February 24, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The last few pieces I’ve posted have been about the attack, by the “protective” mother movement on fathers and the idea of parental alienation. One of the more telling aspects of that movement is that they tend strongly to believe that any allegations of abuse levelled at a father by a mother should be taken at face value. So it wasn’t unusual to see, in Laurie Udesky’s piece, the elision of the difference between allegations of abuse and actual findings of abuse.
I checked the website for the Center for Judicial Excellence and sure enough, to this day it includes a reference to Jonea Rogers as a “protective” mother. The fact that Rogers abducted her child, alleging abuse by the father, Ian Stone, despite the police, the local child protective agency and possibly medical authorities as well being unable to corroborate her claims, apparently doesn’t disqualify Rogers as a “protective” mother. As I said yesterday, Dr. Nancy Faulkner’s summary of the science on children’s welfare and parental child abduction strongly suggests that, if either parent was abusive, it was Rogers, not Stone. And of course, way back in 2007, Stone got sole custody of his and Rogers’ daughter, so apparently the family court also disbelieved Rogers. Finally, a Google search for Ian Stone turned up no subsequent claims of child abuse made by anyone. Here’s my 2009 take on the Rogers/Stone case.
The point being that, in that case at least, the CJE is happy to call “protective” a woman who apparently was the opposite, regardless of what she may have believed at the time. In the past of course, organizations of mothers claiming to be “protective” of their children have included numerous individuals who were themselves abusive and whose cases had been roundly debunked.
So, on we go to this case that, again, Laurie Udesky didn’t manage to include in her article as balance for her entirely unbalanced point of view (South Ben Tribune, 2/19/17). This one, unlike that of Suzanne DeWalt, is current and so perhaps would have appealed to Udesky’s readers more.
Surely, Colleen Niggebrugge would call herself a “protective” mother. My guess is that, over the past four + years she’d have considered herself exactly that. But, like many others who do, Colleen was and is the exact opposite of protective. Indeed, she did everything in her power to deprive her daughter of her father. Not only that, but, in a previous case, with a previous man and previous kids, her false allegations of abuse proving unavailing, she attempted to hire a hit man to kill the father. In short, Colleen Niggebrugge is some piece of work.
Brandon Opaczewski and Colleen Niggebrugge met as children at St. Matthew Cathedral School on Miami Street.
They reacquainted over Facebook and began dating in December 2011. They had a daughter, who was born in November 2012.
Their contentious split and custody battle has now spanned four years, involving two courtrooms, three judges and several attorneys — and many Department of Child Services caseworkers and police officers in two states.
At its heart, as one judge wrote, was "the most incendiary weapon at any parent's disposal — completely unjustified allegations of sexual abuse — to completely deny Father's parenting time rights and deprive this child of her right to see her Father."
Sound familiar? Remember that Nancy Faulkner reported that mental health experts include as one risk factor for parental child abduction the mistaken belief that the other parent is abusing the child. But, like most people who call themselves “protective” parents, Niggebrugge’s efforts to derail Opaczewski’s relationship with his daughter began early. Their daughter was born in November of 2012. Just three months later, Niggebrugge began her allegations against Opaczewski.
DCS opened a Child in Need of Services case on behalf of the infant as a result of the domestic violence allegations, and caseworkers established parenting time for Opaczewski. The case was closed in May 2014, after both parents agreed to counseling…
[D]uring Memorial Day weekend 2014, Opaczewski had an extra day off from work and wanted to keep the girl overnight at his mother's home. Niggebrugge objected, showing up at the house and demanding the child. Police were called and told her to leave.
The next day, Niggebrugge left her apartment and moved to Kentucky.
Opaczewski lived in Indiana, so there were long periods during which Niggebrugge successfully kept him from seeing his daughter. Still, he soldiered on. He hired a lawyer and filed a motion for custody in the court in South Bend that first heard the case. Niggebrugge was ordered to bring the child to the hearing, but refused.
Opaczewski testified he had pressed for a more formal custody arrangement but that Niggebrugge said, "If I ever filed she would never speak to me again and I would never see (their daughter) again."
The magistrate hearing the case ordered parenting time for Opaczewski with Niggebrugge paying the costs of transportation between Kentucky and South Bend. But the case was just getting started.
It developed that this wasn’t the first situation in which Niggebrugge had borne a man’s child and falsely charged him with abuse, only to see the children taken from her as a result.
That ruling upheld Niggebrugge's custody loss of two children in a previous divorce case.
… As with the current paternity case, Niggebrugge had won custody but later routinely denied the father's visitation with their two children. She alleged he abused her and the children, including sexually.
The Kentucky court found in January 2007 that the children were neglected and that they were harmed emotionally by Niggebrugge continuing to impugn their father in front of them.
In short, she hadn’t learned much over the years about how to deprive her children of their fathers. Instead, she ended up losing them to those very men. That she took the step of attempting to have her ex murdered demonstrates how far this supposedly “protective” mother would go.
Niggebrugge's new boyfriend was arrested and accused of trying to hire an undercover police officer to kill the father. The detective said he saw the boyfriend's car at Niggebrugge's house after the solicitation, and he monitored cellphone contact between Niggebrugge and the boyfriend.
In August 2007, Niggebrugge asserted her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to answer any questions about the boyfriend's conduct, according to court records. According to a 2008 news report, the boyfriend killed himself awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, back in South Bend.
Department of Child Services records show abuse reports filed against Opaczewski at least six times between August 2014 and February 2015. Physical exams showed no signs of abuse, the reports say.
Moreover, caseworkers noticed the pattern.
"It was reported that this is not the mother's first time bringing the child to the ER for similar allegations," one said.
"Medical records note that the mother is 'very vague and does not answer questions directly,' " another reads.
And Niggebrugge was still interfering in Opaczewski’s parenting time, failing to produce the child for his visitation four times. Finally, the judge did the obvious thing.
After testimony centered on Niggebrugge's consistent allegations — and citing both attorneys for contempt of court after a particularly testy exchange — Polando granted full custody to Opaczewski and cited Niggebrugge for contempt in not bringing her daughter to court, as he had ordered.
"You have completely, or nearly completely, denied those orders" of parenting time, he told her, with "completely specious allegations of sexual abuse."
This case is still in progress and Niggebrugge continues to claim that her daughter is being abused by her father.
As with the DeWalt case, however sincerely the two mothers believe their allegations, their claims are false and have been used to deny little children vital time with one of the two most important people in their lives – their fathers. Whatever they may call themselves, these mothers think they’re protecting their children. They’re not; they’ve harmed them.
It is cases like these that the “protective” parents movement often lumps together with real cases in which abusive parents got custody of children. That movement and reporters like Laurie Udesky do everyone a grave disservice by pretending that allegations of abuse are the same as findings of abuse, that parental alienation doesn’t exist and that family courts routinely favor abusive fathers over protective mothers. Their claims are shoddy and ill-informed. Worse, they have but a single aim – to further marginalize fathers in their children’s lives.
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