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CA Mother and Child Endure Brutalization at Hands of the Court System

(Continued) Since when (or how often) has an accused perpetrator admitted to committing a crime? If this is the criteria that is needed for protecting children from abuse, as long as the abuser assaults a child in private without seriously injuring or murdering the child, children are unprotected because there will be “differing statements from the child and the father”.

Aaron Meng also spoke with the police detective at the child abuse unit, Donna Eastep, who had interviewed my daughter. When Detective Eastep interviewed my daughter, she accused her of lying and hurting herself, based on what her co-workers had said after just seeing photos of the injuries, and her consultation with Dr. Katherine Dully at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, a doctor who had never seen or interviewed my daughter. Eastep never contacted the three doctors, Dr. Jennifer Cullen, Dr. Erin Marie King, and Dr. Aaron Benjamin Schneir at the emergency room of Thornton Hospital of the University of California San Diego who had actually seen my daughter and who had corroborated her rendition of the abuse in a 20+ page report. Eastep was callous, dismissive, and victim blaming, nonchalantly labeling my daughter suicidal as she walked out the door. I have filed a complaint against Eastep with Sheriff Shelley Zimmerman and cc’d the mayor as well as other politicians, activists, and agencies in San Diego. I have been told after two meetings with police detectives Daniel Higdon and Kevin Moyna in the Internal Affairs division of the San Diego Police Department that my complaint has been lodged in Eastep’s file, but I have no evidence or confirmation that this was done other than a verbal declaration. 

My lawyer at the time, Debra Caligiuri (the cost of her representation was approximately $400/hr.), who is part of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, advised me to retain a custody evaluator, Dr. Miguel Alvarez, who I later found out was part of the same organization. After treating me with contempt, disdain, and derision throughout the custody evaluation process (and harassing me for additional money and charging fraudulent fees), at a total cost of $10,000 for the evaluation, Dr. Alvarez wrote a report which absolved my husband of any wrongdoing, even writing glowingly of the potential advantages he could bring to our daughter’s life. There was no acknowledgement of my daughter’s claim of abuse or Thornton Hospital’s emergency room report, all documentation that he received and ignored. He “quoted” statements from teachers and others that were patently false, as I questioned those people afterwards to check if they had actually made those statements. His evaluation of me consisted of intensely critiquing my statements, behavior, and family relationships, all in a deleterious, unfavorable manner. His evaluation of my husband was a declaration that my husband should be able to present his story in “his own words” without an evaluation. There was no assessment or analysis of my husband’s statements, behavior, or claims. Alvarez’s report amounted to a character assassination of my actions and personality, another part of the standard Family Court pattern which undermines women’s credibility when they claim abuse or that there is a potential danger to their children by the father. Family Court’s attitude, along with the “experts” that they repeatedly utilize (a service which comprises a highly lucrative business for custody evaluators and reunification therapists) implies that women are fabricating the abuse allegations and using alienation tactics to indoctrinate their children. With this mindset, mothers are unable to protect their children even from convicted pedophiles, rapists, domestic abusers, and other convicted criminals. 

I currently have a case filed against Dr. Alvarez for fraud that California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra is overseeing. 

Although I wanted my lawyer, Debra Caligiuri, to dispute Dr. Alvarez’s findings once the report was completed, she was unwilling to refute them, instead choosing to protect a professional friend at the cost of my daughter’s safety. She told me, untruthfully, that it was best if I requested that she be removed from the case (rather than her requesting it), as it “would look better to the courts.” I knew she was lying to “protect her own hide”, but I decided it was best, given the fact that I would most likely receive subpar representation if I retained her. I had to represent myself at the upcoming hearing, pro per, which was only about two weeks away. Later, Caligiuri sent me another invoice billing me for her remaining “services.”

Due to Dr. Alvarez’s unprofessional report, the court imposed his recommendations on my daughter and me, and my daughter was exposed to further traumatization through a reunification therapist, Dr. Diane Ghiron (at a cost of approximately $7,000) who was his co-worker. Reunification therapy is another horrific part of the Family Court nightmare. 

Ghiron picked up on the harping that Alvarez had criticized me for in his report, that I was uncooperative with scheduling appointments (although my daughter and I had done close to 10 hours of appointments in the month of December, my daughter was still in school and I am a caregiver for my father with Alzheimer’s), and proceeded to continually change appointment times for months, until she was called on this abusive tactic in court. Ghiron made untrue or slanderous comments in a conference call with my husband’s lawyer and my lawyer, I have a written account of her statements and claims. Ghiron lied to me about statements she had or hadn’t made to my daughter and me. Ghiron never voluntarily gave me her business paperwork, which should be provided to a client by law or by the code of ethics of her profession - a financial agreement, office procedures, etc. I had to continually ask for the documents and then specifically request copies. After Ghiron’s $5,000 retainer ran out in a few months, she informed me that I owed her another “retainer” because that was how these cases were handled financially, which was not only a lie, but extortion. Luckily I had a copy of her financial agreement which stated that payments were only due per appointment. Ghiron sadistically subjected my daughter, the victim, to further trauma while aiding my husband in order to please the courts in their reunification process. Her behavior and actions were unethical and criminal (attempt to extort money), and she should lose her license to practice. 

Eventually, I was able to find an honest and proficient lawyer who was able to extricate my daughter and me from the horrors of the Family Court machinery of abuse. However, we are not exiting this torment without a huge cost to us emotionally, physically, and financially. My daughter was put through endless, repetitive trauma by court ordered therapists to accommodate and mollify a father she says abused her. At every step the court, my previous lawyer, and the court’s appointed “experts” attempted to exonerate my husband of any abusive actions or irresponsibility, while blaming me for my daughter’s “problems.” I am now financially devastated, after an outlay of about $80,000 in order to navigate the courts and pay associated therapists, mediators, and other experts associated with the system. Although I was able to retain custody of my daughter during the ongoing hearings, it was only by luck and research that we were able to negotiate our way out of an extremely biased and corrupt system. 

Men as a gender perpetrate more serious violence, approximately 80% to 90% of rapes, sexual assaults, serious domestic abuse, mass murders, mass shootings, serial killings, murder, robbery, kidnapping, etc. (per FBI statistics by gender), while women’s rates of committing these crimes are closer to single digits. Most often the consumers of prostitution, trafficking, and the sex industry are male, not female. This is the reality of male violence against women and children, and as such, it makes more sense, not less, to believe women and children’s claims of abuse, instead of questioning their credibility. But the courts set up a false equivalency, failing to acknowledge the prevalence of male violence and abuse, and instead choose to disbelieve the mothers and children while providing aid and comfort to the abusers. 

We are looking forward to the day every mother and child will be safe from the clutches of the Family Court, which in cookie cutter fashion accommodates and acquiesces to abusive fathers due to the effective public relations campaign by fathers’ rights groups that prioritizes joint custody above all else. The sick and twisted process that has permeated the Family Courts has maligned and put at risk protective mothers and their children all across this nation. 

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