“Every lawyer, at least once in every case, feels himself crossing a line that he doesn’t really mean to cross… it just happens… And if you cross it enough times it disappears forever. And then you’re nothin but another lawyer joke. Just another shark in the dirty water.” from The Rainmaker.
How did I become one of the “walking wounded”, suffering from a variant of Post-Traumatic Stress known as Legal Abuse Syndrome? How did I go from the Mom expected to do everything to not allowed to send a Birthday or Christmas card? How did a group of Chicago lawyers exploit my wealthy, elderly, ill father living 150 miles away on our four generation family farm while terrorizing me through the Cook County court system?
Every area of my life has been severely impacted by the vicious Legal Abuse and bullying I was subjected to for nearly seven years. The goal? Steal my only, irreplaceable child along with my share of our four-generation, multi-million dollar Family Farm Trust. The strategy? Fraud On The Court and an abusive litigation-vortex to switch custody, in order to “convince” (read: Exploit) my elderly, ill father that I somehow “deserved it.”
“A common tactic of psychological abusers is to try and befriend the family members of the survivor. Why? If the toxic ex-spouse can get the survivor’s own family aligned with him or her, then it has an isolating effect for the survivor. This tactic can also give the abuser a chance to be seen as agreeable or nice so clearly the relational issues must be the survivor’s fault, right? Abusers like to have all the human chess pieces on their side of the board.”-Shannon Thomas, southlakecounseling.org
My ex-husband was allowed to file eight petitions for Custody, litigating custody repeatedly for over six years, and countless harassing Motions and delays so I would run out of money for legal representation. Many hearings were set at the last minute on teaching days so I would lose income. I was forced into court so frequently, and for so long making it impossible to earn a living. It is well-documented that Domestic Abusers with access to money frequently use the legal system to leave their victim homeless, penniless and childless as revenge for leaving them – the “Price for Saying No”. And there is no shortage of ethically-challenged individuals plying their various trades in the courtrooms ready to make a fortune off of the misery of others, their Professional Code of Ethics be damned.
“No system of care in America creates more devastation than the legal system. All but the wealthy are priced out of taking their cases to a point of closure…Anger and disappointment reach a point beyond rage to an implosion that injures the psyche of the strongest of us. Attorneys rank among the highest in substance abuse, depression, suicide and unhappiness with their profession. Litigants who enter with any illness, injury, or weakness are made worse by stress, sometimes terrorized and bullied.” Dr. Karin Huffer Legal Abuse Syndrome, Dr. Karin Huffer
I was the Primary Caretaker and a very loving, hands-on, full-time Mom. I was such an excellent Mother, in fact, that my ex-husband refused to help with parenting in order to further his career, and his first two divorce petitions requested that custody remain with me.
I am an Educator in good standing. I have never been arrested or convicted of any crime. There is no substance abuse, mental illness or any wrong-doing on my part. Indeed, my mental health evaluation found that the extended litigation, financial abuse & separation from my child caused me harm. nadig-051915-ltrsfromcounselingcenter There are no findings against me by Child Protective Services, nor was any report made. However, there are DCFS findings against my ex-husband.
There was no Evidentiary Hearing – no evidence submitted, when a hastily scrawled No Contact Order in a hastily convened “Emergency” “hearing”, that did not allow me to respond, get an attorney, present evidence, request Discovery or even speak. The means? Fraud On The Court, and hearsay brought by an outside attorney (paid for by my ex-husband) with no legal standing to appear in the case, in violation of the law. He claimed to have “evidence”, which he “demonstrated” in a sleazy, theatrical, over-the-top Pantomime, but never actually presented. Within fifteen minutes, I went from Mother, Primary Caretaker and Sole Custodian, to losing most of my parental rights, not even allowed to send a Christmas or Birthday Card. This “proceeding” consisted of me standing alone, while my ex-husband and three lawyers shouted a bizarre, incoherent stream of insane insults and hearsay. That was it. No evidence proffered. At all. Months later I finally had the opportunity to view this “evidence”; a single murky cell-phone photo that had clearly been doctored. Indeed, convicted felons have more parental rights than I did.
I believed in our American justice system and thought Judges were prudent, emotionally-balanced, scholarly people who meticulously weighed evidence and law. But I learned it’s about gamemanship and profiteering. Perjury and false reporting, back-room deals, cronyism and corruption were expected – just “the way things work”. Verbal and emotional abuse, and sometimes, physical intimidation, by the attorneys became customary. The sleazier the lies the better, and more entertaining, it seemed for Judge Alfred Levinson.
It was shoddy, disturbing theater of the absurd and macabre. False reporting by court vendors – shrinks with ethics issues, brought late into the case by the Child Rep, when I no longer had funds for an attorney – the strategy to wipe out respected Dr. David Finn’s two custody evaluations containing findings of Pathological Parental Alienation, Domestic Violence and family exploitation against my ex-husband. These new court vendors had been sanctioned by the State of Illinois; the Psychologist, Dr. Daniel Fisher for similar “Multiple-Role Misconduct” Dr. Daniel Fisher’s Misconduct, With Michael Volpe, while the Psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Gamze’s controlled substance license was revoked and placed on indefinite Probation Dr. Jonathan Gamze Misprescribing/Overprescribing Drugs.
When I could no longer afford an attorney, I stood alone, mute, not allowed to present evidence, while Child Rep Natalie Koga and Meg Jackson, (ex-husband’s attorney #6) stood together, insulting me, lying, and laughing, too many times to count. They thought depriving a child of his Mother while demeaning her in public was pretty funny. Judge Alfred Levinson allowed, and enabled this abusive behavior.
Multiple illegal Orders were written that were impossible to comply with. The obvious goal was to find me in Contempt of Court, with four attempts to throw me in jail. A modern-day Kafka novel – double-bind after double-bind, nothing made sense, with intertwined lawyers and mental health vendors willing to do just about anything as long as the checks cleared, their professional codes of ethics be damned. All the while salivating over my childhood home in northwest Illinois.
The best barometer of the tone and intent of this divorce and custody case is seen in my ex’s attorney Meg Jackson’s email sent less than one day after my elderly, ill father passed away in my rural hometown – 150 miles away from Judge Levinson’s Rolling Meadows Courtroom – attempting to bully me into not attending my own father’s funeral. The same lawyer who yelled I was a “brazen woman” for requesting family therapy covered by insurance, as I couldn’t afford $2,000/month medical expenses, and yelled “We’re going to take her down. We’re going to take EVERYTHING from her.” And yet, Dr. Finn’s custody evaluation had recommended that my ex-husband be stopped from using our child to insert himself into my family.
And then there is the eye-witness account of Child Rep Natalie Koga colluding with Meg Jackson (ex’s attorney #6) to change an evaluation – to get rid of “the problem” (me, a loving Mother), Natalie Koga Confronted With Eye-Witness To Her Corruption and cell phone bills that show her texting with my ex while avoiding talking to me. mehdipourtexts – Reza Mehdipour August Text
This vicious legal bullying, where the destruction of innocent people is entertaining, the truth meaningless, and no matter how hard you try has anything to do with anything, is deeply traumatic and should never be allowed to happen to anyone. Ever. And then I understood why Chris Mackney, and so many others have been bullied to death in family court. But I hung on, not for myself, but for my beloved child. I will continue to be a voice calling for reform, accountability, and oversight for Guardian ad Litems, Child Representatives, Judges, and court vendors. I will continue to speak out about the devastation of Legal Abuse, the grievous harm of Maternal Deprivation, and the epidemic of abusive fathers obtaining child custody, and the highly-lucrative abuse cottage industry.