How we reward those who serve!!!
I read an article today linked by Gold Falcon that really hit home. The article at Andi’s World was about a very common problem faced by our deployed troops. Army National Guard Spc. Joe McNeilly of Grand Ledge, Michigan, had joint custody of his son. When he was deployed he temporarily signed over full custody until he returned home from the war in Iraq. What happened next is nothing short of criminal in my opinion.
While he was gone his son was permanently awarded to the custody of his mother. The legal maneuvering and antics of the court and the boy’s mother are not isolated events where our troops are concerned. Our troops serve and protect our country and our country in return allows the courts to take away their children. In Spc. McNeilly’s case there may yet be justice served as you will see if you read the entire article at Andi’s World.
Reading this story hit home for me for two reasons. First off, as a veteran, I have a special interest in all matters that affect veterans’ rights and benefits. I find it appalling that our troops can be sent to put their life on the line to defend our country, then be penalized by the loss of their children as a reward for their selfless service and sacrifice. In this case the soldier is a male. Though men are often the victims in such cases, I personally know that there are women soldiers who have also suffered this injustice.
The second reason, though no more important in the grand scheme of things to anyone else, is very important to me as it affects a family member. That of course personalizes the matter.
My brother is a recently retired Deputy sheriff locally in Virginia. His wife started to drink heavy after getting hooked on prescribed pills. My brother found out and tried to get her help. She decided to divorce him. She didn’t feel she had a problem. She got a unethical lawyer and took him court out of the county of jurisdiction to avoid the local J&D court and had him charged with child abuse.
We later found out from a family friend that she hurt her their son and went to this friend, a neighbor, to talk about what happened. The next day his wife filed charges against my brother for child abuse and went back to the friend to tell her. The friend asked his wife if she remembered telling her the day before that “she, my brother’s wife” had hurt their son. The friend then told her she was either lying or had a serious problem. My brother’s wife got furious and left. The friend went to my brother and told him what happened. That’s when he discovered her drug problem she had hidden and her drinking. He found over ten prescriptions she had hidden in the house.
Because he is [was] a deputy, he can’t use the normal means of fighting her because he could be fired. But he did appeal the Child Protective Services judgment and they found he had not in fact hurt his child. This was when she took the case outside the jurisdiction to Civil court so J&D wouldn’t be involved. Once she did that his hands were tied. He can do nothing as long as the Civil Court retains jurisdiction. Even though the divorce is final.
She has taken everything, even his pension, and still 5 years later he can’t appeal anything because the judge and lawyer are “friends” and the judge tacked a permanent order on the divorce that forces every attempt to appeal back to him. He has refused to allow my brother to bring supporting evidence of her alcohol and abuse. He is not allowed to charge her with child abuse because they consider it “sour grapes?” Any attempts on his or his lawyers part to bring it back to court for any reason is denied.
But again and again she has him subpoenaed to appear. Presently she has him “show caused” for 10-12 items that each carry a 12 month jail term. The items she “had on the “show cause” are all signed off by her. But she refused to sign them by the deadline so he would appear late. Her lawyer refused to pick up her check.
She has lied to support enforcement and illegally added alimony to the support amount so that once he no longer would owe her she gets it in her child support. Though Support enforcement has seen the court order and agreed this is not correct they are bound by the law because it is on the form submitted by her and her lawyer that way. Only the judge can change it. Though he now has custody of their son and she the daughter, she gets support from Social Security for both. She filed tax returns for both. The IRS sent him a letter for claiming his son because she already claimed him. My brother has had custody of him for two years. He has to be careful filing charges against her for these matters because of the continuous court actions by her. To keep him from doing anything that would get it in the right court she does another court action then keeps dragging out the date for appearance.
He is so deeply in debt he can’ barely get by. Now he has had to retire on disability and she is after her again because it will “cut” her income. She got her self declared disable last year on some frivolous condition that has symptoms much like her drug withdrawal symptoms [couldn’t believe she pulled it off] so she doesn’t work. She gets “all” his pension of he dies, his kids get nothing.
Judges in our county  have looked over the case and say it is improper but can’t touch it while this other judge ties it up. Both the judge and lawyer know if they ever release the case they will be up for review and/or charges. And this doesn’t hasn’t been done just to my brother. There are several men in Virginia who have had similar occurrences where a smart [uncouth] lawyer by passed the proper legal route using the abuse laws used to protect women and “shafted” some innocent guy.
Eventually this abuse of the law will lead to the appeal of a law much needed to protect true cases of abuse because of a poorly written bill or law.
If he could find a good pro bono lawyer with ethics, we could probably do something, but no Virginia lawyer wants to touch it.
For law enforcement officers this is also a very common thing because if the men do anything that gets their name in the papers they get fired. Every day these officers put their life on the line. This is how the courts repay them.
I hope that young soldier keeps fighting for his parental rights. This is wrong and an abuse of the legal system. It is a crime to do such things to those men and women [yes, it happens to women too] who serve in our armed forces, police department, and other jobs to protect the safety and welfare of the public! The law was meant to protect our children. It was not intended to be used to allow a parent to unfairly take away rights of one parent by using their job or unfair legal means.
Parents in the military ought not be penalized in this manner. Our public servants ought not to be prevented from using the very laws they protect for political reasons which is the case when police departments can fire officers for doing the same thing “legally” that the public they serve is allowed. Here is the beginning of my post.