“Esther” – My Story
Ottawa County, Michigan
Early on in our marriage, my husband became angry and violent towards me and our two children. This escalated into physical and sexual abuse towards me. I separated from my husband when I found twisted pornography with a minor on his phone, and I knew we had to divorce when a later argument got out of control and my husband threatened to kill our son.
Due to the trauma our children experienced at home, they were later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders. After we separated, I was granted a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against my husband and was given sole custody of our children.
Eight months later, the Friend of the Court (FOC) granted my ex-husband unsupervised visitation with the children. Within a month the children begin exhibiting suicidal thoughts and self abusive behaviors during and after these visitations. Their therapists referred them to Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services where the doctors’ notes quoted the children listing their father’s abusive behavior.
When I notified my ex-husband, and the court that I was ending parenting time until we went before the judge again, FOC illegally filed an Ex-Parte Motion to grant the paternal grandparents temporary full custody, even though I had a legal right to protect my children from abuse.
Three months later at the trial, Judge VanAllsburg would not allow the children’s doctor’s reports from Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in as evidence of the abuse, claiming they were hearsay because the doctors were not present in the courtroom. With the abuse covered up, the court workers claimed I had alienated the children from their father and was mentally unfit to care for our children.
Judge VanAllsburg then gave the children to the paternal grandparents, and allowed their abusive father full access to the children. I am only allowed to see our children for two hours per week under supervision for $50 per hour and I am required to pay child support. The family court system is placing children back into abusive homes and financially oppressing their protective parents.
Currently, my children have been out of my home for 15 months with no plan for reunification. This is against the Michigan Child Welfare Law which details the reunification process, which I have been denied without due process. Recently, the father and grandfather of my 13 year old son, ganged up on him and he fought back. His father called the police and told them his son assaulted them, so the police placed my son in Juvenile Detention for the weekend. My son must now go before a judge to be tried for assault and battery charges.
The grandparents have been threatening the children since they got custody of them over a year ago. They have threatened to ship them off to Romania or Asia or put them in foster care or “juvi”, because they weren’t worth anything. They told my son that he would never hold a job or find anyone to love and marry him. He’s been punched, kicked in the stomach, emotionally abused, and most importantly, taken away from me, his mother, the only one who shows him unconditional love. None of the these behaviors were ever present when our son was with me or at school…only when he is with his grandparents and/or his father.
My children and I have suffered abuse at the hands of their father and grandparents. They were taken away illegally, violating my children’s and my due process rights, by Ottawa County FOC investigators, Peter Armstrong, Ben Burgess, and Judge Jon VanAllsburg. As a volunteer at Wings for Justice, I have seen this pattern in Ottawa County Family Court of illegally targeting the children of abused women who come into family court. It is easier to steal children from abused women who have been drained financially by their abuser than from those with the financial resources to hire attorneys and pay for professionals to testify. The family court system, the friend of the court, and child protective services earn federal money by removing children from their homes and placing them with a third party or a relative. This is especially true in Ottawa County.