In the trenches: My child’s court imposed paternal exile

November 28, 2013:

[I]

So, another Thanksgiving has arrived, as have two previous Christmases, Halloweens, July 4th’s, three Father’s days, and four of our Birthdays. And certain to be missed also, are this year’s Christmas and another birthday as well.

All holidays that we had shared, enjoyed and celebrated together for our first 7 years together as father and daughter.

The last three years have not been so; rather we suffered from the bleak emptiness, the fractured love and affection caused by sheer attrition from being apart, and the dull ache of a most loved child missing from our lives.

Shared time and experiences lost forever, the bonding of a father and daughter severed by erosion. Peppered here and there by a cheap pathological drip of contact with each other permitted by the government: 1 hour visits, once a week, and none at all since July 2013.

As I sit here in Durham, NY, at the extended dinner table surrounded by my brother Gregory, his wife Maria, my daughter’s cousins, Zane and Edison, and many of our friends, we give thanks for the good food, warm home, and all who could be there.

Notably, the one person who was also invited, but could not be there, was my daughter Anya, who has been involuntarily entrapped in the spider-web that is the family court system – forcibly denied having any contact with me, her father, and subjected to psychological de facto alienation during the tender formative years between 7 and 10 years of age.

As we do for all these missed holidays and birthdays, we left an empty seat for her at the table and served the food for her in absentia, sometimes even addressing the empty chair telling her how much we missed her. It is a coping mechanism, but it soothes our angst at her absence, and like an invocation of sympathetic magic, it makes us feel she is there in spirit if not in person, with a hope to the future.

It has been three and a half months since I last posted my article, “Missing Anya”, here on A Voice for Men. In that article I recounted how, over a two year period, I was repeatedly charged with child neglect by the rogue agents and gender discriminatory policies of the Ulster County Child Protective Services (CPS), in New York.

The actions of the CPS were so blatantly predatory toward me as a custodial father, that they couldn’t have been clearer in their intent.

For the first seven years of my parenting, I never heard a peep out of CPS criticizing me as a father.

But once my ex and I separated, and we both filed for custody of our child, as a father I was exclusively hounded and repeatedly charged with maltreatment and child neglect in family court by CPS, incurring protective restraining orders to stay 1000 feet away from our child.

Yet, at the same time my ex, as a mother, was left unmolested by them, and given de facto sole custody, while I was branded by their agency with a scarlet letter during the ongoing custody hearings.

Successively, I was charged with maltreatment; then I was charged with emotional neglect, while having my daughter for only 8 hours once a week; I was later charged with emotional neglect while exclusively under their one hour weekly supervised visits. The whole idea of supervised visitation is to preempt the possibility of neglect or abuse, yet they somehow managed to conclude I accomplished that, right before their protective and watchful eyes.

Under these conditions, for two years I attempted to litigate my cross-petition for custody, pro se, trying to argue that I was the better parent while a restraining order was gamed into place commanding that I stay away from my daughter.

Although eventually through dogged perseverance, I did successfully have all those charges dismissed or overturned, the damage was done.

It made little difference that I was not actually found to be neglectful, the inchoate charges alone were virtually equivalent in effect, and in affect upon the lawyers, judges and almost everyone else in my life.

The sheer fact that my daughter has been in the sole custody of her mother for two and a half years became its own in situ justification as a point for future custody. The courts conveniently don’t care that this ongoing state of affairs was unjustified in the first place, or whether it was done in bad faith or pursued by CPS for discriminatory purposes specifically to tip the balance in favor of the mother for custody.

Insidiously, during all that time my daughter is witness to me being treated like a toxic mass that she must be protected from, and this is considered to be in the best interests of the child.

The lessons there to her not being explicit enough, she is further told that I am a bad person, that I should be feared, that I am an abuser, a liar and that I call her derogatory names. All this occurs during her formative years, by people in authority and who nurture her, years that a child should be bonding with her parent, not being alienated and made paranoid.

———–

[II]

And now after all that, here I sit, having come full circle.

The original Feb 14, 2011 cross-custody petitions having been dismissed on day one of the first custody trial in Nov 2012, ending that first round of the saga, and now having been re-filed 6 months later.

As a backdrop, theoretically I am now coming into these new custody trial hearings with a clean slate.

All the CPS charges against me were dismissed with no neglect ever existing. All restraining orders are rescinded, and the shared custody that is the legal default when two parents have a child, is now reinstated.

Since the last round of custody proceedings, new cross-petitions for custody are in place, a new judge, a new attorney, and a new trial commenced, July 31, 2013. This is considered a de novo trial, meaning that no custody order has existed previously, and there is supposed to be no presumption of which is the better parent.

But that is not how it went down – solely by virtue of [1] my having been accused repeatedly by CPS – accusations that were shown to be defective and meritless, [2] that I am currently accused by my ex in the course of this custody trial, and [3] because I am a father seeking custody of our child. Accusations are enough, even when none of those accusations have merit or are even addressed for validity.

In fact, coming into this new trial, far from a clean slate, a new set of abusive dynamics now comes into play. It is not enough to have a simple straightforward trial to determine custody; dirty tricks, gaming the rules, and abusive treatment against the paternal parent continue to abound.

Consider the contrast in allowed contact with my daughter:

While I was fighting false charges of neglect, I had been seeing my daughter once a week for an hour under CPS supervision.

However vilifying this was to me, and corrosive to my relationship with my daughter, I did have that bare minimum of contact with her.

When, in July 2013, after I revealed on discovery the numerous stealth videos of CPS staff violating federal law that would have been brought out in trial, CPS finally re-assessed the frivolous nature of their prosecution against me, and dropped their charges. I naively expected to be treated whole again, and looked forward to seeing my daughter. However, I would soon again be smacked in the head, and subject to the capriciousness that passes for due process in family court.

The first indication that things would not improve in reconnecting with my child, but get much worse, was the scheduling order the court issued, mapping out the dates upon which the hearings making up the trial would be held.

For the preliminary estimated eight days of trial, the court scheduled the trial to be heard over a period of seven months. Such a duration for trial is abusive, when parents only wish to be with their children.

Not only abusive, it was also a violation of NY statutory law, specifically:

NYCRR §205.14: Time limitations for proceedings involving custody or visitation.
In any proceeding brought pursuant to . . . the Family Court Act to determine temporary or permanent custody or visitation, once a hearing or trial is commenced, it shall proceed to conclusion within 90 days.

But this apparently is a routine and common scheduling violation, and the court dismissed any objections we had with it, insofar that it could extend the duration my daughter was without her father.

As such, when the new custody trial commenced, on July 31, 2013, the very first thing I did was to put in a motion for visitation and/or temporary shared custody so as to reconnect with my daughter during this extended trial span.

Usually, it is pro forma and routine procedure at the beginning of a custody proceeding for a family court to put into place a pendente lite order of visitation and temporary custody, establishing visitation and custody rights of the parents during the pendency of the pre-trial proceedings and trial; as these can often go on for months, such interim entitlements are very important to allow the parents equitable access to their child(ren) during that time.

At this hearing, my attorney very eloquently stated to the court (Jul 31, 2013 page 8, et.seq.):

How about we not continue this charade that my client needs to be in a fishbowl or supervised or engaged in some therapy, when he is the father of this child and has done nothing but try to be a father to this child. The child’s put on medications, sees the therapist, is engaged with the Department of Social Services, a whole litany of things which our case legally will show is designed by [her mother], who manipulates these people, and who uses them as a vehicle to keep my client away from his daughter. Prior to the DSS [neglect] case, which is now dismissed, no evidence was offered on it, nothing. Based on that, there was a very restrictive, one hour a week at the Department of Social Services. . . all of this restriction coincides with the ability of [the mother] to manipulate the Department of Social Services, their caseworkers, their mental health professionals, their, everything down to their drivers and the people that sit in the supervised visitation. . . This whole thing, Judge, in our opinion, is a charade. It is a manipulation of the system. Prior to that, they lived together as mother and father and they co-parented and that was it. Now, my client’s sitting here, looking to get back there. . . My client at this point should be entitled to some unfettered, frequent access to his child so that he can parent the way he had for over the first seven years of her life.

But, the Family Court, peremptorily denied this motion to provide for ANY visitation of my daughter with me, leaving the discretion of visitation solely up to the child’s mother, who, emboldened by the court, has denied any and all contact of my daughter with me, for over five months to date, and likely indefinitely with no supervision coming from the court.

Looking back, however harsh, arbitrary and austere CPS was in limiting contact between father and child, the mother of the child makes them look downright generous.

In denying this request, the judge said:

[I]’m not going to authorize any temporary order for custodial time or visitation time with the child at this point. If I determined, based on the course of the trial, that that is appropriate, I will enter it at a later point. But I don’t have enough information to make a determination at this point, whether that’s in the child’s best interest. I’m going to deny the application for now.

(The full ongoing trial transcripts, updated, are viewable HERE)

This request was submitted three times, Jul 31, Sept 11 and Oct 21, and again each time the court denied it for the same reason. Each time the court stated that there was not enough evidence to issue any visitation order.

This decision stands, despite shared custody, despite myself as a father being completely fit as a parent, and despite that such denial is a direct violation of Federal parenting rights.

Yet, concurrently, the mother of the child is given full access to the child, and given the de facto ability to deny all contact with our child.

Ostensibly, the judge cites this denial as adhering to the best interests of the child. But in fact, this decision cannot be viewed as a determination flowing from a best interests analysis, as the judge himself said he does not have enough information to make that determination.

What it is, in fact, is an ad hoc “just-in-case” standard of review to keep a child away from her father, when there is no evidence to support that denial; nor is there any legal concern of the emotional turmoil and pain the child suffers in being ripped and held apart from her father, of the father’s suffering for the same reason, or of the continuing enabling of the alienating mother.

This is not the standard that the law puts forth. In fact unless there are proven and factually established reasons otherwise, federal parenting rights are directly and blatantly violated by such denials; the state should not be interfering with a parent child relationship unless the parent is unfit.

But trying to makes sense of this insanity – treating it like something that actually does make sense in some way – just leads to subsuming one’s mind to the same insanity, by trying to force-fit it into being viewed as somehow sensible. In short, you have to become crazy to understand it.

The reality is, the decisions are not driven by reason, logic or even the law and facts. They are driven by an agenda established a priori; the bedeviling disconnect occurs when looking at the mandates of the law, and then trying to fit the decisions made supposedly in adherence to the law.

Post hoc reasons must be later synthesized to justify the final decisions that were pre-ordained in the first place – and that agenda is the gender discriminatory motivation to keep the father outside of the child’s life, and to provide every opportunity to ease the quick resolution of custody to the mother. Every official action I have encountered was in furtherance of this goal.

————-

[III]

So, I continue to be enmeshed in what appears to be a facade of due process, literally fighting the government just to keep the child I sired, birthed, nurtured and raised until she was seven years old. I love her and will always love her, no matter what the state does to mute that love, and no matter what malicious efforts are made to corrupt her perceptions of and attachment to the daddy that she had lived with and loved so dearly for all those years.

Despite me being the best and most devoted father in the whole world, our legal system is determined to strip me of my child, and my child of me.

What can be done, when the child enforcement agencies, the operative legal system, the adjunct experts, and even the final referee and decision makers, all supposedly neutral societal institutions, are lined up in concert, determined to achieve a pre-ordained discriminatory outcome?

It is easy to become superstitious when there is a lack of knowledge of what is happening, and in the onslaught of all this bias. It is only too easy to just give up, as I am sure many fathers have.

I still retain hope that there is a trace of independent, neutral due process still guilted into the system, a vestigial moral substrate that might flow beneath all the machinations and special interests.

There are some indications that this does exist, and even in my saga, though few and in-between, some modicum of interim corrective justice amazingly did prevail. The attorney I have now is one of the few and rare ones, who is maverick, articulate and impassioned. The laws themselves seem fair and neutral on the surface. There are anecdotes I have heard, that despite all the road-blocks thrown in the face of a petitioning father, if the matter reaches the trial stage, the outcome is probabilistically balanced, albeit the actual statistics on this are incredibly hard to find.

So, I have these nebulous observations to comfort me some. I really don’t know what is true and whether justice is still embedded in the system, but since this is the only arena available, I will do my best, despite these hobbling constraints, to fight for my child.

[IV]

Epilogue – Still fighting in the Trenches:

Usually when we hear and read these articles, illustrating the injustices of the family court system, we come to these stories in the aftermath and the remaining rubble of past battles and of the heartache remaining.

This story however is active and happening now; it is not over or complete or concluded.

It is a story being reported from the filthy trenches of a mid-campaign custody battle, over a harsh landscape and through subversive terrain, where an ongoing fight for the very life of a little child and the father who loves her is taking place.

It is not history, the battlefield is occupied now and can be seen by all in a public arena.

The court has continued the scheduling dates for trial of this case in the New Year 2014:

January 2nd @ 9:30am and 2pm, 9th @ 9:30am and 2pm, 23rd @ 9:30am and 2pm,
February 6th @ 9:30am and 2pm, 13th @ 9:30am.
The case is Cayley v Treistman, Dkt# V-01219, File #24593.
The location on those dates is Ulster County Family Court, 16 Lucas Ave, in Kingston, NY 12401.

I invite and encourage all who are motivated and interested to come and observe these ongoing proceedings, the culmination of this saga, and what conclusion it wreaks.

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