D.P.

Background

After 12 ½ years of marriage, my husband and I divorced in 1998. He remarried in 1999.

While providing primary care for my children, I studied homeopathy part-time for five years and became a certified practitioner. Because Florida does not license or offer protection and freedom to practice, I set up an office in Rhode Island in October of 2002 and commuted until February 11, 2003, when we moved back to my native state of Connecticut. This also meant my boys would be near their relatives in a rural area with great schools and a safer atmosphere than that of urbanized southern Florida. According to our divorce decree, I had no restrictions for leaving the state of Florida.

While we were in Florida, my boys reported being physically and mentally abused and neglected when visiting their father. They were returned to me with broken bones and other injuries, sicknesses (pneumonia, strep throat, impetigo, shingles), second degree sunburns, severe cases of sea lice, being hit by a car, without medical treatment or intervention.

For two years, I went to Dr. M. L. for treatment of battered woman syndrome.

The boys’ experience has been that if you speak of your abuse, life will get worse and no one will protect you. Their male role model experience is that it is ok to hurt, intimidate and threaten people — the more money you have the more power you have and no one will be able to stop you.

This is based on what happened to them:

When the boys stated that B. (one son) had been punched, kicked, lifted off the ground by his hair and that threats had been made to throw him out of his second story bed room window, Dr. R. S. was recommended by Dr. M. L., and Attorney S. B. was hired.

In 2001 the Department of Children and Families (DCF) received an anonymous report regarding abuse to the boys. J. Y., assigned to the case, repeatedly betrayed the boys’ confidence to their father, resulting in retaliation and intimidation from their father not to speak to authorities.

In March of 2001 eight year old B., distraught at spending spring vacation at his father’s house, mutilated himself and was Baker Acted to protect him from his father. The South County Mental Health Clinic evaluated B. in a closed room with his father and stepmother present, without notifying me. The DCF case worker had South County release B. into the custody of his father.

In March of 2003, while in Connecticut, B. related his father’s abuse to his teacher.

Immediate counseling was recommended. Drs. R. P. and S. P. were enlisted, and they reported the abuse to DCF in Connecticut.

First Hearing

On March 11th of 2003, a hearing was held before Palm Beach County Judge B. I requested that an attorney be appointed on behalf of our sons to present evidence and testimony with regard to the abuse issues. Judge B. heard brief testimony from Dr. R. S. regarding this abuse, with Dr. R. S. recommending supervised visitation. Judge B. did not appoint an attorney for the boys before calling a hearing on the matter, so the abuse issues were not heard in full. Judge B., with total disregard for the boys’ safety and well being, ordered J. and B. (my two sons) to return to Florida and appointed Dr. S. A. to evaluate all members of the family and for DCF in Florida to be notified again. We returned on March 21st,and I resumed commuting to Connecticut.

Judge B.’s ruling to return to Florida compounded the situation as their father was made privy to all the confidential information the boys disclosed about him and he used that to further intimidate them from talking. B. continued to mutilate himself and his belongings. B. told his Boca Elementary teacher on the last day of school that he would probably kill himself over the summer. The boys were very angry that the Judge had made them go back to Florida and that he, along with DCF, their counselor and Dr. A. (court appointed psychologist), were not doing anything to protect them from their father. B. told me that when things got bad he would kill himself, for that was the only way he could protect himself from his father; then he wouldn’t be here so he couldn’t hurt him any more.

Trial Turned Hearing from Hell

When I ran out of money, my attorney S. B. removed himself from my case, after receiving over $85,000.00 through methods of coercion and extortion. We parted acrimoniously.

On September 3, 2003 at an 8:45 hearing held solely for the purpose of Mr. S. B.’s withdrawal from my case, Judge B. ruled to switch custody and restrict the children from leaving Palm Beach County. At the suggestion of opposing counsel, Judge B. ruled on 29 issues that morning that were not before the court. There was no due process of law, no evidentiary hearing, no witnesses, no notice, no bond and I had no legal representation at the time.

At that hearing, Mr. S. B. violated my attorney client privilege and told the court of a settlement proposal against the rules of the court, that it was an “agreement” and pronounced it to the court in a memorandum of law. When I tried to speak, to state that I had not signed the agreement, the Judge stated that I would have to put my comments in a motion, as it was not noticed and not before the court. I was told to obtain counsel within 21 days. I was unable to represent myself, yet throughout the entire hearing, the judge listened to Mr. S. B. (no longer representing me) and Mr. R. (opposing attorney) and invited Mr. K. (boys’ attorney) to make comments.

Judge B. made decisions on many issues not noticed and not before the court. The most important ruling was to change the custody rights from me as the primary custodial parent to mandate that the father becomes the primary.

Summary

Judge B. relied on the oral representation of both counsel and entered a ruling, without evidence, that not only changed custody but also now requires me to defend an alleged agreement which did not exist.

In an effort to rectify the situation, he has now called up for a temporary relief hearing which will focus on the modification of custody that occurred at the 8:45 hearing as a result of the inaccurate representation by the two attorneys.

Judge B. left me no choice but to file a motion challenging the alleged agreement, even though there was no evidence presented on this issue, nor was there any motion before the court. The judge is forcing me to prove something suggested by my former counsel and is threatening me with outrageous fees if I cannot prove this interpretation of the events.

I fear that I will not receive a fair trial or hearing because of prejudice and bias of Judge B. I have met other mothers who have lost their battle for custody and fair child support and alimony in this judge’s court. Judge B. has shown favoritism toward the fathers with little regard for the welfare of the children.

(Note: Here is an update, provided by a FACTS member)

A year and two months later, under a different judge—Judge Berger, apparently a very fair and professional judge—custody was returned to D.P., and she was allowed to move back with them to New England and resume her career. Thanks to Judge Berger, to Court Watch for being there at her hearings, and to her lawyer, Lisa Macci.

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