The CPS Effect: Veterans, Family Court & Child Protective Services

Dion McNeil

Family Court and Child Protective Services should always consider the best interest of all children.

However, no court or government-sponsored service should be able to rip families apart, destroy lives and bankrupt veterans and rob those veterans of their hard-earned benefits. Honoring veterans and those with the courage to serve in the United States Armed Services should be done, not just with VA compensation and a “thank you for your service” but also equal parental rights for all veteran parents.

What Is The CPS Effect?

The victims involved in this CPS-driven ring fit into certain categories.

They are as follow:

  1. Immigrants (Easy targets for child removal since some of these people are sometimes undocumented and/or do not speak English)
  2. The Poor (Since these cases often hit Family Courts lawyers are not appointed. This means that the poor are disproportionately affected by poor legal representation.)
  3. The Mentally-Ill
  4. Military Veterans/Police Officers/First-Responders (Since PTSD diagnosis has been used in Family Court decisions it is more likely that the people who occupy or have occupied these professions will have their PTSD used against them.)
  5. The Peacefully Disobedient (If a person ever publicly criticizes a judge, CPS, a court or a politician linked to a judge or government agency that person runs the risk of retaliation via CPS or Family Courts.)

U.S. War Veterans

In Family Court Orders across the United States, mental illness is used as a justification for a TPR or Termination of Parental Rights order in Family Court.

Richard Cachola, Former Marine, is threatened with losing custody of his kids for not revealing his VA medical records despite HIPPA laws protecting him. Via Flag Family Law. Read More: Click here

It isn’t clear how many times TPRs come about due to mental illness. However, some stories can give a glimpse into the questionable conduct of the Family Courts.

On May 30, 2014, The Daily Beast released an article detailing the story of Mindi who is a mother fighting to regain custody of her daughter.

Read More: https://www.thedailybeast.com/one-breakdown-can-mean-losing-your-kid-forever

In that article, the story of Mindi details of how a mother had one mental breakdown. Mindi had her daughter taken from her by CPS in the state of Kansas. She got treatment for her condition, completed all necessary psychological evaluations and got the approval of her therapist. A panel of judges, lawyers, and her therapist all stated that Mindi should get her daughter back.

Mindi did not get her daughter back.


What is “Predictive Neglect” & How It Affects Veterans With PTSD

Mindi isn’t a combat veteran but her story with Family Court is very similar to what many U.S. military veterans experience.

Even though Mindi had been shown to not be a threat to her daughter the Kansas Family Courts ignored this expert testimony and kept her daughter away from her. How is this possible? How can a mother who did everything as asked, who simply had a mental breakdown just one time, and yet still cannot regain custody? This is only possible through the constitutionally questionable concept that is sometimes referred to as “predictive neglect.”

Read More About Predictive Neglect: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2012/rpt/2012-R-0103.htm

Richard and Amelia Schwab. Richard is a Gulf War Veteran who used medical cannabis to cope with PTSD symptoms and had all 5 of his children removed from him and his wife. Via Veterans Today. Read More: Click here

This is the concept that holds the subjective view that certain mental illnesses, and the severity of those illnesses, could predict behavior. In other words, this is a child custody red flag law. One doesn’t need to be guilty of anything to have their kids permanently taken from them and their parental rights terminated.

The predictive neglect concept would run afoul of presumption of innocence. By every applicable variant of interpretation of the 5th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution, any attempt to try to predict someone’s behavior without that person being guilty of that offense is unconstitutional. The reason why such behavior is questionable is because of the subjective interpretation of certain mental illnesses.

Often, Family Courts violate The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA-Federal Law) to utilize PTSD diagnoses against litigants. The ADA has its own Federally Funded website where they discuss the practice of premature child separation based on mental disorders such as PTSD. Many times, this Family Court and Child Protective Services discrimination is based on stereotypes:

“Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)2 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)3 protect parents and prospective parents with disabilities from unlawful discrimination in the administration of child welfare programs, activities, and services.4  At the same time, child welfare agencies and courts have the responsibility to protect children from abuse and neglect.  The goals of child welfare and disability non-discrimination are mutually attainable and complementary. For example, ensuring that parents and prospective parents with disabilities have equal access to parenting opportunities increases the opportunities for children to be placed in safe and caring homes.
According to a comprehensive 2012 report from the National Council on Disability (NCD), parents with disabilities are overly, and often inappropriately, referred to child welfare services, and once involved, are permanently separated at disproportionately high rates.6  In a review of research studies and other data, NCD concluded that among parents with disabilities, parents with intellectual disabilities and parents with psychiatric disabilities face the most discrimination based on stereotypes, lack of individualized assessments, and failure to provide needed services.”

Why “Predictive Neglect” Is Bad For Veterans With PTSD

Some people in the United States have the belief that U.S. War Veterans all have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Some popular media has painted the view of war veterans as deranged and PTSD-ridden psychopaths. A subjective interpretation of a war veteran’s PTSD turned Family Court litigant by a judge who holds these beliefs.

What if that judge is bias and/or prejudice and that judge makes a ruling based on the preponderance of evidence? That judge could make a subjective ruling based on opinion so even if that judge wasn’t biased or prejudiced against someone with PTSD the ruling could be subjective anyway. A family court litigant with a condition such as PTSD wouldn’t find relief if a judge is biased based on their condition or if a judge just doesn’t believe their side of the story. Such scenarios happen all the time and those cases are well documented.

Josh and Jessica Jones. Josh is a 100% disabled veteran who was thrown in jail by Child Support Magistrate Judge Josephine Clark in 2016 for the inability to pay child support despite Josh’s disability and inability to pay. Via Fix Family Courts. Read More: Click here

Those with mental health conditions can often time behave in ways that some people may find unacceptable, peculiar, unusual or synonymous with the kind of person that shouldn’t have children. These are all subjective interpretations. If a person can be cleared on a murder charge based on reasonable doubt then, surely, a person dealing with a case involving their children should be given the same opportunity to defend themselves with the same protections.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone, even the mentally ill, must be given a fair trial and be presumed innocent of any charges until proven guilty. Otherwise, the United States would operate under the same principles found in the movie Minority Report. Future crimes shouldn’t be prosecuted since there wasn’t a crime committed yet. If a person is truly dangerous and shouldn’t be around children then a court should be able to prove that without allowing such a ruling to be relegated to a Court of Equity such as Family Court.

Since 2008, the Department of Veteran Affairs has worked with many states and helped to develop the Veteran Treatment Court. This program is designed to help U.S. military veterans to avoid jail or prison for non-violent offenses. This court is also supposed to help veterans with Family Court and child custody issues even though this court is rarely used for that purpose.

There was also a desire to keep veterans out of the traditional legal system that is ill-equipped to deal with veteran issues including combat-related PTSD. The Veteran Treatment Courts are supposed to help remedy the misunderstanding and prejudice U.S. military veterans face via the U.S. legal system.


Example of Veteran’s PTSD Getting Worse After Family Court Hearing & Parental Alienation

The Department of Veteran Affairs has periodically released VA compensation decision letters to the public.

In this public appeal, Veterans Law Judge Dennis Chiappeta ruled against the veteran’s VA compensation claim. However, the ruling against the claim isn’t the important part. The part that should be looked at is the part where the problems with this veteran worsened the moment that veteran got into a Family Court.

Quoted from the VA:

“Veteran’s depression was related mainly to his family problems, and subsequent notes reflect a worsening of depressive symptoms as the Veteran went to family court. In August 2005, the Veteran reported having an angry outburst with his father and spending too much money. In September 2005, however, the Veteran indicated he was doing better. He was working at a horse farm and enjoying it. The Veteran was again turned down for visitation with his sons in October 2005, and was “quite angry” with the VA clinic for a perceived lack of support on the matter. Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) scores in the 40’s were assigned.” Read More: https://www.va.gov/vetapp09/files2/0915715.txt

The veteran appears to be showing more hostility after being prevented from seeing his children and after a Family Court hearing. The veteran also expressed that the Department of Veteran Affairs didn’t provide support for fathers such as himself who have been alienated from their children. In short, this veteran appears to exhibit elevated hostility after perceived unfairness and injustice he received at the hands of a Family Court Judge.


Excessive Child Support For Veterans

Judge Rochelle Conits

On December 23, 2019, this author wrote a piece about South Carolina Family Court Judge Rochelle Conits.

This judge ordered combat veteran Mark Roesler to pay approximately $4000 a month in child support based partially on his salary made in combat. Mr. Roesler appealed the decision made by this judge in the South Carolina Court of Appeals.

Judge Conits gave this order even though this judge also granted Mr. Roesler a divorce from his wife based on the wife’s physical cruelty.

Read More: https://thedailycounter.com/south-carolina-family-court-judge-rochelle-conits-displays-why-sc-needs-judicial-reform/

What Mark Roesler and many other veterans experience from U.S. Family Courts with child support orders has been a subject of controversy for years.

For example, if a service member is injured while in service they can be eligible to receive a pension or VA compensation. That veteran will receive compensation for their injuries based on their ability to gain suitable employment and the difficulty in maintaining that employment. One would think that money that a veteran has earned wouldn’t be used in child support orders.

Child support orders levied against veterans often use that veteran’s VA compensation. This means that veterans who have lost limbs, part of their mental fortitude and/or sensory injuries such as hearing loss or loss of eyesight could have their compensation sapped every month for child support. Many veterans rely on their VA compensation to survive. However, those are the lucky veterans.

According to VA Claims Insider, an internet site dedicated to helping veterans with VA benefits information listed the general percentage of VA compensation that can be ordered for child support.

Quoted from VA Claims Insider:

“Traditionally, the amount of your monthly income paid will depend on the number of children.

    • 1 child, 20%

    • 2 children, 25%

    • 3 children, 30%

    • 4 children, 35%

    • 5 children, 40%

    • 6 or more, the court will decide”

Legal Zoom provided an article about VA compensation and Family Courts in terms of garnishments, child support, alimony, Family Court orders, etc.

“Veterans’ disability benefits are compensation for the veteran’s impaired earning capacity and are intended to “provide reasonable and adequate compensation for disabled veterans and their families.” They are not supposed to be for the sole support of the veteran but can be counted in child support calculations to provide for the veteran’s dependents as well. If the veteran wasn’t disabled, he would be earning an income upon which the court would base child support; since disability benefits replace that income, child support can be based upon it.

VA disability is not considered an asset in a divorce. The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act exempts VA disability payments from being divided during a divorce. It is not an asset that a judge can divide as marital or community property. This remains true even if the veteran served and was disabled during the marriage. This treatment of VA disability benefits is different from that of military retirement benefits, which can be a marital asset subject to division by a family court.” Read More: https://info.legalzoom.com/can-va-disability-compensation-used-calculate-child-support-income-24946.html

While it is true that garnishments are not possible for VA benefits and compensation a Family Court judge could still order a certain payment amount. This means that while the Department of Veteran Affairs could rate a U.S. Military Veteran as 100% disabled a Family Court judge could still order an amount that the veteran couldn’t afford to pay. This is how some Family Court judges have gotten around the laws to force veterans to pay excessive child support amounts.

Let’s go back to Judge Rochelle Conits and the Mark Roesler situation.

How could Judge Conits ethically order Mr. Roesler to pay $4000 a month for child support and base this amount, largely, off of what this former combat soldier made while in combat? Wouldn’t his combat pay (which is tax-free and includes more pay such as hazardous duty pay) be a lot higher than what he probably makes right now?

NOLO, a legal source for finding lawyers and law articles, provides an answer to the above questions.

Quoted from NOLO:

“According to the federal Child Support Enforcement Act, each state has developed guidelines to calculate a range of child support to be paid, based on the parents’ respective incomes and expenses. These guidelines vary considerably from state to state, which means that in virtually identical situations, the child support ordered in one state may be far more or less than that ordered in another state. Some states allow their judges considerable leeway in setting the actual amount, as long as the general state guidelines are followed. Others have very strict guidelines that leave the judges very little leeway.

Regardless of how much latitude judges are given, the guidelines in effect in most states specify factors that must be considered in determining who pays how much child support. These factors usually include:

      • the needs of the child — including health insurance, education, daycare, and special needs

      • the income and needs of the custodial parent

      • the paying parent’s ability to pay, and

      • the child’s standard of living before divorce or separation.

Courts often require each divorcing spouse to fill out a financial statement to provide a complete picture of the parents’ financial situations before deciding on child support. In the financial statement, each parent must detail his or her monthly income and expenses.

When a court sets child support, it often considers the family’s pre-divorce standard of living and attempts to continue this standard for the children, if feasible. However, courts are aware of the difficulty of maintaining two households on the income that formerly supported one home. Maintenance of the same standard of living is, therefore, more of a goal than a guarantee.” Read More: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/establishing-calculating-child-support-faq.html

What NOLO is describing is a situation where a judge can arbitrarily decide what the child support amount will be. If a veteran is receiving monthly VA compensation that compensation amount can and will be counted towards the child support payment amount. In other words, a veteran who lost their legs and whose only income is their VA compensation (since VA compensation is partially based on ability or inability to work) can see large sums of their only income source sapped away by a Family Court judge’s order.


Veteran Suicide & Family Court

Family Court has caused veterans to commit suicide. This has been known for almost 20 years.

In 2002, Fox News asked if father’s rights were a factor in male suicide. Read More: https://www.foxnews.com/story/are-fathers-rights-a-factor-in-male-suicide

The article starts with the story of Derrick K. Miller. He was a father who took a gun to the steps of a San Diego, California Family Court and killed himself. Mr. Miller presumably ended his own life over a Family Court ruling where he got punished for missing child support payments. Mr. Miller won’t be making any more payments because he is dead now.

On June 30, 2019, Glenn Sullivan Ph.D. wrote an article for Psychology Today discussing divorce and Family Court as a factor in male suicide. While reading this quote keep in mind that 91% of U.S. military veterans are men and that the divorce rate for veterans (especially combat veterans) is particularly high.

“The link between divorce and suicide has been known since the pioneering sociological studies of Emile Durkheim. In the United States, the rate of suicide among persons who are divorced or separated is usually reported as about 2.4 times greater than the suicide rate for married persons. A successful marriage, it seems, can be a protective factor against death by suicide. Conversely, separation and divorce seem to raise suicide risk.

Kposowa (2003) made an extremely important point about the “married versus divorced” suicide divide. Dr. Kposowa noted that there were huge differences between the suicide rates among divorced men, as compared to divorced women. In fact, the data showed that, compared to divorced women, divorced men were nine times more likely to die by suicide. Put another way, for every one divorced woman who dies by suicide, there are nine divorced men who do so.

This 9-to-1 ratio dwarves the 3.5-to-1 male “advantage” we typically see in suicide deaths. In 2017, for example, 36,782 American men died by suicide, versus 10,391 American women. Clearly, the disparity in deaths among divorced males is not simply the result of men being generally “more suicidal than women.” Therefore, something more than the typical explanations for the male-female imbalance in suicide death (e.g., men choose more lethal means, men are more likely to abuse substances, men are more aggressive, etc.) is at work.” Read More: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/acquainted-the-night/201906/divorce-is-risk-factor-suicide-especially-men

The quote from Psychology Today and other articles reveal a troubling pattern. If the number of veteran divorces is high, veteran suicides are high, and divorced men being more likely to commit suicide then one could ask just how many veterans have been pushed to suicide thanks to a Family Court decision?


Conclusion

Family Court and Child Protective Services should always consider the best interest of all children.

However, no court or government-sponsored service should be able to rip families apart, destroy lives and bankrupt veterans and rob those veterans of their hard-earned benefits. Honoring veterans and those with the courage to serve in the United States Armed Services should be done, not just with VA compensation and a “thank you for your service” but also equal parental rights for all veteran parents.

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