Ottawa County, Michigan
Early in our marriage, things with my husband seemed very normal. After our two sons were born, I began to notice a disconnect with my husband. He began to show bitterness and anger toward me. My husband told me things would be better if I lost weight, spent less money, or had dinner ready for him. He began to drink heavily, and would frequently come home drunk.
One day, my husband dragged me into our bedroom in a choke hold. I managed to get away and ran into the hallway, where I saw our four and seven year-old boys. I took our sons into another room, locked the door, and called the police. Despite the situation and my bruises, the police didn’t allow me to press charges against my husband. Shortly after that incident, my husband decided to leave us and the marriage.
After our divorce was finalized, Judge Engle refused to enforce the judgement of divorce. Although I was struggling to make ends meet and care for our sons, Judge Engle ordered even lower child support payments. In addition, Judge Engle did not require my ex-husband to pay his court-ordered half of documented $12,000 in child care expenses.
On numerous occasions when I brought our children to see my ex-husband, he refused to open his door. Then later he took me to court claiming I denied him parenting time. My ex-husband also drank frequently during parenting time against our court order. All along, Judge Engle did nothing to enforce our court order or protect my children. Instead, Judge Engle threatened me with jail time if I withheld parenting time when my husband was drinking.
Friend of the Court (FOC) attempted to force me into mediation with Dan Qualls, who was our former counselor. The court pressured me to have a psychological evaluation. This proposed evaluation was to be done by their court-employee, Ben Burgess, who is only a master’s-level, limited-license psychologist. The court pushed these actions in order to discredit me, and cover up my ex-husband’s behavior.
For years after our divorce, my ex-husband was allowed to harass me through the very legal system designed to ensure justice. It is my hope steps will be taken to bring accountability into the family court system for the protection of children.