Keep Children Safe from Abuse in the Family Court System

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I will never forget the time my ex strangled me with my newborn daughter just out of reach in her car seat carrier. After hours of playing cat and mouse in our New Jersey apartment and he had finally broken into my daughter's nursery where I had barricaded ourselves in, pushing her dresser against the door to try and protect us. He told me I would be worth more to him dead than alive because at least then he could collect my insurance money. I remember looking at my daughter and thinking that if he finally killed me, she would be next. 

I vowed that if I got out alive that night I would leave him for good and get my daughter away from him. I managed to escape into the middle of the night and the pouring rain. He had yelled out the door after us that he would shut all the credit cards off and I would have no where to go. He threatened to let our dogs out and that they would be ran over and it would be my fault. I kept running and didn't look back. I owed it to my daughter to finally leave him. I had suffered years of abuse from him. Always promises of change and a few good weeks here or there where I would start to believe he had changed only to be throttled all over again. I clicked my daughter into the car, both of us crying. I just drove. I had no idea where I was going.

I checked us into a hotel after stopping at a 24 hr grocery where I bought a toothbrush, toothpaste, water and diapers. I still have the receipt from that night. He text and called all night stating that I was "over reacting" and needed to come home. He looked up my credit cards and knew where we were staying. I remember sitting in a mall parking lot the next day with no where to go and a restless baby in her seat. I was states away from family or friends. I felt completely alone and trapped. I eventually gave in and went back to just get some of my daughter and I's things. I left the next day to fly back with my daughter to my parent's in Kansas. 

This was just the start of a grueling court process of filing for divorce and fighting for custody. With all the evidence I had compiled I was told there was "no doubt of past abuse" from the G.A.L. but that didn't make him a bad father and he "might" not be that way with our daughter. The family courts flagged our case, as they do all abuse cases, "high conflict" and we were immediately pushed into their cookie cutter solution of forcing parents into co-parenting counseling together despite countless studies that show that not only is it not effective but it is extremely harmful to the victim in the abuser and abused dynamic. 

After three years of outrageous court costs, stress and hearings I have sole custody of my daughter and my ex is allowed limited monitored parenting time. Despite my daughter showing up with unexplained bruises after his first visit after being removed from fully supervised, due to the The Layne Project's recommendations after a measly three visits and despite him stalking me and breaking their every house rule. To date, they have still failed to provide the monitors times for the visit in question stating via email that the monitor in question no longer works there so they don't have access to those specific time cards. My ex is continually rewarded more time with my daughter despite missed visits, lack of child support and complete inability to follow court order; even driving out of state with my daughter on a suspended license. Twice. My daughter's safety is being entrusted to people who have zero experience or knowledge of the red flags of domestic violence, how it works, how it effects children and most importantly how it can be prevented. 

Still, I am one of the luckier survivors faring the family court systems. The majority of abused survivors don't fare well. The family courts are so ill-equipped with handing abuse custody cases and the children's well being is not taken into consideration. Instead the courts fall to the typical 50/50 custody and forcing co-parenting, or worse they award the abusive parent custody. Because to the unskilled eye the protective parent who is fighting for fear of their children's lives can be painted in a controlling and negative light or the people involved can be manipulated by the abusive parent.

That's why it is imperative that the SAFE Child Act legislation is adopted everywhere, starting in Kansas where our custody case is still assigned. The SAFE child act calls for everyone involved in custody cases to have education and training in spotting domestic violence and child abuse. No one in our case has training or knowledge on how to handle domestic violence. So our case, like countless others, have been mishandled and leave the children and victims fighting for their lives in a system that was built to protect the abuser's rights; not the victims.

People who have zero knowledge on the subject are making decisions that effect our children, their safety (emotionally, mentally and physically) and impact the rest of their lives and where in the most unfortunate cases can bring an end to their lives. The family courts are not proactive but reactive, and it's the children that pay the price. Our children are not being protected in the current system and instead the courts are allowing the abusers to regain control of their previous victims by using their kids.  

It took me having my daughter to have the courage to leave in hopes of giving her a better life. I refuse to stop until she is granted that and all the other children caught in the system as well. I've broken the silence and have found my voice. I will not stop speaking up for all the young children and victims that don't have theirs yet. Our family courts are in the position and have the authority to act with a no-abuse tolerance and save children and past victim's lives and have the impact to stop future abuse. And I believe it is their duty to do so. 

Please help protect our children. 

You can read more about the Safe Child Act Here