October 1, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
It’s all here (PoliticsNY, 9/29/14). The ongoing scandal of family courts is there for all to see. And kudos to PoliticsNY and the writer, Raquel Okyay for telling it like it unfortunately is. Parental alienation, parental child abduction, interference with visitation, multiple false allegations of everything from child abuse to rape; they’re all there. Oh, did I neglect to mention that it was all greenlighted by the judge? It was. Indeed, New York State Judge Margaret “Peggy” Walsh took such an active role in taking a little boy from his father that the child’s attorney, Sandra Colatosti had this to say:
“Judge Walsh was primarily responsible for the mother taking-off with the child,” said Colatosti. “She let the mother believe she could do anything she wanted without repercussions.” The reckless actions of Walsh are unacceptable...”
And while I’m handing out kudos, Ms. Colatosti, please come forward and accept yours. Colatosti has been an attorney for children in custody cases for 20 years, and you can bet she knows a thing or two about parents who alienate. Here’s what else she knows: when a lawyer comes out with the type of scathing remarks she did, she doesn’t make herself more popular with the judge in question or any of the others. So what Colatosti did was not only protective of a child and helpful to a father, but courageous. She put at least some of her career on the line.
It looks like it needed to be done.
Ramon E. Fernandez, 37, petitioned the court for visitation of his son, Elijah, in Jan. 2013 after being denied contact to the child by the mother, Nicia N. Wilson, 29. They were a couple for about a year and a half before breaking up, he said. After learning of Elijah’s birth from Wilson, he drove to her home with his eight year old son to see him and Wilson did not even open the door. “She was making all these crazy accusations against me.” Fernandez would soon learn that each false accusation leveled at him at court, would result in continued separation between father and son.
That was the pattern. Wilson didn’t want Fernandez in their son’s life, so she began, from the very first days of his life to exclude him. Sadly, that’s not unusual; there are plenty of parental alienators out there. What’s also all too common is that Judge Walsh made it clear to Wilson that she could do anything she wanted without fear of judicial repercussions. Unsurprisingly, Wilson took the hint.
“Although the mother repeatedly violated the visitation orders, the judge did not even so much as admonish her,” said Colatosti, who has been a child advocate for over 20-years. “It soon became clear to me that the mother was making false allegations against Mr. Fernandez in order to prevent him from having a relationship with his child.”
On behalf of the child she said she petitioned the court to punish Wilson for violating the court’s order. “Ms. Wilson willfully violated the order by failing to produce Elijah for visits with his father and impaired the right of Mr. Fernandez to have contact with his son and to bond with and establish a relationship with him.” That petition was denied, said Fernandez. “The judge didn’t want to hear it.”
Not only was Fernandez denied visitation by Wilson in violation of court orders, she made the most ludicrous accusations, said Colatosti. “Although I related these concerns to the court, the judge apparently did not give me much credibility.” Wilson absconded with the child for eight months, and still the judge did nothing to reprimand her, she said.
Yes, it was all there, and every bit of it got Judge Walsh’s judicial stamp of approval. What should Wilson have concluded but that she could get away with anything? Walsh couldn’t have made it any clearer if she’d issued her an engraved invitation.
But lying to the court and violating its orders were just starters for Wilson.
Fernandez said Wilson's continued actions are beyond reasonable. In July, Wilson called authorities to falsely accuse him of rape, but the Mechanicville police filed no charges. When he received a recent weekend visit with Elijah, she did not stop harassing him, he said. “She called child protective services on me eight times.”
Apparently the local attorneys are either smarter or more scrupulous than Walsh (admittedly not setting the bar very high). Wilson’s currently working on her fifth lawyer. My guess is that the others got fed up with her various crimes and violations, but of course there’s always one who doesn’t get the message.
Colatosti said when Wilson's fifth attorney filed a letter with the chief clerk setting forth a series of false allegations against Fernandez, she advised him that he had enough grounds to have Walsh removed. “Anyone with half a brain would have been able to see that the child's mother was doing everything she could to prevent Mr. Fernandez from having a relationship with his child.”
That would suggest that the lawyer and the judge put together have but a single brain, if that much.
Finally, Walsh saw the light — that, if she didn’t recuse herself, an appellate court would do it for her. Her entire failure to see reality, enforce her own orders or act in the child’s best interests were all on public display, so now there’s a new judge who, with any luck, will do what should have been done long ago — slowly integrate Fernandez into his child’s life. Once that’s accomplished, Wilson should have only supervised visitation until she can prove she understands the error of her ways. My guess is that would be never, but who can say?
Of course every order Walsh made was supposedly in “the best interests of the child.” Such is the mantra of family court judges even when they’re doing exactly the opposite, as here. As a multitude of mental health professionals tell us, parental alienation is child abuse and Wilson abused little Elijah from the start.
Dean Tong, who is an author and leading forensic specialist on false child abuse allegations, said Wilson wittingly, or unwittingly, did attempt more than one time to alienate father from son. “Ms. Wilson was culpable of mental, emotional, or psychological child abuse — also known as Parental Alienation."
Yep, and apparently she’s not done yet.
The trial court expert said by the end of next year, when the child starts talking, it is likely that Wilson will coach the child to parrot the false allegations.
In his book, Elusive Innocence, Tong said, “Younger children tend to align their requirements and their emotional allegiance with the dominant or custodial parent and frequently mirror that parent's descriptions or feelings concerning a situation.”
That latter is Parental Alienation Syndrome, the condition in which the alienating parent convinces the child to take sides against the targeted parent. That too is child abuse and can have detrimental effects well into adulthood.
A new judge has the opportunity to nip that in the bud. He/she needs to give Fernandez time in which to bond with and care for his son and the boy with him. He/she needs to eventually transfer custody to Fernandez with Wilson having supervised visitation. That visitation can be expanded if Wilson’s parenting practices dramatically improve. But whatever happens, it needs to happen soon. Much damage has already been done and at this point, only the judge can stop it.
In the meantime, kudos to all who’ve had the courage to stand up to a judge who’s either malicious, incompetent or both. It’s obviously high time.
By the way, Judge Walsh is running for re-election this November.
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