This piece was submitted to our 100K STORIES PROJECT by an anonymous protective mom.
What You Don’t Know About Who’s Involved in Your Family Law Case Can Harm You and Your Children
January 2015: I remember the very first interaction with my Court appointed psychologist known as a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator or PRE. I had made the grave mistake of not researching this individual to challenge her appointment prior to my case and only after the fact, I sat bravely before her and shared with her my astounding results found on the internet of other’s evaluations about her. I told the PRE that I shouldn’t be here, that I didn’t ask for this and that my ex’s accusation of me having a mental disorder that impacted my ability to make decisions for my daughter was untrue. The PRE’s response; “You’re so naive and any complaints that have been filed against me have been dropped”. Little did I know that PRE’s are out of DORA’s jurisdiction and that there is no regulation of their conduct or behavior. This PRE knew it and thus she was conducting her business how she chose to do without any professional oversight or consequence.
After several months with this psychologist, the PRE report which was filed with the Court, recommended that I lose decision-making authority for a period of two years. Although this appeared to be unjust as there was nothing about my parenting or contributions as an Educator where I should lose any of my parental rights, I was working with an attorney at this time and was told that this would most likely be the Court outcome. They were ever so wrong.
At my trial, with the prompting of opposing counsel, the PRE was reminded to change her position from supporting her filed PRE report and appeared to proceed as a hostile witness. She had recommended therapy for me in the PRE report but then at trial made comments that “no therapy could help me” and changed her position from two years in the filed report to an unknown amount of time telling the Court that she had merely “erred” in in her original report. When it was pointed out that I had already engaged in the report’s recommendations made by her, she responded that “I was just trying to look good”. This PRE also stated that SOMB standards needed to be applied to my family which is a Colorado regulatory agency for convicted and registered sex offenders. Not a single member of my family has ever been accused of or tried for sexual molestation and no member is in the registry for convicted sex offenders; not one of my family members was interviewed by this PRE before she came to this conclusion. The PRE made the reference that I did not protect my daughter form earlier home visits and did not demonstrate that I was able to protect my daughter with my decisions. The Court responded with orders that placed a SOMB safety plan on my daughter that also involved several of my family members and that denies my now seven-year-old daughter from participating in full family functions to celebrate our ethnicity and the holidays.
This PRE stated to the Court that I was placing my interests above my daughter when selecting the choice of an elementary school with a gifted and talented program, where afterward my daughter tested as a gifted and talented child going into her first grade. The PRE also claimed that I lacked understanding of the developmental needs of children although I hold two licenses in the state of Colorado and New York to teach children grades K-12th grade.
The PRE also shared with the Court that I had a histrionic personality disorder and believed that I “was above” my daughter’s play therapist when I requested that my daughter be shown another way to express herself other than hitting the therapist’s body with a play sword. I had shared with the therapist that my then 4 and a half-year-old daughter was working on keeping hands to herself at daycare where hitting had become an issue and I also knew that she had currently watched the movie; “How To Train a Dragon.” The PRE told the Court that she had never heard of anyone challenging a therapist of their conduct in all of her years, which supported her false diagnosis of me demonstrating histrionic behavior before the Court.
I’m an Educator of 24 years to current. I follow rules, live with integrity, do what is expected of me and teach my students the same. The defamation of character that I experienced left me traumatized in the courtroom. My attorney who had become physically ill that morning, resulting in seizure-like activity during my trial, failed to protect me from the vacillating and contradictory testimony of this PRE, from the false hearsay statements made by my ex and not a single piece of evidence from my 246 page evidence book was submitted to defend myself and/or provide the needed offense.
The Courts decision was that I lost decision making authority for an unknown amount of time with unknown circumstances that could reverse this decision. I was fined a $1000 bond to post to Court for violating the parent plan without supporting evidence and I was ordered to pay attorney fees. I experienced what so many of you have. That something like this would never happen to me and I had several consults with attorneys prior to my trial who promised me that there was not enough against me to satisfy the” best interest child statute” that would result in me losing decision making rights.
Conclusively after my trial I had both the PRE report and PRE’s testimony evaluated by a forensic expert. The results was that my test data was exaggerated and there were no findings to support any disorder. My Court ordered therapist concluded his therapy with me also stating that I was absent of any disorder that effected my ability to make decisions or to protect my daughter and that I appeared to understand the needs of children both as a parent and an Educator.
I received numerous consults afterwards and attempted three appeals as a pro se party and was denied all efforts. I was told by many that there’s nothing that I can do and one retired District Court judge, during a consultation, grabbed me gently by the arm and said “some things are better left at rest”.
I’m not quitting on my daughter or my family. A friend send me a link to Heid Ganahl’s Comeback story on U-Tube and this was finally something that made sense to me, and I immediately contacted Mom’s Fight Back. I’m a member of the PLJC community and I’m dedicated to seeing family law reform through. I was alone when I started this journey and have since found others who share my passion and dedication for family law justice.
Lack of Regulation for the PRE’s:
After the results of my trial I began to investigate further my Court appointed psychologist and the online reviews I found were astounding. Words like sociopath, incompetent, sloppy and evil were just some used to describe my PRE. I eventually did what others online were encouraged to do and filed a complaint to DORA; the Department of Regulatory Agencies here in Colorado. Months later I received a response from them that PRE’s are out of their jurisdiction and my complaint was dismissed.
I then began to search for who and what does regulate these individuals with my search ending up at the Supreme Court library where they finally helped me conclude my search and to realize the fact that there are no regulations or any identified agency that regulates the behaviors of Court appointed psychologists in Colorado.
What To Do?
I began to reach out to others and learned of more stories of harm being caused by some PRE’s appointed to family law cases. I was able to eventually connect to other parents who even shared the same PRE as myself! We reached out to others and now have connections to legislation to bring forth this issue for the need of the establishment of regulation of PRE’s.
We Need Your Help:
We are currently collecting documentation to show the pattern of harm caused by the lack of regulation of PRE’s that will support this matter before legislation. Numbers greatly matter; there is power in numbers and a greater chance to create real changes with documented cases.
If your family matter involved a PRE whose conduct you believe resulted in harm to you, your family or your children, please share you story here at: PARENTS FOR FAMILY LAW JUSTICE COLORADO. All information will be kept for documentation purposes only and you may give your consent if you wish to have your story published.
Please contribute where you may to support the children harmed in family law cases. Join efforts to create some long overdue changes for children and families harmed by family law; be a part of the solution and participate in creating the comeback for your children and others!