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.