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We need to keep the pressure on the NH Family Courts by educating the public about the numerous injustices occurring. Please feel free to send us your information for posting. I have not had any recent dealings with the court system so I do not have current information to post. The best way to deal with these unethical judges, guardian ad litems and lawyers is to post as much on them as you can so that people do not want to do business with them. I have personally known judges that have their own practices as most judges are attorneys first. Hit these people where it counts. Their wallets. Starve them out and cut off their funds. When people do not want to use their services, they will have to change their evil ways or be unemployed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Testimony of Stevan Gressitt, M.D. On January 17th 2006 To "Committee On Children and Family Law" Again Gives Disturbing Account Of Issues With The NH Family Court System

I came across the second of Doctor Stevan Gressitt's testimonies on the NH Commission On The Status Of Men website at http://www.nh.gov/csm/pas_gressit.html.  This was testimony given in support of a 2005 house bill.  If you read the testimony, you will see that Dr. Gressitt identifies lots of issues with the family court system in NH.  Dr. Gressitt outlines how the current court system encourages parental alienation.  This testimony was given almost six years ago and today the same problems exist with the NH family courts.  Nothing has changed. 

Testimony in Support of HB 1585

Stevan Gressitt, M.D.

Committee on Children and Family Law
Room 206, LOB
Concord, NH
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

My name is Stevan Gressitt, M.D. and I reside in Unity, Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to support HB 1585. I am a practicing psychiatrist, the Medical Director of Northeast Occupational Exchange in Lincoln, Bangor, Newport, and Portland Maine. I am the founder of the Maine Benzodiazepine Study Group, and currently am on the Executive Committee of the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians and the state Psychiatry Work Group responsible for advising the state Medicaid program on psychotropic medications. I was formerly the Chief of Psychiatry for the Department of Corrections for the State of Maine. Before that I was the psychiatrist to the Women’s Prison here in Goffstown, Maximum Security or SHU in Concord, and other sites with the New Hampshire Corrections Department and several county facilities. I also helped teach forensic psychiatry at Dartmouth for several years. I am speaking today from personal clinical experience and am explicitly not representing the position of any organization.

Approximately 40% of custodial parents1 admit to interfering with visitation, and 50% of non-custodial parents2 report interference with visitation. Both parents and children are adversely affected by this, many finding their way to mental health facilities for counseling or therapy or other assistance.

Though child support data are carefully collected and assiduous efforts made to ensure collections, there is no such effort at present to ensure continuity of parental involvement with their children’s lives. Between 1982 and 1999 however, the State of New Hampshire explicitly recognized this need in the job description for a Support Enforcement Officer 1.

Court orders around visitation from the family court are today described as totally unenforceable by virtually all municipal police who refuse to recognize them. The Hanover School Guidance Department has responded to known interference with visitation or with the non-custodial parent’s involvement in education as a “court issue” even if documented deterioration in the child was provided. A senior Guardian Ad Litem has stated to a non-custodial parent and with no repercussions, “whatever you do is wrong, going to court or not going to court over visitation you will be wrong.” The irony there was that the GAL had initially gone out of her way to keep both parents in the child’s life then once physical custody was determined seemed to forget the need for continuing parental involvement. Her own written plan for what was in the undefinable phrase “the best interest of the child” was somehow no longer true once it was an order. The only clinical solution was to recommend going back to court.

It is my hope that this bill will offer the alternative so needed to a court that has no expertise in mental health nor child development. GAL’s are predominantly trained in billing, respect for docket control, and the need to ensure cases don’t get slowed down and to provide “timely,” even if premature, assessments for the court.

As a clinician when I saw a child or heard a parent describe the trauma from separation, my professional recommendation for years was to advise a return to court. As the Court Clinic Psychiatrist to the 5th busiest court in Mass for a number of years, I had the great opportunity to be housed in a Judge’s lobby. As I worked strictly neutrally for the Judges themselves I developed an appreciation for their work both in civil and criminal matters and in the administrative demands of running a building and an organization. Unfortunately I can no longer and for some time now have stopped recommending returning to court. The current status of Family Court in NH in all too many cases is as described by the guardian above. My recommendation now is for the patient to contact their legislator. I cannot in good conscience recommend a treatment that is bad medicine.

This bill permits a professional agency already tasked with evaluation of child abuse to more clearly address this gray area where traditionally everyone from school, to DHHS itself has pointed a finger and said it is up to the court. As the court system has failed our children in the matter of maintaining parental continuity, done well in focusing on and ordering child support payments, it is hardly the responsible or competent agency to address the mental well being of our children. The state is aware of the rate of fatherlessness among the children in DCYS. The court is not aware of how many children have lost the non-custodial parent as there is no outcome or accountability ongoing. Much research points to 50% of children having no contact with their non-custodial parent at 5 years.

The devastated kids, frequently brought to see me with oppositional behavior have learned that very behavior from the teachings of the court and their recalcitrant custodial parent. For a 10 year old child to state to me quite blithely that “my mother and I don’t have to do anything the court says about visitation” was a surprise. The children understand the same thing that the police do, that orders, parenting plans, and admonishments, are all in the current system worth nothing.

This bill permits and even lays the groundwork for monitoring of children who otherwise have no voice in court, rarely ever see the judge and at times have not even met with the GAL. This bill enables DHHS to consider the emotional impact that loss of continuity has, and permits a clinical approach as opposed to an adversarial approach. That is not precluded where intransigent custodial parents are so wrapped up in their own anger. DHHS can, as a neutral and independent, present this to the court. This will remove some of the court’s hesitancy in dealing with two parties with clearly potentially conflicting interests and permit a neutral evaluation to be brought forward where the child is suffering. This safety net has not been in place in NH since 1999. It is however the minimum we owe the children. To hear a GAL say “I made a mistake but it wouldn’t have made any difference” is hardly a reassuring statement that any attention was paid to the mental health or development of the child.  

All too often, once custody, call it custody, primary caretaker, residential parent, or a new name next year, is determined, it is that designated parent who can feel empowered to exercise control contrary to court orders. Courts are quite unwilling to admit that perhaps they placed the child with the angriest most controlling parent that is least likely to negotiate and or that they made a mistake. Interference with visitation is already a crime in NH, but there has been no enforcement of the law passed by this very legislature. District Attorneys have avoided their responsibility under the law. The problem is that where weeds start to grow they tend to take over. When disregard of family court orders hasn’t just taken a foothold but has become the way of life, clinicians must think of their promise to do no harm, primum non nocere, and perhaps even shield patients from the current vagaries of a system that states they have the best interest of the child at stake but to this day can’t define it.

Chief Justice Broderick himself has lamented the needless continuous litigation that all too often occurs and I quote from page 15 of the Justice Moving Forward, a time for change, the 2003-2004 Judiciary Report:

Helping Families
“In my judgment we also need to fundamentally rethink how divorce is handled in our courts. Taking spouses and children in stress and forcing them into an adversarial system, with no other meaningful alternative, is neither economically sound or socially beneficial.”

This bill addresses his lament, addresses the need for timely response to children caught up in a system in which they have no voice. This bill offers the clinician like myself and others the opportunity to make a recommendation other than to provoke further litigation. Children need this safety net, they deserve it, and DHHS has existing data systems for any outcome measures that might be requested.

The Judiciary has made a priority for the future that is intriguing, see page 11 of A Vision of Justice, The future of the New Hampshire courts, September 2004:

3. The court system should reinforce core criteria of equality, fairness, and integrity in all court system decisions and actions. Specific emphasis should be given to advancing uniformity, consistency of protocols, and court oversight of the litigation process.
New Hampshire courts will continue to provide due process and equal protection of the law to all who have business before them as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the New Hampshire Constitution. Equality and fairness demand equal justice under law. These fundamental constitutional principles have particular significance for groups who may have suffered bias or prejudice based upon race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, color, age, handicap, or political affiliation.

The difficulty is that until this comes to pass, it is the children who are being left behind. There is no program in the Family Court system that even looks like the name “No Child Left Behind.” In reality, to meet judicial productivity expectations, at the end of the day it is the children who have not been heard, and are sitting in my office and for whom I am to offer something helpful. The children need the safety net that this bill provides.


Stevan Gressitt, M.D.

314 Clark Road
Unity, Maine 04988

1 Kressel, K. 1985 The Process of Divorce, New York: Basic Books
2 Arditti, J.A. 1992 “Factors Relating to Custody, Visitation, and Child Support for Divorced Fathers: An Exploratory Analysis.” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 17: 23-42  
3 Ira Turkat, Management of Visitation Interference, The Judges Journal, Number 36, p 17-47, Spring 1997

1 comment:

  1. Lawyers' greed fuels this system. "Judges" who were formerly lawyers have to keep an eye out for their colleagues of the Bar and keep the adversarial system running, lest they'd be out of jobs. God forbid people grow the hell up and divorce without the pointless and destructive acrimony, and actually (even more of a tall order) put the needs of their children first. Unfortunately, white trash "mothers" will continue to survive, supported by the bottom-dwelling "legal" scum that fuel these very fires.

    There should be no leniency in the courts; the police should arrest on any visitation interference, but not only do they not care, but they actively refuse to care. The courts should impose a minimum 30-day jail sentence for visitation interference, and ramp it up from there for future offenses. The "courts" and their orders are so meaningless that they might as well stop printing them on paper - it's a waste of the worlds' natural resources to put to paper worthless words that can't, or won't be enforced.

    The "best interest of the child" is not only an ill-defined term in the courts, but it is in fact wholly undefined. There is no "best interest" of any party when a lawyer and a judge get involved. Period.

    This guy is spot on when it comes to quoting the GAL and saying that it's pointless to waste energy on "courts of law" that don't enforce or follow the law. The question I'd like answered is, "When the hell is anybody going to actually do anything more than pontificate about the courts being a flagrant waste of money, resources, time and in fact clearly detrimental to the emotional health of the children whose best interests upon whom they are inflicting their disservice?"