“I am not a criminal but am being treated as one. It is all emotionally and financially bankrupting.” ~ Marisa Ringel
Litigant and Family Court Advocate, Marisa Ringel, says that family court is run with a “mob mentality” and uses a referral ring system to shake down money from parents. Further, the collusion and bias existing in family court obstructs justice, and places children at risk of harm. Ringel’s controversial testimony offers insight into the operations, and players behind family court.
Connecticut- In April 2015, Marisa Ringel spoke in front of the Judiciary Committee to oppose the re-nomination of Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers because she felt Rogers did not do enough to reform the broken family court system and the deeply flawed Guardian ad Litem program.
Marisa has experienced the failures of the family court system, and GAL program, as a mother involved in extensive litigation and working as a family court advocate. Her remarks are based on her experience, and knowledge about family court, and its operations.
This article will focus on portions of Marisa’s speech to the Judiciary Committee which can be read in full here: Marisa Ringel Public Testimony 4/10/2015
The portions of the speech selected for this article are commonly heard complaints, that have been made by other parents who have been victimized by the failures in the family court systems. Please feel free to add your thoughts below.
Family Court Mob Mentality
Marisa believes the family court is run with a “mob mentality” where, “2 or more, who come together each acting outside of their profession’s code of ethics and code of conduct and whom work together to place their own self-interests, and own group interests, higher in priority than the duties that they have been sworn in to, or licensed, to preform.” The mob mentality of family court, and its officers, is opposed to justice, and obstructs the best interest of children and families involved in its proceedings.
The “Referral Ring”: Referrals = Cash for Family Court Providers
Marisa says the family court system is running a “referral ring”, where the judge acts as a broker who gives referrals to selected providers that may include: Guardian ad Litems, mental health providers, evaluators, supervised visitation facilitators, family relations programs etc Each referral = cash. There are “kickbacks” when the person making the referral gets a fee, or percentage of income, for sending a client to a provider or business. Then there is income generated from billing the client for services rendered. Not to mention the steady stream of income generated from the sheer volume of referrals, and the increased business.
According to Marisa, the “referral ring” works by, “GALs hand out cash values in referrals to mental health professionals. Counsels hand out referrals for a GAL. Judges give referrals to a GAL. There is a lot of cash value wrapped up in the referral circle. And there are alliances, very thick, walled-ones going on that will protect the flow of referrals and keep it amongst themselves…The shake down begins. 10K here, 5K there, 20K over there to that one, before you know it, in a short time, that litigant stuck in the middle of the judge-ordered referral ring is out tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. ” And, “The goal in many parts of the judicial process appears to be to pass the party through all facets of the referral ring via court orders, aka judge-brokered deals, so each member of the mob gets a piece of the litigants assets.” Marisa does not speak about pro-se parties who cannot afford to pay for services, this aspect should be further investigated; however, many believe federal funding offers another incentive for the family court “referral ring”.
I have also heard complaints about the “referral ring” from other parents, and also have been subjected to the “referral ring” in my own family court case. The following comments are based on what is commonly being reported.
In cases where a “referral ring” is used, the court will personally select the providers and professionals utilized, and restrict or punish the parent from using a provider outside of the ring. Parents are not being allowed the ability to freely select a provider. Parents will even be forced to see a provider that is not covered by their insurance, and thus, will incur large out of pocket expenses and often will be punished if they do not utilize the provider.
Parents who do not use the “referral ring” recommended providers, or who object or raise complaints, are commonly punished with loss of custody, loss of visitation or not allowed to see their child(ren). Other parents are fined or thrown in jail. Which is beneficial to the “referral ring” because the more problems or the more dysfunction present in the family (whether real or instigated) the more business generated for the “referral ring”.
Over time, the “referral system” will reveal itself when it becomes apparent that the court is using certain professionals or service providers on a majority of cases. Another indication of the “referral system” is that a conflict of interest may exist between the players. Another clue that a “referral system” is in play is when all of the court-appointed professionals share the exact same opinion, and speak with one voice. Even if the situation changes or new evidence is brought forth, the “referral ring” does not change or adapt its views. While referrals can be helpful when used properly, if the referrals are being abused, and used to promote business it increases the cost of litigation, increases the length of litigation and increases the stress put onto a family.
A Personal Story – the “Referral Ring”:
In my situation, my child was seeing a therapist who was just an intern at the clinic. When the intern left, my child had to see a new therapist. My child was attached to the therapist, and it was painful for her when therapy was terminated, and she had to bond with yet another therapist. My child also has communication problems, so it was crucial that she worked with one, consistent therapist and that she felt a level of trust.
I found a respectable clinic with a highly qualified therapist who would work with my child. This therapist could provide consistent treatment for my daughter, she had worked at the clinic for many years. When I sought therapy at this clinic, I was blocked by the Guardian ad Litem, Jamie Manning. I have documents that prove Jamie Manning has an improper relationship with one of the head therapists at the clinic, and the therapist is violating the ethical and professional standards set by the APA when doing business with Jamie. Jamie Manning said that I only want therapy for my child because I really need it for myself (never mind the medical evidence disputing this ridiculous accusation!). I was then told by Jamie Manning that I could not take my child to the therapist I had selected, and said I needed to wait until the current clinic had another intern available. I spoke to the supervisor at the clinic and she confirmed that no intern was currently available to treat my child, and that she had no problem with me seeking services at another clinic. I was pressured by Jamie Manning, and made to believe that if I continued with therapy, I would lose custody of my child. So I did not pursue therapy at at the clinic of my choice.
My child went without therapy, and treatment for 3 months, during which time she began to regress, and suffered increased emotional and psychological problems. This was compounded when Jamie Manning began to increase unsupervised, and overnight, visitation with her abusive father. During one visit, the father failed to properly supervise my child and she was injured.
Jamie Manning then filed a motion with the court to give custody to the father because my child was not doing well (a situation she helped to create!) and she stated in her affidavit to the court, that I am endangering my child because I wanted to seek therapy from a different clinic. Jamie Manning also stated that I am an unfit mother because I am afraid of my former abuser, and having that fear creates an unhealthy environment for the children. Jamie Manning did nothing to address the abuse, and risk to the children caused by the abuser, but instead, gave the abuser a free pass and punished the victim.
Not only did I lose custody of my child but I was referred by Jamie Manning into supervised visitation with another provider in the “referral ring”. I was subjected to supervised visitation while the abuser gained sole custody of both children. There have been over a dozen documented reports of child abuse against this man and both children have developed PTSD and anxiety as a result of the abuse. My child was traumatized when abruptly taken from the only home she has ever known, and has not fully recovered. Now in the care of an abusive father, my children continued to report abuse and other concerning events, and continued to suffer from severe behavioral and emotional problems. Nothing Jamie Manning recommended has been proven to be in the best interest of my children.
My child has worked with at least 3 different interns. Jamie Manning has interfered in the therapy of my children, and triangulated the providers as part of her agenda. My children are not doing well in the father’s care. The father is now considering putting my child on psychotropic medication, which I feel is not needed. When my child is in my care, she is happy, healthy and sociable. I feel the problem is the abuse and dysfunction happening in her father’s care.
It has been years since Jamie Manning orchestrated the removal of my child from her safe, loving home – and she still struggles, severely. If I was able to get help from a provider of my choice, who was qualified as well as unbiased (not part of the “ring of referrals), I feel my child would be doing better, and would be stabilized by now.
Judges Outsource their Responsibility
Another complaint Marisa has is that a judge will “outsource” his responsibilities to another party – namely a Guardian ad Litem or attorney, therapist, evaluator or other professional. Judges may use the “referral ring” to outsource duties, rather than directly make a decision or handle the case itself.
Outsourcing commonly happens when a judge asks a Guardian ad Litem to perform duties outside of the statutory tasks of their job – or when a judge “rubber stamps” the recommendations of a GAL into a court order, meaning the judge’s relationship with the GAL shapes the outcome of a case, not facts, evidence or law.
When the “Best Interest is Not the Best Interest”
Failures in the family court system ultimately have devastating consequences on families, children, and society as a whole. There are good judges, good GALs and professionals that uphold the law, and advocate for families. But the rampant flaws in the system, and tragic stories from parents, indicate those numbers are few – that the family court system is not only broken, but destroying the families it was designed to protect.
Testimonies like Marisa Ringel’s provide a cautionary tale of what will happen if we fail to reform the family court system and GAL program, “My case number is like a prison number to me FBT-FA-…-S keeping my son from his mother and me from my son. This is of an alarming concern with how disrespecting of our mother-child relationship I have experienced by our state’s family court. “And there are countless other stories being told from other family court victims.
Meaningful measures need to be taken to study, and identify problem areas in family court. Once those areas are identified, serious change needs to happen. Increased oversight is a must, along with disciplinary action for judges, GALs and court officers who violate their mandated duties, or act outside the law.
The family is the backbone, the foundation of society. And our children are it’s future, it’s leaders, and will one day have their own families. Divorce or child custody disputes do not have to be so traumatic; extending the duration of childhood, and damaging the family with the continued intrusion of the courts. Reform is truly in the best interest of children, and in the interest of justice itself.
~ EJ Perth. 2015
About: Marisa Ringel is a mother of two children who has been involved in family court litigation for over 10 years, and has become an outspoken advocate for reform in the family court and Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program after experiencing its systemic failures. Ms. Ringel currently “has 50% joint legal and joint physical custody” of her children; she claims she has normal visitation with her daughter but has not seen her son for over 2 years, and is being alienated from him. She is also a member of the Coalition for Connecticut Family Court Reform. Marisa Ringel Bio, FCLU: Bio Melissa Ringel