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September 24, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Below is an email sent by Shauna Thompson, a mother of three sons, who are now men and fathers. She details their experiences with the family court system in Nebraska. I write daily about the trials and tribulations faced by parents in family court, but nothing quite conveys the message like one who’s been there and seen the scandal at first hand.

I'm writing you to let you know what our experience in Nebraska (specifically Lincoln County) family courts has been.

Firstly I have to tell you that I have no experience in court, with lawyers etc. My life revolves around medicine, emergency medicine, emergency services so the world of the courts, lawyers and judges is a foreign land as I believe that it is for most of the population of this state. Spending time in courts isn't something that we do on a normal basis, so perhaps I had a idealized vision of what would happen in court, I'm sure I thought that it would be more fair than it has turned out to be. 

I'm a nurse, a mother of three sons, all of whom are firefighters, two of whom are former Marines, wife of the local fire chief and grandmother of three of the most adorable little girls that have ever been born. (perhaps a little biased). 

 My oldest son lived in Omaha when he was offered a job as a firefighter here in North Platte, he was thrilled, we were thrilled he would be coming home with his wife and daughter after being in the Marines for five years. His wife on the other hand felt differently, moving back to North Platte for her seemed to be a failure. She was very vocal about this and even though he was told she and the baby would soon be following him home instead he received divorce papers stuck to the door of his home in Omaha and the locks changed. The divorce proceeded fairly quickly. More than one lawyer laughed in his face when he went to them requesting 50/50 custody of his young daughter, even though he had been the primary care giver no one at that time would even consider going into Douglas county court with him to help him receive custody, money was tight and he decided that the courts and his ex wife would be "fair". Becoming a visitor in his daughters life was his punishment for not fighting. That's been four years ago and the battle still goes on. Most recently his ex wife lost her job, chose not to get another one and the courts decided she didn't need to, Ryan's four days a month got reduced to three days a month and his child support went up. So he's now working, going to school and trying to finance her household. Confusing to me as she is now living with her boyfriend, is on government assistance and receives over 50% of Ryan's income. While Ryan doesn't begrudge his daughter anything since his ex wife is now living in NP again it would seem that 50/50 custody would be indicated since a child needs both her parents. Not so according to the judges in this county "daycare is a more stable environment, less disruptive to the child" How so? I didn't realize that people had children to pay strangers (for the most part teenagers) to raise them.

Assuming that this was some sort of aberration of the courts since the case had started in Omaha when my second son's wife decided that being married to a firefighter was "too hard" and her boyfriend had a "regular job" and divorce proceedings were initiated I was still starry eyed regarding the court system. My son, Justin as a firefighter works ten 24 hour shifts, this schedule had allowed him to be home with his 2 1/2 year old daughter the majority of the time, indeed he was her primary care giver since the time of her birth. The ten days he worked, Kamryn came to "coconuts" my home and I had her. She had never gone to daycare, my work schedule was organized around when she would be here and I saw her on a daily basis even if daddy was home with her. She is a precious adorable child who was firmly attached to her daddy and her coconut (her name for me). Imagine my shock when my ex daughter in law not only basically disappeared over night with my granddaughter but the courts allowed her to enroll Kamryn in daycare, Kam not only lost her home, her pets, but her daddy and her coconut over night. The battle has been raging now for over a year. Affadavits were given to the courts and even though Justin had over 50 people who would vouch for him and his relation ship with his daughter the court ignored all of them, instead focusing on the affidavit of his ex wife, her mother and her best friend all of which basically stated "well Nicole told me he isn't nice". I assured him that it couldn't possibly be a problem because everybody we knew had seen he and Kam or me and Kam and knew that we were her primary care givers and the courts would be sure to do what was in the child's best interest. Oh how wrong I was. Judge Rowlands immediately sided with "mommy" and Kam was enrolled in a day care that she hates, daddy was deemed to be a visitor and coconut was to become a stranger. Her mother violated court ordered visitation time and time again and nothing was done. When summer visitation finally came around we had to take her back to court to get something done. And finally our baby came home for 8 days at a time. It's amazing to me that a 3 year old can put all the things that grown ups can't into perspective. She walked in and screamed "daddy I'm HOME!!!!!" After months of being told daddy didn't want to see her, of having his phone calls ignored or ended when Kamryn asked to come home, she was home and knew it was home. For some reason the courts in this county don't seem to grasp that daddy's can kiss boo boos, that daddy's can fix lunch, do hair and love just as good as mommy's.

Now the kicker, my youngest sons wife (who has seriously mental problems) filed for divorce the same month my second sons wife did. She had been leaving their one year old daughter at home with my son from the time he returned from the Marines. He was the baby's primary care giver as Mommy was busy going to parties and her boyfriends homes. She had been gone for several days at a time and then would just show up and want the baby. Needless to say it was a relief when she filed for divorce because we again assumed wrongly the courts would see what was right and give the baby to Derek and this would be over quickly. Oh how wrong we were. She received ex parte custody of a child that was with Derek on a Friday and on Monday was arrested for domestic violence for breaking Derek's nose. Now I thought that would be enough to get the custody changed. if she had been a man it sure would have. Again I was wrong. She has charges pending on her now for DWI, domestic assault, third degree assault and felony theft by deception. She still has our granddaughter. Visitation has been sporadic, court orders seem to not matter to her and the court won't do anything against her. Our son was surviving on his va disability pension and the GI bill while he waited for a job. Amazingly enough the court ordered him to give her over 50% of his disability income. Again, he doesn't begrudge his daughter anything but since he had been the primary caregiver and his ex wife had a job, a new boyfriend (she's living in his home and pregnant with his child) it seems a bit ridiculous. Had the situation been reversed and my son had beat her and broken her nose and she had to lock herself in the bathroom to get away from him he would have been tossed in jail and the key thrown away. Instead the courts of Lincoln county (Judge Rowlands) overlooked her behavior and placed Gracynn in an unsafe environment. If my 6'3" son can be beaten by this woman I'm quite sure my 20# 19 month old granddaughter could and would be.

At this point I'm unsure of what to do and how to express how desperate we as a family are. We just want fair and equal treatment by the courts. Our sons are productive, upstanding citizens of this community and rather than being treated as such they are treated as second rate citizens with no rights and no feelings. Our granddaughters are used as pawns by the courts and their mothers to punish their dads. Our ex daughter in laws are treated as precious delicate jewels who would never lie, cheat or use the system. (which they have and continue to do all three) The only thing I'm sure of are the following: A. the family court system in the state needs to be changed. B. 50/50 custody is where custody should start, no loving parent be it mommy or daddy should be designated as the "bad" parent and turned into a visitor in their child's life C. Judges, lawyers, court clerks all need to be educated on the damage that is done to these children that the courts are meant to protecting. Please contact me if you would be interested in seeing the statistics regarding fatherless homes and the damage done to these children.

I appreciate your time in reading this, I know I sound like a crazy desperate grandma and I guess I am. I went from being a "coconut" that saw her grandbabies every day to someone who gets to see them maybe twice a month and that's if my ex daughter in laws don't violate court orders. I'm confused as to how the courts work and who they are supposed to be protecting. I've spent 20+ years taking care of other people and I don't understand how these judges can continue to allow perjury, false allegations and just basic lies to continue.

Fix the family courts in this state. Protect our babies!!!

I’ve been contacted by two of Shauna Thompson’s sons regarding the above piece. They requested that I make three minor changes to what she wrote. The oldest son told me that the divorce papers were not “stuck to the door,” but rather delivered to him by his ex. Also, his visitation expanded from four days per month to six.

The middle son told me that his daughter Kam does not “hate” daycare. But she realizes that her father, being a firefighter with whole days off at a time, is available to care for her. Understandably, she prefers being with her dad, but that doesn’t mean she hates daycare.

Thanks to these two men for setting the record straight.

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