The Eighth Annual Battered Mothers Custody Conference was held over the weekend in Albany, New York. Several misguided domestic violence advocacy groups, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Network Against Domestic Violence, co-sponsored the conference. Sadly, this is a prime example of a serious problem afflicting most domestic violence organizations, one which tarnishes the often noble work they do—their consistent failure to recognize and acknowledge false abuse accusations.
For years the Conference, which is also co-sponsored by the National Organization for Women of New York State, has promoted a parade of child custody cases which they use to support their claim that “protective parents” frequently are losing in family court because the courts hand child custody to batterers who employ false claims of Parental Alienation. They advocate reforms which will make it easier to deny fathers shared custody or visitation rights based on unsubstantiated abuse claims.
Fathers and Families does not now nor have we ever denied that there are family court litigants who make false accusations of Parental Alienation, just as there are litigants who make false accusations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Certainly there are fathers (and mothers) who have alienated their children through inept parenting, narcissism, drug or alcohol problems, or abuse, and who attempt to shift the blame to their exes by falsely claiming Parental Alienation.
Nonetheless, there is no credible evidence that battering, abusive fathers are often being awarded child custody, and this is demonstrated by the extreme trouble that proponents of this view have in producing even a handful of credible cases to support their claims. To this date they have produced one—the Joyce Murphy case in San Diego. There are doubtless others, but not many.
Longtime Fathers and Families supporters will remember that the Battered Mothers Custody Conference was the basis for PBS’ 2005 anti-father documentary Breaking the Silence, which portrayed fathers as batterers and child molesters who steal children from their mothers. We led a massive protest against the film, along with the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. Our protest resulted in PBS agreeing to commission a new film to take a fair look at child custody and parental alienation. That film, called Kids & Divorce: For Better or Worse, aired on most PBS affiliates in September of 2006.
We also exposed Sadia Loeliger, one of the central characters in the film, as a fraud. The filmmakers portrayed her as a heroic mom who had lost custody of her daughter to an abusive ex-husband. We publicly revealed extensive documentation showing that Sadia Loeliger had lost custody because overwhelming evidence led a Tulare County, CA Juvenile Court to conclude she had committed multiple acts of child abuse. Breaking the Silence’s producers were forced to publicly apologize to Dr. Scott Loeliger for the film’s defamatory portrayal of his case, and to obliterate it from any future reproductions of the film.
Unfortunately, the Battered Mothers Custody Conference has continued to put forth and promote discredited child custody cases. This year’s lineup of speakers and presenters is a veritable Rogue’s Gallery of dishonest litigants and their attorney/advocate enablers.
In a new investigative report, F & F exposes this Rogue’s Gallery. They are listed below in rough order of appearance at the BMCC:
Tynia Canada (aka “Tynia Tarpley”) this year and in previous years has been the opening presenter at the BMCC. Just a few weeks ago Canada was convicted and sentenced for criminal theft in Maryland—to see the court document, click here.
In two separate custody cases against two different fathers, two courts found that Canada had tried to alienate her children from their fathers and drive the fathers out of their children’s lives.
The first case was against William Stephney, concerning their son Jabari. In that case, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children “strongly recommended” that the father have sole custody, as did Susan Friedberg, ACSW, the court-appointed forensic expert.
In the Family Court of the State of New York’s 1/28/00 ruling, the Honorable Judge George L. Jurow found:
[A]fter reviewing and considering the extensive evidence at the trial, the court concludes that the credible evidence in the record clearly supports the father’s position, supported by both the forensic evaluator and the child’s guardian ad litem, that he receive sole custody…
The Court further notes “the findings of two different judges that the mother willfully violated a variety of visitation orders.” The Court goes on to detail the opinions of numerous court experts that Canada continually and relentlessly attempted to alienate the child from the father and frustrate their relationship. To read the Court’s ruling, click here.
In the second case, pitting Tynia Canada/Tarpley against her then-husband Donald Tarpley, the Honorable Diane O. Leasure of the Circuit Court for Howard County Maryland made findings against Tynia which were practically identical to those made against her in the previous case against William Stephney.
In this case, Donald Tarpley details a long list of Tynia’s interference with his visitation and custody rights with his daughter Jasmine. The Court found his statements to be credible, says “he has his daughter’s best interests in mind,” explains that the mother has put up “many roadblocks” separating the father from the daughter, and says that the mother has prevented the father from seeing his daughter for “25% of her life.”
Twice the Court describes Tynia’s behavior regarding the child custody issue to be “particularly chilling.” The Court finds Tynia in contempt and even awards Donald attorney’s fees. To read the court document, click here.
Nolan is the husband of Garland Waller, who is making a film promoting the Holly Collins hoax. At the conference, Nolan read Holly’s description of her case and also does so in the film. He is apparently unaware of much of the facts and history of the case.
Alan Rosenfeld, J.D.
Holly Collins’ attorney in Minnesota in 2008 who helped her evade substantive punishment for kidnapping her children.
In his speech at the BMCC he says he took the case pro bono after many in the domestic violence establishment urged him to. Like Nolan, he is apparently unaware of much of the facts and history of the case.
Holly Collins’ claims about her high-profile custody case are disputed by her own mother, grandmother, sister, brother, former in-laws, her ex-husband and his wife, the father of her third child and his wife, numerous doctors, Guardians ad Litem, social workers, mental health professionals and all seven judges who have heard this case.
Holly Collins and Mark Collins had two children, Zachary and Jennifer, before getting divorced in 1990. After the divorce, there was a highly contentious custody battle, during which Holly Collins repeatedly alleged that Mark Collins had abused both her and the children. Mark Collins claimed that Holly was interfering and obstructing his relationship with his children and attempting to alienate the children from him.
Holly Collins drew support from the Minneapolis domestic violence community, and the case drew considerable media attention. During this period, the case’s custody evaluators noted “in response to routine questions about custodial plans, Holly stated ‘I’ll make the biggest media circus out of this if I have to. I’ll do whatever it takes if Mark gets custody.’”
Hennepin County Family Court services found that Holly Collins suffers from multiple mental disorders, including Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy (MSbP), where a parent invents, induces or exaggerates medical symptoms in a child. Hennepin County Family Court Services and the Guardian ad Litem in the case recommended that Mark Collins be granted legal and physical custody of the children and that Holly Collins’ visitation be supervised.
In December of 1992, Minnesota Family Court Judge Michael J. Davis found “the evidence is overwhelming that the children are at great physical and emotional risk if the children remained in Holly Collins’ care” and awarded custody of the then 9 and 7-year-old children to Mark Collins.
After the custody switch, Holly Collins claimed that Zachary and Jennifer were being severely abused by Mark Collins and his wife Rena, and that the children’s health was in danger because of Mark Collins’ alleged lack of concern over their alleged medical issues. These contentions are directly contradicted both by many involved, including the Collins’ children’s maternal grandmother and by Guardian ad Litem Michael J. London in his April, 1993 report to the Court.
The Minnesota Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s award of custody to Mark Collins in March of 1994. The Court of Appeal noted that “the children have adjusted well to the new custody arrangement” in Mark Collins’ care and that “the children’s health has improved.”
The court said that Holly Collins’ accusations that Mark Collins and his current wife were abusing the children were “found to be without substance,” and that the lower court’s finding that Holly Collins’ care “endangered [the children's] physical and emotional health” was “supported by evidence in the record.”
After the Court of Appeal denied Holly Collins’ appeal for a custody switch, Holly Collins kidnapped Zachary and Jennifer (along with her baby Christopher, fathered by Jeff Imm), and took all three children to Holland. Holly, who was sought by the FBI for the kidnapping, claimed that her ex-husband Mark Collins was severely abusing the children and that she needed to flee to protect them.
According to the Minneapolis City Pages, which has published numerous articles sympathetic to Holly Collins, in 2008, the “felony kidnapping charges were dropped in exchange for Holly Collins pleading to a lesser charge. She was sentenced to unsupervised probation for one year, or until she completes 40 hours of community service, which she plans to serve in the Netherlands.” Jennifer and Zachary Collins, who were both kidnapped from their father’s custody at a young age and then alienated from him by Holly, support their mother.
In January of 2009, Fathers and Families released an exhaustive, 11,000 word analysis of the court records and documents in the case. This analysis, which can be seen here, exposed the Holly Collins case as a complete fabrication.
In our Report we enumerated 31 different problems with Holly Collins’ version of events. If Collins felt she could rebut this, she would have posted a point by point critique of what we wrote. Instead, Collins’ reaction to being exposed has been exactly what one would expect from a false accuser. It included:
1) Accusations (which she repeated at the BMCC) that we had “violated her privacy” by writing about her case. This ignores the fact that we only wrote about the case after Collins successfully took her case to the national media via Fox News and other outlets. Moreover, we only discussed issues that related directly to the custody case.
2) Weak, half-heated attempts to defend her case against our analysis via self-contradicting, error-riddled, gobbledygook blog posts.
3) Extensive, utterly fictitious personal attacks on Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks, including attacks on Sacks’ 83-year-old mother.
One could spend endless hours detailing the falsehoods and contradictions in what Holly Collins says, but in this post we’ll limit ourselves to only a few. At the BMCC Collins:
1) apparently referencing Fathers and Families, said “On their website they posted that I should be gang-raped as an appropriate punishment.” This is false—nobody associated with Fathers and Families has ever or would ever say such a thing or anything close to it.
2) claimed that she was abused by her mother and by her stepfather–claims which are directly contradicted by Collins’ own words and actions, and by her siblings and family members.
3) claimed that Zachary got a skull fracture while trying to protect her from Mark Collins’ attacks. Actually, the principal skull injury sustained by Zachary was when he fell forward on a ride in an amusement park. Holly Collins took legal action against the amusement park for the injury and obtained a $50,000 financial settlement from the park on Zachary’s behalf. The following year Zachary re-injured his head when he fell out of a shopping cart, as documented by the Minneapolis Clinic of Neurology. Doctors felt the first injury was the more damaging one, though the skull fracture occurred in the second. At no time has Holly Collins every put forward any credible evidence tying Mark Collins to the skull injury.
4) claimed (correctly) that “there’s a warrant for my arrest at this very moment.” What Collins doesn’t tell the audience is that the arrest warrant has nothing to do with her (fictitious) abuse claim against Mark Collins. It is instead for kidnapping Christopher, a baby she had with Jeff Imm. She has now alienated Christopher from Jeff, and Christopher has made numerous hostile web postings about Jeff, the father Holly prevented him from ever knowing. To see the warrant for Holy Collins’ arrest, click here.
5) claimed that while five months pregnant, Mark beat her and she gave birth to a dead baby named “Joshua.” This is a new tale, and it is contradicted by the time-line. We invite Holly to post documentation for this claim on her website.
Barry Goldstein, JD
Principal promoter of the Genia Shockome child custody hoax, Goldstein was also one of Tynia Canada’s former attorneys.
In 2009, the New York Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department imposed a staggering five-year suspension on Goldstein because he made statements they called “dishonest, false, or misleading” and for what they called the “pervasive nature of [Goldstein's] deceptive conduct.” The Court also criticized Goldstein for misuse of funds in another case he handled.
Goldstein has worked with or been a member of many if not most of the organizations seeking to discredit Parental Alienation and the fatherhood movement and has authored a book on custody cases involving allegations of domestic violence.
Goldstein’s client Genia Shockome lost custody of her two children to her ex-husband, Tim Shockome, after a contentious custody battle in which Genia accused Tim of abuse. The Shockome case was widely reported, including this sympathetic article in Newsweek magazine, and Shockome was a popular feminist cause celebre a few years ago.
What really happened is that the mother’s absolute refusal to co-parent with her ex-husband led the courts–eventually, after giving her many chances–to transfer custody of the kids from Genia to her ex-husband. Fathers and Families Executive Director Glenn Sacks detailed this in his co-authored column Shockome Syndrome.
The entire premise of the Genia Shockome story hinges on the notion that Tim battered Genia prior to 2000 and, in repeatedly violating court orders to allow her children access to their father, she was acting to protect them. However, Genia’s allegations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse have never been substantiated in any court proceeding, nor supported by any witnesses.
There were three independent custody evaluations in the case, none of which found anything negative of substance against Tim Shockome. The first one called him a good parent, and the other two went as far as to recommend he get custody because of his parenting and because of Genia’s relentless attempts to drive him out of his children’s lives.
The most recent of these evaluators, Dr. Meg Sussman, has a feminist background and worked for Pace University’s Battered Women’s Justice Center. Sussman, who specializes in domestic violence and child abuse cases, recommended that Genia have only supervised visitation until she could accept the children’s father’s role in their lives.
In two in camera (in chambers) interviews conducted with the Shockome children on May 27, 2003 and January 22, 2004, neither child recalled any physical altercations between their parents, despite Genia’s claims that her children had witnessed Tim’s alleged violence against her. Moreover, neither child expressed any fear of Tim.
Newsweek pictured Genia holding up a large drawing apparently drawn by her children, and explained, “Parents like Genia keep fighting. ‘It’s so hard, having my children lost,’ she says, her voice breaking. ‘This was my life–my children.’”
What Newsweek ignores, though it’s right there in the court records, is that it was Genia who refused to visit her own children, despite ample opportunities to do so. When asked during the trial why she had not visited her children, Genia claimed that she could not afford to pay the supervised visitation program’s fees, even though she is highly-educated and had a well-paid technical job at IBM. Moreover, these programs were originally available to her free of charge, and later cost all of $25.
Genia refused to visit her children for two long periods prior to the May, 2004 decision, including the period which included her daughter’s birthday in November of 2003 and also Christmas of 2003. At one point, Genia refused to visit her own children for a stretch of nine weeks. The law guardian–another neutral party–said that Genia had explained that she didn’t visit her kids as part of her “strategy” in the case. Genia Shockome claims her children are “her life,” but apparently they weren’t even as important as a custody “strategy.”
Genia appealed and the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division unanimously rejected her appeal, writing “We discern no basis, on this record, to interfere with the Family Court’s findings, inter alia, that the mother lacked credibility–we find that the Family Court’s determination is supported by a sound and substantial basis in the record.”
Genia has accused Tim of all of the following: being a pedophile who got sexually aroused by changing his daughter’s dirty diapers; sexually abusing his children; masturbating in front of his children; taking his children to a sexual store; having a ferocious sexual appetite for women; having a ferocious homosexual appetite for men; being an abusive father who “beat the kids very often, 2-3 times a day” when Genia and Tim lived together; being a wife-beater; secretly beating his former wife who had a secret miscarriage; beating Genia so she almost had a miscarriage; intimidating five of Genia’s witnesses; insurance fraud, identity theft; immigration fraud; defrauding the federal government of $60,000; stealing; embezzlement; extortion; bankruptcy fraud; and almost driving over Genia’s neighbor’s little son.
Joy Silberg, Ph.D.
Psychologist and leading proponent of the idea that Parental Alienation is a fathers’ rights “hoax” or “myth.”
A professor, film producer, and promoter of the Holly Collins hoax in her upcoming film No Way Out But One. At the conference, Waller held a screening and discussion of what she describes as an “An Independent Documentary on Holly Collins – The First Woman to Be Granted Political Asylum on Grounds of Domestic Violence.”
Waller’s contention that Collins was “Granted Political Asylum on Grounds of Domestic Violence” is false.
Collins was not granted political asylum—she lost her asylum case, but won a subsidiary suit asking she be allowed to remain in Holland anyway on humanitarian grounds. In other words, her asylum attempt failed, but the Dutch government was unable to deport her for medical reasons, among others. Collins soon had four children in four years with a Dutch man who worked at the camp for illegal immigrants where she was being held–once Dutch children were involved, there was little chance of Collins being deported.
While Collins was in Holland, anti-immigration sentiment led to many changes in the law, starting in 2001. One of these changes was that they erased some of the distinctions between the different classes of immigrants, so Collins’ residency card does read “Asiel” (Asylum).
Holly Collins and (apparently) Waller promote the view that American authorities tried to extradite Collins to the US based on pressure from Mark Collins but that Dutch authorities found that Holly had been a battered wife and, in Holly’s words, “Netherlands, a tiny little country–stood up to the United States of America” to prevent her extradition.
In reality, American officials did not try to have Collins extradited: few if any officials were even aware that she was in Holland. No Dutch investigator ever contacted Mark Collins, and his interests or side of the story were not represented in the Dutch proceedings in any way.
Michael Lesher, Esq.
Attorney for discredited litigant Amy Neustein. In Parent Trap: Are false abuse charges a common tactic in child custody battles? (Reason, 12/06), former Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young wrote:
Amy Neustein, a leading activist on behalf of mothers penalized for abuse accusations…lost custody of her own daughter, Sherry, in 1986 after accusing her former husband, Ozzie Orbach, of sexual abuse—charges repeatedly rejected by the courts and by family service agencies. Her crusade has attracted support not only from feminist groups but from politicians from both major parties…[yet] Sherry Orbach, then 24 and a student at Columbia Law School, had published an article in The Jewish Press in New York strongly stating that the only abuse she had suffered was her mother’s effort to brainwash her into accusing her father.
Sherry Orbach wrote, “I, for one, owe my existence as a normal young adult to the family judges, Ohel foster care, and the Legal Aid Society attorney who helped me reunite with my father in the face of considerable opposition in the media.” (While Neustein’s supporters have insinuated that the article was a fake, Orbach confirmed its authenticity when contacted at her law school email address.)
Both Neustein’s sister and brother-in-law sided with the father in the custody dispute.
Lesher co-authored a book with Neustein called From Madness to Mutiny in which they claim to have unearthed a total of 1,000 cases over a 20-year period in which family courts inexplicably favored fathers who had molested their children by granting them visitation, joint custody, or sole custody. Fathers and Families Founder and Chairman of the Board Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. debunked the book in 2006, explaining:
Almost the entire book is anecdotal in nature. There is not a single table of data. I was unable to find the number 1,000 anywhere in the book. It quickly became apparent that nowhere near 1,000 cases are presented…the authors explain this discrepancy by stating that they examined 1,000 cases and found them to validate their views, even though their book actually presents far fewer cases. As social science, this is unacceptable methodology…I was unable to discern what the “study requirements” were. Apparently, they consisted of picking out only those cases that appeared to support the authors’ preconceived beliefs.
Read Dr. Holstein’s full analysis here.
A more rational and formidable opponent than most in the “Protective Parents” movement to discredit Parental Alienation, Russell heads the well-funded California advocacy group the Center for Judicial Excellence. The CJE claims that there’s a “crisis” in family courts, and that courts are handing over custody of children to physically and sexually abusive fathers.
As we’ve noted before, there is no empirical basis supporting this claim. Nevertheless, the CJE promotes reforms which will make it easier to deny parents shared custody or visitation rights based on unsubstantiated abuse claims.
In July, Fathers and Families and its legislative allies succeeded in killing CA AB 612, a bill put forward by the CJE and supported by the California National Organization for Women. The bill would have banned Parental Alienation from being mentioned in California family courts.
Because of California’s tremendous influence in shaping the laws of other states, had this bill passed it could have led to a mushrooming of similarly damaging legislation in other states. To learn more about the bill, see our column Preventing courts from considering parental alienation will harm kids (Capitol Weekly, 2/25/10).
In June, we also helped kill AB 2475, another damaging CJE bill related to Parental Alienation—to learn more, click here.
In April of last year, Russell promoted the “Sarah Creek” child custody case on the Dr. Phil Show. According to the broadcast, Sheldon Creek was awarded custody of his six-year-old daughter Sylvia, even though he is molesting her. Yet according to Dana A, the minor’s counsel in the case, the mother:
[H]as made repeated sexual abuse allegations against father [Sheldon Creek], which to date, after numerous investigations by CPS, UC Davis Medical Center, the FBI, the emergency room physician at Sutter hospital and the police, have been unsubstantiated…[6 year-old Sylvia Creek] has endured five Sexual Assault Response Team [SART] exams…None of the allegations made by [mother Sarah Creek] were substantiated at ANY time…” [emphasis in original]
We at Fathers and Families have read the court records in the case and in our analysis of them here. We concluded:
Given the evidence in this case, it would be hard to conclude that Sheldon is/was molesting his daughter. The enormous amount of time and care that social services and the family court have devoted to examining the sexual abuse allegations and the evidence in general belie the mothers’ advocates’ contention that courts are biased against mothers or are turning their backs on children abused by their fathers. Five separate sexual abuse examinations failed to find any support for the accusations–how many more should they have been expected to conduct?
Moreover, it is abusive to subject poor little Sylvia Creek to these repeated exams and to have her mother trying to convince her that she has been sexually abused. As the child’s counsel noted:
“[T]o subject my client to repeated examinations that all come back as unfounded at some point becomes psychologically damaging and a form of maltreatment. Neither CPS nor the police have confirmed any of the allegations…the repeated allegations of sexual abuse by [Sarah Creek] are psychologically damaging to, and amount to maltreatment of my client.”
Note: to Dr. Phil’s credit, he did not use real names in the case, so we have given the litigants pseudonyms (i.e. “Creek”) and have also not used their real names.
Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D
Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D helped create the BMCC in 2003 and has since been the moving force behind the conference. As such she has promoted and put the conference’s weight behind a series of discredited child custody cases, including Genia Shockome, Sadia Loeliger, Holly Collins, and others.
Hannah recently presented at an audio webinar put on by Jewish Women’s International. In introducing the Holly Collins case, she said that Collins had lost custody of her two children to their “abusive” father because the court accepted the father’s false claims of Parental Alienation. This is incorrect. Numerous judges and mental health professionals associated with the case did acknowledge Holly Collins’ deep, unrelenting Parental Alienation efforts, however, that is not why she lost custody. She lost custody because the courts feared for the children’s safety in Holly Collins’ care.
In affirming a lower court’s award of custody to Mark Collins, the father, the Minnesota Court of Appeal explained that the lower court’s finding that Holly Collins’ care “endangered [the children's] physical and emotional health” was “supported by evidence in the record.” The Court of Appeal also agreed with the lower court’s findings that Holly Collins “suffers from a personality disorder” and that “the children have adjusted well to the new custody arrangement” in Mark Collins’ care and that “the children’s health has improved.”
To read this Court of Appeal’s ruling, click here.
Fathers and Families is working for a family court system which properly and impartially investigates abuse claims so that abuse victims are protected but unscrupulous litigants are prevented from employing false claims against the innocent.
Fathers and Families has always been concerned about and stood against domestic violence—domestic violence organizations should make it clear that they are concerned about and stand against false accusers.