The Incredibly High Threshold

In this past Sunday’s edition of The Washington Post, there was an excellent article that highlighted a case where the safety of a child seemed to merely be an after thought (if it was a thought at all).  I commend the Washington Post for continuing to expose the ugly realities of Family Court, particularly those in my former home State of Maryland (the same State that endorsed the murder of my son).  This particular piece shined a light on a custody war that is currently ongoing where a mother is trying to protect her four year old son from his father.  While the courts admit that the child’s father (Andrew Monjica) has been convicted of sexually abusing a female minor (and is currently listed on the sex offender registry), he has been granted unsupervised, overnight visits with his son.  The court defends its decision to expose this child to a known sexual predator because it believes all parents have “a constitutional right to raise their children.”

According to the Washington Post, the mother of the child, Gloria Faulkner, says, “the court has taken away my power to protect my son.”  While I normally try to stay away from gender wars in Family Court (as I feel that the Child’s Rights should always come first), I find it curious that in this case the court focuses on a constitutional right that appears only relevant when it comes to the father.  If a parent has a constitutional right to raise his/her child, doesn’t that also include having the right to protect that child from harm?  Why is it that the court is only focusing on the right of this father?  What about the child’s right to be kept safe from a sexual abuser?  What about the mother’s right to protect her child?

Gloria Faulkner continues to fight to try and protect her son from his abusive father.  (Yes, I believe someone who is a convicted sex offender of this nature should always be classified as a child abuser.)  Despite clear and convincing evidence that this man is capable of sexually abusing a child (he did actually get convicted beyond a reasonable doubt), the court does not think the mother’s argument for supervised visitation meets “the threshold”.  Maryland law requires that in situations where there has been a finding of abuse or neglect, the court should determine whether future abuse or neglect is likely and, unless there is no likelihood, deny access or require supervision.  There have been several studies that show 90% of sex offenders will re-offend, and they are four times more likely to commit the crime again.  So given this known statistic, a rational person would realize that future abuse is likely and make a motion to protect the child – despite the “rights” of the parent.  If this case doesn’t meet that threshold, I question if any case really would meet this incredibly high threshold.

Two weeks before my son’s murder, I vividly remember sitting down with my attorneys and pleading with them to file an emergency order to keep visits supervised.  As I begged my attorneys to help me protect my son, Prince sat sleeping peacefully in his stroller.  My attorneys refused and told me that my concerns did not meet the threshold of the court for a change in the existing order.  Luc had been “cleared” by a psychologist and deemed “safe” to be around Prince without supervision.  They warned that if I didn’t stop trying to fight my son’s father, I would end up losing custody.  They were right about several things.  They were correct that my complaints didn’t meet threshold (because the threshold was simply a statement on paper which couldn’t be met no matter what the circumstances).  They were also correct that I would eventually lose my son – though not the way they thought I would.

As I cried and screamed at them that day.  Before leaving in a pool of tears, I asked them something that I am sure haunts them to this day.  I asked them, “what is it going to take?  What is the threshold?  Am I going to have to bring my son to you in a body bag after Luc has killed him for the courts to believe that access should be restricted?”  One of my attorneys smirked and commented that I was over-reacting.  The next time I spoke to them I called from the hospital.  At that time, I wasn’t aware that my son wouldn’t survive what he had been through.  I asked the lawyer what I should do.  His response was, “we will file that emergency motion on Monday.”  Later that same evening, I called my attorney back and said, “Don’t bother filing that motion – it’s too late…he’s dead.”  That Monday my attorney had planned to file the motion was the day of my son’s autopsy.  It was too late for Prince, but the threshold had been met.

I don’t know Gloria Faulkner personally, but I feel connected to her because of the pain I know she is enduring at this moment.  She is not being permitted to be her son’s mother, despite the fact that she has been granted sole legal and primary physical custody of him.  I, too, never felt as though I was allowed to be my son’s mother.  My constitutional right to protect my child and my son’s constitutional right to live didn’t matter when we walked into Family Court.  All that mattered was that my son had access to both of his biological parents – even if that meant playing Russian Roulette with his life.

When it comes to cases where there are founded allegations of previous child abuse, or other behavior that would pose a clear danger to a child, the  offending parent’s “constitutional right” to raise their child should not be the court’s primary concern – it should, in fact, be void.  The primary concern needs to be the safety of the child.  Until the courts realize that current laws, which are supposed to protect children from an abusive parent, are meant to be enforced vice liberally interpreted – children will continue to be abused, children will continue to be murdered, and the basic civil rights of these children will continue to be trampled on by a system that has been charged with their protection.