Arkansas Family Court

Arkansas state flower

The authors of this blog do not know the details of the events in the history of any of these cases in the Arkansas courts, nor do we want the readers of this blog to think that we do.    

However, we notice that many PAS cases seem to be in the Pulaski court with the same court evaluator. While there has not yet been an audit of the family court system in  Arkansas, it appears that there should be. Here are excerpts from court files from custody cases there…     

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K. B. T.

 v.

 P. B.        

 … The parties in this case were divorced in May of 1992 and
custody of their two minor children, C. and B., was awarded
to appellant, K. T. …

 …the order changing custody was clearly against the preponderance of the
evidence. ..   the chancellor awarded custody to appellee…

  …Dr. P. D.Y. , a court-appointed psychologist, evaluated the parties, and his reports were admitted into evidence…

 … Dr. P. D. Y. indicated that a change of custody was a viable option and that the court could do so immediately or wait to determine whether matters were otherwise resolved…  Dr. D.Y.’s report
stated that if the problems persisted, appellee should gain custody of B.  He also opined that if custody were changed immediately, B’s relationship with appellant would remain strong, and his relationship with appellee would strengthen…  

    … Dr. T., a counselor hired by appellant, testified that B. had a strained relationship with and feared appellee.  Dr. T. recommended that custody remain unchanged… 
 

 

______________________________________________________
 

M. T. O.
v.
M. M. O.  

    …The parties in this case, M.O. and M. O., have a long history of marital strife… They have been in intermittent litigation in the Pulaski County Circuit Court since January 2004… …In this appeal, Ms. O. seeks reversal of the circuit court’s order denying her petition for a protective order against Mr. O.…On March 10, 2008, Ms. O. filed a petition for an order of protection on behalf of herself and her three children…  

 …Ms. O.’s petition also alleged that Mr. O. had committed acts of domestic violence before the incident complained of: (1) In March 2005, Mr. O. hit her across her arms, kicked her in the stomach, and pulled the phone from the wall. This was witnessed by their son, N.O., who was eight years old at the time. (2) In July 2002, Mr. O. strangled her when she was pregnant. (3) Mr. O. threw the family puppy down the stairs in front of N.O…  

 …Dr. D. D., a child psychologist, testified that she had counseled the… children beginning on March 20, 2008. She testified that G.O. told her that on March 7 his father pulled him into a room, yelled obscenities about his mother, asked him a lot of questions, and slapped him in the face two times. She said that both G.O. and N.O. were afraid of violence from their father. Although she had never spoken with Mr. O. or read an evaluation by the court-appointed expert, Dr. P. D.Y., she testified that she believed Ms. O. and the children. Her opinion was that the children were victims of domestic violence…  

 …Dr. P. D.Y. is a forensic psychologist who was court-appointed in 2006 to perform an evaluation for purposes of aiding the court in determining custody of the children after Ms. O. took the children to Ireland for two months and returned when Mr. O. filed for divorce. He testified at the May 6, 2008, combined hearing regarding custody in the divorce case. His opinion in his twenty-six page report from 2006 stated that Ms. O. was “shamelessly alienating the children from their father, but so far the targeted child has been N.O. and he is the only one of the three children who is actually alienated from his dad.”…  

 …While he admitted that he had not interviewed the parties or the children since his report in 2006 and that he did not condone Mr. O.’s behavior as explained to him, he testified that the allegations surrounding the March 7, 2008, events were consistent with his previous findings and that it did not appear to constitute domestic abuse. He testified that the children were not in danger when in Mr. O.’s care, that the incident was more of the same in terms of the parties’ “hysterical relationship,” that both parties were responsible during these arguments, and that Mr. O. was not physically abusive to the children…  

 …The court found that Dr. P. D.Y. had done the most extensive work with the family, performed the most thorough review, evaluated both parties and the children, and heard similar allegations of abuse. The court agreed with Dr. P.D.Y’s opinion that the March 7, 2008, incident was not domestic abuse and that neither the children nor Ms. O. were in danger…  

 …The court did not find Ms. O. to be a credible witness. The court noted that Ms. O. presented herself as completely without fault and as an innocent victim. The court noted that it was clear from past proceedings that Ms. O. wanted Mr. O. to have as little contact with the children as possible. The court also observed that each time Ms. O. came to court, she testified about additional and more elaborate allegations of abuse…  

… The court did, however, believe Mr. O.. While the court specifically did not condone Mr. O’s behavior on March 7, 2008, it found him truthful and did not believe his behavior rose to the level of domestic abuse. Nor did the court believe that Ms. O. proved G.O. had been slapped. The court noted that there were no witnesses and that the testimony regarding the alleged incident was inconsistent. Ms. O. has appealed the court’s denial of her order of protection…  

 … While the court notes that it appointed Dr. D. Y. to evaluate the parties and the children to make a recommendation to it regarding custody in 2006, the court relied on Dr. D. Y’s testimony and opinion in this case, not on his opinion from 2006. Dr. D. testified in this case that the children were not in danger of abuse from Mr. O. While he admitted that he had not interviewed the parties or the children since 2006, he testified that the March 7, 2008, incident sounded like “more of the same” and that it was similar to the allegations Ms. O. had made earlier. In other words, he did not believe it was domestic abuse. The court found Dr. D. credible and his testimony persuasive….  

 …In her final point on appeal, Ms. O. contends that Dr. D. Y.’s testimony should have been excluded because his opinions were based on the widely discredited psychological theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Although we appreciate the voluminous amount of research and argument explaining why this theory has been discredited and should not be used in Arkansas courts, we hold that the issue is not before us in this case. This issue is not preserved because it was not raised in a timely manner to the trial court. Although there is no motion in either the addendum or the record filed in this case, there was a motion filed in the addendum to the companion divorce case to exclude evidence of the parental alienation syndrome. This motion was made over three months after the hearing in this case took place, which was too late…  

_____________________________________________________  

S. N.

 V.  

R. F. N.  

…This is a change-of-child-custody case…  …In a motion for contempt filed on January 7, 2005, appellee alleged that appellant  failed to provide necessary medical treatment and to provide clothing for visitations and trips…  

…Appellee presented his case at a two-day hearing on July14 and 28, 2005… His evidence included testimony by P. D.Y., Ph.D.; testimony by appellee; and Dr. D.Y.’s July 11, 2005 court-ordered psychological evaluations of appellee,  appellant, and the couple’s three children… Appellant presented no evidence…     

 … In a written order of August 18, 2005, the trial court granted appellee’s petition to change custody only as to the two younger children…   

…That the Court finds that Dr. D.Y.’s testimony was credible and helpful to the Court in understanding the dynamics of this family, which are relevant to the important decision of custody… The Court further finds that Dr. D.Y.’s detailed July 11, 2005, psychological evaluation report provided credible expert analysis of the increasing problems that this family has experienced since the entry of the Decree of Divorce in this matter… Dr. D. testified that appellant had taken “a stance” of following the set schedule of visitation and not being flexible, and he opined that the children would benefit from appellee’s being able to schedule something outside of the current visitation and that accommodation should be made. He stated that appellant’s “rather rigid or obsessive personality style along with the depression and feelings of anger” affected her post-divorce adjustment and communication with appellee. He said that “she’s gonna be angry . . . when she has to deal with him about the children…” 

… Finally, under the particular facts of this case and in light of Dr. D. Y.’s opinion that the siblings’ relationship would not suffer with the teenaged daughter living with her mother and the younger siblings with their father, there was no prohibition against separating these three siblings…   

______________________________________________________

 J. L. J.  

V.  

D. J.  

   

…J. L., formerly J, J, appeals from an order changing custody of her two children to their father, appellee D. J. and temporarily prohibiting her from having contact with her children. She claims that the change of custody was not in the children’s best interests, challenges the conclusions of the expert witness who recommended  that custody be changed, and asserts that the trial judge was biased…  

…Dr. D.Y. submitted to the court a report on his evaluations of all of the parties and recommended that custody be changed to D., with supervised visitation for J.. In contrast, Dr. T., who saw the family for a two-year period beginning  September 2001, recommended that custody be retained in J., with supervised visitation for D.…  

 …Dr. T. read Dr. D.Y.’s report. He was “shocked” that Dr. D.Y. had reached the conclusions that he had reached after meeting with them for such a limited time.  Dr. T. felt that Dr. D.Y. was “biased against the expression of the children and the  mother” and was too quick to label the situation as one involving parental alienation syndrome, which, in Dr. T.’s opinion, is not a “recognized diagnostic syndrome.” …  

   

_____________________________________________________   

R. C.   

v.   

J. D. C.  

…Appellant R. C. brings this appeal from an order of the Faulkner County Chancery Court, which granted appellee’s petition for change of custody of the parties’ child, who was five and one-half years old at the time of the final hearing. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred: 1) in changing custody based upon predictions of future conduct and effects, rather than on present material changed circumstances; 2) in changing custody based upon life-long personality traits; 3) in changing custody out of a desire to punish her, rather than because the change was in the best interest of the child…. …Dr. P. D.Y., a clinical psychologist hired by Continuum of Services at the Human Development Center, conducted a psychological evaluation of the parties and K., and his reports were admitted into evidence. Of critical importance were Dr. D.Y. assessment of the parties:  

 I do not think [appellee] J. C. ever sexually abused K. These were false allegations and I think they were suggested and coached by the mother. The mother still believes them to be true, even though K. made no such disclosure to me and the evaluation of J. C. did not suggest that he would sexually abuse his daughter….  

 …R. C. believes this and has no insight that others might see it differently. She steadfastly maintains that J. sexually abused K. and I think she could make these allegations again. She wants to control every aspect of K’s visitation and she thinks that she should have control over K’s experience at the father’s home…  

 …Ms. L. D., a certified social worker hired by appellant, disagreed with Dr. D.Y.’s recommendation. Instead, she recommended that it would be inappropriate to change custody from appellant to appellee and stated that K. is a happy, energetic child whose mother [appellant] only wants appellee’s visitations to be healthy and productive for K…  

   

_____________________________________________________   

 D. F.  

V.  

L. G. B.  

   

…Appellant D. F. has appealed the decision by the Pulaski County Chancery Court that changed custody from appellant to appellee, L. B., upon a finding that D. F. had intentionally or unintentionally alienated the children from their father. D. F. contends on appeal that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that the strained relationship between the children and their father is a result of her actions; (2) the chancellor erred in changing custody absent evidence of a change of circumstances; (3) the chancellor erred in punishing her for her actions; (4) the finding that she emotionally abused the children is clearly erroneous…

…In B.’s petition for change of custody, he alleged that F. had interfered with his visitation with their children and had essentially caused his relationship with his children to suffer through her attempts to alienate him. We have held that whether one parent is alienating a child from the other is an important factor to be considered in change of custody cases because a caring relationship with both parents is essential to a healthy upbringing…”  

Dr. D. Y. reported that “D. F. is not an innocent victim and has been involved in a long history of obstruction and alienation of the children from their father.” The report further stated that “[parental alienation] is a chronic insidious problem that usually does not go away. People don’t stop doing this.”…     

_______________________________________________________

Alice fell down the rabbit hole.

When we allow employees of our judicial system, employees who are paid with our tax dollars,  to use the following “Gardner-like” reasoning: 

  Whereas, a caring relationship with both parents is essential to a healthy upbringing, and,

Whereas, the mother believes that the father is abusing her children, and,  

Whereas, various professionals in their respective capacities have substantiated the abuse,

Whereas, the mother won’t stop  protecting her children from the abuse, 

Therefore, court will order supervised visits/that there be no contact between the mother and her children… 

we haven’t fallen down the rabbit hole – we’ve jumped.

3 thoughts on “Arkansas Family Court

  1. I can only say that at least seven Arkansas mothers have either contacted or sought other advocacy from our organization because they lost custody of their children. Reports have come from to us from individuals in five Arkansas counties.

  2. Washington Co. also needs to be scrutinized. Fathers who have minimal interaction with their children but have substantial income are allowed to not submit requested records, not answer questions in court, and not follow court orders. Moms who have been the caregivers are allowed to pay child support to their wealthy ex husband & that’s about the only right granted…

  3. As a victim advocate for many years, I am extremely concerned about some of the recent outcomes in our family courts in dealing with battered mothers and their children. Like many states, Arkansas is seeing the results of unjust family court processes around the issue of parental alienation. When psychological evaluation in such court cases is handled primarily by one individual, there is always danger of a recurring bias. One problematic issue an audit in our state might reveal is the need for additional psychological evaluators.

    Another issue might be additional training for ad litem attorneys who represent the interests of children.

    I would not presume to have all of the answers, but I would welcome an audit of our courts. As an advocate, as a citizen and as a mother, I believe that an audit of our family court system, or any family court system, would be a process that all of us would want for one simple reason: that deep inside, most of us really do want outcomes that are just, fair and unbiased, especially for the children in our lives.

    Such careful scrutiny performed by qualified and unbiased individuals cannot help but strengthen the quality of justice for families who have experienced violence in the home and for children who have been abused, if not directly, at least by witnessing violence, acrimony and unfortunate behavior by the adults who should care for them. Citizens of this country should not tolerate a judicial process that does not welcome an honest review of its work.

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