Stop Michigan Family Courts From Enabling Child Abuse

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In over 58,000 cases per year a child is removed from a “safe” parent to an abuser.

Courts overwhelmingly favor fathers who’ve been accused of or proven to be abusers and who counter with “alienation” claims over mothers who do the same, according to a study by George Washington University Law School professor Joan Meier.

The study found that mothers in this situation still lost custody in 13 percent of cases. That means more than 1 out of 10 times, when the court agreed a father was abusive, they nevertheless took custody away from the mother. Yet, in the reverse situation, fathers lost custody just 4 percent of the time.

When mothers in domestic violence/child sexual abuse situations are punished for reporting abuse to the courts, it leaves these most vulnerable mothers and children with nowhere to turn. Let’s take a look at a few cases (out of thousands reviewed with the similar results just in Oakland County, Michigan. Oakland County has a history of acting badly against children) that illustrate court bias against mothers in custody cases involving domestic abuse and/or sexual abuse—and their heartbreaking results:

·       In Lillian Song Moore vs. William Patrick Moore, the mother had obtained a restraining order against the father for domestic abuse, which was approved or extended by five separate judges, and police records documented the abuse. Still, the parents received joint custody of their child. Subsequently, the mother took photos that she believed showed abuse or neglect by the father and presented them to the court. Judge Lisa Langton responded by taking custody away from the mother, telling the mother to destroy the photos and never to inform the child of the reason for being removed from her care. The mother was only allowed to see her child under supervision, for which she had to pay by the hour since February of 2015. 

·       In Michigan Department of Health and Human Services vs. Monica Combs, the father was investigated by Child Protective Services and convicted of child sexual abuse by a prosecutor. When the mother entered family court to seek a divorce Judge Lisa Langton took custody away from the mother for "failure to protect."

·       In Danielle Tha vs. Maximiliano Orecchia, there were two substantiated cases of child abuse by the father. Yet the judge in the custody case, Judge Lisa Langton as in the Lillian Song Moore and Monica Combs cases, threatened the mother with loss of custody if the children were to call 911 on father. Criminal charges are now pending against the father.

·       In Vita Shannon vs. Aron Ralston, a report was made to CPS upon the suspicion of abuse. The father made a counter claim of "parental alienation." Judge Valentine removed custody from the mother, awarding physical custody of the child to the father. Even though the father never exercised all allocated parenting time, holidays or vacations. The court also ordered the mother to pay the father’s legal fees, as well as child support, despite the father being two and a half years behind on child support to the mother. Kurt Schnelz, arbitrator in the case based his recommendation partially on a personal financial dispute he had with the mother (using non-payment of his bill against her). The arbitrator is now being sued for ethics violations in a separate case, in Jody Polhman vs. Kurt Schnelz. 

·       In the case of Bassel Altantawi and Nada Huranieh, the father was accused of a history of domestic abuse and was banned from unsupervised visits with the children during divorce proceedings. The mother was then murdered, and police charged the couple’s teenage son with her murder. Judge Valentine who oversaw awarded custody of the couple’s two daughters to their father after their mother’s death. The Judge Valentine's decision was reversed by a higher court for errors that included not considering the prior domestic violence incidents.

·       In Joseph D Walker vs. Nikita G Landrum, a father was a documented abuser, who had obtained a restraining order against him. Nevertheless, Judge Mary Ellen Brennan awarded both parents joint custody. The mother subsequently filed motions asserting the father was violating their custody schedule, but was denied. Later, the mother went to the court for relief, claiming unpaid child support. A hearing was scheduled, but the mother and two young children were found shot to death, days before the hearing. The mother’s personal notes, discovered by police after her death, showed that she suspected the father of abusing the children when they were with him, having found bruises on them when they returned to her. Judge Mary Ellen Brennan is also the one who sent a teen, Grace, to jail over online school work.

·       In Emilia Delena v Stefano Giolitto, the mother, who was living with her daughter in Italy, was never notified of father's petition to take full custody of their child. Judge Lisa Langton held a trial without the mother and removed custody from the her. Italian court blasted Judge Lisa Langton's action and counter-ordered that mother and child can remain in Italy.

**The facts and numbers don’t lie. The biased application of “parental alienation” and ignoring Best Interest Of The Child Act to punish mothers who are victims of domestic violence and who report abuse during custody disputes - must stop. Therefore, we demand that Michigan Attorney General, Senate leaders and FBI establish an independent review process to examine claims of bias or corruption during custody cases. **

If you feel like your rights have been violated, please write to WomensVoicesMatterFamilyCourt@gmail.com (a federal civil rights suit is currently being formed). All donations will go to promoting this campaign. Thank you for your support.