The following is a true story. I changed the names to protect the innocent from retaliation. And created images that approximately represent the characters in this true life story.
By Ethan Wallace
I’m a professional in the health industry. I live a clean lifestyle and have never had any problems with the law, drugs, or anything else. After 18 years of marriage and three children, my wife and I entered the family court for divorce and custody resolution.
My ex-wife had substantially more money than me. Her attorneys donated thousands to the reelection campaigns of both judges who handled our case.
Lawyers donate to judges’ campaigns; that’s a matter of public record.
None of my children ever accused me of abuse or said they didn’t like spending time with me.
When I started showing up to family court, there was a guy who stood in front of the courthouse with a sign that read “Family Court Corruption.”
When I passed him, he looked at me funny. I thought he was crazy.
The court-appointed custody evaluator was Dr. Samuel Cohen.
During my sessions with Dr. Cohen. He brought up numerous unsubstantiated claims my wife had made. The worst was when he claimed she accused me of raping her. He kept bringing it up and asked me, ‘What is your response?’
We’d been married 18 years and have three children. It was like she kept upping the ante. It was insane.
When Dr. Cohen finished his preliminary custody evaluation, he determined my ex-wife should have temporary legal and physical custody, and I should see them with a supervisor present. He reasoned that one of my young daughters had a nightmare that I broke into the house and killed their mom. A nightmare?!?! That’s made me unfit to be their father?
Judge Nathan Feldman held a pretrial hearing on Cohen’s recommendation. My wife’s lead attorney, Maria Ricciardi, made a big show about how important it was to ensure the children’s safety by having a paid supervisor attend every visit I had with my children.
I challenged her dishonest motives.
I raised my kids as much as my wife, maybe more. No one needed to supervise me with my children.
Judge Feldman looked at my wife’s attorneys, then at me.
“Mr. Wallace,” he said, “I know Maria Ricciardi. And I know Thomas Brookside. I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t question their integrity.”
Then he ordered I could not see my children without a court-approved supervisor in attendance – at $100 per hour.
My lawyer tried to convince me to do supervised visits. I told him that if I did that, I would acknowledge that I had done something wrong. I would not justify that by going along, and I never did.
Soon after, my son, who was 16 at the time, came to live with me.
My wife’s attorneys filed two contempt motions to force him to return. He didn’t want to leave.
Finally, the judge called my son into chambers and had a private meeting, threatening him that if he didn’t return to his mother, he would arrest me.
The madness continued. The custody evaluator, Dr. Cohen, billing with all his might., did a further evaluation of our family.
He wrote, “Mr. Wallace is domineering. He’s narcissistic. He’s not willing to co-parent with his ex-spouse. However, he has a normal, well-developed, and loving relationship with his children, and should not be on supervised visits. Still, I recommend the mother have full custody of the kids, and he can have unsupervised visits.”
By the time the trial began, I’d spent around $90,000. I was out of money and could no longer afford a lawyer.
I wanted to see the custody report, especially the part where she claimed I raped her. That’s a serious allegation, and it would show she made a false claims against me.
The judge said I could only look at the custody report at the courthouse with an officer present, without any electronics.
On the other hand, my wife’s lawyers had a complete copy of the custody report and my wife could see it at their office any time she wanted.
In the courthouse, I spent about four hours reading the report. I could not find any mention of rape.
Judge Rhona MacDonald was the new trial judge. She had received donations from both of my wife’s attorneys, just like Judge Feldman.
I cross-examined the custody evaluator: “Why aren’t the rape allegations in the report?”
He replied because she didn’t say it — which contradicted what he’d said to me.
When I cross-examined my wife, she slipped up on the witness stand and admitted saying it and it was untrue.
On the witness stand, my wife’s lawyer asked me, “If we gave you the opportunity to go out to dinner with your kids tonight, would you go?”
I knew I was supposed to be on supervised visits. I thought it was a setup. I refused to answer.
The judge said, “If you don’t answer, I’m arresting you.”
She had four officers approach me.
I didn’t answer. Nothing happened. The judge told the stenographer to note my refusal to answer, and moved on.
At the end of the trial, even though my wife agreed our son should live with me and the custody evaluator said I did not need supervised visits, Judge MacDonald gave my wife full legal and physical custody of all three children and put me on supervised visits.
The judge washed the face of the attorneys and gave my wife full control. I became legally a non-parent – a nothing parent compared to my wife in the eyes of the law — and it had nothing to do with the children’s preferences.
My ex-wife never enforced supervised visits. My oldest lives with me now, and I see my other children all the time. Compared to other cases, this was a luxury, but it wasn’t without heartaches.
Family Court judges can do anything, and there’s no accountability. I realized judges and lawyers know each other and negotiate behind closed doors, and don’t try to hide it.
Now that I have lived through the experience, I often think about the guy holding the sign saying “Family Court Corruption.” I thought he was crazy as I passed him with his bizarre one-man protest, standing in the sun alone with a sign.
As I strode by him, he looked at me and shook his head.
Now I shake my head. I know why he looked at me the way he did. By his own bitter experience, no doubt, he knew I was the crazy one for ever entering the doors of family court.