension and prohibited him from serving in office again, from a suspension and saying that public policy requires that the court use its inherent powers to protect lawyers and litigants from a judge who is unable or unwilling to do his job properly.

It also censured Watkins for 24 violations of nine canons of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct, which are printed in full in the opinion.

“Socrates said, ‘Four things belong to a judge: to hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially,’” the court wrote. “We recognize that regulating the demeanor of a judge is a difficult task, because judges are human and may occasionally display anger or annoyance, and lawyers and litigants sometimes incite judges. Judges must also be allowed some flexibility in criticizing the performance of lawyers who appear before them. But a judge owes a duty to treat lawyers and litigants courteously, to hear them patiently, to study their arguments and evidence conscientiously, and to decide their cases promptly.”

In a concurring opinion (PDF), Chief Justice Brent Benjamin agreed that Watkins should be suspended without pay for the rest of his term but disagreed about the manner in which the court imposed this sanction.

Instead of using inherent judicial powers, which opens the door to potential misuse in the future for political reasons, the court should have simply imposed consecutively the one-year suspensions it is clearly authorized to impose under the state constitution, he wrote.

“While I have the utmost respect for my colleagues and the professionalism of our current court and share their belief that the admittedly harsh sanction in this case is fully justified, I fear how a highly partisan or polarized future court might misuse this expansive new precedent.”

Written by protectivemothersallianceinternational

August 20, 2014 at 10:38 pm

Beyond Bias; Tips For Protective Mothers

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PMA has previously posted links and articles about developing critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is especially helpful in healing from the damaging effects of abuse, as it can help you to identify the controlling and deceitful tactics of the abuser so you can begin to heal, and re-establish your identity free of violence. Taught to children, critical thinking contributes to healthy self-esteem and the ability to think independently Critical thinking skills may also be a buffer against DV By Proxy. PMA INTL will go further down this path by discussing BIAS.

Identifying and dealing with bias involves the use of critical thinking skills; this article will reveal the different types of bias and discuss how bias affects a person’s ability to see the world as it really is. Some bias is a normal part of life, to some degree everyone has bias; but left unchecked bias can damage the ability to think rationally, and damage the ability to develop healthy relationships with others. For traumatized protective mothers recognizing personal bias and using critical thinking skills, may help protect against re- victimization and manipulations from any source. This article will offer tips on how to prevent bias from becoming an unhealthy influence, again using critical thinking as a powerful tool for self empowerment.

http://www.criticalthinking.org/

Bias is defined as prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

Nowhere is it more crucial for information to be precise than in the intelligence community. In this arena it is a matter of life , death and global peace to be certain that information received is exact and not viewed from the lens of biased eyes. Yet, there have always been problems associated with the accurate analysis of information within the intelligence community. These problems always occur because the human mind is easily influenced by many factors in the environment. In the case of the Cold War, these factors contributed to problems and failures in intelligence. Biases and perceptions can lead to a misconstrued view of reality and the way we process information. http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/bias-and-perception-how-it-affects-our-judgment-in-decision-making-and-analysis

What is Psychological Bias?

Psychologists Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky introduced the concept of psychological bias in the early 1970s. They published their findings in their 1982 book, “Judgment Under Uncertainty.”

They discovered that psychological bias – also known as cognitive bias – is the inclination to make decisions or take action in a less than logical way.

Common Psychological Biases

Below, are five psychological biases that are common in decision making. Along with suggestions on how to overcome them

1. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is looking for information that supports your existing beliefs, and rejecting information that go against your beliefs. A 2013 study found that confirmation bias can affect the way that people view statistics. This can lead you to make biased decisions, since all relevant information is not factored in to your decision.

How to Avoid Confirmation Bias

1. Seek out information from a range of sources, to challenge what you think and learn more about a subject.

2. Use an approach such as the ‘Six Thinking Hats” technique to consider situations from various perspectives. http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_07.htm

3. Discuss your thoughts with others. You may consider joining a club, attending community ed or attending an open mic or jam session as way to participate in or hear lively discussions.

4. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people. You may consider going to community or religious celebrations different than your own, visiting museums/historical sites or volunteering in your community to be exposed to new experiences.

5.Listen to opposing views. This could be as simple as listening to a radio station you have never heard before, or taking the time to talk with a rebellious teenager (kidding).

6.Seek out people and information that challenge your opinions, please use boundaries (especially if you have a history of abuse) to ensure the conversations remain respectful as well as enjoyable.

7.Assign someone you trust to give feedback for major decisions or decisions you struggle with.

2. Anchoring (“ first impression bias”)

This bias is the tendency to jump to conclusions before all the facts are gathered.

How to Avoid Anchoring

Anchoring may happen if you have a tendency to act hastily or are under pressure to make a decision.

NOTE: This is different from the triggers victims of abuse commonly experience; triggers are reactions to past trauma that cause a chemical reaction in the body, causing a person to relive the or experience flashbacks of trauma. A person reacting to a trigger is not biased, though they do experience intense pressure or anxiety it is related to something that has caused them to re-experience or remember a painful event. This is NOT a bias.

1.Reflect on your history, and think about times when you have a past history of rushing to judgment

2.Make decisions slowly, use relaxation or calming techniques if you need (deep breath, music, positive affirmations, etc.)

3. Ask for longer time for decision making. (If someone is pressing aggressively for a decision, this can be a sign that the thing they’re pushing for is against your best interests.)

3. Overconfidence Bias

Placing too much faith in your own knowledge. Believing that your contribution to a decision is more valuable than it actually is.

How to Avoid Overconfidence Bias

Consider the following questions:

1.What sources of information do you tend to rely on when you make decisions?

2 Are these fact-based, or do you rely on hunches?

3. Who else is involved in gathering information?

4.Has information been gathered systematically?

Consider what you can do to gather comprehensive, objective data, if you feel your information has been unreliable.

4. Gambler’s Fallacy

With the gambler’s fallacy, you expect past success to always influence the future

In fact, outcomes are highly uncertain. The number of successes that you’ve had previously has a small impact on the future.

How to Avoid Gambler’s Fallacy

1. Look at trends from a number of angles, especially those that challenge past events.

2. Look deep into data, research, studies.

5. Fundamental Attribution Error

Blaming others when things go wrong, instead of looking objectively at the situation. Blaming or judging someone based on a stereotype or a perceived personality flaw.

How to Avoid Fundamental Attribution Error

1.Look at situations, and the people involved in them, non-judgmentally.

2. Use empathy

3. Look at situations from a cultural perspective, if appropriate..

It’s hard to spot psychological bias in ourselves because it often comes from subconscious thinking.
For this reason, it can often be unwise to make major decisions on your own.
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/avoiding-psychological-bias.htm

2 children found alone reunited with mom; Father charged

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See on Scoop.itThe War Against Mothers

The father of two young children who showed up alone at a neighbor’s house has been arrested and the boys have been reunited with their mother.

See on www.wyff4.com

PMA International Blog Talk Radio Show- Hot Re-Runs/ PMA Intl’s first expert attorney Q and A

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Using The Internet Safely, While Advocating For Your Personal Custody Case

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unnamedPMA International always has safety as our leading priority. In light of this, PMA international will not release personal information and/or personal custody information about protective mothers and their children who are in active litigation. PMA International will not sponsor, endorse or support any event or activity that is engaging in the above due to the risk involved.( The only excepts to the above is at the discretion of PMA International’s Co-Founders and/or Executive Director Janice Levinson and Lundy Bancroft). PMA International advises protective mothers to be extremely cautious in revealing any personal custody details along with personal information about themselves and their children on the internet. Doing so, might prove to be very risky to you and your children’s personal safety and the outcome of your case.

Some safety tips for protective mothers to consider before deciding whether or not to reveal case details and personal information on the internet especially if you are in active litigation;

1. Posts on the internet create a historical footprint of you name and your child’s name which is very different if not impossible to remove.

2. Once your post is made public you have no control over who reads and shares your information.

3. Once your children become older they will most likely come across this information and this may affect your relationship.

4. Once older, your children’s peers will most likely come across this information and this may impact their friendships. In addition, this action may create your children being targets for bullies.

5. If you post personal details about your court case your judge and other court officials involved may read it and this might be used against you. Even if you post your information with the best of intentions, this does not mean court officials will see it the way you do.

6. You must be certain not to post your location or any information that could allow your abuser to find you or your children.

7. Do not use locator and map applications on face book and phones.

8. Be aware of pictures posted online that could reveal your location.

9. Caution your friends not to tag you in anything online that might reveal your location.

10. We all know when abusers are exposed the abuse escalates. Be careful about posting online custody information and personal details that could escalate abuse and endanger you and your children.

11. Be cautious and do your research on anyone asking for your personal and custody information. Also be very cautious with whom you decide to entrust your personal and custody information.

PMA International is an advocacy organization and we are not trying to discourage you from advocating for your personal custody case. We support protective mothers advocating for themselves in creative and cautious ways as to not endanger, themselves, their children and risk the outcome of their case.

The PMA International Team

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