Tina's Story

Open Letter to the Family Court System

Dear Family Courts of America,

This week you failed.

You failed to protect my little girls.

We are just one story and there are thousands of other children across the country that are being let down each day.  I beg you to look closely at your system and make changes because I am hearing stories every week that rock me to my core.  You are failing to protect these children who are depending on you.  Your flawed system keeps me awake at night because we seem to have a difference of opinion.

I don’t agree that someone has “rights” just because they donated sperm or gave birth.  Just because someone has the ability to procreate shouldn’t automatically give them parental rights.  My children (and ALL children) have a RIGHT to be safe, loved and protected and their right should supersede any parental rights.

Your court system is flawed.  Judges and Commissioners are too quick to give 50/50 custody in an effort to move child custody cases through the courtroom like cattle.  If there are two healthy parents then I wholeheartedly support an equal custody split.  Unfortunately, in my case there are not two healthy parents.  I feel that your Judges, Commissioners, Mediators, Family Court Workers and Attorneys need to receive ongoing education on high conflict divorces, narcissistic personality disorder, psychopaths and other personality disordersChristie Brinkley said it best, “Google the term; Divorcing a Narcissist“.  I applaud Christie for shining the spotlight on this disorder for the entire world to see.  Now it is time for the court system to become educated.

I have fought in pro se for three years to protect my daughters and it has been the roller coaster ride of a lifetime.  I have spent three years documenting events that make my head spin and my heart break into a million pieces.  My role as a mother is to protect my daughters and I am at a loss for how to do that when my hands are tied by a broken court system.  I have followed all of your rules and I have played your games yet this week, you have placed my daughters back in the care of a sick, twisted man.

This is a man who:

  • Has sat in court and told lie after lie under oath for three years with no consequences.
  • Has major issues with alcohol: two drunk-in-public offenses, one drunk driving and a wet & reckless offense.
  • Has stalked me and caused me to live in terror.
  • Left two small children alone in a house at the ages of 2 and 4.
  • Squeezed my daughter (age 4) until she vomited for almost two hours.
  • Left angry, harassing voice mails which resulted in us relocating to a women’s shelter.
  • Broke into our home despite a court order which was less than 24 hours old.
  • Lied repeatedly about the whereabouts of the children.
  • Left my daughter sleeping in a vehichle alone for 45 minutes immediately after she was released from the hospital days with complex seizures and orders to never be alone.
  • Squeezed my daughters wrists so hard that she drew pictures about the incident in preschool and wrote the words, “I’m sad and want to call my mom”.
  • Hit my daughter across the arms for getting dirty feet on his car seat after a hike.
  • Argued with my daughters that my name wasn’t “Tina” but “T-Rex” repeatedly.
  • Kept an enlarged wedding photo on the fireplace mantel with my photo taped over in electrical tape which thoroughly upset the children.
  • Threatened to take my daughter’s cell phone and throw it out of a moving call in an effort to intimidate her into now calling her mom.
  • Stands us up repeatedly with no phone call, text message, email or advanced notice.
  • Traumatizes my children with no regard for their feelings or well-being.

This week when I was asked by your court how much time my case would take, I replied, “45 minutes” and was met with an “I don’t think so”.  Our scheduled six month review hearing (to address many of the bullet points above) turned into an argument about whether or not my X husband had lied to the Commissioner about attending church.  Not one item listed above was addressed yet my daughters are now being forced back into his care because he has “rights” as a father.   I took my daughters to a therapist this week to assist me in explaining why they will no longer have a “buddy” to supervise their visits.  How do I explain this to two little girls when I don’t understand it myself?  I await your answer.

Sincerely,    Tina Swithin

  • Note from Tina: My hope is to bring education and change to the California Family Court System.  You can help by signing my petition: Click Here.  If you are in another state, I encourage you to start a petition in your state and bring education to the Family Court System.



13 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Family Court System

  1. I feel very sorry for your situation. I wish i would have something like this to read while I was going through the high conflict divorce. I was in an abusive relationship and had to get out. The real nightmare began after that. What happened with custody of my boys and what I had to endure I could have never imagined. I just posted on Facebook about my disappointment of the PA Family Court System. I moved about 2 years after my divorce due to a loss in my job and any new jobs required 4 hours of driving a day. I moved to an excellently rated school district, nice neighborhood and nice townhouse. The judge decided it was easiest to not move the childrenj despite the recommendation of 3 psychological evaluations that state the boys should be with their mother.. The court decided that my boys should be with their father despite all the lies, facts and testimony that was presented in court. Since this decision my boy have been involved with drugs, behavioral issues at school, alcohol and one of my sons is about to fail the 9th grade. He receives no help from his father. My legal rights were taken away from me because their father cried in court that I will just interfere with appointments etc and he wants to make all decisions. So I can not make any decisions concerning their physical or mental health, religion or education. IT was the worst decision the court system could have made and far from “In the best interest of the children”. I now sit back and pray for the best because I have no recourse to get my boys back. I have hired 6 attorneys over the last 10 years and I have lost primary care of my children and only have limited visitation on alternating weekends. The attorney believe that the judge is prejudice against me since I left her county and I am a “Career Woman”. The last I looked I have nonone willing to pay all my bills so I can stay home and not work.

  2. I, for fear of the systems retaliation, wont say much except this:

    It’s not only the California system, or even the USA system. The system here in the UK has its priorities misaligned. Not only that but speaking out against it only left me experiencing abuse by proxy, even from those meant to support me.

    My heart goes out to you, I can only imagine what you’ve been through when I have had so many similar experiences for half the time.

    Thank you for being brave enough to speak out.

  3. Thank you– we are all in this battle together and many voices are much better than one. Hugs to you.

  4. Oh man I am so sorry to read this! My heart breaks for you and your girls. Keep fighting for your babies. I’ll keep you in my prayers!!

  5. Reading what you’re going through makes me so sad and scared! I am very sad for you and your daughters, and scared for my son’s future and mine. I wish you all the very best of everything, especially peace and freedom at last!!! Hugs!

  6. My ex is a psychopath…for 11 months I fought a court battle while he abused our toddler daughter during his every other week (yes 7 days in a row) unsupervised visitation. One month ago I was awarded sole custody and he was branded an abuser. He now gets her 50.5 hours every two weeks and has voluntarily given up 5 of those hours because they song fit his bachelor lifestyle. Its still too much but I will keep on keeping on…because she is the light of my life.

    Don’t give up…my fight and yours are far from over but it will be so worth it in the end.

  7. I’m very sorry to hear of your story. My case was done in California as well, even though my daughter and I moved across the country to get away from her father. He did so much and continues to more. I cannot help but feel the system completely fails me and many others. In regards to California law, it seems like it must be more challenging. The lawyer I used loved to argue about how I had to give my daughters father his rights or fight an expensive and most likely losing court battle. Her main quote was “You’re talking about the state that gave OJ Simpson custody of his children”. So incredibly sad. I hope somehow things can get better for all of us without our children suffering irreparable damage.

  8. Tina, wonder if you ever heard of this doctor and his divorce case? I believe I first heard of him back around 2003, when I was researching, trying to get a protective order against my (then) ex-husband on behald of me and our daughters to prevent his terrorizing us during exchanges. The Court refused to even look at my petition, which covered things that had gone on for years and many of which were documented, at least partially, by the police. Instead, I was jailed for “contempt” (refusing to reveal the whereabouts of our daughters on the judge’s direct questioning). So, 9 years later, going through the 2nd divorce and round of hell, because “the system” provided no alternatives and refused to allow the truth to enter the Courtroom. We all deserve better than that.

  9. Shelley, that sounds a lot like what I nearly went through; instead I ended up remarried to the guy and am now going through 2nd round. He tried to cut me ENTIRELY out of our daughters’ lives, his mother told our children I would kill them. He received all the sympathy and support of the Court for years, despite shorting me in settlement, routinely violating Orders by refusing to allow visitation and raging, threatening – just generally terrorizing us. It galls me to think that often, a person that does things like this and IS non-custodial, keeps all their rights. I gave up after we went through the CASA eval (which I originally requested 6 years prior) and the conclusion: he was “lax”, I was “strict”. We “balanced each other out”. At least he wasn’t able to restrict visitation, although he persisted in violating Orders for a while longer. And for the 1st time in 4 years, he finally had to provide transportation for the 40 mile trip (I moved to where there were actually jobs and civilization). I finally got a job as a sales manager and thought maybe I can gain custody … my attorney told me, honestly, it was very unlikely, as the Court dislikes overturning their previous rulings without “very good cause”. DO what you can for now; I kept up relationships with our daughters as best I could even through the hard times, as they got older, I told them more of the truth (reality) rather than the scripted and expected responses the “experts” dictated. Seems to have helped; in time, they will likely understand more. Your efforts make a difference.

  10. Wow Dawn, that does sound very similar to my situation. I felt so alone thinking do mothers really lose custody like this. I did have an attorney take my case to Superior Court and tried to prove prejudice because there was no reason my boys should have stayed with me. But I lost. There are so many things going wrong with my boys and drugs have been involved but my attorney said I would lose in court. He told me not to waste my time trying to go in front of the same judge because she doesn’t like me because I left her county. I’m very sorry for your situation. I’m just so disappointed that these situation occur and there isn’t anything we can do about it.

  11. Tina, I believe there needs to be widespread education on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It is a very dangerous and misleading disorder that is hard to get diagnosed and can’t be cured. I was with one for a little over a year and my life was turned upside down and changed forever. They are the most manipulative and “charming” people, and courts can’t see past that. I have two children, and he was not their father (previously divorced)…but I used it as a learning lesson, did my research, and made sure my children understood this NPD forwards and backwards. I wanted them to know why I stayed with a man like that, what they are capable of, and the red flags to watch for in their futures. Narcissism came about with the theory of vampires. They suck the energy from everyone around them, they are vain, and need to be the center of the universe. NO one will make them out to be less than perfect or defy their wants. They think they have a God given right to what they please, and the rules will NEVER apply to them. So very sad. I wish you luck on your journey. Just make sure that your children grow up strong, and aware of the dangers they face. He’ll eventually wind up in jail (hopefully). A lot of them do.

  12. I agree. I am considering starting a non-profit to educate courts and others “in the system” such as attorneys, judges, commissioners, family court evaluators, etc as this is where I have been failed by the system. They aren’t educated on these individuals.

    My X has “wronged” so many people and I feel that jail will be in his future. One person owns a concrete company and he burned him for $20,000….I’ve been told those are the wrong people to mess with. He also took his own brother for almost $100,000 — it’s a matter of time before he messes with the wrong person.

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