By Dr. Leon R. Koziol
Many loyal followers here at Leon Koziol.com have been misled by the notion that my support of shared parenting made me a fathers’ rights advocate opposed to mothers. Those who truly know my work recognize how wrong that assumption is. It’s the way our detractors profit from a corrupted court system, by pitting parents against one another. Children need both.
During my years as a practicing attorney, I saved many women from false charges and discrimination. In fact one such case led to the bias of my support court judge who was forced to step down from that earlier woman’s case. He then exacted revenge by staying on my support case and finding a violation. I also was the lawyer for a former president of the National Organization for Women.
Good mothers support shared parenting even where equal time is impractical, for example due to career demands or distance. When fathers are encouraged and facilitated, children fare best in life. That much is supported by human history and expert studies. A good mother never asks a judge to incarcerate a father for back support. No amount of money justifies the criminalization of parenthood or a debtors’ prison.
This was a stand I took against my profession eight years ago which I am still fighting today. You will receive important news on that later this week. In the meantime, as many of you know, I am writing book manuscripts for those parents wishing to publish their court ordeals for posterity or reform’s sake. The opening chapter of my latest project is offered for your education and amazement below.
It’s about parent alienation and we are hoping to get contributions for its marketing phase upon publication this year. If you have a story you would like to have published, it’s no small undertaking and requires publishing expertise and court room experience of the kind I uniquely possess. Feel free to contact me personally for details and a cost estimate at (315) 796-4000. You can also help represent yourself or seek litigation alternatives in a court program offered at http://www.parentingrightsinstitute.com.
The Tamara Sweeney Story
The first time I saw Tamara Sweeney, it was at a hotel lounge in Binghamton, a small city on the New York-Pennsylvania border. The remarkable aspect of our meeting was not how hastily it had been arranged or how we drove two hours there from opposite directions. It was her captivating smile which seemed to bring energy to a collection of fatigued business people that had congregated at the end of a work day.
Outwardly, all indications were that she was a motivated woman with a sense of confidence, a person who knew what had to be done in any given situation even if she had to acclimate to new levels of competence on a moment’s notice. Behind that flare, however, I knew this was not the real Tamara. The person I knew from my readings was hopelessly immersed in a cauldron of pain and anguish concealed by layered walls of self-preservation.
Imagine yourself a loving mom who gave life to four children in five years, three boys and a girl; a parent, days filled with feedings, baths, runny noses, kissing and hugging. The number of calendar and diaper changes would confound any corporate executive. Then, suddenly, after so many promising years with their father in a dream home, these children are seized from this mom, prevented from having any contact and left without her regular guidance and affection.
That was the Tamara Sweeney I had read about in a voluminous court record, a mother who could not have imagined the level of cruelty inflicted by her own government residing in the family courts of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. She was not a criminal and despite my search of the record, I could find no evidence to justify the severe alienation she had suffered from her offspring. To the contrary, these children were her entire life.
As she approached, that incessant smile complemented the rest of her, a stunning lady which by all indications defied father time. She carried herself gracefully exuding everything genuine. Later she would boast photos of her family in diverse settings. As I gazed upon their similarly captivating faces, I could not help but conclude that a sort of Camelot had been underway in a pleasant valley community near Philadelphia, that city of brotherly love.
It was an idyllic setting without the paparazzi. However that setting would shatter when a corrupt court system seized it, a commonplace occurrence in America today. I had seen my share of shocking ordeals, but this divorce crushed logic. Having saved the falsely accused, securing record recoveries for victims of government abuse and even managing to strike down a casino compact worth billions of dollars, this story would set precedent in the court of public opinion.
The worst of my professional experiences resided in divorce and family courts which I avoided with a plague. People separate for countless reasons but that should not translate into lucrative custody battles for lawyers. Tamara had solicited me not as a lawyer but as a writer, someone who could distill her complex case into a literary work that might capture the world, not as her smile had done for me, but to tell a story which might prevent others from falling into that same cauldron.
It would be a project which took proper aim against a court system that was destroying the very fabric of a nation. As I liked to describe it, divorce and family courts were the Hotel California of the legal profession: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Resigned to her fate as a victim of a corrupted system, after exhausting civil recourse to the point of bankruptcy and homelessness, Tamara would nevertheless refuse to go quietly into the night.
No, no, hell no! I could envision her declaring. Come hell or high water, the world will know the horrific injustices inflicted upon a loving American mom. Lawyer reform and judicial accountability were high on her list of objectives, but towering over it was a fervent desire to be reunited with her babies. Unfortunately time was working against her as they approached adulthood with family court processes operating at the speed of a snail.
Competing against that process was a mother possessed by human nature. After all, is the umbilical cord ever truly cut between a loving mom and her offspring? We can put a man on the moon, split atoms, engage artificial intelligence and achieve vast breakthroughs in medicine but remain unable to tackle this extraordinary human phenomenon. It may well explain why our government is unwilling to extricate family courts from their twentieth century practices.
Those same practices made Tamara an ironic victim, swallowed whole by a gender biased system which women have been protecting for decades. Tamara was a “non-custodial parent,” a custody classification typically reserved for dads. She was not concerned about that aspect of the system. It was as if she had danced around it, the devil for years, never imagining how she could end up its prey. Instead she was obsessed with the symptoms and one in particular: Parent Alienation Syndrome or PAS.
PAS is the condition discovered and popularized by Dr. Richard Gardner three decades earlier which had yet to be recognized by the psychiatric profession or legal community. It was based on numerous cases involving parents who had suffered immense trauma from children rejecting their affection and very existence for no logical reason other than a spiteful parental counterpart. It remains a condition cultivated by lawyers anxious to pit parents against one another for profit.
American society is still unfamiliar with PAS, let alone in a position to embrace it as an epidemic. It is a single cause for health issues, moral dysfunction and social ills that have claimed more families than cancer. Indeed mass violence can be traced to this epidemic, one that finds its way into our schools, workplaces and homes. Of all the issues confronting our clergy today, few are more threatening to the viability of religion itself than this one.
However, if our government and regulated professions are unwilling to recognize it, there will be no cure any time soon. And the reason for that is the same as the explanation for tobacco, energy and drug industries. It’s all about the money. But here the cancer is eating away at the very souls of our children. PAS is the embodiment of evil depicted somewhat like it was in the film Devil’s Advocate, starring Al Pacino. The moral fiber of future generations is under siege in these courts.
Tamara’s objectives must be achieved if we are to stem this crisis. You will have to read on to know how and why, what it means to you and your loved ones. This story is about a jungle filled with primates in skirts and ties devoid of a civilized conscience. They pounce on unsuspecting parents and children for the primeval purpose of filling their bellies with modern day manna, the almighty buck. Shortsighted and self-serving, they blame their victims for the harm they cause.
Lawyers, psychologists, therapists, evaluators and former lawyers on the bench are among the predators anxious to destroy relationships which could be retained or salvaged through non-litigation alternatives. As a general observation, industrialists sell products, government sells services, businesses sell both, doctors sell advice and cures, psychiatrists sell therapy and medications, but lawyers sell controversies and promises.
Of all these stocks in trade, the last is most counter-productive to families. They do not belong in a forum created to protect our children. And when government makes it profitable for their participants to incite controversy, it is the worst kind of evil. Minor disputes erupt into major ones with the words of an unscrupulous lawyer adept at abusing the system for fee generating purposes. In the end, a protracted court battle yields irrevocable harm.
Laws have been drafted to incentivize conflict in these courts. The very structure for resolution is built upon artificially induced controversy and an unsupported foundation for distributing childrearing authority between superior and inferior parents. Shared parenting initiatives have failed time and again all across America due to a universal failure to invalidate the archaic system being protected. I have described it as the “Custodial Institution of Childrearing.”
If you are not yet convinced of the critical need for reform, consider the fact that there are more than 600,000 attorneys licensed in California and New York alone with as many candidates as there are practicing attorneys nationwide. There is no end in sight to this glut of lawyers entering the market, and the least qualified typically end up in family court. This is where apprentices learn their trade and marginal lawyers can instigate lucrative controversy to last an entire career.
The archaic process begets a host of forensic additions to the mix by request or court order, including law guardians and social workers, all in the business of dictating how our children are to be raised on vague, conflicting or utopian standards. It is job creation of the worst order, encouraging vulnerable children to hate one or both parents, destroying any notion of forgiveness and praising them for spying on their moms and dads toward a new world order of child control.
Accountability is as nonexistent as the number of malpractice cases arising in these tribunals. In the medical profession, a surgeon who performs needless operations for profit is discovered through an objective review process. In family court, when a lawyer performs a needless hearing for the same reason, there is no similar review, no real measure for competent performance. The all-encompassing child’s best interests can be satisfied by any half baked participant.
Making matters worse, parents learn too late that child alienation is a damage claim that cannot be recovered monetarily like other injuries. Hence there is no remedy for the child predator disguised in professional attire feeding on college funds, retirement plans and the very shelters of human beings until there is nothing left to consume. If you are a person who has not yet been harmed by this system, you pay for it in taxes, crime and productivity at the very least.
Tamara had no idea what she was getting into when she first retained a lawyer in April, 2012 to separate amicably with her husband of twelve years. Rick Cohen would certainly not advise her properly. As with most divorce lawyers, his goal was to generate as many fees as possible. His firm probably had a performance measure based on the number of billable hours he could orchestrate much like the federal government does for purposes of support enforcement funding.
Indeed everything was working against Tamara when she made that fateful call to his law office. Even her husband was enraged by that phone call when he learned of it. Still recoiling from the knowledge that she had entered into an extramarital relationship, he was pleading with and threatening her to call it off. Nevertheless he was served with divorce papers the following month. It was a regrettable by-product of escalating abuse in the homestead.
Years earlier, Tamara had been forced to compromise her role as primary care taker when her husband quit his lucrative position to start an on-line business. Revenue projections did not materialize, and before long the family homestead and finances were at risk. She then became a breadwinner only to learn that the boundaries which she had worked so hard to establish for her children were now in ruins. Unbearable conflicts escalated as a natural outgrowth.
When a mother verifies through proper testing that her seventh grade child is consuming alcohol and smoking marijuana, it is a shock of the worst kind. A responsible parent cannot and does not ignore the vital signs particularly as grades and social conduct tank as a predictable result. Her husband responded with more of the same, parties at their home Wednesday through Sunday and abuses so severe that Tamara found herself in a closet or locked in a bedroom afraid to come out.
Her teen boys emulated such abuses. Tamara was made out to be a disease in the homestead by an alienating parent who could not forgive let alone realize how his unrelenting anger could jeopardize crucial long term relationships. Soon it became necessary for mom to move out until the situation could stabilize. But this only harmed her custody position later on. It was the beginning of her ordeal with parent alienation and the end of the world as she knew it.
When I met Tamara in Binghamton four years later, she was a mother desperate to save the very lives of her children. She was a parent running recklessly into a burning building prepared to sacrifice herself if necessary. There were many things which amazed me about her dedication but one stood out even as I began preparations for this book. The scheduling of our first meeting had to be made around her daughter’s team event at school. Everything else took a back seat.
Days later, Tamara took a call from me while watching a ball game featuring her son. It wasn’t her presence at those events which fascinated me but that she continued to promote her children from a distance while under court orders to stay away over a two year period. The tactics used against her were the same as those inflicted upon separating parents everywhere. The idea was to shoe horn mom and dad into unequal custody roles so that child support could be justified.
This was the real Tamara Sweeney heading my way for the first time at a hotel lounge in Binghamton, New York. I had read her ordeal in substantial part. Volumes of court papers, photos and diaries sent to me the prior week. Too much to digest so early in the assignment, I was more eager to hear her story first hand, to listen intently for purposes of sizing her up, to study her facial expressions and reactions to a bevy of questions I was prepared to unload on her.
This would be best achieved in a relaxed setting, carefully but meticulously executed over a period of hours. I remained in awe over her unending smile after such a horrendous ordeal which was still ongoing. Dressed casually, blond hair feathered back to shoulder length and cosmetics applied sparingly, she angled her slender figure between a pair of table stools before arriving at my tight spot. We composed ourselves when nearby patrons made room for us.
“I was beginning to think you wouldn’t show after reading my stuff,” she opened with an embrace. “I got us a table over there in the dining area so we could be more private,” pointing over to a location by the window. “But this is okay if you like. I’m sure no one around here cares about our craziness,” she asserted jokingly but uncomfortably. Her smile expanded a bit as if it was even possible and her left arm was wrapped around a file that seemed ready to explode.
“No this is fine Timera, did I pronounce that right?” I answered, doing my best to compete with the noise and her pleasant demeanor. How did she manage it, I asked myself, wishing for the moment that we had made that move to her selected area.
“It’s alright, you said it like so many do. It’s actually Tamra, but I’ll accept either one. Not so picky you know.”
“The correct way sounds much better so I’ll stick with that. Are you hungry? Because I’m starved and ready to order.” I searched the crowded bar for service. “It was all I could do get out of Dodge before some phone call derailed our last minute meeting here. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”
“Yeah thanks for that. I’m really not hungry but I might order something light to nibble on.” Anxious to get down to business, it wasn’t long before she moved past the perfunctory exchanges. “So how much of my material have you gotten through?”
“Enough Tamara, enough to get a decent impression of your nightmares. To be candid, it is an unbelievable story so far, and I’m not even close to an overriding theme. There’s so much going on like most divorces. But yours is an extraordinary one. I have a lot of questions.”
“Good! I’m ready. Fire away.”
“No, not so fast. We just got here. Let’s have a drink, relax a bit, have a bite, and your cross examination will come. As I explained on the phone, I like to get to know the real person I’m writing about, not just the client. Your files do that in abundance. Let’s talk for awhile on the lighter side. Then when the time comes, it’ll occur naturally. This is not a lawsuit you know.”
“Thank God! You’re right,” she agreed with a sigh of relief.
I guided her to another table away from the noise and laughter. She then placed a large binder on a nearby stool, guarding it like a sheep dog over her flock. As she explained excitedly this morning, she was able to locate it after a desperate search. This binder contained a synopsis of her divorce and family history which a judge refused to review. Privately I concluded that it had not been properly offered. For me, however, it was a blessing in disguise, a fateful error of a robotic jurist meant precisely to become the book I was about to complete. Then I continued.
“You see I’ve changed my approach on this kind of assignment. Trust me, Tamra, it works. I’ll give you references. My last subject was a woman who engaged me with conflict and dictates regularly. She came across like one who could never be satisfied. There are only so many hours in a day, and if I was billing at lawyer rates, such books would never be possible.”
Tamara nodded in agreement. She knew my own ordeal after discovering my website during a parenting conference at our nation’s capital. Anyone writing her story would have to demonstrate a requisite level of expertise before she could entrust him with her sensitive files. They were years in the making, and I certainly understood her fears. That’s because I took a conscientious and long overdue stand against my own profession in these matters and was vilified on all fronts.
“This witch hunt which my profession did against me for exposing misconduct had the fate of permitting your book. And go figure, the lawyers in that witch hunt ended up getting fired by the court for falsifying their time sheets. So much for our standard-bearers of lawyer ethics. These are the same guys charged with a duty to correct overbilling practices. I don’t know about Pennsylvania but corruption in New York is a cottage industry.” I chuckled briefly.
Tamara was immediately engaged with enthusiasm over an experience she had already read about. Now she was made a part of it, joining my amusement to where her smile might reach both ears. “Oh no, once we dig in, you’ll find that it’s just as corrupt, maybe even worse in Montgomery County. Any day I’m expecting them to be exposed and come crashing down.”
The conversation was going better than expected. We were joined not only by common experiences but clicking as if we were telepathic. That’s what tends to happen when human beings have gone down similar emotional highways. We were getting more relaxed and committed to our joint goals with each sip of our drinks.
“After months of hard work,” I continued, “that woman is now a believer. I’ll play her last phone message if you like. She called her finished book ‘brilliant.’ It’s in the hands of a publisher.”
“That won’t be necessary. I’ve read your work since that parent conference two years ago. I’ve actually been targeting you for my book ever since. I know what I’m doing.”
I was sincerely impressed that Tamara had become committed to me for so long before her first phone inquiry only three weeks ago. It made me realize that my hard work might have to eclipse my last manuscript. That would be a tall order, but so far so good. It was like entering uncharted waters, an unexplored wilderness, a journey to the edge of humanity, all for a cause destined to impact future generations.
We talked into the night like schoolmates on a first date. Anyone observing this exchange would have no idea the horrific pressures we were hiding beneath our laughs and discourse. For the time being at least, this was wonderful. Our mutual pain had subsided. Moments that meant everything to each of us became merged through a sense of shared identity. But the lightheartedness soon graduated to our business at hand.
Later that night I would summarize our opening session as a contest over who could hide their pain better. Talking about it here so freely and so far away from our homes helped us open up. And boy did we open up. On and on we went until before you knew it, the crowd had dwindled to a few stragglers from a wedding reception in a nearby ball room. The bride was now snuggled up to the bar with her newlywed and the rest of the bridal party was taking pictures in the lobby.
“Come on let’s get a picture of us too,” Tamara offered with sudden enthusiasm. “I like photos. It helps me remember special events, and I’m feeling real good about this book now.” She reached for my arm and pulled me into the open. We searched for the ideal location with a view from an expansive window. The father of the bride was drafted for the photo op.
We ended our meeting shortly after that. To my surprise we had talked incessantly for over four hours, never expecting to become so energized along the way. She turned over some additional materials from her file after walking me through her binder, cautioning me again that it had become her life’s treasure and a major reason for our trips here. I was veritably impressed with its content. This was a mother who meant business, and I was not about to disappoint.
As I turned for the hotel exit for my trip back home, I took note of the newlyweds embracing at the bar. I felt compelled to give them some friendly advice of the kind I dismissed so many years ago. I mused for awhile but opted against it. After all, there are lifetime marriages of the kind I always admired. Then I walked out into the night, a rainy, miserable and cold one while glancing up briefly into a black foreboding sky. Perhaps a storm was on its way.