$500,000 Custody Case Garners Harsh Criticism


Another day…another courtroom, but the same insanity…. a custody battle that has cost two parents $500,000 in legal fees. This time it’s an exasperated Ontario Superior Court judge from Hamilton who asks the question, “How does this keep happening? What will it take to convince angry parents that nasty and aggressive litigation never turns out well?”

Mr. Justice Alex Pazaratz presided over a 36-day trial, awarding sole custody of an 8-year-old child to her father, a Toronto police officer. The Court’s Reasons for Judgment begin with the recitation of an email sent by the husband to his wife, a year after their separation, and before litigation commenced:

“We are both reasonable people and I really think we can work this out without spending $40,000 to $50,000 a piece in lawyer fees only to have a judge tell us something we could arrange ourselves. Please I’m begging you to be reasonable.”

It only takes one parent to turn a family law case into a hellish nightmare, and according to Judge Pazaratz that’s what an angry, foolish woman did. Consider the optics: Father wants generous parenting time, and mother refuses, turning the child against her father. In these situations, fathers will get nowhere unless they ask a court to intervene. At this point, most right-thinking parents would instruct their lawyers to negotiate a parenting plan, or attend mediation, with the goal of maximizing each parent’s time with the children, focusing always on the child’s best interests.  Sound so simple, doesn’t it?

In this case, dad spent $300,000, while mom spent $200,000. Judge Pazaratz said:

“Pause for a moment to consider the overwhelming tragedy of this case,…These are nice, average people. Of modest means (now considerably more modest). They drive old cars and probably pinch pennies shopping at Costco.”

The harshest criticism was leveled at the child’s mother, who the Court found had manipulated and falsified evidence, engaged in provocative and dangerous behaviour, and poisoned the child against her father. Judge Pazaratz described her conduct as “emotional child abuse… with their only child caught in the cross-fire”. Her deviant behaviour was triggered when her estranged husband began to move on with his life and began a new relationship.

The Court ordered the mother to pay costs to the father in the amount of $192,000, wryly concluding:

“In retrospect, (the father’s) sombre warning about ‘spending $40 – $50,000 a piece in lawyer fees’ now amounts to wishful thinking.”

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang





















Madonna Battles in New York Family Court for Return of Her Son

GeorgiaLeeLang016She’s one of those people whose one word name is instantly recognizable: Madonna. She and her ex-husband British director Guy Ritchie, were in family court in New York this week being scolded by Judge Deborah Kaplan over the custody dispute concerning their 15-year old son, Rocco.

Since 2008 Rocco has lived primarily with his mother in New York, however, on Madonna’s international Rebel Heart Tour last summer, Rocco decided to stay in Europe and moved in with his father who lives in England. Madonna was not pleased.

And neither was the judge this week. She admonished Madonna and Mr. Ritchie suggesting that while they appeared to enjoy living their lives in the media spotlight, their son did not. As is typical in custody cases the barbs flew…. Madonna’s lawyer, Eleanor Alter accused Mr. Ritchie of ignoring a court order and encouraging Rocco to do the same, while his lawyer, Peter Bronstein expressed the folly of forcing a 15-year old teenager to live with one parent or the other, against his wishes.

The expression often used for teens in custody disputes is that they “choose with their feet”, which is just what Rocco has done. Mr. Bronstein also noted the difficulty in forcing Rocco to board a plane back to New York… and he is spot on.

I remember a case I had many years ago of a mature 12-year old boy visiting his father in Vancouver during the summer, and when the vacation was over, he refused to return to his mother in Germany.

There was a court order that stipulated the exact date of this boy’s return and I warned my client that he was obliged to obey the court order, bring the child to the airport, and see that he got on the plane. But the boy took matters into his own hands.

Father and son approached the airline counter where the young man started screaming and tossing his clothes out of his suitcases and onto the floor. He created such a scene that the passenger agents paged the plane’s Captain to come to the counter to determine if they should force the child to board. Viewing the scene, the Captain refused to permit the young man to board the plane.

My client was clever enough to get the names of the other passengers in line who witnessed this spectacle and later agreed to be witnesses, confirming that my client had done everything he could to persuade the boy to board the plane.

Yes, the young man remained in Vancouver with his father after his mother realized she could not force him to return to Germany. A few years later his younger brother joined him. His arrival was unexpected and a real escapade, but that’s another story.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Take Your Pick: 19 Dogs or Your Kids?

GeorgiaLeeLang059A couple in England lost custody of their two children, ages 7 and 2, when authorities discovered 19 dogs in their house, a home described by officials as “incredibly filthy and utterly squalid”. The children were placed into foster care.

At the time of the seizure of the children, their mother had been prosecuted by the SPCA and banned from owning any dogs for a period of 4 years.

After three years of foster care, the children’s parents, both in their fifties, brought an application to the court to have their children returned to them. Mother advised the court that once the ban expired she planned to have only 1 or 2 dogs.

Judge Peter Nathan denied their application despite evidence that the home was now neat, clean, and nicely decorated. He believed the improved conditions would gradually deteriorate, and he did not accept that the home would only house 1 or 2 dogs.

Other factors that caused Judge Nathan to refuse to return the children included:

  1. He found that the children’s mother resented the intrusion of social services, police and other persons in authority;
  2. He found that the mother’s expressed desire to involve the media, write a book, and participate in a film about the case was not in the children’s best interests;
  3. He found that the children’s father was paranoid and had complained about social workers, the SPCA, the police, and the children’s teachers, and believed these authority figures were envious of his lifestyle.

An odd conclusion to an interesting case…the judge specifically found that the children’s parents loved the children and had changed the conditions in the home. If these parents were unfit, the court needed to say so. There must be lots of parents who disdain state intervention in their home life. While I understand the initial removal, I can’t understand why there was no “second chance”. Surely these parents or other family members would be preferable to state foster care. There must be something more to this case and if I find out, I will update this story.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang



Brainwashed and Alienated Teens Found on “Underground” Farm

B9316548187Z-1.1_20150314202542_000_GFTA6A1QO.1-0In April 2015 I wrote about the deception and lies that Sandra Rucki engaged in when she divorced her husband David Rucki in 2013. It began with a fraudulent one-sided consent order that she alleged her husband had agreed to. Once the order was overturned by the  Minnesota Court it escalated into despicable false allegations that father, David Rucki had sexually abused his two daughters, Gianni and Samantha, ages 13 and 14, and the spin-off of parental alienation.

The Court ruled there was no credible evidence to support Ms. Rucki’s claims and the girls were removed from their mother’s custody. David Rucki received custody  of them, but as the girls refused to see him, other family members would provide residential care.

The Court’s order provided a measure of hope to Mr. Rucki that his daughters could be de-programmed once they were removed from their mother’s influence. Instead what happened is that the girls, with their mother’s assistance, fled their new home,  although Sandra Rucki denied any involvement in her daughters’ disappearance.

In the summer of 2015, with the girls on the lam for over two years, the police arrested Ms. Rucki who was extradited from Florida to Minnesota after witness, Dale Nathan, a suspended attorney and longtime critic of the family courts, provided information that placed Ms. Rucki with her daughters at the time of their escape.

She has been charged with three felony counts of deprivation of parental rights and is being held  in Ramsey County workhouse on one million dollars bail.

Police advised the media that evidence seized from the home of  Dede Evavold led them to White Horse Ranch in Minnesota, where the teens were found. Ms. Evavold is a supporter of an organization called “Protective Parent”, a movement that  supports the notion that the family courts are broken and frequently award custody of children to abusive parents. It is believed to be part of an underground network of family court critics.

The website for White Horse Ranch describes it as a non-profit Christian organization that helps abused children heal with equine therapy.

Interestingly, Ms. Rucki’s attorney, Michelle MacDonald,  recently campaigned for election as a Minnesota Supreme Court judge. Her campaign manager? Oh, that was none other than Dede Evavold. Ms. MacDonald said she had no knowledge of Ms. Evavold being involved in the Rucki girls’  disappearance. Attorney MacDonald was also quoted in the media saying:

“I am in disbelief,  I hope [the girls] are reunited with their mother and brothers and sister, and even their father.”

Funny how she adds “their father”, almost as an afterthought, yet he is the custodial parent. I have said it before and I will say it again: parental alienation is the worst kind of child abuse.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang




No couple imagines that the vows they once exchanged would cease to ring true one day. But we are all human, and things happen. Relationships dissolve. Divorce is hard for every couple that has to go through the process, especially those who had children together.

At the end of the day, you both want what is best for your children, but often that can get lost in the hurt and anger that surrounds the separation. However, with hard work and patience, you can have a healthy relationship with your ex, and you both can be happy with the new arrangement.

Blended families work best when a divorce happens and small children are involved. You both need to be on the same page parent-wise, while also moving on with your lives in other aspects. Despite what you may think, this can be done.

Working toward a happy arrangement with your ex, and each other’s future spouses, creates a happy environment for everyone. Plus, your kids will be relieved that you aren’t at each other’s throats. A happy divorce happens when the separated couple can at least speak to each other in a civilized manner while sharing custody and a role in their children’s lives.

Jumpstart the process to a happy divorce with these steps:

  1. Visualize Your Goal

Think of how you wish the relationship to be with your ex. This could means anything from interacting cordially when dropping the kids off, to vacationing together. Make a realistic goal for your circumstance.

  1. Create a Pause

Before interacting with your ex, gauge your emotions and what you expect would be your emotional reactions when you see him or her. Identify your problem areas and what you believe you need to work on. Calm yourself before the face to face, and teach yourself certain tricks to stay cool and collected, rather than blowing up out of anger. Preparing yourself on what to expect and how to react will help you to remain calm when it is actually go-time.

  1. Think Positively

Positive thinking can go a long way. Every conversation will probably not go smoothly, but, with a positive outlook, you will be able to better work toward your goal of achieving a happy divorce.

  1. Persistence

Along with your positive mindset, you will need persistence. There will be tough times and obstacles, but you cannot let that get you down. Also, try not to let your ex’s personal actions get to you.

Perhaps they seem to be moving on faster than you, or have had a better success at bouncing back financially. Don’t let these insignificant things trigger your ugly side. You don’t want your kids to witness an altercation, nor do you want to disrupt the mutual arrangement to strive for a happy medium.

  1. Keep the End Goal in Mind

Remember that, in the end, this is all for your children. Never take your eyes off that prize. You two are the adults here, so suck it up and work hard to set good examples for your kids. Divorce isn’t what greatly affects children – it’s the way the divorce was handled.

 Guest Post from Atlanta, Georgia family law boutique firm Naggiar & Sarif

Naggiar and Sarif LLC focuses exclusively on  Family and Divorce Law litigation. They provide unparalleled and personalized legal counsel to those facing family law  issues and have earned numerous awards and distinctions.

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

Legal Tsunami Accompanies Custody Battle

GEO_edited-1The level of vitriol, anger, and violence that finds its way into child custody litigation is beyond frightening, as common sense is displaced by exaggerated allegations, bizarre threats, and all too often, bodily harm or death.

The case of Tiffany and Eric Stevens of Connecticut represents the thin edge of the wedge, a story replete with allegations of infidelity, drug abuse, domestic violence, failed stints in rehab, mental health evaluations, child protection issues, harassment leading to a restraining order, exorbitant gambling debts,a hit man, and police intervention. Whew!

All it took was a five-year marriage and one little girl to create a legal tsunami that saw the Stevens’ in court on 200 occasions, the last being Tiffany Steven’s trial for hiring handyman cum hitman, John McDaid, to kill her husband for a fee of $5,000. When Mr. McDaid told Mr. Stevens of his assignment, the jig was up, and Tiffany was arrested for the attempted murder-for-hire.

But believe me, neither Tiffany, age 39, or Eric, age 49, qualify as “parent of the year”. Mr. Stevens stupidly wrote to his estranged wife saying:

“”I am going to let you bury yourself with your lies and then I am going to shovel the dirt onto your body…I will be dreaming of you laying in our bed with your addict boyfriend, the one that your mom bought us for a wedding present, and wondering to myself if you’re in that bed when they come. Will the mattress be saveable or will it have to be thrown out from all of your blood?”

When will litigants ever figure out that written expletives and threats of violence are a ticket to doomsday? Eric’s behaviour resulted in a restraining order against him and a custody order in favour of Tiffany, while he was saddled with supervised access that apparently never occurred.

Ms. Stevens advised the family court that Eric detonated his Mercedes and her BMW for the insurance money to avoid the wrath of his Mafia creditors. She also said Eric told his insurance company that all of their jewellery had been stolen to access yet more funds to pay gambling debts.

While Eric disavowed the insurance fraud he admitted his gambling debts, and agreed he posted his wife’s contact particulars on a Craigslist sex page.

Ms. Stevens was released on $1 million dollars bail after her arrest and continued to parent their daughter. The jury deadlocked during her first trial in December 2014 but this week she admitted the lesser charge of inciting injury to person and received five years probation and a ten-year suspended prison sentence.

The prosecutors threw in the towel in light of evidence, albeit from a convict, that Eric Stevens “set-up” Ms. Stevens to take a fall for a murder-for-hire that never was.

The custody battle rages on as Mr. Stevens remains committed to ensuring a relationship with his daughter. Mr. Stevens’ last word is that his ex-wife “bought” her slap on the wrist, or rather her wealthy father did. He has been self-represented for some time.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang