Monday, December 31, 2007

Out-of-court attempts to persuade the family court judge

I just sent this to the judge:
Hearing Date: December 6, 2007
Dec. 31, 2007
Dear Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph:

I still have not been able to get a copy of Mr. James M. Ritchey’s proposed order for the Dec. 6 hearing. Please disregard whatever he sent you.

Mr. Ritchey’s statement (in his letter dated Dec. 20) that I have a copy of the proposed order is false. I object to him (or anyone else) submitting documents to you without me seeing a copy.

George AngryDad
(A copy of this is being sent to Mr. Ritchey and AngryMom.)
I am continually amazed at these attempts to influence the judge without notifying the other party. It is contrary to the most basic notions of judicial fairness.

My ex-wife did it by going to the judge without me on Nov. 16. The school psychologist, Will Rosse, tried to influence the judge by writing him a letter, and not sending me a copy. Children's Protective Services (CPS) has done it at least twice. CPS sent information and documents to the judge that I have still have not seen. Now the court-appointed lawyer is also doing it.

This is really mickey-mouse. In a real court, the judge would not accept documents unless the parties have received copies.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reply to comment

I just got a lengthy comment below from a woman who describes herself as an adult victim of the family court, because her father lost in court and she grew up without seeing him.

I'll try to answer her questions. For the purpose of this blog, click on George on the left. I am describing the situation accurately, and I have written what I know about the CPS file. I have many disagreements with CPS procedures, and I have posted some of them. I will post more. No, I do not think that CPS should take sides in a routine divorce dispute, and I do not think that the judge should be looking at inadmissible evidence outside of court.

Unfortunately, the family court is interested in trivial issues like whether I have a dog. I have spent a lot of time with such trivial issues in family court already, so I speak from first-hand experience. There does not seem to be any issue that is too trivial for the family court. No, I have not explained my reasons here on this blog for not having a dog. My position is the court should not even pay attention to such trivialities.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Dr. Phil finally finds a mom to praise

The NY Post reports:
December 25, 2007 -- SAY what?

"Dr. Phil" McGraw thinks Lynne Spears, mother to Britney Spears and her knocked-up younger sister, "Zoey 101" star Jamie Lynn Spears, is doing a fine job as a parent.

"We know the Spears family, particularly the parents," McGraw told People magazine. "An asset that Britney and Jamie Lynn both have is a great and dedicated mother."

McGraw, known for lecturing his guests on his popular talk show, "Dr. Phil," doesn't seem to apply that same philosophy to his friends.

While McGraw admits that Lynne Spears "is troubled right now," he also says she loves her daughters and is "really looking for the positives in this . . . she has her feet squarely and solidly on the ground."
I do think that I raised by two daughters better than the Spears girls. Maybe I should get Dr. Phil as an expert witness.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Trying to get the CPS file

I just got a call from Raven Harris at CPS. She was returning my call about viewing the CPS file on me. Comm. Joseph advised me in court that I had a right to view the file. He used that as an excuse to postpone the hearing. I had told the Comm. Joseph that I had the CPS narrative report on me, and that there probably isn't much else in the file anyway. He said no, and that the report is probably only 10% of the file.

Ms. Harris now says that CPS cannot let me see the file now, because the Commissioner has requested the file. The file is now with the family court, and CPS does not have it. She also didn't see why I was so interested in seeing the file, since I had gotten a copy of the narrative report. I explained to her that I didn't expect to find anything interesting in the file either, but I was just trying to comply with the judge.

I asked her if the family court realizes that they are sitting on the only copy of the file. She assured me that the family court knows what it is doing, but there is no predicting what it will do with the file.

She said that she would have someone call me next week when and if the family court returns the file. I told her that I have a court hearing on Jan. 4, and that I was hoping to view it before then. At this point, she admitted that it was all on a computer, and that she could just print out another copy if necessary. I still would not get to keep a copy, but I could look at it.

Now I am wondering what Comm. Joseph is doing with the file. In a real court, the judge is not supposed to see any evidence unless the parties to the case first get copies. Usually, judges do not solicit any evidence directly; one party must try to get the evidence admitted, and the other party is allowed to object before the judge will even look at it.

Now I've got the problem that the judge or his clerk has probably read false allegations about me, and I don't even know what the allegations are. There could be raw bogus anonymous allegations in the file that no one has bothered to check. I really don't see any excuse for the court to bypass the regular rules of evidence. There are reasons for those rules that avoid prejudicing the judge with one side of the story, or with accusations that don't amount to any admissible evidence.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Murderer gets to visit her victim's kids

This CNN story reports:
(CNN) -- The Tennessee Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to modify or overturn a lower court's ruling allowing Mary Winkler, convicted of killing her minister husband, visitation rights with the couple's three daughters.

Charles and Diane Winkler, parents of slain minister Matthew Winkler, had asked the court to intervene and either revoke Mary Winkler's visitation rights or allow them to proceed only under supervision of a counselor. ...

After Matthew Winkler's death, Winkler fled with the girls to the Alabama coast, where she was arrested. She said during a September appearance on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" that she never expected to get away with killing her husband, but that she fled to be with her daughters and "have some good times."
So she murders the kids' father, and still gets unsupervised visitation with the kids. But Comm. Irwin H. Joseph has denied me the right to unsupervised visitation with my own kids. His only excuses are that my ex-wife has an assortment of gripes about me, and that there was a CPS investigation of me. But that CPS investigation concluded:
Each specific incident as described by the children does not constitute emotional abuse. In fact, reading or hearing about a specific incident second hand, one would be inclined to dismiss the importance that incident and disregard the possibility of that particular incident having a negative impact on the children.
In other words, she could not find where I had definitely done anything wrong. And yet I still cannot see my kids.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lawyer bypasses me in request to judge

I just got this from the court-appointed lawyer:
Hearing Date: December 6, 2007

Dear Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph:

Pursuant to California Rules of Court Rule 391(a), the enclosed proposed Findings and Order After Hearing was forwarded to [George AngryDad] on December 13, 2007, for his approval with the enclosed letter of transmittal.

Over five days has passed since [George AngryDad] was provided with said order. He is being provided with a copy of this letter and has a copy of the proposed order.

Please sign the enclosed order and send it to the Court Clerk's office for filing with a request that the clerk return a conformed copy to us as soon as possible via Sheryl Colombo Ayers, Court Courier.

Thank you for your cooperation.

The trouble with his story is that I never got a copy of his proposed order. He sent me proposals for the Nov. 28 hearing, but not the Dec. 6 hearing. I guess I'll have to complain to the judge.

I just sent this to the judge:
Dec. 21, 2007

Dear Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph:

I just received notice that James M. Ritchey had sent you a proposed order for the Dec. 6 hearing. I never received a copy of his proposed order. Please do not sign it until I have had a chance to review it.

Mr. Ritchey did send me proposed orders for the Nov. 28 hearing, and I pointed out some factual errors. But I did not get a proposed order for the Dec. 6 hearing, either by email or US mail.

[George AngryDad]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New book on the evils of family court

I just heard from Stephen Baskerville, author of the excellent new book, Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family. The book currently has 33 Amazon reviews, and all of them give the book a top rating of 5 stars.

He said that my case was a good example of the family court acting on evidence that it should never consider in the first place. If there were really a criminal case of child abuse against me, then the DA would have to prove that I violated some law. But instead, there are just some criticisms about my routine parenting, and the matter is none of anyone's business.

I also heard Baskerville on the Dennis Prager radio show today. Prager had his own horror stories of family court abuses. So did the callers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Blaming the lawyer

A reader thinks that I am being too hard on the kids lawyer, James Ritchey. The reader says that the lawyer may be less biased against me than the judge, and that if I had offered to get a dog then maybe the lawyer would recommend that I get another chance to visit my kids. The lawyer had previously said that my not having a dog was a terrible thing.

I would get a dog if that were really necessary to see my kids. But my problems are not so easily solved. I don't even know how to reason with someone who would think that I have to have a dog to see my kids.

Another reader suggests that I rent a dog! So does this list of tips for dads in family court:
31. Get yourself a pet. Especially a dog. There's nothing like the unconditional love and affection of a faithful pet when you return home from work at the end of an exhausting day. That wagging tail, affectionate gaze and total lack of attitude can do wonders for you. And the walk it will demand every night will be good for your mind and body too.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Revised proposed order

To my surprised, the kids lawyer, James M. Ritchey, sent me a revision to his proposed order for the Nov. 28 court appearance. He actually corrected the errors that I pointed out. Unfortunately, he introduced new errors, and I will have to send him another refusal to sign.

(He included a copy of his letter to my ex-wife, so I guess that is his usual procedure. Last time I thought that it was a mistake, until a reader pointed out that it was probably deliberate.)

I wonder whether he was even paying attention in court. He said nothing, except his name at the beginning. The only thing that he got right was the dollar amount that he was to be paid. Everything else was wrong.

His proposed order says that the next hearing is on Dec. 6. I guess he'll be proposing a written order for that hearing someday also.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Comparison to China

I heard from a reader who grew up in China. So I asked her how much worse off I would be in a one-party police state like China.

She said that in China, parents have discretion to raise their kids as they see fit. The govt would only intervene if there were objective evidence of significant abuse. Even then, the parents would have various due process rights. The accusations against me would never even be considered because the Chinese would consider them too trivial.

On the other hand, she said that in China I would not be able to maintain a blog that is so openly critical of the govt authorities.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Getting another opinion

I talked to someone with a lot of expertise in CPS investigations. He also claimed to have a lot of experience with the local family court also. He said that I have no chance. For one thing, CPS social worker Sally Mitchell and Comm. Irwin Joseph will never admit to being wrong. Second, any attempt to prove them wrong will only be taken as a failure to accept responsibility for my behavior! That is, the facts could be entirely in my favor, but Comm. Joseph would rule against me anyway.

He also said that it was no use trying to convince Comm. Joseph that giving the kids chores to do was reasonable. As long as the kids perceived the chores as being more than they wanted to do, then I would be blamed for causing them stress by asking them to do the chores. The only hope was to somehow get into counseling with the kids. If I could somehow get the kids to concede, in counseling, that they would be willing to do some chores, then perhaps after six months the counselor might write a report to the judge that doing the chores was not so annoying to the kids anymore. Maybe with a series of good reports like that, Comm. Joseph might be willing to let me have another couple of hours per week of supervised visitation.

He was adamant that it was completely hopeless to try to convince Comm. Joseph that it is acceptable to occasionally ask the kids to help with the dishes. Comm. Joseph, he said, does not have the foggiest idea how to evaluate a common parenting issue like that. All he would do would be to rely on CPS, and CPS has already committed itself to me being a bad parent.

The more I find out about family court, the worse it is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visited my kids

I got to see my kids for a couple of hours yesterday. Apparently the kids' lawyer influenced my ex-wife to let me pick them up at school, take them to some after-school activities, take them to a restaurant, and drop them off at her house. Instead of supervision, I was required to stay in public places.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Getting a proposed order

I just got a letter today from my kids' attorney, James Ritchey. It demands a reply within 5 days of the date of the letter, Dec. 5. The envelope also included a copy of the letter addressed to my ex-wife, so she is probably wondering why she got an envelope with no letter in it. It is a request to sign a proposed order for the Nov. 28 hearing.

One reason judges like having lawyers on the case is that the judges are too lazy to write up their own orders. The judge asks the lawyer to write up the order, and the judge just has to sign it.

A problem with this system is that the lawyers manage to slant the orders to benefit themselves. This time, Mr. Ritchey's proposed order was just a simple one-page fill-in-the-blanks form, but he did get a few things wrong. In particular, his proposed order has himself getting paid sooner than what the judge actually ordered in court.

The differences are minor, and not worth making an issue about them. Just enough that I know that I cannot trust this guy to write up judge's orders.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Judge postpones hearing

I was in court today for the hearing to get my kids back. Acting judge Irwin H. Joseph postponed the hearing until Jan. 6.

First he told us that he got an irregular letter from the Mountain School psychologist Will Rosse that was being put in the court file. It wasn't clear what the point of the letter was. It appeared that Rosse was worried that he would be named on this blog as the person who filed the CPS complaint against.

I do have some disagreements with the way Rosse handled the CPS complaint. He may not have known how false and malicious it was, but he could have at least contacted me about it. I also don't like the way that he manipulated my kids.

The CPS social worker, Sally Mitchell, did not show up. The judge acted like he didn't know what to do without her telling him. He told us that we could ask to see the CPS file on the case. I already have the final report, so I don't know how usefile the file would be.

The judge tried to justify the letting my wife have full custody of the kids for another month based on the CPS report. I pointed out that the CPS report does not really have a conclusion that meets the legal requirements for doing that. The judge seemed surprised that I even had a copy, and asked to look at it. Obviously, he hadn't read it. After some discussion, he said that he was basing his custody order on my ex-wife's declaration instead. Those are sworn statements, he said. Just like all the other declarations she has written about me over the last four years.

I've never seen such an extreme order based on such flimsy evidence.

Afterwards, one of my ex-wife's creepy friends confronted my mom in the court hallway. He pretended to be friendly, and then tried to be as rude and insulting as he could be. My ex-wife apologized for him by email later.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ex-wife gets CPS report

My ex-wife asked for a copy of the CPS report, and I sent it to her. She was all upset that it appears to name her as the one who filed the original complaint! She adamantly denies that she did.

Perhaps there was some sort of redaction error. I believe that the complaint came from the kids' school. Some of it is a little wacky, even for the school:
RP [Reporting Person] has heard several concerning things regarding NF [Natural Father]: ...

NF takes bike rides, comes home and showers and then puts on clean shirt with the dirty shirt over the clean one. The next day he takes another bike ride, comes home and showers, put on a clean shirt and then the 2 dirty shirts over the clean one and repeats this pattern for a series of days, ...

NF drives over a small dog in the neighborhood with the minors in the car, but does not kill it.
Why would the school be complaining about why kind of shirts I wear on a bike ride? I can only figure that they were acting on some very distorted gossip.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Received the CPS report

I just got the report from CPS. It concludes with this:
Text omitted by Oct. 24, 2008 order of Commissioner Irwin H. Joseph, Santa Cruz Family Court.
In other words, I did not do anything abusive, but she declares that I am guilty of abuse anyway.

Objection to lawyer for kids

I just filed a short brief to the court, for this week's hearing. I included this:
I object to the appointment of James Ritchey to represent the kids. I met with him on Friday, Nov. 30, and he explained to me that he wants to be on this case long term, and that his interests are aligned with keeping me on supervised visitation. He told me that he was against making any factual determination of the accuracy of the allegations against me, and that he did not care what I think. He said that Judge Joseph would not want to reverse the temporary orders against me, regardless of the facts, and that it was foolish to ask. He explained to me that his role is to make recommendations to the court that eliminate my parental rights, and that avoid embarrassing the judge by litigating actual issues. He does not even have the most superficial knowledge of this case, and he is not representing the genuine interests of the kids, either individually or collectively.
I also dropped off a copy at his office.

His response:
I welcome the opportunity to analyze your response and to meet with you again after I have received your response. We should meet prior to the hearing of December 6, 2007.

The Brief in Support of Returning to Joint Custody which you delivered to my office on December 3, 2007, is not helpful in analyzing your response to the current proceeding.

cc: Commissioner Irwin Joseph
I guess I may have to meet with him again. I emailed this response:

Your letter says that Thursday's hearing is at 8:30. In fact, it is scheduled for 10:00 am.

You told me rather emphatically that you are not interested in what I have to say as long as I am rebutting the accusations against me. I do intend to rebut the accusations. Therefore, I am not sure what we would have to discuss.

But if you think that a meeting would be helpful, then I'd be happy to meet you again at your office. Pick a time, and I will be there.
Update: As of Tuesday evening, I have no reply from him. Weird. I guess that he doesn't want to meet me after all. He is just confirming that he doesn't want to hear my side of the story.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Put on Child Abuse Central Index

I just got this in the mail:
Family and Children's Services completed an investigation of suspected child abuse that it found to be either substantiated or inconclusive. Family and Children's Services submitted a report of this investigation to the California Department of Justice's Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) on form SS 8583 per the requirements in Penal Code Sections 11169(a) and (b). The CACI serves as a repository for all such reports (Penal Code Sections 11170(a) and (b)). Penal Code Section 11169(b) requires Family and Children's Services to notify any person named as a suspect in a child abuse report submitted to the CACI.

Law enforcement agencies, probation departments, county welfare agencies, and district attorneys access the CACI when conducting investigations of child abuse, The CACI is also accessed by court investigators and licensing agency personnel to screen individuals for child placement and licensure or employment in positions involving the care of children. If any of these entities receive a child abuse report from the CACI, they are required to review the child abuse allegations as part of their screening process and to draw an independent conclusion about the allegations. Reports of suspected child abuse maintained in the CACI are confidential and may be disclosed only to statutorily authorized parties (Penal Code Section 11167.5).
I have not yet seen the report.

Ex-wife demands permanent legal custody

My ex-wife has just submitted her latest demand to the court:
Brief in Support of Making Permanent the Temporary Orders of November 16, 2007

I am requesting that this court grant me permanent legal and physical custody of Mary and Jenny, as well as educational rights, sole access to information rights, and that visitation with Mary and Jenny be supervised until a time in which George can substantiate that he acknowledges and understands that certain behavior of his is harmful to the children and that he will not repeat this behavior and/or like behavior. Additionally, if this Court does not wish to grant this request at this time, I am requesting a full court evaluation be performed to determine custody.
I will be opposing this, of course.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Supervised visitation

One of the court-approved visitation superivisors finally called me back. She said that there are just three of them in the county, and they each charge $50 per hour. For that, she meets you at a public park, spies on your interactions with the kid, and files a report to the court.

To get on her schedule, you have to first have to do an intake interview with her and sign a bunch of contracts. So does the other parent. Currently she has a waiting list, and other two supervisors are also very busy.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Director not reviewing the case yet

The CPS Director just called, and said that she is not reviewing the case after all. She knew a little about the case, but denied that the CPS case had anything to do with the family court. When I told her that Sally Mitchell had told me that she provided info to the family court, the director then admitted that there was a relation.

The director said that I was mailed a form for filing a written complaint. I guess I'll do that next week, after I get Ms. Mitchell's written report.

Meeting the kids lawyer

I just had a meeting with Jim Ritchey, the kids' court-appointed lawyer, in his office. He had already met with my ex-wife and the kids in his office. He also talked to the CPS social worker Sally Mitchell on the phone a couple of times. He also had some written arguments from my ex-wife that he refused to share with me.

Mr. Ritchey started out asking me to tell my life story. I gave him the short version. I asked him about his role in the case. He said that he expected to represent the kids for a long time.

I told him that I thought that the case against me was unfounded. He said that he didn't care what I think. Furthermore, he said that he was strongly discouraging me from trying to deny the accusations against me. He said that he knows Judge Joseph very well, and he won't like it if I try to use the court time next week to consider factual evidence. Mr. Ritchey said that I am sure to lose no matter what I have to say in my defense.

Mr. Ritchey said that he was likely to make a recommendation to the court. He would probably recommend 100% custody to my ex-wife, with some narrowly-taylored supervised visitation for me. If I also see psychotherapists and get good reports, then he might recommend some unsupervised visitation a few months from now. He made it emphatically clear that he had me by the balls, and he was going to make my life miserable unless I did what he said. Actually, he is going to make my life miserable whether I do what he says or not.

I asked him whether he really thinks that he can decide what's best for us based on a couple of short interviews and about 20 pages of court papers. He arrogantly said yes. He said that he and Sally Mitchell know much better that I do what is good for my kids. He said that I've just raised two kids, while she has investigated hundreds of kids. (Altho he did admit that all of her interventions could have been for the worse, for all he knows.)

He gave me some standard psychobabble, and told me that his mind was made up that I was a bad parent. He said that I had done "a thousand terrible things". I asked him to give an example of one of those things that he personally thought was terrible. Then he said that I had refused to get a dog for the kids. He said that they had two dogs at their mom's house, and he thinks that they ought to have one at my house too. Furthermore, he said that the kids have reported that I will sometimes eat a sandwich off of a dirty plate.

At this point it was clear that trying to reason with him was futile.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

TV show pushes for anti-spanking law

I just watched the FoxNews O'Reilly Factor, and the guest was Teresa Whitehurst PhD who was pushing for a law in Mass. against parental spanking.
O'Reilly: The state has no right to tell an American parent how to raise their child. You already have laws in the Commonwealth, all right, that ff child is abused in any way -- bruises, even emotional abuse -- there is a mechanism to charge the parents with abuse. That is already on the books.

Whitehurst: I've been thru that. It doesn't work. It does not work.

O'Reilly: And this is going to work?!
Whitehurst went on to argue that she knew of cases where 5-year-old kids were hospitalized from being beaten with stick, and the authorities could not intervene because of the diameter of the stick.

I am thinking about calling Bill O'Reilly, and showing him that CPS and the court already have the power to intervene based on the flimsiest of abuse charges.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Law of child lawyers

When I asked Comm. Joseph about the appointment of the kids' lawyer, he cited this statute:
3114. Nothing in this chapter prohibits a court-appointed investigator from recommending to the court that counsel be appointed pursuant to Chapter 10 (commencing with Section 3150) to represent the minor child. In making that recommendation, the court-appointed investigator shall inform the court of the reasons why it would be in the best interest of the child to have counsel appointed.
We don't have a court-appointed investigator, as far as I know. Except that the lawyer is now yet another court-appointed investigator, who is going to offer his own opinion about the best interest of the children. Why his opinion would be any better than that of all the others, I don't know.

Judge schedules court dates

I just got out of court. Nothing of substance was decided.

On the way to court, I got my ex-wife's status statement in the mail. I think that I was supposed to get it five days in advance.

The first case was a lawyer who was trying to serve a summons to a husband in Mexico. The Mexican was refusing papers from his wife, so they managed to trick him into signing for another package that really contained the summons. The judge said that he'd accept that if the wife vouches for the signature.

The second case was a divorcing couple that was fighting over the division of their home and cars. She was there, along with lawyers for each. Her lawyer said that they had a settlement, but they got into a fight and now she needs a restraining order because he has guns. The judge started to fill out some paperwork for the restraining order, and asked them if 100 yards separation is sufficient. After another question, his lawyer revealed that they were still living together in the same house! The judge scrapped the restraining order, and scheduled a hearing in a couple of weeks.

Then my case came up. I came forward and identified myself as representing myself. My ex-wife put her new baby down, and also came forward, with no lawyer. But there there was this other guy there who identified himself as the lawyer for our kids! The judge suggested that he introduce himself to us. I never heard of a case where the parents do not have lawyers, but the kids do.

The judge ordered us each to pay the lawyer a $1000 retainer. He said that the lawyer should not have to be burdened by having to bill us. It is amazing how meticulous the judge is about making sure that lawyers get paid, and at the same time so unconcerned about whether I get to see my own kids.

The judge then listed the remaining issues, and started setting court dates for hearing them. There will be a hearing on the child custody order next week. There will be a hearing in January to change the child support order to conform to the appellate court reversal of it. My ex-wife asked for a trial on some other financial issues in April. She said that she will be able to leave her new baby alone at home then.

I voiced my objections to the court taking my kids, and asked for visitation. The judge gave me a list of court-approved visitation supervisors. My ex-wife complained that she has had trouble finding a visitation supervisor of her choice because people don't want to have anything to do with me after they hear about my blog. The judge said that he can't do anything about that.

Afterwards, I chatted briefly with the kids' lawyer in the court hallway. He said that he knew absolutely nothing about the case, and that he just got the order appointing him counsel that that's all. Then he told me that he wanted to meet me, my ex-wife, and the kids in his office. All separately, I assume. He said that the case was very unusual. Two things made the case unusual: the extreme action taken by CPS and the court, and the lack of any physical evidence of harm. He said that the CPS case worker was likely to testify in court next week, and that I would get a copy of her report when she completes it.

I gave the lawyer a copy of the papers I had given the court and my ex-wife. He suggested that I get counseling. I am not sure what to make of him yet. He is probably looking up this blog right now, and forming an opinion of me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Deputy director passes the case up

I just called the CPS deputy director, because he had promised to call me by yesterday to tell me my rights to appeal. He now says that he is washing his hands of the case, and had turned it over to the Director of CPS. He said that she will call me this week. He implied that there would be a big pile of forms to fill out if I really wanted to appeal.

There must be something unusual about my case that it merits the attention of the CPS director. My guess is that it is unusual because CPS is reporting abuse without any example of abuse. But I don't know. I will look forward to her call.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Filed more papers

I just filed some more papers with the judge, and mailed and emailed them to my ex-wife. I stated my objections to the temporary custody change, and attached an affidavit recounting my experiences with CPS. In part, the affidavit was just a cut-and-paste from this blog. We are scheduled to appear in court this week and next. I am not sure whether the judge will consider the papers this week or not.

Emotional abuse need not be reported

I am still trying to explain the school's strange behavior, and I see no innocent explanation. The school might defend itself by arguing that teachers are mandated reporters for child abuse, and confidentiality prevents the school from telling me about the report.

But there is no duty under the law for the school to keep info from me, as far as I can tell. Furthermore, emotional abuse is not required to be reported:
Willful cruelty or unjustified punishment, which includes inflicting or permitting unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or the endangerment of the child's person or health. (P.C. 11165.3). "Mental suffering" in and of itself is not required to be reported. However, it may be reported. Penal Code11166.05 states: "Any mandated reporter who has knowledge of or who reasonably suspects that mental suffering has been inflicted upon a child or that his or her emotional well-being is endangered in any other way may report the known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect to an agency specified in Section 11165.9".
I got this from "The California Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Law Issues and Answers" (pdf booklet) that a reader kindly sent me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Questioning the motives

A reader suggests that someone besides my ex-wife could be concerned about the kids, and the judge is just taking the precaution of requiring me to prove that I am a good dad because he doesn't want to take a chance that I am not.

I don't know what the motives of the judge or the CPS social worker are. I just know what they say. If the judge really had some concerns about the kids, he could have said what those concerns were in his order. He did not. I doubt that he wants me to prove that I am a good dad, because we already did that according to family court procedures. He really has no evidence that my ex-wife is any better parent than I am. If he wanted evidence, then he could just quickly schedule a fact-finding hearing. He may just be doing whatever is easiest for him.

The motives of the CPS social worker are even harder to understand. If I find out, I'll try to post an explanation.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Getting another opinion

I talked to a social worker with the family court in a neighboring county. I told her my CPS story, just as described on this blog. I did not expect her to believe me. But she said that she has heard lots of such stories. "It is more common that you might think", she said.

She said that everyone in her office was startled to learn recently that a CPS finding of abuse in her county had been reversed by state officials in the state capital.

I guess that she was trying to give me hope, but it sounds like 99.99% of the CPS findings are not reversed.

Court appoints lawyer for kids

I just got this from the family court:

James Ritchey, Esq., is hereby appointed to represent xxxxx (d.o.b. xxxxx) and xxxxx (d.o.b. xxxxx), the minor children of the parties in this matter. His mailing address and telephone number are listed below.

Law Office of James Ritchey
P. 0. Box 1499
Santa Cruz, CA 95061 1499
831 426 7797

DATED: 11/20/07
I got no other explanation. I don't know if anyone requested this. I never heard of this lawyer. I am sure that he will be sending me some bills.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Warning about bad people

One of the things that Sally Mitchell, the CPS social worker, complained about was that she said that I told my kids not to talk to her. She said that she interrogated them at school on Monday anyway.

I do believe that Sally Mitchell is a cruel, malicious, and evil woman. I've talked to her three times, and she showed no interest in truth, fairness, or the welfare of the kids. Her mind was made up, and she was just going to inflict as much pain on me and the kids as possible. I hope that more people learn how CPS operates.

I do think that it is one of my responsibilities as a parent to warn my kids that there are bad people in the world, and to try to protect them from those bad people. I am afraid that I may have understated the problem. It is not enough to just tell kids, "Don't talk to strangers".

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Visiting the CPS office

I just got out of a three and a quarter hour meeting with CPS, at their office. I cooperated completely. It was torture. I would have preferred waterboarding.

At the start, Sally Mitchell asked me what questions or comments I might have. I said that I was baffled by her actions, as her cited complaints could not possibly constitute abuse. Either there is more that she is not telling me, or she has misinterpreted events, or overreacted to them, or something. I told her that I had asked others about the incidents, and no one I've asked thinks that anything is wrong with any of them.

She assured me that she was telling me the whole story. I begged her to give me an example of wrongdoing. She then told me of a complaint that I do not always buy what the kids want at the grocery store. In particular, there was an incident a couple of months ago when they wanted to buy clam chowder at the store, and I bought another kind of soup instead. She said that she could see no good explanation for this, as I could have just bought the soup that they wanted.

She quizzed me about the last time we were at the grocery store, and what specifically I bought that they picked out. I told her that I bought a tri-tip roast, salad greens, english muffins, pizza, berry sundae, and berry smoothie entirely at their request. They also picked out a watermeleon and some raspberries, but I forgot about them.

Then she told me about a couple of other issues that were equally idiotic. When I explained those, and begged her to explain what she could possibly find objectionable, she admitted that there was no one thing that she could put her finger on.

Nevertheless, she was sticking to her determination that I was guilty of emotional abuse. Furthermore, she said that under the law, she is supposed to report all such determinations to the state so I can be put on some sort of state dept. of justice registry of child abusers. She said that she was going to do that as soon as she completes the paperwork. Her mind was made up, and nothing would change it.

I asked if I could see the paperwork that she submits. She acted like no one had asked her that before. She said that she didn't see any reason that I could not get a copy. However, she said that it would just declare me guilty of emotional abuse, and not give any explanation. She made it sound like it was just a checkbox on a form.

She did say that I could appeal, and some higher ranking CPS official would review it. I said that I wanted to do that. She looked around, and came back with Jack Pischner. He knew nothing about the case, but she acted like I could talk to him about it for 20 minutes, and that would be my appeal.

He seemed to be trying to psychoanalyze me. He kept asking me how I feel. When I would explain something to him, he would tell me that I am using my head too much, and that I should use my heart.

I begged both of them to tell me what I could possibly do to please them. Mr. Pischner repeatedly said that what I needed to do was to admit wrongdoing, and that that was the only way to resolve the impasse and see my kids again. I was ready to concede that. Just tell me what I did wrong and I'll admit it, I kept telling them.

He insisted that there must be some wrongdoing, or there would not be a CPS file on me. He also acted as if it were unreasonable for me to expect CPS to tell me what was wrong. He urged me to take some parenting classes, get into some psychotherapy, and figure it out for myself.

He said that it was crucial to find a psychotherapist who was smarter than me. He said that he could see that I was intelligent. A lesser therapist might not successfully lay a guilt trip on me. No, he didn't really say that last sentence, but that seemed to be his reasoning.

I explained that I've been in divorce court for four years, and I've already taken every parenting class and seen every kind of psychotherapist that the court could figure out how to send me to. And yet none of them could ever explain how I had ever done anything wrong.

Ms. Mitchell acted as if she had no more responsibilities in the matter, because the court had acted to take the kids away. She admitted that she conveyed some sort of info to the court, but would not tell me exactly what. Now that the ex-wife has sole legal and physical custody of the kids, I have no more opportunities to abuse them, so her job is done.

At the end, in response to Mr. Pischner asking me how I feel again, I told him that I felt like I had just landed on Mars and was talking to a bunch of Martians, because none of this made any sense to me. He said that he could understand me feeling that way.

By an amusing coincidence, the song on the radio as I pulled into the CPS parking lot was Guns N Roses: Civil War. It starts with a clip from the movie Cool Hand Luke. The prison warden tells Paul Newman "what we have here is a failure to communicate". CPS could have just said that, and saved us all three hours and fourteen minutes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Will meet with CPS again

CPS just called again. I have an appointment to see her tomorrow morning. I will try to learn more about what is driving this investigation. She said that she has some new issues to discuss with me. I will also try to be on my good behavior.

Attended teacher meeting

I attended a parent-teacher conference at school yesterday. At 1:26 pm the school called to tell me that my ex-wife had rescheduled the meeting from 3:00 to 2:30.

When I got there, I was greeted by the principal. He said that my ex-wife had showed him the new custody order, in an attempt to block me from attending the meeting. He said that he read the order, and decided that I had a right to attend the meeting. He attended it himself to make sure that it went smoothly. He was cordial to me, but he definitely knows a lot more than he is telling me.

The third grade child had straight As in all subjects. The teacher said that she had no concerns of any kind.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Family court is radical

I just called a lawyer to ask him what to expect at the Dec. 6 hearing. He said that it is common for Comm. Joseph to take kids away for frivolous reasons, and make the parents spend months in mediation or counseling to get them back. Comm. Joseph is "conservative" that way, the lawyer said.

No, that is certainly not conservative. It is radical. It is the most extreme action that a family court judge can take. It is cruel. It is like a fireman pouring gasoline on a fire. I don't know what motivates Comm. Joseph, but he sure isn't helping.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The ex-wife's hearsay

Here is my ex-wife's declaration in support of her application for sole legal and physical custody of our two kids:
I was contacted by Child Protective Services (CPS) last Thursday afternoon regarding my ex-husband's (George) treatment of Mary and Jenny. Someone other than myself had reported him to CPS. Sally Mitchell, a worker at CPS opened case number 271265. phone 454-5058, cell 566-7074. I was told that on Thursday, Ms. Mitchell ...

At this point, I am asking for emergency temporary full custody of the children because George's emotional and physical abusive treatment of the children has escalated, and they are unsafe in his house. ... This behavior is occurring in the face of CPS investigation, where he knows that he is being watched. The children can not sustain their own emotional and physical welfare throughout the week-end.

What events transpired to lead up to this point:

The children told Ms. Mitchell and Mr. Rosse what has been going on at George's home most recently. Ms. Mitchell asked me questions regarding what the children were saying. The children listed off ...

Ms. Mitchell, along with some police officers, arrived at George's home on Friday morning to speak with him about these incidences. From what I gathered about this visit, she tried to make him aware ...

On Wednesday, Ms. Mitchell again went to visit the children at their school, along with Mr. Rosse. The children again told them ... Ms. Mitchell called me to inform me of this visit and what the children reported to her. She told me that she found him to be emotionally abusing the children, and that she was recommending counseling for George and the girls to attend together so that he can work on understanding the wishes of the children.

At this point, Ms. Mitchell had already called George. ...

Jenny has informed me that the two of them have a secret written code which they have memorized so that they can write to each other without George understanding. ... Both children have cell phones, which George does not know they have, and have repeatedly called me ...

I spoke with George on Thursday night about his behavior with the children, but was unable to have any kind of meaningful discussion in which I could be sure that Friday would not be a repeat of Thursday. ...
I omitted the parts that were pure hearsay. Usually, American courts are supposed to ignore hearsay. Witnesses are supposed to testify about their first-hand observations, experiences, and maybe opinions, but they are never supposed to offer someone else's statement for its factual content.

Normally, the court does not want to hear Julie's account of what Sally Mitchell said. It is inadmissible as evidence. If Ms. Mitchell's testimony is relevant, then she should give it directly.

If Comm. Joseph had been doing his job properly, he would have rejected the application because it consists almost entirely of hearsay, conclusory statements, and opinions. Unfortunately, it appears that I will have to spend a lot of time and effort rebutting the false and misleading hearsay.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Recapping the judge's actions

I am still trying to figure out why acting judge Irwin Joseph would sign an order taking my kids from me. Let me review his role in the case.

Julie filed for divorce from me four years ago, and we signed a marital settlement agreement splitting custody of our two kids 50-50. Within months, Julie was sleeping with her boyfriend (that she later married) and finishing up her license to be a California lawyer. Then Julie hired a new lawyer and filed a motion for sole legal custody of the kids. She managed to get primary custody temporarily based on an assortment of bogus domestic violence and child neglect allegations.

We had a full custody trial, her allegations were all refuted, and the judge ordered us back to equally shared custody. But before the order went into effect, the judge had an accident and Commissioner Irwin Joseph took over the local family court. He delayed the order for six months while he sent us out for computer-generated Rorschach Inkblot tests and other nonsense. He never gave any explanation for it.

Comm. Joseph never showed any interest in the kids at all. His biggest concern seemed to be making sure that Julie's ex-lawyer got paid. Miss Gray had run up bills of $54,000, mostly for legal work supporting the phony accusations that were refuted at trial. Comm. Joseph even ordered me to pay one $6,500 bill twice, and to pay a $10k bill when I could prove that Miss Gray falsified the supporting declaration.

I am trying to make sure that I always use the judge's name with his proper title, which I think is "Commissioner". The one time that Comm. Joseph scolded me in court was when I submitted a brief referring to the lawyer Miss Gray as just "Gray". He seemed to think that I was trying to show disrespect, and told me that I should always include her title, such as Miss Gray or Ms. Gray.

We still have some pending financial matters in Comm. Joseph's court. An appellate court has ruled that his child support orders violate the law, and he has to revise those. Julie also has some other monetary demands that she has yet to detail.

So Comm. Joseph has had us in his court for over two years, and has a file with about seven reports from court shrinks and other supposed experts. None of them said that I had any psychological disorders or anything like that. I would have thought that Comm. Joseph would at least let me give my side of the story, or wait for the CPS report. I can only assume that Comm. Joseph just rubber-stamps any such emergency ex-parte request from a mom for custody.

Just before going over to the court to tell Comm. Joseph that notice could not be given to me, Julie sent me this email:
I cancelled [our child’s] parent teacher conference for obvious reasons. I’m going to reschedule it for next week. I’ll let you know the date and time. I told the school that I would email you about canceling the conference.
I was puzzled by her mention of "obvious reasons" (and by the school calling to ask why we didn't show up for the conference). The reasons are obvious now, and she sure didn't tell Comm. Joseph that I could have just come to court instead of to the school meeting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sheriff seized my kids

Two officers from the county Sheriff just showed up with an order from Comm. Irwin H. Joseph, and seized by kids. The order says that I can appear in his court in three weeks and tell him why I want my kids back. I am dumbfounded.

I expected to at least have some opportunity to rebut whatever allegations are raised against me, but Joseph accepted this explanation from my ex-wife:
Notice cannot or should not be given for the following reasons (if you check any box in parts 3a-3d, you must explain in detail underpart 3e):

a. [X] Notice of this ex parte application would frustrate the purpose of the orders sought herein (explain below).

b. [X] The applicant would suffer immediate and irreparable harm before the adverse party could be heard in opposition (explain below).

e. [X] Other (explain or describe in detail): I did not give Respondent notice because I am afraid for the safety of my children if Respondent knew of the orders being sought.

I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.
Date: 11/16/07
I will be posting more on this.

Regulations on conducting interviews

Hawa has very kindly sent me some of the applicable California Codes, including this from the Penal Code:
11174.3. (a) Whenever a representative of a government agency investigating suspected child abuse or neglect or the State Department of Social Services deems it necessary, a suspected victim of child abuse or neglect may be interviewed during school hours, on school premises, concerning a report of suspected child abuse or neglect that occurred within the child's home or out-of-home care facility. The child shall be afforded the option of being interviewed in private or selecting any adult who is a member of the staff of the school, including any certificated or classified employee or volunteer aide, to be present at the interview. A representative of the agency investigating suspected child abuse or neglect or the State Department of Social Services shall inform the child of that right prior to the interview.
The purpose of the staff person's presence at the interview is to lend support to the child and enable him or her to be as comfortable as possible. However, the member of the staff so elected shall not participate in the interview. The member of the staff so present shall not discuss the facts or circumstances of the case with the child. The member of the staff so present, including, but not limited to, a volunteer aide, is subject to the confidentiality requirements of this article, a violation of which is punishable as specified in Section 11167.5. A representative of the school shall inform a member of the staff so selected by a child of the requirements of this section prior to the interview. A staff member selected by a child may decline the request to be present at the interview. If the staff person selected agrees to be present, the interview shall be held at a time during school hours when it does not involve an expense to the school. Failure to comply with the requirements of this section does not affect the admissibility of evidence in a criminal or civil proceeding.
As I read this, the purpose to having a school staff person present in the CPS interview is to trick the poor child into thinking that she has a friendly advocate present to help protect her. Note that the staff person gets an explanation of the purpose, but not the child. The staff person is just supposed to make the child susceptible to CPS interrogation tactics, but cannot actually speak up or help the child. Amazing.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wondering about the complainer

I still don't know who initiated the CPS complaint, or what that complaint said.

A reader claims that it is most likely that the school psychologist filed the complaint with CPS. He says that it is extremely unusual for a school psychologist to be so actively involved in a CPS investigation, and yet to never have even contacted the parent. Normally school psychologists do everything they can to get the parents involved.

I don't know, but that would explain a number of things. It would explain why the school has been so secretive and hostile. It would explain why the CPS social worker was so strangely evasive when I asked the simplest question about the school psychologist. It would explain why CPS took such a frivolous complaint so seriously -- similar complaints from a bitter ex-wife might have been ignored.

Regardless of who filed the complaint, I really object to the way that the school has promoted the investigation, and actively tried to turn the kids against me. And of course my ex-wife is using the opportunity to make a case against me. But most of all, I object to CPS deciding against me without even telling me what the accusations are. CPS cannot even point out any wrongdoing.

Another police visit

A cop from the county sheriff's office just showed up at the door.

He said that CPS called him and asked him to check on the kids. Apparently the school had notified CPS that they were absent today.

I happened to be in the backyard, and the kids answered the door and went to get me. By the time I got there, the cop said he was satisfied. He explained that it was not a police investigation, and he had no questions for me. CPS is sometimes too busy to make house calls themselves, he said. He was just complying with the CPS request.

I started to explain the situation anyway, but he said that he was one of the cops who came to my house on Friday. He acted like he already knew more than he wanted to know.

At this point, it is hard to know what will satisfy the CPS social worker. She asked me to talk to the kids, and listen to them. I am trying to do that. However, several things do not add up. I am trying to get to the bottom of this. It would be a whole lot easier if CPS would explain the complaint to me. As it is, I can cut back on activities to spend more time with the kids, but I don't know what else I can do to please CPS.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

CPS accuses me

I got a call from CPS today.
Me: Hello.

CPS: Hello, is this George?

Me: Yes, it is.

CPS: This is Sally Mitchell.

Me: This is who?

CPS: Hi George, this is Sally Mitchell, social worker, CPS. I am calling for a number of reasons. One is that I wanted to let you know that I spoke with your girls today, at the school. I had wanted to talk with them and see if they were talking with you and they talked with you about what they had told me. And I was hoping that you and they would had a discussion about the things that concern them. I wanted to see if that had happened and if you had listened to them. And the indications that I had from them was that you didn't really listen to them. And I wanted to see what you had to say about that.

Me: Indications? What did they say?

CPS: They said that you talked to them, and told them not to talk to me. And that ... Basically, they didn't feel that you had really listened to them, on the changes to accommodate some of their wishes, such as food and those sorts of things. Did you have an opportunity to listen to them, or to listen what frustrates them about how you treat them?

Me: Can you tell me what you did? Did you put them out of school to do this? What did you do?

CPS: I talked to them in the office ...

Me: Together or separately?

CPS: Together. I told them that if they didn't want to talk to me that was fine, and that they didn't have to talk to me. If they decided they didn't want to, that was perfectly fine. They said that they wanted to talk to me, they said "we want to talk to you", and so I talked to them.

Me: Together or separately?

CPS: Together.

Me: Was anyone else present?

CPS: There was one other person present. The kids can have someone present.

Me: Who was that?

CPS: That was the school psychologist.

Me: You said that the kids can have someone present.

CPS: Yes. When the kids are interviewed, they can have someone from the staff present.

Me: Was this at their request?

CPS: It was with their permission.

Me: Why do you say, "the kids can have someone present"? It is not something that they requested?

CPS: We ask them if they want someone present if there is someone available there that is part of their relationship there, to be present.

Me: Did you ask them if they want someone present?

CPS: Our protocol is to ask them if they want someone present.

Me: Did they request someone else to be present?

CPS: You know, I think we need to get back to the main issue here, and that is ...

Me: Wait, wait, wait. Are you refusing to answer the question?

CPS: What?

Me: Are you refusing to answer the question?

CPS: I am not refusing to answer the question. If the kids want someone there, they can have someone there. If that is okay with them, then that person can be there.

Me: Did they request someone else to be there?

CPS: They did not specifically say, "Yes I want someone to be there".

Me: Then how did that person get to be there?

CPS: That person can be there. If they are fine with that person there, then that is permissible.

Me: Did that person request to be there?

CPS: I think we need to get back ... I think that you are avoiding the issue here.

Me: I am not avoiding any issue. I want to know. Do you not want to tell me?

CPS: I want to get back to the issue of your treatment of your children.

Me: First of all, what is the name of that person?

CPS: Will Rosse.

Me: Will Rosse?

CPS: Uh-huh.

Me: Did you ask for Will Rosse to be there?

CPS: People on the staff can be included in an interview. Let's get back ...

Me: Are you refusing to answer the question?

CPS: I am not refusing to answer the question, however, at this time, I think it would be best to get back to your ...

Me: You are refusing. If you are not refusing, then tell me the answer.

CPS: Okay, I am going to hang up now. I want to talk to you at some point about your parenting of your children. If you are ready to talk about that, I want to talk about that.

Me: When you are ready to tell me exactly, you know, what you are doing to my children, I'd appreciate it if you would tell me.

CPS: We will talk later. (pause) In the meantime, you need to think seriously about having you and your kids in counseling so that your kids can communicate to you what concerns them about your parenting of them. That's what you need to do at this point. That is what CPS is recommending at this point to you. Because your treatment of your children is abusive. It is emotionally abusive.

Me: How so?

CPS: How so? As I said the other day, it is the sum total of your treatment of children that is abusive. Each individual thing is -- that I mentioned the other day and other things the children have told me, taken in of itself, might not be a major issue, but it is the sum total, George, that is very difficult for your children. (pause) I am concerned about your children. I know you find that hard to believe because you think that I am just a bureaucrat, but I am concerned about your children and I want the children to feel comfortable with you. I want your relationship with them to be a really positive one. For their sake and for your sake. But it is not headed that way. It is not going that way. I would still like to meet with you. Is there a time that we could get together? Do you want to think about that?

Me: Are you willing to answer my questions?

CPS: Repeat the question.

Me: I've asked you a number of times here ...

CPS: Okay, I'll let you deal with that, how you want to deal with that. But I am saying to you I think that the kids need to be in counseling. You need to get in counseling with them. You need to hear what they are saying to you. You need to make some changes in your parenting style.

Me: I need to what?

CPS: You need to make some changes in your parenting style.

Me: Okay, I've heard your opinion.

CPS: What was that?

Me: I've heard your opinion.

CPS: Okay. All right. And the kids did want someone in with them.

Me: What?

CPS: The kids did want someone in with them.

Me: The kids did want someone in with them?

CPS: Yes.

Me: Did they ask for Will Rosse to be in with them?

CPS: No.

Me: Well who did they want in with them?

CPS: A staff person, and they were fine with him being in with us.

Me: Anything else?

CPS: That's it.

Me: Okay, bye.

CPS: Bye.
I don't know why she couldn't just tell me how the school psychologist happened to be invited to the interrogation. She contradicted herself on whether the kids wanted him there. My guess is that she scheduled the meeting in advance with him. Or maybe the school requested it. But whatever it was, I don't know why she wouldn't just tell me, unless she was trying to cover up some breach of protocol.

More importantly, I still don't who filed the complaint, or what the complaint was about. Mitchell is now accusing me of abuse, and trying to force me and my kids into therapy. But I don't know what the abuse is, or why she might think that there would be any need for therapy.

Mitchell cannot point to one single thing that I have done wrong. All I could get out of her were some vague concerns about me not listening to kids about food, and not making changes to accommodate their wishes. My kids are eight and ten years old. My guess is that you could coax a food complaint out of just about any ten-year-old.

I called to school to try to find out why it is cooperating with this nonsense, and the only answer I got was that any school would do whatever CPS asked. For all I know, a teacher could have filed the complaint, and the school is refusing to tell me.

I am outraged by what CPS and the school have done. I am still trying to get to the bottom of this.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Found the objectionable picture

I just talked to my ex-wife about the CPS investigation. She denied making the complaint, and denied having any idea about who did. She said that she only found out about it last Thursday after the kids were interrogated at school. She said that the social worker called her on the phone, and asked about some stories the kids told about me. My ex-wife said that she confirmed that she had heard some of the stories.

My ex-wife was able to direct me to the objectionable web page. I had made a web page over a year ago, and I include a link to these Pretty Pictures. The ranking of the pictures is based on voting by whoever visits the site. It does indeed have some nice pictures, and I thought that my kids might like them.

The site has a companion site for Funny Pictures. Each time you visit the site, it shows a different pair of pictures, and lets you vote on which is funnier. Here is the top vote-getter:
(The text says "UNIQUE - just because you are unique does not mean that you are useful".)

Here are a couple of school-related ones that I think are funny:

Maybe the social worker, Sally Mitchell, will send me a letter that I can submit to the site!

However, the pictures on the site change all the time, and currently some of them are not appropriate for kids. I just deleted the link.

It is difficult to prevent kids from finding sites like this one. If you just Google funniest images, then you get the site as the top link. It is also the top site for the same search on Yahoo. If I am at fault here, then so is every other parent who lets his kid use Google or Yahoo.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The useless welfare pamphlet

Sally Mitchell, the "senior social worker" who confronted me with a two-car armed police escort on Friday, gave me a pamphlet, and I have now found it online. It is the California "Pub 13" Pamphlet offered in 13 languages on this page:
This pamphlet describes your rights and explains what you can do if you have a complaint. The information is for persons applying for, receiving, or who have received aid or services.
It is also offered here, and also here:
In addition to the IHSS Fair Hearing and Assessment Package (above), if you are taking your case before an adminsistrative law judge you may also read About State Hearings (PDF file)
The brochure is a little confusing to read online because it is intended to be printed on both sides of a sheet of paper, and folded into fourths. It starts:
If you are applying for, receiving, or have received public assistance in California, you have specific rights. This brochure describes your rights and explains what you can do if you have a complaint. The information is for persons applying for, receiving, or who have received aid or services in any of the following assistance programs: ...
I really don't see what any of this has to do with me. I am not applying for public assistance, nor have I received any. My ex-wife and kids haven't either, as far as I know.

If all this sounds incredible, I might not have believed it myself, if I did not see it first-hand. I am posting this so that others can see how the system works. I am trying to give the social worker and policewomen the benefit of the doubt, and I am assuming that they are doing their jobs as they have been instructed.

But I really cannot see any innocent explanation for what Sally Mitchell has done. She took my kids out of school and interrogated them without my knowledge or permission. She confronted me unannounced and with armed police at my home. I had no clue that this was coming. She refuses to say who made the complaint. And she does not even have an allegation that anyone did anything illegal or improper, or that the kids have been harmed in any way.

I don't know what kind of investigation she is going to be doing. She showed no interest in learning any facts. When I asked her questions about her concerns, she was vague and evasive. She never told me what the original complaint was, or what the purpose of her investigation is. It is hard to imagine that she has any legitimate purpose. If she did, then I would have expected her to have called for an appointment, to have collected a more factual complaint, and to have made some assessment as to whether anything improper is even being alleged.

I do believe that there are evil people in the world. Some evil people masquerade as do-gooders, and go about trying to poison other people's relationships. I will be posting more on this subject.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Visit from CPS social worker

I just got a visit from Sally Mitchell, a senior social worker with the local Family and Children's Services, which seems to be a county welfare agency. I guess that it is the new name for what used to be call Children's Protective Services, or CPS. She showed up with her car at my house, accompanied by two police cars.

I spoke to her for about 45 minutes in the driveway. She said that someone had made a complaint that I may not be taking the best care of my kids' emotional needs. She refused to say who made the complaint. She said that she interviewed the kids at school yesterday, and got much of her info from the kids.

She had a long list of petty complaints. She said that I expect the kids to help with the cooking and the dishes. She said that I asked them to do some homework before going trick-or-treating on Halloween. She said that on a camping trip three months ago, the kids were tired after going on a long hike. She said that on one occasion, a child left the dinner table and that I had eaten her abandoned food. She said that I once drove (harmlessly) past a sleeping dog in the road, with the kids in the car.

She spent most her time on a complaint about setting the alarm clock to wake up the kids for school. She said that the kids complain that sometimes they set the alarm clock, and I change the setting. I asked her if there was something wrong with that. She wouldn't say that there was anything wrong with it, but insisted that it was "unusual". She said that she has been doing social work and interviewing parents for 41 years, and she thinks that most parents of kids that age wake the kids up directly when it is time to get up for school, and do not use an alarm clock in the kids bedroom.

She said that I have a web site with a link to a lewd picture. I couldn't figure out what she was talking about, or what it would have to do with the kids. At first I thought that she was claiming that I had posted a lewd picture of one of the kids, but that was not it. It was a lewd picture of an adult, she explained, and I don't know whom or where.

That's it. Those are all the complaints. She stopped short of accusing me of doing anything wrong, but suggested that maybe my expectations for the kids might be too high. She admitted that none of the complaints, by itself, was any cause for concern.

I told her that I would consider what she told me, and that I would speak to the kids about it. She asked that I speak to them without threat of "repercussions". I asked what she meant by that, and she asked me to speak to them with "kindness". I agreed to do that.

In the end, she gave me her business card and a pamphlet on my rights to apply for welfare benefits. She asked me to sign a form saying that I speak English, and I did. She asked me to call her next week to make an appointment to discuss things further, but would not tell me what the point of that discussion would be. She said that a case number was going to be assigned to the matter, but would not say whether there would be any more investigation.

I am not sure what to make of this yet. I would have thought that our county police and social workers would have better things to do with their time. I really don't see what good is going to come out of this exercise.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oregon court wants to make circumcision decision

Oregon family court news:
SALEM -- A man who converted to Judaism told the Oregon Supreme Court on Tuesday that he has the right as the custodial parent to circumcise his 12-year-old son against the wishes of his Russian Orthodox ex-wife.

"It's the classic kind of decision a custodial parent would make," said James Boldt, an attorney and former southern Oregon man who argued his own case.

But a lawyer for Lia Boldt argued that she should get a court hearing to try and prove that circumcising a 12-year-old boy poses serious health risks. Their son is afraid to tell his father he doesn't want to go through with it, the mother's attorney said. ...

But as the Supreme Court justices questioned the lawyers, they focused largely on family law and the fallout of divorce.

Over and over again, the justices asked about the limits of a custodial parent's general right to make a wide variety of day-to-day decisions, from where a child goes to school to what neighborhood the family lives in.

Justice Michael Gillette asked whether a noncustodial parent who objected to a child playing football was entitled to a court hearing.

"More people get hurt playing football than having a circumcision," Gillette said.
More and more family courts are sticking their noses into private decisions like this, and no good is coming out of it. This is just not something that the courts are equipped to decide. It is for parents, not judges.

Update: A reader sent me the legal brief from Doctors Opposing Circumcision. They say that circumcision is unethical, and that there ought to be a law against male circumcision, just as Oregon has a law against female circumcision.

I am not expressing an opinion about the merits of circumcision here. My quarrel is with the argument that the parents' divorce somehow empowers the court to use the doctrine of parens patriae to make some decision that would ordinarily be the exclusive province of the parents.

If it is really so bad to give a 12-year-old boy a non-therapeutic circumcision, then Oregon should pass a law against it. Or the physicians should adopt an ethics rule against. It would be bad whether the parents are divorced or not. But if the law leaves the decision to the parents, then judges should not get involved.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Judge gets fired for reviewing evidence

Glenn Sacks reports:
Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench ...
The other complaint against the judge was that he once decided a family court issue by tossing a coin. The VA supreme court didn't say that there was anything wrong with tossing a coin or ruling in an arbitrary way, but it said that it was bad for the dignity of the process to tell the litigants that he was tossing a coin. It would have been better to toss the coin secretly, and to never reveal his process, according to the reasoning.

The judge's main offense was that he asked to see a thigh wound on a woman who was asking for a domestic violence restraining order. It turned out that the wound was self-inflicted. The judge should be commended for examining evidence and rejecting a phony claim, not fired.

The VA supreme court said that the judge should have been more sensitive because the woman had a "clear history of mental instability", and wore pants to court. I guess the trick to getting a restraining order in Virginia now is to just act like a crazy woman and refuse to show your evidence.

Suspect has kids shipped to Russia

Here is the story of Hans Reiser, a computer genius who is now in jail under suspicion about the disappearance of his Russian wife. No body has been found, and the evidence against him is very weak. There are other plausible explanations for her disappearance. But the article does not even mention this:
Of everything that the Oakland Police did, sending the kids to Russia is by far and away the most bizzare and perhaps even illegal (on the part of the Oakland Police) action in this case. In spite of the fact that the children were born to two (at the time) American citizens... Hans and Nina... and that they were also born in the USA, Russia is claiming that they are Russian citizens and refusing to grant a "passport" for either child or an "exit visa".

On this particular issue, I think Hans has a reasonable chance of a successful lawsuit against the Alameda County prosecutor's office, particularly if he is acquitted. By California State law and U.S. Federal guidelines on the subject, those children should not have been allowed to leave the state of California, much less been granted a U.S. Passport to leave.
Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. What possible justification could have been given for deporting a couple of American kids against the wishes of the only parent available?

Ordeal not over for NC man

From Overlawyered reports:
Dwayne Dail spent 18 years in a North Carolina prison on false charges of rape. When he got out based on new DNA findings, his ex-girlfriend promptly sued him for child support. (Mandy Locke, "Dail, expecting $360,000, sued by ex-girlfriend", Raleigh News & Observer, Oct. 24; "Wrongly Convicted Man Sued for Child Support", WRAL, Oct. 23; "Prosecutor: Wrongful Conviction Is 'Nightmare'", WRAL, Aug. 29; "Dwayne Dail responds to lawsuit", Goldsboro News-Argus, Oct. 28).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Using MySpace for legal evidence

A lawyer columnist writes:
In one case, Malbrough said she helped secure shared custody for the father after finding his wife had posted sexually explicit comments on her boyfriend's MySpace page. In another case, a husband's credibility was questioned because, on his MySpace page, he said he was single and looking.

Lawyers in civil and criminal cases are increasingly finding that social networking sites can contain treasure chests of information for their cases. Armed with printouts from sites such as Facebook and MySpace, attorneys have used pictures, comments and connections from these sites as powerful evidence in the courtroom.
One problem with family court is that any part of your private life can be invaded and questioned. What you think might be okay for MySpace could be attacked in court.

If I were represented by a lawyer in my divorce case, I am sure he would have told me to shut down this blog. My ex-wife did try to use it against me, by submitting selected printouts to the judge and court experts.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mom’s religion dominates custody hearing

A Tennessee paper reports:
A Maryville woman who went to court on Aug. 14 for a child custody hearing says she was persecuted because of her religious beliefs at the hands of the Blount County judicial system.

According to Jo Anne White, what was supposed to be a standard child custody hearing turned into an almost hourlong "Bible study" in the courtroom in spite of the repeated protests of her attorney, Kevin W. Shepherd.

After a detailed discussion of her religious beliefs -- documented in court reporter transcripts obtained by The Daily Times -- and a brief recess to chambers, Blount County Circuit Court Judge W. Dale Young awarded temporary custody of White's two children to her ex-husband. The custody will be reviewed again in Circuit Court on Dec. 11.

While Young questioned White about one specific aspect of her religion, attorney Craig Garrett, who represented White's ex-husband, asked numerous probing questions about her faith. Of the 65 pages of court transcripts reviewed by The Daily Times, 41 pages deal directly with White's religious beliefs.

"We were discussing specific Scriptures and the details of end-times prophesy," White said. "My attorney kept protesting, but the judge kept it going for almost an hour.

"At one point, I told the judge, 'I didn’t write the Bible — so why are we discussing this?' ...

Calls from The Daily Times to Young’s office and home were not returned. Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and expert on both child custody and religion in the courtroom, said, "A judge can’t say 'this religion isn’t good for the children' — you must have evidence.

"You have to be able to demonstrate that it isn’t in the best interest of the child.
"I think it's inadvisable to investigate someone’s religion in depth in the courtroom.
"This is not the kind of behavior we want to see from judges, but it doesn't necessarily constitute grounds for reversal."

While transcripts of the court proceedings do not state why the judge awarded temporary custody to White's ex-husband, they do show that religion was the primary topic of discussion in the courtroom that day.
I think that the real crime here is that a judge can make a custody decision and not even explain his factfinding or reasoning on the record. He can just make some arbitrary and predujiced decision, and get away with it as long as it doesn't put a stupid explanation on the record.

In this case, the judge quizzed the mom on whether the Bible says to celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday. Either way, it should not be relevant to child custody.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Got another subpoena and remittitur

I just got a notice from my bank that it received a subpoena from my ex-wife.

I also got another remittitur from the court. I guess that means that the appeals court is turning jurisdiction back to the family court. Comm. Joseph told us in family court that it would notify us of a date for it to act on the result of the appeals court. That never happened for the last remittitur, and my ex-wife tells me that it won't happen for this one either.

I wonder how the average person can cope with the legal system when even the guy who has been running the local family court for the past couple of years doesn't seem to know how it works. Joseph was so positive that his clerk would send us a hearing date that he refused to put the matter on his calendar.

Meanwhile, my ex-wife asked me to sign a stipulated motion to postpone this month's status conference in family court. She says that her baby is a week overdue, and she is expecting to give birth any day.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ordering labor without evidence

The San Mateo County child support system will have another tool to get parents to make payments under legislation recently signed by the governor.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Mateo/San Francisco, sponsored the legislation, Senate Bill 523, which allows a judge to order an unemployed person responsible for child support to find a job at the initial hearing for the case. ...

"It's trying to be proactive," Yee said. "If the parents continue to be responsible for the financial health of their children, then they are less of a responsibility to the city and county."

The legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2008, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law on Sept. 26.

After a judge's order, child support obligors must show proof every two weeks that they have applied for at least five jobs.
In other words, they want to maximize welfare reimbursement, so they passed a law allowing judges to order men to work without any presentation of evidence.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Life's Short -- Get a Divorce

ABC News reports:
An all-female law firm is turning heads in Chicago with a new billboard and a blunt message:

"Life's Short. Get a Divorce."

The billboard, sponsored by Fetman, Garland & Associates, Ltd., a firm that specializes in divorce cases, features the six-pack abs of a headless male torso and tanned female cleavage heaving forth from a black lace bra....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Father Spared from Paying Outrageous Massachusetts Child Support

A reader writes:
A recent Massachusetts family court ruling said they do not have personal or subject matter jurisdiction over a Father that lives in Ohio for child support. My former spouse tried to extort a massive increase in child support simply because the Father moved from WV to Ohio while their child and Mother live in Massachusetts. The Father appeared in Massachusetts family court by "Special Appearance" without an attorney and challenged the courts jurisdiction in the matter. A valid order was in effect from WV and Father claimed Massachusetts did not have jurisdiction. Because the Father was not served in Massachusetts and has never lived in Massachusetts, the judge ruled that Massachusetts does not have personal or subject matter jurisdiction over the Father and that Mother must go to Ohio to modify child support. Massachusetts family court ruled they have jurisdiction over child and Mother and will only hear modification of visitation. Ohio child support is roughly 1/2 the cost of Massachusetts which is thought to be the highest in the country.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New subpoena for records

I just got a subpoena for banking records from 1996 to 2003. I guess my ex-wife is still fishing for money.

The subpoena was issued thru a legal service company across the bay, but was unsigned. I've always told her that she can inspect my records whenever she wishes. I don't know why she'd bother to issue an official subpoena and then not even sign it. I wonder whether an unsigned subpoena is even binding.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Des Moines police investigate attack by onion

Iowa news:
A Des Moines man went to jail Wednesday afternoon for allegedly throwing an onion at his wife.

The police report begins: "(The victim) states her husband had been drinking and they got into an argument."

James Izzolena, 54, of 3515 Sheridan Ave., was charged with domestic assault causing injury. Police said he became upset with his wife, Nicole Izzolena, 27, and tossed an onion at her, striking her in the back of the head.

She told police it made her head hurt. James Izzolena admitted throwing the onion, police said, but he claimed he did not intend to hit her with it. He was being held without bond pending a court appearance today.
The next time that you hear that some man is in jail for domestic violence, remember that it might be something really trivial.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The best interest of the dog

A reader sent this story, and said "Now judges determine the best interest of the dog".
IN RECENT YEARS, Dr. Amy Marder, a veterinarian practicing in Lexington, has found herself called upon to decide which human "parent" a pet prefers.

Pet custody disputes have become an increasingly common fixture in divorce cases and Marder, an animal behavior specialist, has consulted in several. To do a proper evaluation, she likes to spend at least an hour and a half with the couple and the pet. She asks the owners a barrage of questions: which of the two spends more time with the animal, who plays with it more, who feeds it. She asks about the pet's upbringing, its temperament, how much it exercises.

Marder frowns on so-called "calling contests," a method used by lawyers in some custody cases, in which the owners stand at opposite ends of a room and call the pet to see which way it will go. She prefers to observe the animal's body language as it interacts with its owners. She looks at whether it sits closer to one or the other, and how it reacts when each pets it.

At the end of the session, Marder makes her recommendation, based not only on who she thinks would take better care of the pet, but whom she has decided the pet has a stronger bond with -- the same sort of considerations that would go into deciding a child-custody case. Sometimes she recommends joint custody, but only if she thinks the animal can handle it.

"Some animals think it's terrific to go live in two homes," she says. "Others have separation anxiety and splitting time would only make it worse."
At first, I thought that this was some sort of parody or joke. But this appears in the Boston Globe, a reputable newspaper.

I don't even agree with those idiotic custody evaluations when they are applied to (human) children. I just heard from a woman who lost a custody evaluation because of her appearance. Or maybe it was some other prejudice, as you can never be sure. All she knows is that the report cited her clothing and other trivial factors negatively.

Monday, September 03, 2007

1957 divorce movie on TCM channel

I just watched Man on Fire, a 1957 Bing Crosby movie about a nasty child custody dispute. (It is unrelated to the 2004 Denzel Washington thriller.)

The dispute was actually rather tame by today's standards. There were no accusations of domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, or child neglect.

Crosby's wife ran off with a higher status man, and relinquished custody of their 8-year-old boy because she wanted to start a new family. But she has a miscarriage with the new husband and cannot have more kids, and sues for full custody. The boy, now 10, is strongly attached to the father and doesn't want to live with the mother.

Nevertheless, the female judge awards custody to the mother, and lets her move away to another city! The judge was portrayed as conscientious, but also arbitrary, capricious, biased, and cruel.

On one week's notice, the judge had briefs from both sides, and an investigator's report. It appeared that the parents were not allowed to see the report. The judge interviewed the boy with no one else present. The mother lies to the judge about why she waited two years to file for custody.

In the end, both parents are overcomed with noble thoughts, and offer each other full custody. Everyone agrees that the lesson from King Solomon was that a parent can prove greater love for the child by being more willing to give up the child. The father has the greater love, lets the boy go with the mother, and the father gets a new girlfriend. I guess that this is what the 1950s movie audience expected.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Broncos running back pays for multiple kids

A reader writes that cases like this explain why most white people lack sympathy for deadbeat dads and support draconian measures to collect child support:
Travis Henry just got tackled by a $3,000-a-month child support judgment.

Sure, the Denver Broncos running back has a $25 million contract and a base monthly salary approaching $50,000, but that kind of bill can still crimp your style when you're accustomed to expensive cars and fancy jewelry — and lots of other child support payments.

Southern states and has been ordered by various judges to provide child support for seven of them, according to court records involving one child living in DeKalb County.

DeKalb Superior Court Judge Clarence Seeliger this week ordered Henry to provide $3,000 a month for the Lithonia boy he fathered out of wedlock three years ago with Jameshia Beacham, now 29.

Henry isn't the most thrifty guy, according to court records, so the judge wants to ensure payment by establishing an unusual $250,000 trust that Henry must fund by next spring.

Seeliger wrote that the football player displayed "bad judgment in his spending habits," dropping $100,000 for a car and $146,000 for jewelry. Meanwhile, Henry fell behind on support payments for his child with Beacham that were mandated by a previous order. Threatened with jail, he borrowed $9,800 from his former team, the Tennessee Titans, to pay the bill, according to court records.

... Indeed, part of the custody arrangement Henry reached with Beacham requires two weekend visits when he is playing pro ball.
I guess the argument is that Henry is rich and irresponsible, so it is better to take his money away and keep his nine illegitimate kids off welfare.

I am just not sure the courts are solving anything, even in his case. He cannot take the kids on alternate weekends while he is playing professional football. His football career is likely to be over in five years, and he won't have the big bucks anymore. While Henry is squandering his money, the moms may also be squandering the money he pays them. Some of those women may have gotten pregnant deliberately in order to cash in on child support. Bad as this situation is, it may have been made worse by child support laws.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

More from the appeals court

Here is the conclusion from the appeals court:
As evidenced by the court's comments on the record, the trial court considered the arguments and evidence submitted by both parties and did not simply ignore George's factual contentions. The attorney's fees order is well-supported, and we find no error in the court's ruling.

The June 20, 2006 attorney's fees order is affirmed.
In other words, the decision is approved because the judge listened to my argument. They don't care if I showed that Miss Gray lied to cheat me out of some money.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Appellate court makes me pay attorney fees

The California court of appeals just rejected my appeal. I had been ordered to pay $10k in attorney fees for my ex-wife, in addition to previous fees.

I appealed because the lawyer, Miss Jennifer J. Gray, filed a sworn declaration in support of the fees that was filled with lies. Even my ex-wife admitted on appeal that Miss Gray lied about the length of time she was on the case.

Jennifer Gray didn't just lie about how long she had been on the case. She lied in nearly every major point of her declaration. She lied about what she did on the case, about what I did, and about what the court did. She lied deliberately, and for the purpose of defrauding me out of money.

I asked Comm. Irwin Joseph for an opportunity to cross-examine Miss Gray. He refused, and awarded her $10k of the $14k she was asking.

Keep in mind that my ex-wife is a lawyer; I am not; she was represented by a lawyer; I was not; and the fees in question were for a losing attempt to gain custody of our two kids.

It still baffles me as to why Comm. Joseph is so eager to order payments to lawyers, even when the lawyer's claims are so totally without merit. He has shown much more interest in paying crooked lawyers than in children seeing their parents.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Man has to pay alimony to lesbian couple

Usually alimony ceases when the recipient remarries, but look at this case:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A judge has ordered a man to continue paying alimony to his ex-wife -- even though she's in a registered domestic partnership with another woman and even uses the other woman's last name.

California marriage laws say alimony ends when a former spouse remarries, and Ron Garber thought that meant he was off the hook when he learned his ex-wife had registered her new relationship under the state's domestic partnership law.

An Orange County judge didn't see it that way.

The judge ruled that a registered partnership is cohabitation, not marriage, and that Garber must keep writing the checks, $1,250 a month, to his ex-wife, Melinda Kirkwood. Garber plans to appeal.
California has a same-sex domestic partnership law that is supposed to be the same as marriage in most respects. I believe that the alimony would even be considered community property to the lesbian couple. The ex-husband should not have to support the lesbian couple.