Mother Jailed 8 Years for Child Abduction Now Released

B9316548187Z-1.1_20150314202542_000_GFTA6A1QO.1-0One of the most litigious child abduction cases may have finally come to a conclusion.

Victoria Innes was five-years-old when her mother, Marie Carrascosa kidnapped her, taking her from the United States to Spain, despite a court order that prohibited each of her battling parents from removing her from the United States without the consent of the other parent.

To buttress this order, and as a precaution, the Court also said that Victoria’s passport must be held by her mother’s lawyer and not released.

A series of unexpected events unfolded when Ms. Carrascosa changed lawyers. Her new lawyer, Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, was unaware of the court order regarding Victoria’s passport. She released the passport to her client whereupon Ms. Carrascosa fled with Victoria to Spain, where her parents lived and where she was qualified as a lawyer.

Distraught father, Peter Innes, took immediate legal action to have Victoria returned to the State of New Jersey, obtaining an American court order for custody, however, the Spanish courts ignored the order.

Later Ms. Carrascosa returned to New Jersey without Victoria to continue the legal battle, apparently confident that the Spanish courts had jurisdiction and taking comfort in an order of the Spanish court that  barred Victoria from leaving Spain until she was 18-years-old.

But the New Jersey courts didn’t see it that way. Ms. Carrascosa was tried and sentenced in New Jersey to fourteen years in prison for contempt of court and interfering with child custody.

In the meantime, Mr. Innes launched a lawsuit against attorney Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich who was ordered to pay compensation of $950,000 to him for her negligence in releasing the passport to Ms. Carrascosa.

Typically a term of imprisonment tends to  eventually persuade an individual to comply with the law, but not in Ms. Carrascosa’s case. In her zeal to ensure her ex-husband would have no contact with Victoria she remained in prison year after year, depriving her daughter, not only of a father, but a mother as well. Victoria was in the care of her maternal grandmother in Spain.

Ms. Carrascosa’s continued defiance of the court orders and her lengthy incarceration became a legal problem for the State court who expected compliance sooner rather than later. At a hearing in 2007 appellate Judge Donald G. Collester said “She cannot be held forever. At some point in time, she will be out of jail. What are you going to do then?”

In 2014 Ms. Carrascosa received parole for the child abduction conviction but was immediately transferred to local  Bergen County jail for refusing to return Victoria to New Jersey.

It was the entreaties of her daughter to court and correctional authorities and the consent of her former husband, Mr. Innes that resulted in her final release in 2015.

Mr. Innes said:

“I know Victoria wants her mother back, and for that reason only, I support her release. I am confident that once our daughter gets to know her mother, she’ll begin to see the reality of this sad situation. It’s been 10 long years since my daughter was taken, and there’s only one thing I am sure of — no one wins in cases like this.”

No person should suffer the torment of child abduction and Peter Innes’ consent to his ex-wife’s release is proof that he understands that it should be all about what is in his daughter’s best interests, a concept that has eluded the self-centred Ms. Carrascosa.

Mr. Innes maintains a website “” and has not given up hope that one day he and his daughter will be reconciled.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Politically Incorrect Judge Faces Disciplinary Charges

GEO CASUALWhat’s wrong with a judge discretely complimenting a civil servant witness in a guardianship case? Plenty, according to New Jersey’s Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, who have Superior Family Court Judge Joseph A. Portelli in their cross-hairs for passing a note to a family service specialist who was testifying, that read “You look nice today.”

He is also accused of inviting a deputy attorney general and her supervisor into his chambers during a break in court proceedings, putting his arm around the deputy AG’s shoulders and telling both of them they were doing a great job. On the same occasion he also said that he liked how she was “shoving it up the law guardian’s ass”.

Now the latter comment may be vulgar but is it really so outrageous that formal discipline is required?

Other allegations include Judge Portelli’s practice of making children more comfortable in his courtroom by inviting them to visit his chambers, engaging in small talk, and permitting them to sit behind the bench on his lap and use his gavel. On one occasion in 2013, Portelli invited a child to sit on his lap and then jokingly turned to a deputy attorney general who was present in the courtroom and said to her, “No…you can’t come and sit on my lap next.”

The judge, age 60, has been on the bench for nine years with an impeccable record and no complaints. Nonetheless the PC police say his comments show poor judgment and a lack of dignity and respect for his office.

Somebody needs to get a life!

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Grandparents Jailed for Assisting in Children’s Abduction

_DSC4179 - Version 2Poor grandma and grandpa…thrown in jail for their misguided efforts to assist their daughter to flee England with her two children after the Court ordered a change in custody to their father.

The children’s mother had custody of her son, age 7 and daughter, age 2 until a judge ordered the children to be transferred to their father’s custody, leaving mom with one hour a month of supervised access. The mother’s “issues”, what ever they be, were plainly reflected in the draconian limitation placed on her time with the children.

And then a plan was hatched: Mother’s parents drove her and the children to a secret rendezvous spot under cover of night where mother, children, and six suitcases were loaded into a chauffeur driven Mercedes for the journey to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris where they hopped on a flight to Costa Rica. They had escaped, or so they thought.

Police investigators naturally began their search for the missing children at their grandparents’ home. The grandparents advised the police that the children had spent the night at their home, but in the morning when they awoke the children and their mother were gone, leaving only a note.

However, their story quickly fell apart when police discovered a text message from granny to her daughter that showed her daughter’s location in the Channel Tunnel enroute to France.

More damning evidence emerged from roadside video that showed the Mercedes and other footage displayed the abducting mother’s vehicle being driven by grandfather back to his home.

Eventually the police learned that mother and children were in Costa Rica and not surprisingly, the children were already on the local constabulary’s radar as it had been reported that the children were wandering through their hotel without supervision, their mother’s whereabouts unknown.

The children’s father’s wife and a social worker arrived in Costa Rica to retrieve the children from an orphanage and return them to England, a task that took almost six weeks to obtain the proper paperwork from local authorities. All tolled, the children’s ordeal lasted two and a half months before they landed on British soil.

Grandma was jailed for 14 months, while her husband, who was less involved, was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Judge John Wait said to the elderly offenders:

“The consequences of this case have been quite awful. You were responsible for some of this but those acts were done out of love and emotion, not for money. You knowingly flouted a court order and told lies in the Royal Courts of Justice.”

Mother remains in Costa Rica but extradition proceedings are pending. You can be sure this mother will receive a lengthy jail sentence once she is back in the United Kingdom.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Family Court Intervenes in Case of 16-Year-old Girl Removed From Flight to Join Jihad

GEO CASUALBritain’s High Court of Justice has recently been faced with child protection cases that reflect the unfortunate radicalization of young girls exposed to the extreme ideology and values espoused by the self-styled Islamic State.

In London Borough of Town Hamlets v. B (2015) EWHC (Fam) August 21, 2015 the Court considered the case of 16-year-old B. who came to the attention of authorities when she went missing from her home. B.’s mother, acting on information received from B.’s brother, advised police she was about to fly to Syria.

The police arrived just in time to stop the flight, taking B. into custody. Child protections authorities made an application to Justice Hayden to make B. a ward of the court and secure her passport. After the orders were made, the Social Services Department engaged B. and her parents in a dialogue where they discussed purchasing an internet monitoring device, as suggested by the police. B.’s parents agreed to the plan and were fulsome on their support of it, as it would entail B. remaining under their care and control.

However, the proposed plan was abandoned when a search of the family home revealed a plethora of electronic devices which were seized for analysis by Britain’s Counter Terrorism. Pursuant to section 58 of the Terrorism Act, B. was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences, as were her parents and brothers, offences that carried substantial custodial sentences.

The analysis produced the following material in B.’s possession:

(1) A document headed “44 Ways to Support Jihad” with practical suggestions as to the support of terrorist activity;

(2) Internet searches relating to terrorist manuals and guides to terror activities. That also included queries as to the response times of the Metropolitan Armed Response Team and the Queen’s Guard;

(3) Internet searches as to the preservation of on-line anonymity, including, as confirmed by a police officer at an earlier hearing, the downloading of software to hide the IP address of the user’s computer when on-line;

(4) A downloaded version of “Mujahid Guide to Surviving in the West”. Possession of that document is, of itself, a serious criminal offence. It gives guides to weapon and bomb making and to “hiding the extremist identity”.

On the siblings’ devices were numerous articles urging flight to ISIS territory and recommending its lifestyle, and videos of terrorist training and images of actual beheadings and execution.

B’s parents were in possession of more disturbing and illegal documents and information praising ISIS with additional detailed data regarding terrorism and gruesome videos.

Justice Hayden found the material to be powerful and alarming, stating:

“It is not merely theoretical or gratuitously shocking, it involves information of a practical nature designed to support and to perpetrate terrorist attacks. I have noted already but reemphasise that it provides advice as to how to avoid airport security, particularly for females. In addition, the videos of beheadings and…corpses can only be profoundly damaging, particularly to these very young, and in my judgment, vulnerable individuals.”

Judge Hayden criticized as disingenuous an earlier statement made by the family before the terrorism material and criminal charges were laid, suggesting they were monitoring B. and hopeful that her earlier attempt to flee Britain could now be put behind them.

“We are a very strong family unit and we are doing our very best to help prevent such a situation from reoccurring. We are keeping extremely close eyes on B. and trying to be encouraging of her moving without ridiculing her for her actions to the extent that this incident forever haunts and affects her day to day living.”

The Court concluded that in view of the material found in the home the family statement was an “elaborate and sophisticated succession of lies.”

Ultimately B. was removed from her parent’s custody, while her siblings were permitted to remain, as their indoctrination was not as egregious.

This decision illustrates the observation that the family court system is emblematic of change in life and society, changes that often resonate first in family dynamics, resulting in new challenges for family law judges and lawyers.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang


Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: Perjury in Family Court

GEO#1People tell lies, so-called “white” lies, they tell half-truths, they prevaricate, fabricate, distort, and tell “whoppers”, and they can, unless they are in a court of law or a government hearing where they are “sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Yet nowhere is the truth more elusive than in a family law trial and the recent case of Kneller v. Underwood 2015 BCSC 1410 is a prime example of perjury under oath.

The issue was whether or not 36-year-old Twyla Kneller and Jim Greenwood of Cranbrook, B.C. lived together in a marriage-like relationship for nine years, as Twyla testified, or whether they simply were “friends with benefits” as he maintained.

If they were in a spousal relationship, Ms. Kneller would be entitled to share in his property in light of the 2013 law that gave common law spouses the same property rights as married spouses.

Ms. Kneller described a traditional relationship where Mr. Greenwood worked and paid the bills, while she maintained the home with its wood stove, doing the grocery shopping, cooking, baking, canning, cleaning, laundry, and gardening. The parties initially resided in a trailer on bare land and later in a renovated home on acreage, all owned by Mr. Greenwood.

Mr. Greenwood’s parents and grandparents lived on adjacent properties and Twyla became close to his mother.

Interestingly, despite his family’s obvious knowledge of their son’s living arrangements, they were not called to testify, although many other witnesses paraded through the courtroom.

During the nine-year relationship the parties separated on one occasion for three and a half months, not surprisingly, considering Ms. Kneller’s evidence that Mr. Greenwood’s physical
assaults landed her in hospital twice. She testified to regular punching, slapping, kicking, and other abuse. She said that initially Jim would apologize for this behaviour but after a while he didn’t bother. She stayed because she loved him, an oh-so-familiar sentiment in cases of domestic violence.

When it was time for Jim Greenwood to testify his evidence could not have been more different than Ms. Kneller’s.

He swore they never lived together, although she spent some nights with him. He said she lived in Cranbrook with her mother. He apparently forgot that in an earlier affidavit he said “they lived together off and on”. He testified their finances were completely separate and they each filed “single” status tax returns, a misstatement he was forced to correct when his 2010 tax return showed he claimed tax deductions in respect of his “common law spouse”.

He denied he gave her a “promise” ring and was cornered when it came to light he had added her to his medical and dental insurance as a common law spouse. He recounted a denigrating anecdote to the court where he felt it necessary to “take her home”. When it was apparent the “home” he referred to was his, and not Twyla’s Cranbrook home, he squirmed and became agitated and nervous.

When he abruptly asked Ms. Kneller to leave, he said she had almost nothing to pack, despite photographs showing a U-Haul with furniture and personal chattels piled in. He had forgotten that in an earlier affidavit he swore she took all of the furniture, although he paid for it all. He also couldn’t keep the date of their separation straight: Was it August 2013, as he first suggested, or October 2013?

Of course, who to believe was the central issue in the trial, a task that was not daunting for the trial judge. He found that Ms. Kneller was one of the “most genuine, down-to-earth, credible and engaging witnesses” he had ever encountered.

As for Jim Greenwood the court said:

“The respondent’s evidence, in particular, was disingenuous and lacking in credibility. It consisted almost entirely of vague, unsubstantiated and unsupported assertions. His evidence at trial contradicted his earlier affidavit evidence in many significant respects. The best he could muster when faced with the conflicts in his sworn evidence was to blame the drafter of the affidavits, to say he wasn’t a very good reader and to state, “that is what you get when you don’t look at the things you sign.”

The trial judge also declared that Mr. Greenwood’s blanket denial the parties ever lived together, and his testimony that he never physically abused his spouse were “devoid of truth”.

Finally, the trial judge said he didn’t believe or accept anything Jim Greenwood had to say that contradicted the evidence of his common-law spouse and her witnesses.

“In my view, the respondent would be well served by a recalibration of his moral compass.”

It’s called “perjury”, an indictable criminal offence with a possible 14-year jail term attached to it, and yet, liars are not prosecuted in Canada. Oh yes, Air India terrorist, Inderjit Singh Reyat’s acquittal in 2003 on murder charges prompted the Crown to charge him with perjury, securing a conviction and a nine-year prison term, but that is the exception, not the rule.

Not so in the United States where Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart and others faced charges, not for steroid use or securities fraud, but for lying.

Canada’s refusal to deliver consequences to parties who blatantly lie in court needs to be addressed. Mr. Greenwood was a poor liar but there are many cases where Mr. or Ms. Charming fool the court and justice does not prevail. Perjury is a serious issue, particularly in our family courts and steps must be taken to punish liars who make a mockery of their oath to tell the truth.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Kelly Rutherford’s Lawyer Threw the Dice and Lost

GEO CASUALThere are certain actions that are available to family law counsel that in the long run may hurt a client more than help them.

The first that comes to mind is the notion that revenge can be exacted by reporting one’s estranged spouse to the income tax authorities. In high conflict divorce each spouse is looking for a way to “get even”. However, anonymous reports to the IRS or Revenue Canada are wrong-headed and counsel who recommend such actions seem to forget that if their client’s spouse owes additional monies for income tax, usually their client is on the hook as well. Income tax debts that relate to income earned during the marriage are generally found to be “family debts” and both spouses must share the burden of payment.

Similarly, actress Kelly Rutherford’s lawyer “threw the dice” by contacting immigration authorities with allegations of bad conduct, urging them to deport her German-born husband, Daniel Giersch, who was in the United States on a visitor’s visa that had been extended from time to time.

The Decision in the Rutherford case paints a vivid picture of Kelly and Daniel in the California court hallway where Rutherford’s lawyer, Matthew Rich, in the presence of his client and opposing counsel, dialled the phone number of the U.S. State Department and urged them to arrest Daniel Giersch, advising them of his Visa status and the likelihood he would wrongfully remove the children, Hermes and Helena, from the United States.

Then Matthew Rich turned to Mr. Giersch and his lawyer suggesting that if they would sign a “stipulation” that Daniel would not have visitation with the children until further order of the court, that Rich would make the immigration problem go away. Giersch declined and shortly thereafter was deported.

The trial judge found that it was more than coincidence that Daniel’s deportation occurred after Mr. Rich’s imprudent call to the State Department.

Matthew Rich threw the dice, no doubt hoping that with Daniel out of the way, Ms. Rutherford would have custody of the children in the United States with little “interference” from the children’s father. What her lawyer didn’t count on was the possibility that Daniel Giersch would become primary resident parent outside of the United States, but that’s exactly what happened.

As the judge notes in his Decision, if Mr. Rich had not taken the steps he did, it is very likely Kelly and Daniel, who each were described as “excellent” parents, would have co-parented their children and avoided the emotional and physical expense of a custody and relocation trial.

While strategy is important in custody battles, all scenarios must be considered before action is taken that can backfire leaving disastrous results. Kelly Rutherford did not help herself by agreeing to her lawyer’s strategy, a finding the judge also made.

She couldn’t blame this on her lawyer.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Kelly Rutherford Custody Case Rife With Misinformation

GEO#1Kelly Rutherford is an American actress who began her career in daytime soap operas, later moving to primetime network television in Melrose Place and Gossip Girls. However, she is much more famous today for her custody battle with ex-husband, Daniel Giersch.

Her court case has enraged media pundits who are slamming the family courts in California and New York, expressing outrage that Kelly Rutherford’s two American-born children were ordered to live in Europe with their father, an alleged breach of their constitutional rights. But if the television “experts” actually knew anything about custody law they would understand that it’s not the courts who are to blame, it’s Ms. Rutherford’s wrongheaded strategy.

A little background… Rutherford had a six-month first marriage and then married German businessman Daniel Giersch in August 2006. Their first child, Hermes Gustaf Daniel Giersch, was born in October 2006. Rutherford was two-months pregnant with their second child when she filed for divorce from Giersch on December 30, 2008

A custody battle immediately ensued with Mr. Giersch alleging his wife refused to tell him the expected birthdate of their daughter, Helena. After her birth she restricted his parenting time and also failed to register him as the father on her birth certificate. Rutherford either had bad legal advice, or more likely, ignored the advice she received. A sure way to sabotage a custody claim is to deny access and purposely decline to name the child’s father on the birth certificate.

But after seven months of legal wrangling in the California courts the couple agreed they would both live in New York City so Ms. Rutherford could continue with her work on Gossip Girls, an agreement that would expire in April 2010.

In 2012 the matter of final custody was adjudicated, resulting in an order that the two children live with their father in either Monaco or France. During the court proceedings, evidence was presented that showed that Ms. Rutherford contacted United States immigration resulting in Mr. Giersch’s expulsion from the United States. A wrongheaded strategy that clearly backfired on Ms. Rutherford. If her former husband had been permitted to remain in the United States it is unlikely she would have spent a million or more dollars fighting over custody and also avoided going personally bankrupt.

Trial evidence included reports that Ms. Rutherford’s work commitments, including twenty-hour work days, led to Mr. Giersch playing “Mr. Mom” in his wife’s absence. The judge also criticized Ms. Rutherford for misleading the court with respect to her work schedule and was unimpressed with her unwillingness to facilitate access. All good reasons to prefer Mr. Giersch as primary resident parent.

Ms. Rutherford went back to the California courts to change the custody order but the court ruled they no longer had jurisdiction. Neither of the parties lived there; Ms. Rutherford lived in New York while her ex-husband lived in Europe and neither of the children resided in California.

Happily for Ms. Rutherford, the children were with her for the summer of 2015.

Her lawyer then brought an application to the New York courts seeking an order that the children remain with her in New York. Unfortunately, the court declined jurisdiction on the basis the children were now habitually resident in Monaco, and only the Monaco court could make orders regarding the children.

In her latest strategic misstep, Ms. Rutherford refused to return the children to their father, causing the New York court to step in and order her and the children to appear in court where Mr. Giersch’s mother took custody of the children and returned them to her son.

It’s a familiar story: parents really have only one opportunity to obtain or retain custody or primary residence of their children. If they make mistakes, like Ms. Rutherford did, the chance of a change in residence is extremely remote. Her next best opportunity is when the children are able to speak for themselves, usually around the age of 13, but only if they want to live with their mother.

In the new world of shared parenting, mothers do not have a monopoly on child custody. That’s the past…this is the present…and the future.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang