Monday, October 31, 2016

What a Judge Will Consider When Deciding Parental Responsibility

In a divorce it is always best for parents to put their differences  
aside and make decisions in the best interest of their children. 
The lack of healthy co-parenting puts children at risk mentally
and emotionally. They are far more likely not to reach their
fullest potential, have substance abuse issues and even
commit criminal acts. If parents are unable to reach a mutual agreement on parental responsibility, a judge can step in and make the decisions for you. Although both parents may think they are the better parent, a judge will not make this distinction. The exception to this is if one parent makes seriously poor life choices such as the use of drugs, alcohol, incarceration or domestic abuse. The court may still believe contact with both parents is in the best interest of the child regardless of these factors and may order supervised visitation.  Each parent will have an attorney to argue who is the better parent. A private investigator is often times hired to gather evidence against the other parent to prove they would be unfit to participate in co-parenting. A judge’s decision will be based on laws and his opinion of what is in the best interest of your children without considering the individual dynamics of the children.  If co-parenting decisions cannot be reached the court will likely consider the following factors when deciding on parental responsibility: 

  • Which parent is more likely to allow for frequent and continuing contact with the other parent.
  • Which parent has the ability to provide a more stable home environment.
  • Which parent has the ability to provide the essentials of food, clothing and medical care.
  • The moral fitness of the parents.
  • Job security of the parents.
  • The traveling requirements of the jobs of the parents.
  • The amount of time the child has been in a stable home environment.
  • The emotional bond between the child and each parent.
  • The proposed home of each parent after the divorce.
  • The child's history of home, school, and community.
  • The extent of the parents knowledge of the child's schedule, friends, medical, school, likes and dislikes.
  • The parenting tasks involving the child of each parent.
  • The amount of parenting task that would have to be performed by a third party with both parents.
  • The ability of each parent to provide a consistent schedule for the child.
  • Any illegal activity each parent may be involved including domestic abuse and child neglect.
Sue Gent, President
Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.
(772)634-6040  *  (954)866-3338

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Post Tramatic Stress Syndrom (PTSD) And The Defense

Part 2: PTSD is not just a defense for the former serviceman/woman

Because symptoms of PTSD may not occur for months or years afterward and is not widely recognized as a disorder in the general population, PTSD frequently goes undisguised.  An individual who has experienced a traumatic event may appear to have “moved on” and even experienced degrees of success so a mental health professional understandably, may observe the current matter as depression, anxiety, disassociation disorders, etc. 

  • Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
  • Flashbacks (acting or feeling like the event is happening again)
  • Nightmares (either of the event or of other frightening things)
  • Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
  • Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
  • Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
  • Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
  • Loss of interest in activities and life in general
  • Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
  • Sense of a limited future (you don’t expect to live a normal life span, get married, have a career) Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Irritability or outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty concentrating     
  • Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
  • Feeling jumpy and easily startled
  • Anger and irritability
  • Guilt, shame, or self-blame
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Feeling alienated and alone
  • Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
  • Headaches, stomach problems, chest pain  
If you have are a civil attorney and your client has been involved in an accident, medical malpractice, etc. and you suspect there may be signs of PTSD as a result there may be additional factors to your case that can be addressed.
As a family law attorney representing a spouse with children and abuse (emotional, verbal, physical, sexual) infidelity, witnessing violent or addictive behavior, abandonment, legal troubles by a parent, etc.  an evaluation may be needed to determine if the child is dealing with issues beyond that of behavioral, depression, learning disabilities, violent or emotional outbursts.   If you suspect the opposing party has PTSD and is not being treated for the disorder, it could potentially prove to be harmful to a child.

PTSD issues are most frequently seen in criminal defense cases.  In California and some other states, PTSD defenses are being seen in cases where the defendant has been subjected to violence, even when they have not been a victim, such as being raised in the “ghetto.”  PTSD defense will be seen in the future where a defendant who was previously incarcerated and exposed to continual violence; committed the crime as a result of a flash back, etc.
PTSD cannot be diagnosed by your standard neuropsychological or psychological testing (i.e. WAIS).  PTSD should be diagnosed by a PTSD mental health professional using specialized      test to be considered an expert opinion. 

If you suspect your client is suffering from PTSD you can locate an expert through other mental health professionals, mental health clinics, psychiatric hospital, or counseling center.  You may be able to find a PTSD expert from the Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute at (410) 825-8888 ext. 203.

There are variables with PTSD that can be best examined by researching the numerous studies that have been conducted by mental health professionals and university.  You can begin to research the possible mitigating factors for your criminal, civil, or family law castes by researching the latest studies that apply to your case.  The following are only a few suggestions that may assist in beginning your research: National Institute of Mental Health: PTSD; Expert Evidence: Law, Practice and Procedure, 2nd Edition Sweet and Maxwell; .  American Journal of Psychiatry 2005 162:2295-2301; (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
Sue Gent
Private Investigator
Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.
(772)634-6040  *  (954)866-3338

Saturday, October 8, 2016

How Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) can play a role in civil, criminal, and family law proceedings.

Part 1:  PTSD is not just a defense for the former serviceman/woman.

We most commonly associate PTSD with our military personnel who have experienced traumatic situations in combat.  Over the last few decades, PTSD has been associated with victims of violent crimes such as the battered wife and sexual assault.

PTSD is now being realized in individuals who have suffered from, witnessed, or have been involved in: emotional, physical, religious, verbal, sexual, or psychological abuse; first responders; law enforcement; natural disasters or other catastrophes as in 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; motor vehicle, boating, or aircraft accidents; lived in stressful environments such as violent neighborhoods; committed a violent crime themselves and deal with guilt; situations where one may feel helpless (child sees a sibling being abused and cannot help); kidnapping; medical procedures (especially in children); and other serious events.

Experts in PTSD say any overwhelming life occurrence can elicit PTSD, particularly if the event is perceived as unpredictable and uncontrollable. It can even occur in the friends or family members of those who went through the actual trauma.

Stress and trauma are facts of life. The difference between the two is when trauma occurs; people perceive that their life or safety and/or others’ are being threatened. If an incident is simply stressful, the symptoms will diminish or disappear soon after the cause of stress is reduced.  If the symptoms persist long after the incident is over, then it is trauma.

The traumatic events that lead to PTSD are usually so overwhelming and frightening they would trouble anyone. The mind and body experience shock after a traumatic event.  As our minds process the emotions we move beyond it or we remain in a psychological shock, leading to PTSD.

Sue Gent
President, Private Investigator
Prodigy Investigative Group, Inc.
(772) 634-6040
(954) 866-3338