I write this letter to shed light on a modern day holocaust that is taking place in the family courts of New York, one that is causing much emotional, mental, and oftentimes, physical destruction of innocent children.
Brought together by family friends, Joy and Effie were thought to be the perfect couple. And at the age of 27 in an orthodox world, they were long overdue for marriage.
Hints of spousal abuse began early on, but Effie was in the marriage for the long haul. Life was certainly not smooth, and on one Rosh Hashanah the police had to intervene on account of Joy’s physical abuse. But as usual, she asked for forgiveness and promised to “never do it again.”
Effie was of the belief that building a family would strengthen their marriage, and the couple brought two children into the world. After the birth of their second son, however, things spiraled quickly out of control. Joy went over the edge and was eventually admitted to a mental hospital for suicidal thoughts, depression and compulsive defiant disorder, leaving Effie to care for their two young ones -an infant and a 2-year old.
Effie took parenting classes and single handedly raised his children, the elder a special needs toddler. When Joy was released, she was granted supervised visitation and then third party visitations with the boys but was unable to properly conform to timely pick-ups and drop-offs and constantly disobeyed stay-away orders. Her numerous arrests landed the case in the domestic violence division of Family Court.
Since facilitating visitation became next to impossible, pick-ups and drop-offs were mandated to take place at a local police precinct. Joy would bring the children back to the police station improperly clothed and unfed and would verbally assault the officers. Her irrational behavior landed her in jail yet again.
Despite Joy’s repeated visitation abuse and her defiance of stay-away orders, the Judge continually approved additional visitation which had the two children out until 9:00 pm four nights a week, an awkward circumstance that detrimentally interfered with the normal schedule Effie had set in place for his boys. And so he discontinued the visits and was subsequently summoned to appear in court with the children to answer this violation.
His lawyer let him know that the children would either be placed in foster care, or worse still, in the custody of their unstable mom. In a desperate attempt to protect his children from such a terrible fate, Effie fled the city.
He was brought back to New York and arrested for violating the court order, with bail set at $100,000. Unable to pay such an exorbitant amount, Effie was confined in jail for three weeks – while the courts ransacked his account to the tune of $30,000 and distributed the sum among his spouse, her lawyer, etc.
Following his release, Effie was granted supervised visitation by a court-appointed psychologist who found him to be a good father and deemed Joy as troublesome with many anger issues. As a result, the Judge ordered unsupervised visits for Effie with his children twice a week. Needless to say, Joy consistently harassed the boys and their father, attempting to sabotage each and every visit.
If this didn’t cause Effie and the children enough anguish, just before Pesach Joy unilaterally decided to completely discontinue the father’s visitations with them.
In April of 2009, Joy informed hospital personnel that she was feeling unsafe with the two-year old and was unable to control him. With the help of a social worker and law guardian, she placed him in a mental health facility.
Effie had no knowledge of nor had given his consent to this horrific turn of events. While in Effie’s care, their toddler son had been overcoming his disabilities and was integrating into school without any medication. Now, under his mother’s care, he is being medicated and is repeating the same grade again.
Since Effie had not seen his children in over a month, he requested his lawyer to bring a Writ of Habeus Corpus [legal action by which a person seeks relief]. The new presiding Judge signed the writ to produce the children in court. The day prior to the scheduled court appearance, Joy took the two-year old out of the hospital on a day pass (the day happened to be Effie’s visiting day), and returned him that evening. The Judge failed to hold her in contempt, thus setting the stage for further disruption of Effie’s visitations.
To add insult to injury, Joy then fabricated to the courts tales of Effie hurting their son, which prompted the Judge to immediately remove the child entirely from his father – pending hospital records and Child Protective Services reports.
Inexplicably, the law guardian withheld the hospital reports for weeks. The hospital as well as the CPS reports acquitted Effie of any wrongdoing and encouraged a relationship between the father and his toddler son, furthermore disclosing detail of Joy’s ongoing difficulties in controlling the child – and yet the Judge refused to acknowledge these reports. As a direct result of this travesty of justice, the boys have lost all contact with their father to date.
Every hearing is laced with indifference, disinterest and bias towards Effie and the children who are at constant risk with their mom. In a recent incident, the older of the two boys was seen spitting at patrons in a library, kicking doors and pulling the fire alarm lever that caused 300 people to be evacuated, many senior citizens among them.
When will this tragedy end? What will it take to awaken the communities, politicians and courts to reality – to the fact that they are endangering the lives of two beautiful boys who are in desperate need of their father, a parent who desperately craves to look after the children he brought into the world and the one who can provide them with a loving, safe haven, so that two Yiddishe neshomos can bring forth nachas to everyone?