Dear Family Court Judge,
You may be on your way to work when suddenly your thoughts shift to your afternoon calendar. By this point in your career, you are probably struggling with compassion fatigue and are tired of listening to people argue back and forth like human Ping-Pong balls. You probably feel that familiar twinge of annoyance at the thought of the high-conflict couple that is once again on calendar today. You have most likely bought into the notion that it takes two to tango in family court. You secretly wonder why these two adults can’t put their wild accusations and differences aside and do what’s best for their children?
Maybe, just maybe, those wild accusations are not fabricated. Maybe one of the parents standing in front of you isn’t lying and typically avoids conflict like the plague. Do you chalk these accusations up to a high-conflict couple and order a 50/50 custody split because that is what seems “fair?” Do you dismiss the concerns contained in the countless declarations on your desk? Do you subscribe to the belief that, “she chose to marry him so he can’t be that bad?” Are you truly acting in the best interest of the child or are you trying to be fair to the two adults standing in front of you? Our judicial officers are supposed to rule in the best interest of the child but that guiding principle of family court has become distorted and lost over the years. As someone who regularly sits in courtrooms across America, I can tell you that what is happening in the family court system is not in the best interest of the children.
Ana Estevez recently pled with the family court system in Southern California to protect her young son, a five-year old affectionately known as, “Piqui.” This little boy was so full of life and his big personality captivated everyone around him. Piqui was the light in his mother’s world and this week, his heartbroken mother, Ana Estevez, watched as her son’s tiny, white casket was carried through Holy Family Catholic Church in Pasadena, California. Little Piqui lost his life at the hands of his father, the very man who should have been the one to protect him at all costs. Just eight hours north in Santa Rosa, California, another mother sits in mourning, drinking tea while wrapped in her young daughter’s blanket. In June, her ex-husband took his own life after killing their two children, a 6-year-old girl and an 18-month-old boy. This mother had also pled with family court professionals to help her protect her young children.
What is the solution? Please begin by educating yourself on Cluster B personality disorders (antisocial, narcissistic and borderline personality disorders). Everyone in the family court system who has a hand in deciding the fate of a child should recognize the positive correlation between Cluster B personality disorders and high-conflict divorce. Having narcissistic personality disorder (or any Cluster B disorder) does not simply mean that one has an inflated ego, it means that this individual thrives on conflict. It also means that this person poses a significant danger to the healthy parent and the children. He or she will appear as Dr. Jeykell in the courtroom and will resume their true identity of Mr. Hyde outside of the courtroom doors. This individual sees the children as a weapon to continue to control and abuse the healthy parent. The ultimate way to inflict pain on the healthy parent is to hurt, or worse, murder the children.
The Cluster B disordered parent is incapable of love and sees the children as possessions. This individual may appear perfectly normal and often, they are so skilled at impression management that they can even mislead and charm mental health professionals. The Cluster B disordered individual claims to love their children yet their actions are not in alignment with their words. I beg you to pay attention to actions and not words.
Those with Cluster B personality disorders are often pathological liars which allows them to lie under oath and in court documents with ease. Lying to the court further fuels the disordered individual because they take great pride in manipulating systems and people. While perjury does not seem to carry a lot of weight in family court, it should be taken more seriously than it is. Perjury is a crime in every court of law and I plead with you to take swift action if someone is caught lying in your courtroom. Someone caught lying under oath should be a glaring red flag to family court professionals.
I have seen countless psychological evaluations come across my desk with results that are positive for antisocial personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder yet the court orders a 50/50 parenting split regardless. In many cases, the mental health professionals site, “high narcissistic or antisocial traits” yet doesn’t provide a strong diagnosis due to the legal liability. The lack of education on Cluster B personality disorders is alarming. I truly believe that our judicial system does not understand the magnitude or severity of this diagnosis but for the sake of our children, it is critical that you and other family law professionals begin to educate yourselves.
There is an overwhelming belief that two parents are better than one and in most cases, I believe this to be true. The exception should be when one parent has been diagnosed or is suspected to have a Cluster B personality disorder. This person is not capable of placing the child’s needs above their own needs. This parent lacks the ability to love, respect boundaries, have empathy and is incapable of doing what is best for the child. Unlike your average divorce, a divorce with this type of individual will not end until the children have reached adulthood. Sadly, many of these cases end in murder as the ones described above. Only in these cases do the courts pay attention but by this point, it is too late. Please remember that in a high-conflict divorce, it does not take two to tango.
I beg you to begin researching Cluster B personality disorders and begin listening to the stories from those who have been victimized. True education on these personality disorders comes from survivors. Memorize the ACE Study as if it were your courtroom bible. Keep the Duluth wheels on your desk and refer to them often. Give more weight to actions versus words when making decisions. Consider that the parent standing in front of you may actually be telling you the truth when she says that she lives in fear of her ex-husband hurting her or their children. Don’t allow yourself to become calloused to the issues that you see every day. Remember that abuse comes in many forms (emotional, psychological, sexual, financial, verbal and physical) and all forms of abuse are equally damaging and have lifelong, devastating effects on children. Please know that every child matters and every child is depending on you to act in their best interest.
Signed, A Family Court Advocate