By Dr. Leon Koziol
Parenting Rights Institute
A July 9, 2021 article in the New York Post presents a grim picture of how our veterans are treated in divorce and family courts here at home. You might recall the ordeal of Thomas Ball, a Vietnam veteran who protested the seizure of his children by an overzealous child protection agency. In 2011 he burned himself alive on the steps of a New Hampshire family court with a manifesto of sorts left behind which graphically depicted his persecution at the hands of abusive judges and agencies. Unlike the world headline, self-immolation he was endeavoring to emulate in Morocco, nothing came of his protest. They merely washed his ashes into a sewer.
Now, ten years later, comes the story of James Gonedas, a three-tour Iraqi war veteran who was stripped of his overnight “parenting time” (they still call it “visitation”) due to a call he made to a veteran hotline. He made this call to vent his frustration over the mistreatment he was experiencing in a New York divorce court. A Judge Erica Prager of Nassau County Supreme Court on Long Island had been adjusting the time spent with his five and seven year old children from a flexible schedule to the standard every-other-weekend period for fathers. Due to Gonedas’ job as a nurse in a Covid unit at Stony Brook Medical Center, this meant that he would lose more time with those children.
The ex happened to be on the VA hotline list as next-of-kin, so she promptly reported the call to her attorney who, in turn, did so to Judge Prager. According to the story, this caused an order removing overnights for our American war hero without a hearing and without any such request from the mother. The victimized father then went public with the outcome stating that he will never again call the hotline to vent his private frustrations. This can only increase the stress and pressure this veteran was already under. The loss of time with one’s children cannot be understood unless experienced first hand.
However this is only another step in the downward spiral which leads ultimately to permanent alienation between father and child. The standard weekend schedule is a product of antiquated custody laws derived from a time when moms stayed home to be child caregivers and fathers worked to support both mother and child. This antiquated schedule is also locked in to preserve the influx of federal Title IV-D funding to the states (to the tune of billions of dollars annually). The custody battles that result also make for a gold mine in fees for lawyers and service providers. Shared parenting legislation has been routinely crushed with the influence of bar associations and special interest groups because it would eliminate the need for naming a “custodial parent” as a condition for receipt of federal child support incentive grants.
None of this was mentioned in the article or by the lawyers for either party. Give one of them credit, however, the lawyer for Gonedas, who took on the judge and demanded her removal from the case. Attorney David Mejias was quoted as follows:
“What the judge did was make a contentious matter that had been resolved by the parties and created a dysfunctional situation that is resulting in a lot of litigation that neither party can afford,” Mejias told The Post. “This is an egregious case where a judge abridged my clients’ rights to impose her own view on the visitation they should have.”
He added, “This is such an affront to a guy who is an American hero.”
Attorney Mejias may not know it yet, but he is now on thin ice. If he persists in his criticism of this lucrative court system, he will be targeted and eventually destroyed professionally and personally. His adversary made the stock reply simply that his client remains committed to “the best interests of the children.” However that is pure nonsense because the report to the judge by both lawyer and mother (“custodial parent”) was nothing more than a litigation tactic to maintain permanent control of the children while reducing the other eventually to a throw-away parent useful only for his so-called “child support” money (“so-called” because there is no accountability requirement for expenditure).
The Nassau County Supreme Court has been a hotspot of controversy in recent years regarding the conduct of various matrimonial judges. In the Gonedas case, the Office of Court Administration gave no comment other than the remedy of appeal. But that is nonsense also since such orders are deemed nonfinal and therefore beyond the subject of appeal by appellate judges who routinely defer to the ones below who preside over such cases. Appeals are also not a realistic remedy on cost alone effectively leaving a single trial judge as the Supreme Court of the case.
The Gonedas case is a prime example of the way in which divorce and family courts defend their gold mine while suppressing the truth on how parental alienation is achieved through unscrupulous and lucrative custody tactics. As a victim myself to a much greater level, I have published alarming reports, lobbied Congress, filed precedent seeking litigation and sponsored multiple events in our nation’s capital in an attempt to bring justice and reform for parent victims such as James Gonedas. My new book release entitled Whistleblower in Paris highlights my ordeal and the realities of divorce and family court which I was forced to expose after 23 years as an unblemished civil rights attorney.
These realities have resulted in a new organization which hopes to fill the void of window-dressing commissions that do little to hold judges accountable. A nonprofit corporation with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status pending, this entity will solicit, receive, investigate and report on lawyer and judicial misconduct with follow-up reports to appropriate federal and state agencies. At present, our board, officers and supporters are seeking start-up funds for this costly but overdue entity that we have named the Citizens Commission Against Public Corruption.
Kindly consider a donation for this purpose on our site here at http://www.leonkoziol.com. Also, if you know of a potential donor or major benefactor who might be interested in our mission, an Organization and Business Plan is available. Please spread the word.
Leon R. Koziol, J.D.