Please Judge, No !
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At Mediation - 2011

Taken from Gaetane's blog by Laura Napolli - 2002

The mediator:



5906 Dolores Street, Suite 250

Houston, TX 77057


The attorney:



5020 Montrose BLVD, Suite 400

Houston, TX 77006


Me: “I don’t want “Joint Custody” (JC).

The mediator to me: “Michael does not agree to give you Sole Custody, so if you want to get Sole Custody, you need to go to trial.”

Me: “Fine, let’s go to trial.”

The mediator to me: “If you go to trial the Judge will give Michael weekly supervised visits with Chloe, is that what you want?

Me: “Of course not, because that’s not what Chloe wants.”

Me again: “Why would the court give Michael supervised visits when Michael has given up visitation?”

The mediator: “Because the goal of the Family Court System in Texas is to “preserve” the family and “reunite” the family” as much as possible.”

My attorney Merri Nichols: “Michael knows that he will get “supervised visits” if he goes to trial. Michael doesn’t want “supervised visits.” That’s too embarrassing. That’s why he doesn’t want to go to trial. Michael also knows that if he goes to trial he will be court-ordered some sort of anger-management program, and he doesn’t want that either. That’s why he is giving up his visitation now.”   

Me: “Listen, this is what I need: (1) I need to have Sole custody, (2) I need the residency restrictions lifted, (3) the injunctions removed, (4) Chloe’s counseling sessions down to 20 and none with Michael, (5) a protection order for myself but not a mutual one. And if I can’t get this here then let’s go to trial. I know you’ve told me Chloe will get supervised visits if we go to trial, but you know what, Chloe is 14 and no one can make Chloe do anything and if Chloe doesn’t want to go to those visits, she isn’t gonna go. She has proven that before. It doesn’t really matter what the court says.”

Both my attorney and the mediator got real mad at me. They were furious. They were like bullies. I couldn’t believe it. Especially my attorney being mad at me.

The mediator: “When the judge is going to find out that Michael gave up his visitation and that you didn’t take that offer, the judge is going to be so angry at you that she will probably have you pay for all of Michael’s attorney’s fees. And the sanctions against you will be very harsh, very very harsh. You do not want to make this judge angry, Gaetane.

Me: “What do you mean by harsh?”

The mediator: “Possibly jail time.”

I almost chocked: "You are kidding."

The mediator: “No. Mediation is no joke, Gaetane. The process of mediation here in Texas is the law.

My attorney: “And in your case, your 2002 divorce decree  says: It is ordered that the parties mediate future disputes before filing any lawsuits. And that mediation shall be conducted by Mary Sean O’Reilly. So Gaetane, you are actually  court-ordered to be here and it is in your best interest to settle this dispute here. So Gaetane, if the judge sees that you didn’t cooperate, she will be harsh with you.

(Later, when I reviewed my 2002 court order, to see what it exactly said about what my attorney had read to me during this mediation, I indeed found that it said: It is ordered that the parties mediate future disputes before filing any lawsuits. But what my attorney left out is that it also says: “except in situations involving immediate threat to the child” (my divorce decree page 23). When I read this, I immediately asked another attorney, who told me that because of this part of the sentence that my attorney, Merri Nichols, deliberately took out, I should never have been through mediation in the first place. Wow!)  

I was in shock to see my attorney siding with the mediator. I see now that I should have stopped mediation right then and there and get a new attorney. 

I was trying to keep my cool and explain to them that my goal is to keep my children safe. And that to keep my family safe I needed Sole Custody.

Both together: “You will be safe! Michael is giving up his visitation. The kids will not have to see him again. You won’t either. You and the children will be safe. You are getting a great deal.”

Wow! When I hired my attorney, I hired her because she specifically told me she knew about Domestic Violence (DV) and was very familiar with this issue but here I realized I was dealing with an uneducated lawyer who knew nothing about it and I was doomed to yet another bad divorce decree that will lead to more years of DV.

But I didn’t want to give up yet and decided to give a shot at educating these to morons and told them the major reasons I could not accept Joint Custody:

Me: Let me explain to you why I cannot accept Joint Custody. First, Joint Custody forces me to have contact with my ex, Michael. And I don’t want to have contact with anyone who is abusive towards my children and me. Second, Michael seeking Joint Custody is just another tactic to maintain power and control over me and the children. (But, of course, I was thinking to myself, you would only know this if you knew anything about domestic violence, which these two morons only pretended to know.) Third, Michael is seeking Joint Custody so he can tell his family and friends: “You see, I never abused my wife and my children, because no judge in this country would give an abusive father Joint Custody. Gaetane made it all up.”  

They both laughed!  

The mediator: "Of course that’s why he wants Joint Custody (JC). You are exactly right. He wants JC because it’s going to make him look good. That’s the deal he is going to get out of this. That’s all he has left. But what do you care? You are getting a better deal. You get the kids. He had to give up his visitation."  

I couldn’t believe it. I started to cry out of frustration.

I felt completely bullied.

These are women. And they don’t understand or don’t care that more abuse will come from Michael as long as I don’t get Sole Custody.

I knew I had completely lost my attorney. I had no attorney at this point. I had to fight on my own.

I had to continue to fight for my children. I took a deep breath. Took a paper out that with the 
Texas Family Code 153.004 printed on it. 

Me: "The Texas Family Code 153.004 says that a parent can’t be a joint managing conservator (have joint custody) when there is evidence of abuse by that parent."

My attorney: "Gaetane," she rolled her eyes as she looked at the mediator who rolled her eyes back at her, "that law is not applicable to your case because that law says that physical abuse has to have happened to any person younger than 18 years of age committed within a two-year period preceding the filing of the suit or during the pendency of the suit. And the last incident of abuse by Michael was when he beat up Tatiana at the Peden house when Nick came. So that would not apply."

Me: "Well, first that incident was not the last incident of abuse by Michael. Plus, you are talking about section (a) of The Texas Family Code. I’m talking about Section (b) of The Texas Family Code. It talks about the fact that the court may not appoint joint managing conservators if credible evidence is presented of a history or pattern of past or present child neglect, or physical or sexual abuse by one parent directed against the other parent, a spouse, or a child. And Merri, you know I have a shit load of credible evidence that shows a history AND a pattern of past AND present neglect, AND physical abuse. Plus there is a shit load of emotional abuse." 

I looked at the mediator and said: “I have all the documents here in this binder that show credible evidence of a history and a pattern of past and present child neglect and physical abuse by Michael directed against the other parent, me, his spouse, me again, and his three children. And I would appreciate it if you would look at it!"

The mediator: "I don’t need to look at that. I’m offering you a great deal and you need to take it."

There was a silence. Needless to say, I was in shock. 

Me: “I really want to go to trial.”

The mediator: “If you go to trial, we warned you of what will happen to you, plus, if this case ends up in court, Michael is going to take the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) approach. And you know, PAS wins in this court, with this judge. There is a history of it. You will loose everything, starting with your children.” 

Again I knew here that these two morons knew nothing about domestic violence (DV) and therefore were not aware that PAS claims is a common abuser legal tactic. And that the recent study by the Department of Justice found that evaluators and other court professionals with inadequate DV training tended to believe the PAS theory/myth.

Then I remembered John Nichols bringing up the PAS theory when I was in their office one day and how he doesn’t know anything about PAS. Because he said: “If Michael takes the PAS approach for his defense we cannot win this case.” (John Nichols is the head attorney at Nichols Law. He is also Merri’s husband.)   

The mediator left the room laughing.

It was obvious to me that my attorney’s best interest was with her friendship with Ms. O’Reilly. And she wanted to keep it that way for future business.

Me to my attorney: “It appears to me Merri that your concern is not the best interests of my children anymore, nor mine.”

My attorney: “And you Gaetane, why are you so concerned about what Michael’s family and friends are going to think? You need to take this deal." 

Me: ” Wow! That really hurt, Merri.”  

This entire session, the two of them were giggling and gossiping about other clients while doing my case. I left knowing a lot about Merri's other clients. It was very annoying. And very unprofessional.

Plus Merri kept munching on candy that the mediator had in her office for clients. And throughout this session Merri was talking with her mouth full of this candy. Very 
aggravating. Urge.  

Anyway, part of me thought they were probably right about settling my case here and not going to trial. I had met Judge Dean. She was arrogant. She was not educated in domestic violence at all. She believed in PAS and would rule against me in a trial.  

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