Originally published October 4th, 2018. Updated July 21st, 2019.
This is as much a PSA as it is an open letter to a particular person. We have a false accusation epidemic in our current national culture and its impacting men on several levels. Being technically adept and realizing the burden of proof unofficially lay on the accused rather than the accuser, I was lucky enough to have audiovisual surveillance material at hand to defend myself, so here I am living to tell the tale; fighting for other non-custodial parents in Texas and nationally through AFESP. Most are not so lucky.
The above is an illustration that depicts what is an increasingly obvious fact in Texas: The odds of a family violence incident in a custody case is very low. Yet the accusation is commonplace. If you’ve been falsely accused of domestic violence and successfully defended yourself, congratulations, you’ve survived Hell on earth.
A weaponized domestic violence accusation carries with it the potential of jail time, as well as legal fees and fines to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. As a consequence you may have lost your job, have had to endure humiliating attempts at character assassination, all while the false accuser hasn’t spent a day behind bars by virtue of owning the victim narrative. You may have also been told that a judge will still take into account the mere accusation of a domestic violence threat and not award custody or even joint managing conservatorship (JMC) out of fear of risk.
A common practice is to use this piece of family court lore to encourage out-of-court mediated settlements in favor of the party responsible for the fraudulent accusation. The children, of course, are the casualty in all of this, ending up with an enabled, alienation-prone custodial parent with the maturity levels of a teenager. Conversely, the responsible parent who is more likely to provide a lucrative, regular supply of child support funds to the state, i.e., the IV-D target parent, is left holding the bag and thereafter referred to by the derogatory term “non-custodial” despite every effort to be custodial in the life of his or her child. The sorry state of the non-custodial parent has been discussed elsewhere. This person is, for all practical purposes, a second-class citizen treated with the same disregard reserved for criminal entities, as I was treated by the amicus attorney discussed below, and other actors in the family court theater.
Any acceptance of a backwater court culture that pursues stereotypes, false allegations and hearsay over hard, contradictory evidence is ultimately a violation of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause. Any judge who does this is breaking the law. Anyone who claims a judge would do this without evidence of it is slandering that judge. Furthermore, extrapolating on the logic that the amicus attorney has no apparent say in the matter — that the decision fall entirely upon the victim — negates the purpose of appointing the amicus as a neutral party in the first place.
The open letter below refers to a common canned statement used by Christian Landry, a Brazoria County, TX amicus attorney who stood by as this tactic was used in my custody case, and amounts to nothing short of victim blaming. Though the opposing counsel, “yourchildsupportlawyer.com” as I refer to him, was in my view, a morally bankrupt opportunist marketing himself to custodial winners and avoiding non-custodial cases altogether, Christian was the most offensive actor in the events of my custody case due to her claim of being a neutral party acting in the best interest of my son. My son has suffered and continues to suffer under her recommendation.
Ironically, I sought Christian’s involvement with some desperation after having endured five months of zero contact (alienation) on the part of the mother to my child, a ridiculous degree of partiality to that point on the part of Brazoria County law enforcement, as well as open slander on the part of the mother to my child and her friend circle. The latter is something Ms. Landry actively defended in an email as I sought to curtail the unrelenting abuse of my person. It appeared at her worst, that Ms. Landry identified with the mother as an unlikeable divorcee herself. The damage, both in regards to reputation and emotionally, was already enormous, and the financial burden of defending myself was beginning to take a decent toll by that point as well.
Repeated below (and since removed by Laywers.com):
Submitted on 08/15/18 in Family Mediation (on laywers.com)
It’s recommended to always keep video running if encountering Ms. Landry as an amicus. Callous demeanor left much to be desired. More importantly, made errors in her investigation leaving objectively negative impact on my child. Child is now roughly 150 miles away in a neighborhood with close to twice as many sex offenders as mine. Mother neglects health and hygiene. In email referring to background research, stated reference to a convicted felon on probation mistaken to be a doctor.
You reached an agreement with the mother of your son in a mediated settlement agreement in which you allowed him to stay living with her — I made no decisions in your case. I’m sorry if you regretted your decision later but that’s not my fault.
Below is my open letter response to this canned rhetoric, and a statement I hope will resonate with victims of false allegations of domestic violence everywhere:
In the space you had to respond, you managed to iterate that the decision at mediation was mine. Let me be clear that I’ve heard you, on every occasion they you’ve stated this canned response. I assume this is a common response that amicus attorneys fall back on when their behavior is put into question and does real damage to families and children. Dropping the issue as my responsibility and convincing yourself you have no fault in the matter may be convenient, but is ignoring the whole story. It also amounts to victim blaming, which carries it’s own extremely complex connotation of abuse upon abuse.
Lawyers.com emphasizes brevity or I’d have been more clear about my rating you poorly. I don’t think I should have to spell this out to you, but self-honesty doesn’t seem to be your strong suite:
1. Amicus attorneys are marketed as being the last word in the life of a busy judge with an enormous case load. This is common knowledge. It was either sign at mediation, or accept your misinformed recommendation later in the courtroom, to which the judge would’ve given tremendous weight by virtue of your role, and for which you were paid on behalf of both parties. At no point was there any indication that you would come through as a competent and fair neutral party despite my hope in you, and I wasn’t informed of the option to remove you from the case.
2. There were many types of coercion at play at my mediation session. Namely, the threat that the opposing counsel would take the fraudulent domestic violence charge back to court so I couldn’t get JMC, despite the fact that this charge was reduced and eventually dropped outright by the time we mediated, based on compelling evidence and the direct testimony of several witnesses.
Not being familiar with family court culture, I chose to trust what you and the mediator were claiming, which was that even a dropped charge would be considered, which is unconstitutional and a breach of equal protection. I cannot emphasize the far-reaching negative consequences of supplanting the law with a backwater family court tradition of hearsay and acceptance of false accusations. I accepted that initial reduced charge only because I was exhausted and couldn’t fight further, both emotionally and financially. This is not an uncommon situation, yet your first response to this was to question whether I got off due to having a “really good lawyer”. This apparent prejudice added insult to injury, and remains mind-boggling to me.
In the end it wasn’t my choice. In the case of “non-custodial”; i.e., “target parents” in Texas, it rarely is. Joint managing conservatorship was important to me. Loving parents accept many concessions when desperate to be involved in their child’s life at the hands of an alienating parent. The mother to my son has since let her lies consume her, and the damage to herself and Grayson is physically obvious. You let an evidenced neglectful and abusive parent “win” custody despite enormous objective differences in the quality of life I could’ve offered Grayson to this day. You were even actively defensive of the mother’s open denigration of me on social media. All on record. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that you lack moral fortitude.
You yourself have taken no responsibility for your behavior in my case. You also haven’t had the decency to clarify whether you’ve exposed details of my child to a dangerous convicted felon that I clearly evidenced to you with court records. People in your field already have a reputation of being opportunistic and harmfully shallow career litigators, and all you’ve managed to do is reinforce that stereotype as you bragged about receiving the “maximum child support” from your ex and how you would invest in dividend stocks at mediation. This and several other behaviors you exhibited were extremely disturbing to both myself and the witnesses I presented to you.
It shouldn’t be this hard to be a good father, and the last thing I expected was to be treated the way I was by the very institution I was relying on to find safety and security for my child. As an advocate for child support reform and 50/50 equal parenting activist, I petition desperately for the removal of elements like you from places where you can hurt others. As far as I’m concerned the only court you belong in is the food court at the local mall flipping burgers where your apparent sexism and personal prejudice won’t shake the foundation of family culture in Texas. It’s clear you’ve crafted an internal dialogue to deftly avoid the burden of conscience surrounding the decisions you make, of which this canned statement is a part. But my son is already a casualty of your incompetence and prejudice. That can’t be hidden away.