Add this name to our list of corrupt, fathers rights judges: GARY KIMES of Warren County, Iowa.
The abuser dad about to get custody is MATTHEW RILEY. Another example of how daddy's rights trumps everybody else's these days.
Kudos to Rehka Basu at the Des Moines Register, who has bravely taken on the topic of fathers' rights and family court corruption/insanity on several occasions.
Basu: How can sending boy to a dad he's afraid of, and jailing his mother, be in his best interests?
9:07 PM, Aug 7, 2012
Written by Rekha Basu
A judge’s ruling has forced a 13-year-old Des Moines boy to move this week from his mother’s home, where he has lived since age 1, to his father’s, where he hasn’t been for nearly a year and where he feels unsafe.
Among the reasons Grant Risbeck Riley says he does not want to go are the loaded guns his father keeps, the sometimes violent fights he has witnessed between his father and stepmother, and his claim that his father drinks and drives with him in the car and tells him not to tell anyone.
Grant has shared his concerns with therapists, his mother, his aunt and me. In a journal, he wrote, “I am always nervous when (my stepmother) gets mad because she could shoot my dad and I when we’re sleeping so I always sleep with a BB gun close.”
The Iowa Department of Human Services founded four abuse complaints against his father, Matthew Riley, before 2006, but DHS settled with him after he contested them. None of those complaints involved his directly assaulting his son.
In one incident, Grant told of seeing his father break his stepmother’s nose. In another, his father was cited for denial of critical care after Grant suffered injuries, including having gravel embedded in his head in an ATV accident, but was not treated. Grant’s stepsister, who had lived in Riley’s house, was the subject of a child-in-need-of-assistance proceeding, and a settlement was reached transferring custody of her to her own father.
In making the move to Corning, about two hours away, Grant is being forced to leave his 7-year-old half-brother, Christ the King School, which he has attended since preschool, and a mother, Kellie Risbeck Phillips, whom he describes as “great, amazing, loving — basically everything you can think of that’s good.”
This abrupt transfer was the unexpected upshot of Phillips’ filing for a modification of custody so that Grant would not have to go to his father’s. She got the opposite outcome, however.
Last July, Grant came home from a visitation and told his mother that his stepmother had pushed and kicked him. “He begged and pleaded not to go back,” says Phillips. She says he has cried, threatened to run away from home and locked himself in a closet. His therapists have urged her to take his feelings seriously, she said.
Riley responded to Phillips’ modification request by seeking primary physical care of the boy. Warren County District Judge Gary Kimes on July 20 not only gave Riley that, but also sentenced Phillips to 40 days in jail for keeping Grant away from his father since last year.
Asked about it, Kimes said, “I believe if you base your decision solely on what’s in the (trial) record, you will agree with what I did.”
One problem seems to be that no evidence of abuses in the home, which spoke to why Grant feels unsafe, was offered at the trial. Phillips says that is part of the lengthy case history. “All this evidence has been presented at least three times before,” she said.
With regard to abuse cases once founded being changed to unfounded, Iowa Department of Human Services spokesman Roger Munns noted, “The court has access to the entire history of a case, including any settlement and any record prior to the settlement.”
Whoever is at fault, the child’s best interests do not appear to have been served.
Phillips’ new attorney, Lora McCollum, calls the situation tragic. She says she worries about the boy’s emotional wellbeing even more than his physical safety at his dad’s home, where his experiences are denied or dismissed.
Riley’s attorney, Erin Carr, acknowledged Grant’s need to feel safe and said, “We take that very, very seriously, and one of the requirements is for the child to be in therapy.” But Carr stressed that a key determinant of who gets primary care is a parent’s ability to foster a relationship with the other.
These are tricky issues. Shouldn’t a teenager get some say over core decisions affecting his or her life? Does the system build in enough room for that, or does it just treat kids as pawns in adults’ struggles? Grant was assigned a guardian ad litem, but according to Philips, that legal representative spent only about 20 minutes with the boy and made no recommendation to the court, even prompting the judge to observe that his input was not helpful.
Even understanding the need for contact with the other parent, can a parent force that on a youngster for whom it is traumatic?
Since the recent move to his father’s place, Phillips says Grant has called in the middle of the night crying and asking to come home. McCollum is asking the court to reinstate the original custody order or schedule a new trial. In the meantime, she is seeking an order to delay any change of custody while the case is being decided.
The clock is ticking. Grant’s Des Moines school starts up again Aug. 22. The new school where he would be transferred starts Aug. 15. Phillips is due to begin her sentence Sept. 1, and Grant blames himself. “It wasn’t her decision. It was mine,” he says of not going to his father’s. “She’s getting punished for it. It’s not right.”
So many things are not right here. This case needs to be taken back to the drawing board and rethought.