One day many years ago, C.R. met a handsome and charming man. That’s right – her nightmare began, as they often do, as a dream.

You know the story: They were young and beautiful and he swept her off her feet with fireworks and dizzying chemistry. He lavished her with romance until C.R. felt loved like never before, and thought he was perfect, and believed that their relationship was meant to be.

Of course they got married because they couldn’t possibly imagine life without each other. Together they brought two adorable children into the world. An idyllic family, they were living the American Dream.

Well, it sure seemed that way . . . for a while.

Then came the night that C.R.’s adoring husband grabbed her and dragged her by her hair into their children’s play room and proceeded to beat her until he broke her bones.

After, C.R. knew she needed medical attention, so she went to a doctor who took x-rays of C.R.’s broken bones.

While on the mend physically, C.R. secretly began saving as much money as possible so she could rescue herself and her children from the dangerous abuse.

C.R. was diligent and focused. Only a few months after the assault and battery in the play room, C.R. had saved enough money to regain control over her life. She took herself and her children to a safe and peaceful place. C.R. was filled with hope as she began the arduous task of rebuilding their lives.

Of course, there was the matter of the divorce and child custody proceedings to go through, but C.R. was not afraid. She certainly didn’t expect the litigation to be pleasant, but she had an attorney and documented proof of the physical abuse (the x-rays), so she was confident that the judge would make decisions that would protect C.R. and her children from their abuser, and would allow C.R. to raise her children in a loving and violence-free environment.

But, abusers don’t stop being abusive just because their targets manage to escape.

Once C.R. left him, Mr. Handsome-and-Charming started using the court system to abuse her:

Time to resolve the litigation: 13 years
Number of different judges presiding over the case: 8
Number of docket entries: 824 (60 pages)
Number of trials for child custody: 2
Amount of money C.R. paid to her attorneys: $60,000

When C.R. could no longer afford to pay an attorney to represent her, she was forced to begin representing herself. Former hubby, of course, had no such difficulties.

Once C.R. was on her own, her former husband decided to stop paying his child support obligations. Then he deliberately violated an established custody order when he failed and refused to return the children to her following his normal visitation.

Eventually, as happens frequently when these types of abuse tactics are at play, C.R.’s children were turned against her and became as abusive to her as their father had been. Reluctantly, C.R. ended the second custody trial by relinquishing custody.

The former husband then announced he was in need of child support, so the judge awarded him child support back-dated to the time the former husband had stolen the children a year earlier, and added compounded interest instead of the simple interest mandated by law.

For some unknown reason the former husband’s child support debt to C.R. was cleared from the records without being paid or credited to her, and no interest had ever been added to his debt.

Less than a year after this child support hearing, the former husband went through a divorce from his second wife, which again included charges against him of domestic violence. The former husband boasted during this second divorce that he made a much larger income and owned many more valuable assets than he had testified to in the second child support proceeding with C.R.

Despite having the same judge for both cases, and after bringing this disparate sworn testimony to the judge’s attention, C.R. still was required to pay more than half her income in child support to the man who had almost killed her. C.R. even ended up paying too much child support by paying for the older son until he was almost 20 years old. Although the judge admitted he had neglected several amounts that the former husband had owed to C.R., the judge entered no orders correcting his mistakes.

The end results were that C.R. lost the love of her children, her home went into foreclosure, and she lived with friends until she could get back on her feet.

Three years after the last court hearing, C.R.’s former husband was driving while screaming at a client on his cell phone, and had a stroke. He died from the stroke two months later at age 51. C.R. was finally free from the legal abuse for the first time in 13 years.

C.R.’s children have remained hostile and have told people they are orphans. C.R. has abandoned all hope for a life with her children, and has finally resolved her depression. C.R. is now living a full life and helps other victims of legal abuse, which, she says, allows domestic violence survivors to be tortured via the court system, and ruins the lives of innocent children.

C.R.’s story is far from unique. For some good insight, read Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation, published in the Law & Inequality Journal of the University of Minnesota Law School.

LawYou and its nonprofit arm, Pursuing Justice Foundation, Inc., actively work to solve this problem by educating litigants, engaging in advocacy efforts, and helping pay the expenses of litigation.

Copyright (c) 2015, 2020 by Sherri L. Renner, JD and LawYou America, LLC

9 Responses

  1. Thats a very heavy tale and just know that your not alone,the three times I have made the mistake of taking my issues into a very corrupt system I learned first hand that what we believe to be true and whats going on are very different things.

    These types of crimes and violations of justice are happening in pretty much every court house on a daily basis in todays America.
    I wont get into my nightmare stories as I believe we all [not until your in it]know whats happened in our country and until we come together,get organized,and demand that it stops,it wont stop.I hope that your world has become a bit brighter and that if not already that soon you will be reunited with your children.

    1. DC, we’re working on educating judges so that this type of abuse doesn’t happen as frequently. Thank you for your comment. Please stay tuned for updates on our efforts.

  2. I have also experienced an abusive judge, corrupt attorneys who should have represented me, but sold me out to my abuser (now ex-husband) who stole so much from me. My children have been turned against me. I empathize so much with the suffering of the woman in this story. We need some way to use the court transcripts to obtain actual discipline against corrupt judges.

    1. Wendy, I am so sorry to hear about your experience, which is all too common. We know that it is of the utmost importance for judges and attorneys to be properly educated about abuse dynamics and the personalities of abusers, so we are partnering with the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction ( to create educational programs for them. We also will be striving to create accountability for judges, because that is a necessary part of ensuring that judges apply that knowledge in their courtrooms. We should have some news about these programs within the next few months. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. It is hard to stomach that not much has changed since I went through a similar scenario in the early part of 1990.

    Wish I could say I am not bitter, but I am. And it is true that it is all too common. The majority of women I talk to about male violence against women have an experience to share, and this is only my small corner of the world. I find it disgusting when I hear abuse occurs equally to both sexes, this is ridiculous.

    I find it sad, real sad, that the only entity on earth women have to fear for their lives are our men. Don’t get me wrong, I have two sons and love them dearly. I also know that there are many good men.

    However, figuratively speaking, if there were no men on earth, ( to be very clear, I would not want this) what would women have to fear? Wild animals? Well, on the oft chance you encountered one (a wild animal that is) you could shoot them without question. This isn’t to say a women only earth would be without it’s issues but I’ll bet we could walk down the street any time day or night without fear for our lives..

    The statistics below were copied from an article in the Huffington Post from 10/09/2013:

    Over 18,000 Women Were Killed By Men Since 2003

    Since the landmark Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994, annual rates of domestic violence have plummeted by 64 percent. But still today, an average of three women are killed every day. More often than not, women are shot. Over half of all women killed by intimate partners between 2001 to 2012 were killed using a gun. 

    Sources: Violence Policy Center, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice, Center for American Progress

    Another resource:

    Domestic Violence Intervention Program states:

    A woman is beaten every 9 seconds.

    The American Medical Association (AMA) and FBI estimate 3-4 million women are battered each year in the U.S.

    Domestic Violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women.
    The FBI estimates violence will occur during the course of two-thirds of all marriages.

  4. Thank you so much for your very informative comment. You raise so many important points, and I appreciate that you back up your statements with evidence. I also agree with your refusal to allow men to control the discourse with the demand for the politically correct, “Men are victims, too.”

    Your comment reminds me of the results of a survey I heard about years ago. Male college students were asked what they feared most from women. The number one answer: “We fear they will laugh at us.”

    Female college students were asked what they feared most from men. The number one answer: “We fear they will kill us.”

  5. I also have abusive ex husband, judge, therapist, and lawyers. I have been fighting for my rights and a custody of my children who are 15, 13 and 9 years old now . My children are estranged from me 2.5 years and the therapist, the judge are a big part of the estrangement. My ex and I have over motions in 2.5 years and it is such a complicated mess. I am so sick of the corrupted legal system in this country.

    When I read CR’s story I could not hold my tears. I felt like as if her story was mine. I am so sad and frustrated about the legal system is corrupted and the judges, lawyers do not care about victims, the children’s mental health in the future. Alienation and estrangement is a mental abuse to the children also and these factors affect the rest of their lives, possibly not be able to establish good relationships with others. So many of us are the victims and not much solution at this point. I am so afraid that my life is just fighting to proof the truth and I end up not to have relationship with my children after all. However, I have to wipe my tears and keep fighting! I really appreciate Sherri’s advise and be able to find this site.
    My bank account is almost reaching the bottom and I am trying to learn how to represent myself at the court now. I am a part of the estranged group in this area in FL and there are 30 members. However only 5-6 people come to the meeting and discuss about their issues. We share our stories and help each others to reconnect with their children as we understand so much emotional pain. Yet, it is very hard to deal with.

  6. I almost feel lucky that my husband wanted very little to do with our 5 children until they were old enough to hang at a bar or golf. Isn’t that sad? But they became pawns nonetheless (especially the youngest) in our divorce. As an attorney, he used the system to get to me and my children because THAT threat forced me to back off. The truth is that the courts CAN be manipulated and unreasonable results do occur. An egocentric narcissist with knowledge or imagined power is a very real threat. There should be more oversight and I encourage and endorse the efforts being made here. Logic should not take a backseat to procedure. Fairness and justice should prevail wherever possible.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ms. Kelly, and for the encouragement.

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