TESTIMONY FROM EXPERT WITNESSES DISREGARDED
by Sharon Rondeau
Since the 2012 divorce, Commissioner Glenda Veasey of the Torrance Superior Court presided over the hearings between “Irene” and her ex-husband to determine the division of property and the girl’s custody arrangement. Irene has perceived that from the outset, her ex-husband gained an advantage with Veasey which translated into his obtaining an increasing percentage of custody from the time she was less than three years old and without proper grounds.
Irene had told us previously that she fears her ex-husband’s ultimate goal is to wrest custody from her completely.
Last year, The Post & Email spoke with a second divorced mother who alleged that Veasey acted improperly after she alerted her to situations with her ex-husband in which she believed her minor children were endangered.
In 2015, an initial formal custody evaluation was completed, giving Irene’s ex-husband 30% custody. At that point, she said, her ex-husband petitioned for full legal custody and complete authority to make educational decisions. At a hearing on that request, Veasey revoked Irene’s authority over their daughter’s education. When Irene asked the reason, Veasey responded, “Because I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s working out for you all.”
Veasey also ordered a change to Irene’s child-care arrangement during her custody time at the request of Irene’s ex-husband and awarded her ex-husband four overnight visits with his daughter each week.
In the spring of 2018, Irene’s ex-husband requested a second custody evaluation. The evaluation, Irene said, was expected to cost more than $20,000, with Irene ordered by Veasey to pay 40% and her ex-husband 60%. Irene said she found that to be “unfair” given that her husband “makes more than twice what I do and has ten times the liquid assets.” Irene related that she was compelled to withdraw money from her retirement account to fund the evaluation.
Her greatest concern, Irene said, is her concern for her daughter’s well-being and her dismay at Veasey’s stoic denial that the child would benefit from an evaluation by a child a psychologist, something Irene’s ex-husband opposed.
In May of last year, Irene told us, “In November 2016, I filed a request for a minor shift in the visitation schedule so our daughter would not have more than three consecutive overnights in a row and back-to-back visitation transitions with another overnight per week, which was because five overnights was just too much, and my daughter’s behavior and commentaries 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.”
For the second custody evaluation, each parent made a list of qualified evaluators, with Veasey selecting one from Irene’s ex-husband’s list who happened to be “the most expensive,” Irene told us, while she was asking for a more affordable one. After a number of delays, the process began last summer when the child was between kindergarten and first grade, Irene told us.
The purpose of a California “730 Custody Evaluation” is described as “an investigation and analysis of the health, safety, welfare, and best interest of the child” by the California courts. The same website states the evaluator’s responsibilities as:
According to California Family Law Code 3110 (5)(e), “Child custody evaluators are required by law to be licensed by the Board of Psychology, the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), or the Medical Board (as a psychiatrist). In contentious divorce cases, they prepare a child custody evaluation report which the court uses to help determine custody of the children.”
When their daughter was less than three years old, Irene said, her daughter began experiencing outbursts during which she would say, “Mommy, I hate you” and similar statements which Irene found alarming. Irene reports that her daughter, now six, suffers from gastrointestinal distress, sleeplessness and moodiness, among other concerns, which Irene believes are due to anxiety and stress over the schedule Veasey imposed of five days with her, five days with her father, two days with her mother, and two days with her father year-round. The schedule, Irene said, reduced her 70% custody to 57% and increased her ex-husband’s portion from 30% to 43% without the customary requirement of showing a change in circumstances.
The second custody evaluation was finished in September 2018, with her daughter interviewed once for a total of 19 minutes, Irene said. She further told us:
The evaluator did not do any testing, and he did not speak with any doctors. He spoke with one of my daughter’s previous teachers. It was done in the summer between her kindergarten and first grade. He did not talk to certain collaterals I had provided. I provided lots of recordings of my daughter’s tantrums or things she was saying. I don’t think he ever reviewed that.
He acknowledged that both parties supplied documentation, but he didn’t comment on the evidence. The report is very one-sided and stated that my ex’s view that when our daughter calls me and speaks to me in our native language, secrets are being kept from him. The evaluator said it’s not a “control” issue on his part.
The report made my ex look as if he was a “normal” father, that whatever he does that I think is not in our daughter’s best interest is because he feels threatened or marginalized. There is very little analysis of what is actually going on with our daughter; it’s more that I made allegations and whether or not it was supported by evidence. I felt that the evidence I provided was not analyzed because the report is so empty. It was just a lot of words.
The evaluation was missing the evidence supporting what “the mother” does and what “the father” does and what can benefit or hurt. It was more like, “The father presented this, and I think he’s good. The mother said this, and that was good.” He didn’t say, “The mother gave an example of something she thought was not good for her daughter.” As an evaluator you have to analyze whether or not what her father does or what I do is bad or good.
One of the biggest flaws and concerns about the report is that the evaluator did not recommend my daughter to be assessed by a child therapist. That was the issue that I brought to Veasey, and she denied it a couple of times. The major thing was for my daughter to get help — so that she can talk to someone other than her parents about whatever her concerns are.
He talked to her, one-on-one, for only 19 minutes, and the Board of Psychology guidelines for the custody evaluation say that 19 minutes is not enough to make a recommendation as to whether or not the child is in distress. I had the report looked at by two other evaluators, one of whom was my expert witness at the hearing.
The trial was at the beginning of May. Both of them said the report was “poorly-written and analyzed.” They said it doesn’t follow certain guidelines for custody evaluations in California. Their biggest objection my expert witness noted was that the custody evaluator reached a conclusion that my daughter is not in distress and doesn’t need to be seen by a child therapist. He did not talk to the doctors, which were part of my collaterals, and that was presented by my expert witness in court. It was dismissed at the end by the judge.
After the custody evaluation, one of us, either my ex or me, had to file for a change in custody. I did not agree with the custody evaluation, so I told my ex that I wanted to come up with a new parenting plan. He said, “No, I want the recommendations of the custody evaluation to be implemented.” However, he did not like certain recommendations, which included adding my last name to our daughter’s last name. The evaluator indicated that that would be in the best interest of the child, but my ex did not select that. So he filed for a change in custody with Veasey.
I was able to move the custody trial to the downtown courthouse, because when you request a hearing lasting two or more days, there is a court rule that you can move it from the centralized court to the main courthouse. The case was assigned to a male judge, Bruce Iwasaki, an older gentleman about 68 years old. He was as horrible as Veasey, to say the least, and I think I know why.
We had a three-day trial. I had six witnesses; my ex had none. He came with his lawyer; I came with mine. Everything I was saying during testimony — my witnesses; a psychologist; the custody evaluator, who broke down the issues; my daughter’s doctor; a couple of my friends who witnessed my daughter’s behavior — everything was literally dismissed. The judge said, “There’s no value in any of the witnesses; I don’t see that the child is in distress; I see a mother who wants to control things. I think the mother thinks she knows best…” The judge was so insulting and rude. He raised his voice at my lawyer and me a couple of times.
My lawyer said later that he believed the outcome was already predetermined. Everything Veasey had granted was upheld by this new judge. He believes that there are confidential notes in my case file, made by Veasey designed to prejudice this new judge, because Veasey, who has had numerous complaints against her, doesn’t want a track record of her rulings being overturned by appeal or by other judges. This is also why she refuses to recuse herself when challenged as being biased (unlike most other judges who have no problem stepping down knowing that any other judge would rule the same way), and why she illegally strikes any motion to recuse her without going through the proper procedures to determine if she is biased or not. I am not the only one complaining about her tactics and how they are affecting others who try to get away from her after such negative life-threatening experiences. Anyone can go on Yelp and see how many bad reviews are being posted on Veasey.
I am thinking about whether or not to appeal the decision. As you recall, I’ve appealed things three times, and nothing works. They try to side with the lower courts because they want to protect those judges. They know if I were to win and show the lack of due process and that judges in the courtroom make rulings without grounds, without taking into account expert opinions, it will trigger others to do the same and expose this whole system, which is cracked.
Four of my witnesses were expert witnesses, and essentially, the judge dismissed all of them. He heard their testimony, but it didn’t carry any weight. At the end, my daughter’s gastroenterologist was testifying that he examined my daughter and he didn’t think there was any physical relationship with what she’s experiencing; he thought it was psychological and that she should see a child psychologist. The pediatrician wrote a letter to the court with the same recommendation. My expert who challenged the custody evaluation said the court-ordered custody evaluator did not properly evaluate my daughter to make the determination that she would not benefit from seeing a therapist, and the overall custody evaluation does not meet the guidelines for testing; it has inadequate testing for parents and NO testing at all for the child and the custody evaluation report did not follow the standard “Ethics and Guidelines” and the guidelines as set forth by American Psychological Association and AFFC guidelines (inadequate testing).
On top of this, the custody evaluator recommended my ex and me to go to joint counseling, indicating that our conflict is dangerous for our daughter; however, failed to recommend a counseling or therapy for a young child, who is suffering the most in this.
A six-page excerpt from Iwasaki’s order following the trial, including language from the custody evaluation, is below.