Editors Note: Last week we made an error in a timeline on this case of parental alienation in Stillwater County. In that article, we placed Judge Wald in the drivers seat of this current case going back to 2015. The previous judge is Judge Blair Jones. Jones has served on the state Sentence Review Board, the Committee of Judicial Conduct and as the chairman of the Judicial Standards Commission during his tenure. Mr. Jones Retired at the end of 2018. Judge Wald was handed the case in 2019.
In this case the mother of three children has been seeking the right for her children to be heard by the court in an ongoing family dispute. Two of the teenage children are still being pulled back and forth through the
court system but have not been afforded a chance to be heard. Fear of retaliation by the family court system has been front and center on this case and others for many years. According to court records, the dispute continues to deny full due process protecting the rights of the children. In the family dispute there is a parenting plan that is in place. Under Montana law, there is a process that is afforded to the family to use if there is a desire to modify an initial plan adopted by the court. That process requires a formal motion with all parties in the dispute to be served notice. Once the motion is made, the court is obligated to set a hearing to hear both sides so a proper decision can be made. As conditions change there is a position based on professional training. It is here that a trained professional takes on the position of “Parenting Coordinator” to resolve disputes in a parenting plan. The court in this case clearly recorded limitations on that position. “The order appointing the parenting coordinator does not provide the parenting coordinator with any authority to modify the interim parenting plan. The purpose of a parenting coordinator was to help the parents resolve their disputes by agreement.” Distortion of facts based on opinion, instrumented by a counseling program can cause irreparable damage. This program was approved by the court and is referenced going back multiple years under Judge Jones. Since 2019, Judge Wald presides over the case. One counselor in this case, Cherish Roberts, has claimed that mental health is in jeopardy if the judicial system does not make all final decisions for the children based on the counselor’s opinion. This is where “Parental Alienation”(PA) comes into play in this case. According to testimony in court, Cherish Roberts stated “Parental Alienation” Experts Do Not Exist” and goes on to say her qualifications to review these cases came from an Internet class. These children were removed from their mothers home based on a recommendation by Cherish Roberts who is the founder of Crossways Inc, and holding company Family Ties Inc. This counseling company is based in Billings. In two separate cases in Yellowstone county, Crossways and Family Ties have been black listed in that county. In both cases, the court cites harm to children, restricting and or removing parenting time without judicial consent. Even though the Yellowstone County Court blacklisted this company and specifically Cherish Roberts, Judge Jones and now Judge Wald continue the case without question. The continued use of Crossways while providing Cherish Roberts the ability to determine the outcome of family disputes based on PA is raising many concerns. While fighting the pseudo-diagnosis, based on the opinion from Ms Roberts, the court continually denied Mom and the children a true seat at the table. This is well documented in the 22nd Judicial District Court. The initial ruling advised Mom that her parenting time could be restored when the children were older and could withstand parental alienation. According to multiple sources of research, the objective ordered by the court is not measurable. The counselor who created the goal on record stated she is unable to make that determination. The court went forward with that parenting plan anyway. A diagnosis that’s a pseudo diagnosis labeled as such by numerous organizations,equates to psychological abuse of a child. That abuse is based on parent alienation that requires objectives to be met that are not measurable. Mom continues to try but there is no way to know if the objective is ever met. This and multiple other cases across Montana are showing how a change in family court law is needed. Until children have a say in if they wish to attend counseling or if their opinion is given any credence, due process is called into question. Should a counselor have full authority over the children and the future of those children? Should a counselor have unilateral authority to make these decisions? Is a final parenting plan created that’s actually in the best interest of the children. One of the children openly requested to have his/her voice heard by the court, requesting a parenting plan that he/she desired be put in place. That child was forced to hire an attorney to seek the desired outcome, but was continually denied. The Gardian Ad Litem position in each county is in place to provide the children in these disputes a safety net. While complying with the law this position provides the court the ability to have all the facts. Again in this case, the child was denied a GAL. At play here is the question of; “What is the age of consent”? The court denied a 16 year old the opportunity to be heard with no reason given. This child is now 19 and we spoke to this young adult. “I wasn’t allowed to speak to the judge in chambers when I was 16 for which I never got a reason for. From what I understand, I had a right to be heard at 14 and to this day have never been able to have my voice heard in the court system. I wasn’t allowed to testify ever throughout this entire process despite the numerous attempts. ” Cherish Roberts was assigned by the court in this case to provide counseling. The counseling was mandated by the court forcing the teen to attend. At the conclusion, the teen stated that he/she did not learn anything beneficial from the counseling and in fact the question of reason was always front and center. “I don’t think I learned anything from my whole time there and it actually led me to think I was going crazy from the same repetitive stuff over and over. Plus the constant twisting of my words to suit their diagnosis. I tried to tell them what was going on at home and why I wanted to live with mom, but my voice was never heard.
Children in these cases often bring their concerns to school. In many cases the teachers and counselors make a decision to forward their concern to Child Protective Services. In each case, there is another counselor that is assigned to the case. It is at this point, the child is assigned a case number and the justification for intervention is triggered.
The last legislative session under Governor Gianforte, an overhaul of “The Department of Public Health & Human Services (DPHHS) was restructured based on many concerns raised by the people of Montana.
Parental Alienation (PA) has been nationally discredited and denounced as a clinical diagnosis. Even though PA and Parental Alienation Syndrome”(PAS) are unrecognized and unscientific, the use of false assessments is costing the state between $5,000 – $24,000 per case. Each time the opinion of the counselor has resulted in the restriction and/or termination of parental rights.
The “theory” of PA’s came from a concerted effort of an out-of-state organization known as Family Bridges. This California based company has reached into the judicial system and has taken advantage of loopholes in Montana Law. The company provides recruiting and training therapists including Gardian Ad Litem (GAL) personnel. Cherish Roberts is at the center of this organization and has been admonished in the court system in Billings Montana. Most recent development in this case in Stillwater County, Judge Wald issued an order on December 22nd forcing Mom to return the children immediately. That order disregards the parenting plan and was issued without full participation from both sides or legal counsel, and… with no hearing date set. The court in this case pushed the envelope based on an opinion that placed mother and children in danger by demanding the return with well below zero temperatures and blizzard conditions.
Under the law, there is evidence standards found in a legal doctrine known as the Daubert v. Frye Doctrine. It is at this juncture where claims of systematic abuse of the law is practiced to enhance the system by the system for the system. § 2-15-501MCA is one of many Montana laws that are called into question when family court is tasked with providing a sound decision in family disputes. The Montana Attorney General is being asked to provide a legal opinion on Parental Alienation (PA) This request would be clearly within the duties of the Montana Attorney General.
As we pointed out in earlier reports about actions happening here in Montana including Broadwater County, the duty of elected and appointed officials is often controlled by a system that is developed by the system. The Judicial Standards Commission along with other checks & balances continues to come under scrutiny here in Montana. The cause for concern of accountability has reached the bench of the Montana Supreme Court.
The use of qualified experts, witnesses, including therapeutic tactics is considered sound practice to prioritize the safety of Montana children. When those purported qualified professionals make decisions without an outside or accurate assessment of the facts, families suffer. Here in Broadwater County there has been cases with child endangerment yet resolution of those cases is either pending or has been sealed. Judge Abbott of the First Judicial District presided over one case where violence of an individual is documented but the child was placed in that setting against the pleas of the parents.
In Another case recently before the courts here in Montana a 5 year old little girl in Lewis & Clark County is currently under a parental alienation situation where the safety of the little girl is very disturbing. According to multiple parents working to move forward all agree that getting a legal opinion from the Montana Attorney Generals office is a priority for the safety of all children. Those with legal background that we spoke to stated that the law must provide a way to clean up the system. It is paramount to provide the proper legal authority over how private institutions like Family Bridges are utilized by the court system. One legal expert we spoke to stated that there is a problem any time a private company is provided the opportunity to take advantage of the system while profiting from harm to families and children.
With millions of dollars in federal money on the table, accountability is paramount. Without proper training and accountability as an absolute requirement, protecting children cannot move forward.
There is legislation moving into the 2023 session that is set to address the family court system providing relief to those families that are being exploited by a system that protects itself from accountability.
~ Stay Tuned