FEARS EX-HUSBAND WILL GAIN COMPLETE CUSTODY DUE TO “ONE-SIDED RULINGS”
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 4, 2018) — On April 26, The Post & Email interviewed a Los Angeles County mother who contacted us after reading our articles about the child-custody case of “Michelle Robinson,” also a Los Angeles County resident.
Robinson has recently demonstrated that conflicting orders from the Torrance Superior Court, Family Court Division, and the Edelman Children’s Court, a dependency court, affected the outcome of a DCFS intervention which removed her young daughter from her custody in March 2016.
A final order awarding custody to the child’s father, who previous to DCFS involvement had had no level of custody, was issued in April 2017. Robinson has filed an appeal to that ruling and is awaiting a hearing.
The family courts and Edelman Children’s Court are components of California’s Superior Court system in Los Angeles County.
While Robinson recently successfully argued to Torrance Superior Court Commissioner Glenda Veasey that she merited a five-year restraining order against her child’s father after it appeared to have been canceled by an Edelman Court commissioner, “Irene” alleged that her years-long experience with Veasey has been marred by judicial misconduct, her seemingly irrational partiality toward Irene’s ex-husband, and at one point, her disregard for her own order involving mental health services for Irene’s young daughter.
A legal immigrant from an Eastern European country, Irene became a U.S. citizen in 2015. Officially divorced in 2014 but separated in 2012, Irene said her ex-husband has continued to challenge the final custody arrangement, which awarded their daughter to her for 70% of the time and 30% to him, and believes that his ultimate goal is to wrest all custody away from her.
Irene began her story:
I have lived in the U.S. for 18 years. At first, I lived in Los Angeles, then moved to the East Coast. Before our marriage I moved back to Los Angeles, as my then-future husband wasn’t able to find a job, with the intention to move back together to the East Coast. I had the baby in Los Angeles, and just two months later, he filed for divorce.
When The Post & Email asked her husband’s reason for divorcing her, she responded:
Nothing. He did not explain to me, and to this day, I still do not know. It was very disturbing; I was shocked. He was kind-of lost for a couple of days, telling me that I could do whatever I wanted, go wherever I wanted, and then a couple of days later, his mother came…he is originally from Turkey, from Istanbul. He has also been here for 18 years. Once his mother came, they went to court together and I was served with the papers while living in the same house, taking care of our child.
In one month I moved out with the child and got an attorney. From the very beginning, we were in front of Commissioner [Glenda] Veasey in Torrance [Superior Court]. We could have asked for a different judge, because she is just a commissioner, not a judge. My first attorney didn’t know that courtroom very well and that the case would go as long as it did. After six years, she’s still presiding over this case, and it’s been quite an experience.
My husband and I were officially divorced in 2014. There was no asset division; there was nothing to fight for; the only fight was for this little child. From the very beginning, when she was three months old, he filed for 50-50 custody, ultimately wanting to obtain full custody. Obviously, that was absurd, because she was breastfed and under my care. He started bombarding me with all kinds of litigation; he wanted this; he wanted that. He would use some of my personal funds and I would ask for them back; Veasey would deny my request. In California, it’s very common that during a divorce, the lower-income party asks for financial assistance with legal fees from the higher-income party, but I was denied six times.
She made very arrogant and disparaging comments when I tried to get my pre-marriage savings back that my husband had taken out of our joint account just prior to filing for divorce such as, “So just because you had a husband, you just get to live for free…” and “Did it cost anything for you to have a roof over your head?”
When I was breastfeeding, my ex said, “Oh, she’s just doing that because she doesn’t want me to have overnights.” But the child was only six months old. Veasey would then make comments like, “You should stop breastfeeding sooner rather than later.” It was things like that that were very diminishing, very one-sided.
I also wanted to hyphenate the last name of my child using my last name and his. I gave her his last name at the hospital. I did not have his last name yet and was going to change it but didn’t have the chance. Then the divorce happened. I asked Veasey about hyphenating her name and my request was denied twice. I had a lawyer sitting next to me who asked, “Why? Why not add the name now? There is no prejudice to doing it in this case. The child is less than a year old and lives primarily with her mom.”
Veasey responded that “I don’t think that’s the standard, I don’t think that’s an appropriate standard. The standard in the United States is that children normally bear their fathers’ last names.” Here in Los Angeles, though, it’s very common after a divorce, or even without a divorce, for a child to have a hyphenated last name. I felt this was discrimination. What? If I’m a white woman, I cannot have my child use my name?
When we asked Veasey’s legal basis for that decision, Irene responded:
That’s the bizarre thing; without any legal support or statute, she would say, “You should have told the hospital which name to give.” My lawyer stepped in and said, “Well, your honor, she didn’t know she was going to get divorced then. People are allowed to ask for name changes after divorce, after they’re born.”
She would say, “I don’t think that’s the standard,” or “I don’t think it’s reasonable or necessary and I don’t think you are asking for it because it’s in the best interest of the child. I think you are asking for it as an expression of your displeasure with the fact that your husband filed for divorce,” and I would say, “But that is not true.” Then she would get up and leave or switch topics and move on to another issue. All of her hearings are like this.
At a recent hearing, she took away more of my custody on a temporary basis because we have a custody evaluation pending. She also revoked my right to final decision-making on schooling/education, which was part of the final custody judgment three years ago. She made the change because my ex asked for it. And I said, “Your honor, on what grounds, because this is a change of legal custody?” and she said, “I don’t think it’s fair.” Or “ma’am, I don’t have to [give you grounds].” But then I said, “That’s not grounds. That’s not evidence. Then people can take kids from any parent just because. There should be some reasons.” I then again asked the Commissioner to allow me to take our daughter to a child psychologist, which was also recommended by her pediatrician, who provided a letter to the court. In her response to my request, Commissioner Veasey stated, “I can’t read a letter from a doctor.” I then stated, “But it’s a medical recommendation,” to which she replied, “No, not at this time.”
Lastly, I asked the Commissioner, “Why would you drastically change current custody orders right before getting an expert opinion and while the child is already going through stress?” to which Commissioner Veasey replied, “Ma’am, I understand you don’t like it; you don’t agree. Ma’am, the court is done.” Then she got up and left the courtroom.
I can appeal some of the decisions, but not all are appealable. Appeals are very hard; in California, it takes one and a half to two years years to get a hearing. The lawyers say that since Family Court has so much discretion, many judges abuse that power. If you have a bad, unreasonable judge and she rules on these important kinds of things, it makes it difficult to reverse.
I’ve spoken with some girlfriends of mine who went through divorces whose cases are not as bad as mine. They felt they were sometimes in a position where the judges weren’t reasonable, but what my daughter is going through is really terrible.
These arrogant and disparaging comments or rulings from the commissioner are not backed up by law What’s concerning is that from the very beginning, there were one-sided rulings. My previous attorney told me that my ex’s past attorney might have had some type of link to Commissioner Veasey, but it’s so hard to prove. They live close to each other, one mile apart. Their kids went to the same preschool or elementary school together, but who has time to prove that there could have been some ex parte communications? If I could prove it, this commissioner would be off the case. Where am I going to go? I don’t have funds to hire someone to look into it. But people would be able to see that something is going on based on the rulings.
Irene said that at the age of three, when her ex-husband had 30% custody, her daughter began showing “transition maladjustments and anxiety.” Signs Irene said she observed were “lots of aggression and agitation, especially after the visitation. She would not be able to express herself; she would start throwing things. When she started to say things, she would say, ‘Mama, I hate you. Go away.’ She would go into her room and slam the door. She would become very emotional and disturbed.”
Irene further elucidated:
From the very beginning, once his mother went with him to file for divorce my ex husband has wanted sole custody of our daughter. She was only two months old at that time. In his attempt to get this, he immediately went for a 50/50 custody plan while I was still breastfeeding, and due to his aggressive insistence and constant litigation, he got a step-up plan that increased his time in very fast increments with our daughter starting overnights when she was only two years old and full extended weekends (Friday to Monday) when she was only three years old. Also, when I went back to work when she was only a year old, he petitioned to have our daughter all day long while I worked during he week, in addition to his regular visits on weekend days. He was able to get weekday afternoons because he “worked from home,” during which time I found out he was hiring a babysitter to watch our daughter, instead of letting her stay at home with my mother who would care for our daughter while I worked. When the overnight and weekend visits started our daughter started I was able to remove the frequent weekday afternoons, but she was already showing signs of distress. The frequent transitions between my ex and me (when I would give him our daughter or get her back) were very problematic because 1) they were so frequent for a child that young, and 2) he was so abnormally hostile and aggressive during these transitions that it was traumatic to our daughter. He would rip her away from my arms while I was saying goodbye and also he wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence, to the point of even ignoring my saying “hello” to him as if I literally didn’t exist. I tried to get the court’s help on this, but Veasey didn’t care. Although the custody evaluator did take notice, the damage had already started. Anyone who I would consult about the schedule including family lawyers, child therapists or custody evaluators all commented that the schedule was very aggressive for her age and more appropriate for an older child. Unlike most normal and compassionate ex-husbands who want to co-parent and talk through issues, he didn’t care to hear anything I had to say about how our daughter was reacting. The step-up schedule was changing rapidly and each phase was 6-9 months such that our daughter could barely adjust when it was time for another increase.
When the extended weekends (Fri to Mon) plus one midweek overnight began, while she was just 3.5 years old, she really had a bad emotional reaction to it. When I tried to speak to him about it or seek the court’s help, his response was that he was not experiencing anything like what I claimed which I confirmed with child development specialists was a normal reaction from a child being prematurely taken away from the primary attachment for too long a period. During the time of extended weekends, he had 30% timeshare, but that wasn’t enough for him. When we went to court-ordered co-joint therapy to help us co-parent better, the only thing he could talk about was how he needed to be at 50/50 or more and he needed to talk about a step-up plan that gets him to 50/50 immediately, and he didn’t care that our daughter was experiencing emotional trauma, because it would keep him from getting more time. He had also embarked on a classic campaign of what is called parental alienation, where one parent manipulates and tries to turn a child against the other parent. This is extremely harmful for the child, and a good child therapist would be able to detect the signs and report to the court. Unfortunately, because he has the ear of Veasey, he was able to recently get what is called a 2-2-5-5 plan which is basically 50/50 custody, without our having gone through the evaluation or obtaining a child psychologist’s opinions. Last year, he requested the evaluation, which wasn’t really necessary because it was clear all we needed was a child therapist on board to assess and evaluate our daughter. But he and Veasey know that if that happens, there will be reason to reduce his time or adjust the visitation schedule to an appropriate one for our daughter’s age and our situation’s parenting plan, and neither one of them is interested in that outcome.
Irene’s story will be continued in a subsequent article in the near future.