June 20, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
I report on this case for two main reasons (CBC, 6/10/16). First, last Friday I posted a piece excoriating Rosie Batty and Danny Blay for their efforts to continue the marginalization of fathers in their children’s lives. Theirs was the long-debunked claim that all too often, abusive fathers get custody of their kids. As usual, those who assert that claim offer nothing on which to base it. But I pointed out that, if we change the word ‘fathers’ to ‘mothers,’ it’s actually quite true. So the linked-to case is but one recent example.
Second, when I write about parental child abduction, I usually call it child abuse, which it is. The linked-to case bears that out.
Amazing how the news produces current examples, as if on order.
Back in the 90s, a British Columbian woman, C.A.S., married and divorced two different men, J.B. and J.S. She became pregnant by each and each time began claiming the men were dangerous and abusive before the child was even born. She gave birth first to a boy and then a girl. Both fathers denied her allegations, but B.C. courts gave her custody anyway. Gradually, her lies broke down, but the courts failed to transfer custody to the children’s dads who were her targets.
[Judge Deirdre] Pothecary’s decision details seemingly pathological attempts on C.A.S.’s part to alienate the men — known as J.B. and J.S. — from their children beginning before they were even born.
She was married to J.B from 1990 to 1993 and J.S. from 1994 to 1996. But she separated from each of them shortly after learning she was pregnant.
Both fathers attempted to be part of their children’s lives once they were born.
But in the court proceedings that followed, C.A.S. made allegations of abuse in both cases, allegedly coaching her daughter to say J.B. had sexually assaulted her and claiming J.S. physically assaulted his son.
She was initially granted custody of the children, but that began to change as the court battles wore on, the lies became apparent and judges started believing the fathers.
That brings us to 1998 when C.A.S. failed to show up for a court hearing. She’d absconded with the children.
A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for C.A.S in October 1998 and charges of contravening custody orders were sworn against her.
The Missing Children Society of Canada worked with RCMP to find her. A link to Germany was suggested, so Interpol was asked to help.
"Photographs of the two children were digitally enhanced to make them age appropriate and were circulated around the world," Pothecary wrote. "J.B. wanted to hire a private detective but it was simply cost prohibitive."
Finally, in 2014, J.B. and his wife located the daughter’s Facebook page that included a photo of a church. She said she lived across the street from the church that the two adults determined to be in Pacolet, South Carolina. They went there immediately, confronted C.A.S., who seems to have agreed to return to Canada and plead guilty to various criminal charges. Judge Pothecary sentenced her to four years in prison.
Was what C.A.S. did child abuse? Judge for yourself.
She was remarried and living in squalor with the kids she had kept largely off grid for 16 years; they received no education, medical or dental care and had no legal status or identification in the United States.
"The children were deprived of an ‘ordinary’ childhood and the basics that most children take for granted," Port Coquitlam Judge Deirdre Pothecary wrote in a 77-page decision .
That’s right, no education, medical or dental care for at least the 16 years since she kidnapped them.
"They had no place to really call home as a result of their frequent moves. They were required to live lies and could not maintain their own identities. They lived in constant fear of being discovered by authorities and either sent back to Canada to ‘two bad men’ or of being jailed in the United States illegally."
Mental health professionals who study abducted kids emphasize this part of the trauma they endure. Abducted kids are always on the run, never acquire an identity of their own because they have no one except the abducting parent to whom to consistently relate. They can’t make friends even if they go to school because, soon enough, they’ll have to move again. An abducted child may not even have his/her own name or may acquire a new one ever few years. They have no relatives, no extended family except their abductor and perhaps an also-abducted sibling. Their sole source of love and support is their abductor who is often so emotionally fragile that he/she needs the children’s support as much as they need the parent’s.
The judge also noted that the children knew their fathers were looking for them.
"However, believing the lies and misinformation about their fathers that their mother had instilled in them and perhaps out of loyalty to her, they were afraid to reach out to their fathers and regain the life that they should have had," Pothecary wrote.
"As a result, they continued to live in South Carolina in an ongoing state of fear."
Here’s a piece I wrote on a recent study of abducted kids done by an Australian researcher. She found that almost all of the kids she interviewed experienced severe, profound and often lifelong emotional/psychological impacts from their abduction. Child abuse? No doubt about it.
And make no mistake, for at least five years, C.A.S. lied to Canadian courts in an effort to keep first one, then the second child away from their fathers. That means her lies were believed and she maintained custody for all that time despite clear signals that she was alienating the children. Alienation too is child abuse, but the courts adjudicating the custody cases turned a blind eye. Courts giving custody to an abuser? No doubt about it.
That’s not all. Left behind parents suffer horribly as well.
In victim impact statements, J.B. and J.S. spoke about the time they had lost with their children. J.S. said he became an introvert, was diagnosed with major clinical depression and was unable to divert his thoughts from his son.
"I have never been able to experience the joy of helping (my son) to read and write and never had the pleasure of hanging a drawing of his on my refrigerator," J.S. wrote.
"All the little things a child goes through were robbed from me by this one act of cruelty."
So many lives damaged, perhaps irreparably. And all because of a mother bent on depriving children of their fathers and judges that either didn’t see the truth or failed to act on it. Often, a change in custody away from the alienating parent is the most –the only – effective remedy. But rarely do judges resort to it. In so doing, they become complicit in the abuse meted out by the custodial parent.
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