“THIS IS AN INFRINGEMENT ON MY CIVIL RIGHTS”
by Sharon Rondeau
Irene and her ex-husband are both legal immigrants to the U.S., she from an Eastern European country and he from a Middle Eastern nation. They met while studying for their undergraduate degrees in the United States.
Their marriage was short, with her then-husband filing for divorce in 2012 when their daughter was only two months old. From there, Irene said, her estranged husband, along with apparent encouragement from his mother, “started bombarding me with all kinds of litigation; he wanted this; he wanted that.” She said that in February, Veasey revoked her own order granting Irene decision-making authority for the child’s education while a custody evaluation, the second of its kind, is still pending.
Irene recalled that her ex-husband did not appear to her to be overly-controlling when they were first together. “He was a jealous person, perhaps because of his Middle Eastern roots,” she told us. But now, she said, “He always goes to court. I think he’s looking for some kind of acknowledgement there.”
Referring to another of Veasey’s orders. rendered when her daughter was not yet three, that she would spend overnights with her father on an aggressive visitation schedule despite the child’s obvious distress, Irene observed, “In European countries, unless the mother is unfit or a drug addict or something, she gets custody, especially if the child is very young. For my ex to have four overnights a week beginning when my daughter was two and a half was very stressful for her. She would wake up sometimes at night and cry, ‘Mommy, mommy are you there?'”
Irene said that an initial custody evaluation was conducted when her daughter was two and a half years old and took 53 hours. For the upcoming evaluation, the cost of the professional Veasey selected is $400 hourly. When we asked Irene, “Who paid for the first evaluation?” she responded, “At that time, he paid 70%; I paid 30% when I was not employed, but the rate was much lower than $400 per hour. Now I’m employed, and she ordered that I pay 40% and that he pay 60%. I filed for an emergency ex parte hearing saying that I could not afford to pay that rate. I told her that I cannot do it; I’m a single mother living paycheck to paycheck. I have to spend money I don’t have in order for the custody evaluation to take place. I asked the Court to select a more affordable evaluator. There are many custody evaluators at $250/hour or lower in LA County, many of them on the LA County’s own approved list of evaluators (which is on their website). But Veasey denied my request and said, ‘This psychologist stays.’ This psychologist is from my ex’s list again.”
In November 2016, I filed a request for a minor shift in the visitation schedule so our daughter would not have three consecutive overnights in a row and back-to-back visitation transitions with another overnight per week, which was because four overnights was just too much, and my daughter’s behavior concerned me. Veasey ultimately dismissed it because my ex opposed it. She even overturned an original order she herself made requesting an assessment of our daughter by a child therapist after my ex submitted a letter to the Court saying that he opposed our daughter being seen by a therapist. Veasey did so without even holding a hearing. All of this goes entirely against the published Rules of Court. You don’t get to overturn orders by writing letters; you have to go back to court or appeal them. In response to my writing a letter of complaint to the supervising judges, one indicated that her orders were, in fact, contradictory and it appeared to be inappropriate, but no further action was taken.
Naturally I then said, “I would like to have a therapist on board (which is different than an evaluator). Obviously, the child is in distress.” To this date, this Court has denied my requests without any reasonable grounds other than that my ex doesn’t want it. It’s now 2018, and we still don’t have one.
While Veasey has ignored my request to get a therapist on board to help our daughter cope with emotional distress, she does grant my ex-husband’s request regardless of how they may negatively impact our daughter. Last June, my ex filed for sole legal custody, 50-50 physical custody, with authority over medical and schooling. So the judge ordered a second custody evaluation.
A custody evaluation is limited to some extent, but they interview the parents and some collaterals – teachers, friends, etc. I asked why we needed a custody evaluation. It’s very expensive, stressful, and time-consuming, but I said we needed a therapist who can address my daughter’s issues. It’s very common that the courts order therapy for the parents and the child after a divorce.
I have to pay for almost half of the evaluation. The cost varies, because it depends on the hourly rate of the psychologist or social worker performing the evaluation, and in this case I am burdened with the most expensive one in LA County.
To start, the judge asked us both to submit three names. She chose a name from my ex’s list, but the individual had a history of misconduct on his record and was put on probation, so I went to court and asked that he be recused in favor of someone else with a clean record.
Veasey chose a second name, and that psychologist was not available. Then we had to return to court to select another name. That person couldn’t start because she was scheduled to have surgery. So three evaluators could not start.
There were also other examples of how my ex employs unscrupulous and unethical professionals in his quest for full control. Last year my ex started working with his own psychologist (planning to introduce her into the evaluation), who was also on probation due to many counts of misconduct and barred by court order from being involved in any family law case, so I had to file to recuse her as well. Everywhere, there was some kind of problem; it’s just unbelievable. My ex would try to find evaluators who had a relationship with his collateral witnesses, and many of them with public histories of misconduct or discipline for unethical practices. Veasey doesn’t seem to care whether or not there were any improprieties (despite that these improprieties are well-documented with the CA Board of Psychology and can be seen by anyone); she always seems to overlook these details, or she knows how they can favor my ex and claims they are not real issues. I think a professional with documented misconduct, resulting in suspension of their license, or being barred from family law by court order, is a real issue.
Last December, my ex again filed for a change in custody, although he already filed for the same request the previous June when the custody evaluation was ordered. In February 2018 we had that hearing. I came to court and said, “This is the same request, and a custody evaluation is pending, so my ex’s requests should not be granted and there is no change of circumstance, nor did he show any other grounds for a post-judgment change in custody. We should get an expert opinion. You already ruled on it in June; you ordered a custody evaluation for which I have to pay half.”
But Veasey changed the final judgment orders and gave him a 67% increase in his physical custody without the evaluation, without there being any change in circumstances, without an expert’s opinion as to whether it would be in the best interest of the child, and without asking my ex to present any evidence as to why the custody orders should be changed now.
I had already said that four overnights in one week was too much; in February 2018, when Veasey granted a 5-5-2-2 plan, the child is now five nights with her dad, two days with me, two days with dad, and then five days with me. I could understand that if the child were older, not exhibiting maladjustment, alienation from one of the parents, or if the parents are amicable and allow video-calling or Skyping, but this guy is clearly on a mission to get the child away from me; he doesn’t want me to have any contact with our daughter when she is with him.
He doesn’t let her speak freely when she’s there with him, either. She tells me that he does this. She comes home and I ask, “What’s happening, because it doesn’t seem as if you can freely talk,” and she says, “He’s all over me.” So he’s screening my private calls and doesn’t allow Skype or video calls. He will signal to her when to end the conversation; often I can hear him whispering to end the call in the background.
One night, our daughter talked maybe 17 minutes with me on the phone. I told her some story and she was asking questions; she wanted to talk. So the next day I get an email from my ex saying, “You talked almost half an hour” even though it was not, and he said, “Calls shouldn’t be more than five minutes.” And I said, “Look, she’s not in prison; even in California prisons, inmates are allowed to talk for 15 minutes.”
Our daughter was going every Wednesday to gymnastics, but last fall, my ex stopped taking her for no reason other than he said he didn’t want her to go. I said, “Why?” and he said, “I can’t take her.” And I said, “OK, I can take her and bring her back, to which he said NO. So then I told him I found another day, on Thursdays, and I’m taking her.” So she went all fall and winter on a different day that didn’t interfere with his time. But at the February 2018 hearing, my ex asked for an order stating that she cannot go to any extra-curricular activities, even on my time, unless he agrees to it, and Veasey signed it. Our daughter is now not going to her Gymnastics class because her dad does not allow her to. This is all about control and alienation; now our daughter thinks I do not want to take her to activities.
She also went to ballet/music for two years on Saturdays regardless of whose weekend it was. This year, he stopped taking her. And I said, “Why? She goes to ballet every Saturday. She wants to continue.” When I went to court in February 2018, I said, “I would like to have final decision-making on extra-curricular activities because it’s very detrimental for her not to go to any activities.” But Veasey then reversed the order and said, “No one can schedule any activities unless both parties agree.” And I said, “Your Honor, he doesn’t agree to anything. My daughter has to stop ballet, gymnastics, music because he doesn’t want to take her, or pay for it, or just because it is something I initiated? Who are we evaluating, him or my daughter?”
She took away my daughter’s right to go to activities. My daughter now has five overnights six days in a row without an evaluation of the situation, whether or not she is experiencing alienation, abuse and overly controlled, so from here, obviously, the situation gets worse for her. That gets overlooked, but instead Veasey focused on making an order she knows fully will result in our daughter not going to any activities anymore; either she doesn’t care or she is doing it on purpose.
Also at that February 2018 hearing, when Veasey granted my ex 50-50 custody, she said in addition to giving him more time, she was revoking my decision-making on schooling, saying she didn’t think it was “fair” to him; so now it’s joint (with a high conflict and controlling person, which means nothing gets decided). I told her, “I understand, but this is a final order and we went through the evaluation three years ago for me to get those orders; this was recommended based on analysis of his behavior and actions (he tried to sabotage our daughter’s enrollment into Montessori daycare just prior to the evaluation). Just because he doesn’t like it, you’re taking it away?” I asked for a child therapist again, reminding her that there was a doctor’s recommendation letter in my daughter’s file for a therapist. But she said, “Not at this time” and got up and left.
Veasey changed the existing final judgment orders just because she wanted to punish me for whatever reason, probably because I filed to recuse her from the case in November 2017, for cause – her clear and present bias. The child’s needs were not considered or not even mentioned by Veasey when she changed her own final orders made at the two-day custody trial (back in 2015) following an extensive evaluation. She had made up her mind before the hearing even started.
At the original custody trial of 2015, my psychologist was supposed to testify but was never called. However, she sat through it and said she thinks Veasey could have a personal bias against me. It’s one thing if she rules against me, but what about the child?
Following that same custody trial, when my daughter was two or three years old, she was staying with a nanny while I worked; this nanny was wonderful and from my home country. But my ex wanted her to go to day care instead where she would have to nap on the floor instead of in her own bed, and Veasey issued an order that our daughter has to be in day care until 3:00 p.m. When I asked why she would make such an order when I have other child care arrangements during my custody time, Veasey said, “Because I said so.” So I was stuck with the order. This is an infringement on my civil rights. How I decide to care for my daughter is my right. These kinds of things are like “hate” in the courtroom.
Both of my lawyers said that she is biased. Not every lawyer is good and strong and fights for human rights. No one cares. They want your money and you’re done.
This is also financial abuse. Veasey never awarded me attorney fees, even though there is supposed to a “fair” playing field, and he makes more than twice what I do and has ten times the liquid assets. He wanted the evaluation, and she picked the most expensive evaluator, and I have to pay for almost half of it now? Why should I have to withdraw from my 401K to pay for it?
I’m a good citizen and a great mom. I’m a professional woman. I don’t want fights. But why would the court stretch me out to the point where I don’t know how I’m going to pay for rent? Where is the justice in its actions? We’re not in other countries like Syria where they don’t care about women and children. This is what’s concerning.
On top of it, I have to spend thousands of dollars to respond to malicious requests filed by my ex and defend my right, while the Court never tried to put a stop or at least to reduce these litigations by sanctioning my ex or order him to contribute to my attorney fees which the Family Code 2030 requires. I have to spend between $12,000 and $15,000 for this new evaluation. If something is not right in the evaluation report, I’ll have to hire another expert to refute it, all while the Court denied my simple request for a child therapist, which I could obtain through our medical insurance. And once you embark on the evaluation, you open up a can of worms, which can lead to more and more litigation. It’s been a nightmare with this court, and Veasey either doesn’t comprehend what she is putting me through, or she doesn’t care, or worse, she is doing it on purpose to advance my ex husbands goal. I’ve been in that courtroom about 70 times now. Veasey does many restraining orders and no-contest divorces, but she doesn’t really do many custody cases. She is known for deciding many matters in chambers because there is no record. When parties insists, she goes on the record, but even then at times she tries to avoid it.
When we asked Irene why she believes Veasey is biased against her in favor of her ex-husband, she said, “I think it’s because I’m a white, Eastern European woman. A couple of my friends said she’s biased against women. Or there could be other motives for Veasey behind all of this. Veasey is half African-American, and she doesn’t like white women. When you go on Yelp, that is what you see in the reviews. Other women who have had cases before her think the same. I think her courtroom is very racially-motivated. I’ve been reaching out to the supervising judge of LA County and even the Commission on Judicial Performance in San Francisco seeking intervention to this case for years, and no one is listening or taking any actions. It feels to me and attorneys who represented me as if they are covering for her.”