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SONYA SPRAGUE v. THOMAS SPRAGUE JR. is a series of ongoing separation/divorce Vermont legal actions. Sonya Sprague and Thomas Sprague are married and have three minor children. In May 2023, Sonya Sprague filed a complaint for legal separation and a complaint for relief from abuse alleging that Thomas Sprague had sexually assaulted her. The family division held a final hearing in June 2023. The court found that in April 2023, Sonya Sprague was taking a shower when Thomas Sprague digitally penetrated her anus. The court found that this constituted abuse. It found that there was a danger of further abuse. It issued a one-year abuse-prevention order prohibiting defendant from abusing plaintiff or contacting her for any reason other than to discuss parent-child contact and finances. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Vermont affirmed in January 2024. The court specifically noted that Thomas Sprague complained that it had been improper for the trial court to inquire of the plaintiff, after she had testified that she had told the elders in her Jehovah's Witness congregation about defendant's behavior, "tell me a little bit about the process within your community about going to see your elders."
RAZORBACK JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
PAMELA HOPPER v. DANNY HOPPER was a 2021-23 Arkansas DIVORCE case. This case summary is the November 1, 2023, decision by the Court of Appeals of Arkansas to affirm the final order by the Crawford County Circuit Court extending a ten year order of protection against Danny Hopper until May 2032. Excerpts (edited):
[Pamela Hopper] sought an ex parte order of protection on May 2, 2022. In her petition, she stated that throughout the parties' first five years of marriage, [Danny Hopper] had thrown objects at her head, had choked her on two occasions, had pulled her around by her hair and face, and had slammed her hand in the door. [Pamela Hopper] indicated that she was afraid of [Danny Hopper] because he was very unstable and was making threats and showing up at her residence and her friend's residence. She alleged [Danny Hopper] had showed up at the friend's residence "in disguise" to inquire about appellee. [Pamela Hopper] also stated that [Danny Hopper] called the lady she lives with and provides care for to persuade the lady to fire appellee. [Pamela Hopper] stated that she is in immediate and present danger of domestic abuse because [Danny Hopper] is desperate to stop their divorce and is becoming angrier in the many daily emails he sends appellee. [Pamela Hopper] alleged that appellant told her that she is "going to end up like the dead kitten in [their bathtub]." According to [Pamela Hopper], appellant has sent her over one thousand emails since kicking her out of the marital home. In the accompanying affidavit, [Pamela Hopper] stated that appellant is "insisting [that she] stop the divorce and come home before it's too late, and that [Pamela Hopper] will end up like the dead kitten that was floating in [the parties'] bathtub." [Pamela Hopper] alleged that appellant's behavior is bizarre and that he is "[v]ery unstable and capable of doing harm." [Pamela Hopper] indicated that [Danny Hopper] came to her residence twice on April 28 and then went to her friend's residence in disguise.
The Crawford County Circuit Court entered an ex parte order of protection on May 2, effective until May 25, the date a hearing was set. ... The hearing took place as scheduled. [Pamela Hopper] testified that she and [Danny Hopper] were now divorced as of the prior week. [Pamela Hopper] stated that [Danny Hopper] had continuously harassed her since kicking her out of the house on October 14, 2021, including his attempt to have her fired and kicked out of her current residence. [Pamela Hopper] testified that [Danny Hopper] has been physically abusive to her in the past, including choking her on two separate occasions. She said that [Danny Hopper] is volatile and unstable and that she wants the protection order so that she does not have to deal with him again.
[Pamela Hopper] testified that [Danny Hopper] is no stranger to protection orders because both his ex-wife and an attorney had to take protection orders out against appellant for stalking. She said that [Danny Hopper] served four years in prison, partly due to the stalking. [Pamela Hopper] introduced messages from appellant that she described as "a veiled threat or something derogatory or something to that effect." She said that appellant has sent her a couple of dozen emails since the temporary order of protection was entered, with the last one being sent on May 22.
On cross-examination by appellant, [Pamela Hopper] testified that she is a live-in caregiver for an eighty-three-year-old woman and that [Danny Hopper] came to that residence twice on April 28. She stated that on the same day, [Danny Hopper] wore a disguise and went to a mutual friend's home. [Pamela Hopper] stated that when [Danny Hopper] first assaulted her, he took "a handful of change and threw it at the side of [her] head." [Pamela Hopper] said that appellant shut her hand in the bedroom door when she was trying to keep him from shutting her in the room. She stated that [Danny Hopper] choked her twice within the second or third year of their marriage. She said that they were married in 2015. [Pamela Hopper] stated that there was an incident after the choking incidents where appellant pulled her by the back of her hair and jerked her around because she told appellant that maybe he should "get with" a lady in their congregation that he commented had a "nice rack."
[Pamela Hopper] stated that she watched the Ring doorbell video that showed appellant at her friend's house in disguise asking questions pertaining to appellee. She said that her employer told her about the conversation the lady had with appellant in which [Danny Hopper] told the lady that "if she joined [Pamela Hopper] in [her] rebellion that God would take his blessing away from her." Appellee was shown an email sent by appellant to her employer, and appellee stated that she did not see anything specifically in the email about appellant attempting to get her fired but that he alluded to it. Appellee stated that she took appellant's reference to the dead kitten in several emails to be "a veiled threat."
[Danny Hopper] testified next. He stated that he went to appellant's residence on the date in question to see if her employer had gotten the message he had sent to her. He stated that [Pamela Hopper] suffers from narcissistic personality disorder in which only 40 percent of what appellee says is true and that he had studied the disorder for two years. He stated that he went to appellee's residence because he wanted her employer to know what appellee does. [Danny Hopper] went on to explain that they are Jehovah's Witnesses, and he did not understand the grounds [Pamela Hopper] relied on for separation. He denied kicking [Pamela Hopper] out of the home. The circuit court informed appellant that what it really wanted to know was whether appellee is in danger of domestic abuse from appellant. Appellant stated that appellee was not in danger of abuse. He said that he went to the parties' mutual friend's house in disguise because no one would answer the door for him, and he had two questions he wanted answered. He denied going there to stop the pending divorce. Appellant testified that he was in the process of putting in an RV park, and he did not want [Pamela Hopper] to "up [her] demand for money to sign the divorce." However, he stated that he was contacting people to let them know that what appellee was saying about him was not true.
[Danny Hopper] told the circuit court that [Pamela Hopper] sent him a text quoting a scripture condemning him and that he texted appellee back. He admitted that he sent appellee messages after the protective order had been entered because "she was [his] wife," and he wanted to warn her "that a person who is deceitful and -- and divorce their marriage -- their mate with deceitful grounds will not inherit God's kingdom. That means they will be just like the dead kitten, they won't get resurrection."
EMELDAH CHAMA v. JOSEPH MALUMBO SIMBEYE was a 2021 California divorce and child custody case which has been referenced in multiple airings of a segment of the JUDGE JUDY television program, in which the husband's babysitter sued remarried Emeldah Dickerson, Registered Nurse, over an assault which allegedly had occurred during a child custody exchange. Judge Judy awarded $1 damages each to the plaintiff babysitter and the allegedly recently converted African-American Jehovah's Witness RN defendant.
NOLT v. NOLT (2020-21) was an "outcome unknown" TYPICAL WATCHTOWER CULT PROSELYTIZING case, which can be found on nearly every one of our divorce webpages. In their late 50s, with their children grown and living on their own, Ivan S. Nolt Jr. and Jane Nolt were Old Order Mennonites living in a rural Old Order Mennonite community, including many Old Order Mennonite relatives, just outside Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. Proselytizing JWs began visiting the home-alone Mennonite wife, and slowly but surely, a convert was made. Much can be made of the fact that such a mild-mannered 58 year-old Mennonite husband could have been driven to get his .22 "varmint" rifle and fire six shots into the unoccupied "field service van" parked in front of his home, in April 2020, which belonged to the Jehovah's Witness couple who were breaking up the Nolt marriage.
The JWs fled once the shooting ceased and reported the incident to Mifflinburg Police, who contacted PA state police. Nolt told responding PSP he had grown frustrated when he learned the Jehovah's Witness family would visit yet again. Nolt had telephoned friends for advice, but no one answered. Nolt said he remembered firing only three shots, and that he had hoped to scare away the JWs, and keep them away from his wife. Nolt explained that immediately after the shooting that he had regretted his actions and admitted that he was in the wrong.
Trooper Brian Watkins filed charges of criminal mischief, a felony, and three misdemeanor counts each of terroristic threats, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person. Nolt posted $5,000 cash bail and was released. In April 2021, an understanding local prosecutor agreed to a plea deal in which Nolt pleaded guilty to only the terroristic threats misdemeanor, and was sentenced to two years probation.
SALTERN v. MINK is an ongoing 2019-23 Australia CHILD CUSTODY case (until JWFather succeeds at one of his suicide attempts), which we include here because the Non-JW Wife's Aussie Attorney made exceptional efforts to discovered and present as evidence the rather typical, usual, and normal things about the JW-reared Father that few if any recent American Attorneys have taken the time and effort to discover and expose about members of the WatchTower Cult whom they are opposing. This court case summary should be copied and given as required reading to every media reporter encountered by XJW activists.
Mid-20s Saltern and Mink began dating in Brisbane in 2016 after meeting on Tinder. In 2017, the couple began cohabitating, and a son "X" was born in 2018. The couple separated for the final time in March 2019, and this custody battle ensued. Here are some pertinent edited excerpts from the court's "Findings" in the June 2020 decision:
... I accept the mother's evidence that she was physically assaulted by the father on Christmas Day 2018. ... I also accept the mother's evidence that the father physically assaulted her on 2 February 2019. The bruising that resulted from this assault was seen by the maternal grandmother a day or two later. ... I accept the evidence of the mother when she said that the father hit her in places that did not show the bruises. I accept that there were bruises that she received from the father's physical assaults and that she was able to hide those bruises with her clothing. I accept that the father hit the mother on her thighs and around her head and that she would have bruises on her back and sides from where the father would grab her and shove her. ...
... The fact of the matter is that the mother was asked by the father to go away with X while he tried to "sort himself out". The father was not doing as well as was thought and so the mother returned. On 1 February 2019, the mother attended Dr G with the father. There was an agreement between the parties that, after discussion with Dr G, the mother should return to Town B with X whilst the father continued his task of getting better.
This chronology shows that the mother was invested in the relationship and that she wanted the father to be the best father he could be to X. As it turned out, the father was nowhere near as invested in the relationship as the mother. But the mother cared for the father and wanted him to be well again.
... The mother ended the relationship by phone on 4 February 2019. The mother still spoke with the father and it was the father's actions during the last of their phone calls that caused the mother to raise the alarm regarding the well-being of the father. On the evidence before me, the mother's actions probably saved the father's life after the suicide attempt ... The mother still cares for the father, notwithstanding that she no longer wishes to be in an intimate relationship with him. The mother also recognised the importance that the father has in X's life. ... ...
... The family violence inflicted upon the mother was more than just physical. The mother claimed that the father had spied on her by accessing her social media accounts. The father told Dr G that he was "very tech savvy and had pulled messages from Ms Mink's (the mother's) phone that led him to believe she was having an affair". The father also wrote, in the child support application, that he had a private detective befriend the mother and report back to him on her activities. ... These actions illustrate the controlling nature of the father. ...
... I have concluded that the father was responsible for the damage to the property of the mother following her "escape" on the night of 30 March 2019. I have concluded that the father was responsible for the "keepsakes" of the mother going missing. I have also concluded that the father was responsible for interfering with the mechanism of the car of the mother to prevent her from ever reclaiming it.
--- (The mother started packing her car and noticed that the car seat had been removed. The police had to retrieve the seat from the father. When the mother tried to start her car it would not turnover. The mother opened the bonnet and the police officer noticed that the battery terminal and fuse were missing. The police went and spoke to the father and the father eventually returned the battery terminal and fuse to the mother. The police officer was able to fix the car temporarily so that the car would start and that the mother could drive it away.) ---
... The father has an amazing ability to lie and to twist facts to favour himself. To try and extricate himself from the consequences of his actions, the father invented such absurd scenarios such as the mother hacking his child support application, the mother faking a photograph that displays bruising to her chest, a break-in at his house and a confrontation with an unknown Islander male.
He has claimed to everyone that the mother was the reason that he committed suicide but neglected to tell anyone of the role that (new girlfriend) was playing in his life at that time. He has said that the mother wanted to take his name off X's birth certificate, when the truth of the matter was that this was something that he, himself, asked the mother to do....
... The picture that the father has attempted to paint is one in which he is totally blameless, and where he suffers at the hands of a cruel and vindictive mother. And yet, when the true situation is exposed, particularly by reference to the notes of Dr G, the problems that the father was facing, were problems of his own making. (Centuries-old WatchTower Cult SOP) ...
... I accept the evidence of the mother that, in March 2019, the father flexed his financial muscle and demanded that she not use the facilities that he had paid for. This meant that she kept her food in an Esky. I also accept that the father, wanting to ensure that the mother could not make any financial claim against him, transferred whatever assets he had into a trust. (See Charles Taze Russell Financial Biography) ...
... ... The mother was honest and forthright. She made appropriate concessions in cross examination. Her attitude and personality that was displayed in the witness box, was mirrored in the material before the Court; that is, the objective material corroborated her version of her actions and motivations.
The mother could be described as "what you see is what you get" in that there is no guile or deception in what it is that she says or does. I am of the view that her actions are totally consistent with her claims that she was a victim of family violence. And yet, despite what the mother has endured, she has still attempted to facilitate a relationship between X and the father because she recognises that it is important for X to know his father.
The father is very much in contrast to the mother. He has not accepted any culpability for any action that he has taken. He claimed that it was the mother's fault that he did not have a bond with X. He claimed that it was the mother's fault that he made an attempted suicide.
When confronted with an incontrovertible circumstance, the father makes excuses and tries to obfuscate the facts in such a way that he is blameless. If one were to look at the father, in a superficial manner, he would come across as a caring parent who was doing nothing more than attempting to have a better relationship with his infant son. It is only when one digs deeper and truly analyses the actions and behaviour of the father, that one can see the controlling behaviour.
The father has used a physical violence on the mother. The threat that he made that he would "hunt her down" is not a throwaway line, but a true statement of intent. He has stalked her in the past and has the capacity to do so in the future. He has destroyed her property. He has been financially coercive of her and he has been emotionally coercive of her. ... ...
... ... In this case, the mother submits that there have already been two issues of disagreement between herself and the father already. The first has been over the issue of religion and the second has been over the issue of health.
The mother has claimed that the father is a Jehovah's Witness. The father did not deny this claim, but instead remained silent. The mother claimed that the father did not observe Easter or Christmas. The mother had gone with the father to (his) Kingdom Hall as part of the father observing his religion. The mother says that she does not want this to be part of X's life until he is old enough to make his own choice.
The father has submitted that there have been no arguments about religion and that any issue that arises regarding religion, in the future, will be able to be resolved.
The mother has claimed that the father was unwilling for X to be vaccinated. She said that the paternal grandmother was vehement in her opposition to X's vaccination. The mother claims that the opposition to vaccination, and other medical procedures, stems from the religious practices of the family of the father.
The father has submitted that, in the end, he did not stand in the way of X being vaccinated. He claims that this illustrates that he and the mother can come to decisions on these issues. ... ...
... I do not see the need to make any orders regarding special days. I accept that the father does not celebrate Christmas or Easter, because of his adherence to the doctrines of Jehovah's Witness. If the father wished to spend part of X's birthday or Father's Day with X, that is something that can be negotiated with the mother in substitution for the visit that the father would have with X in that particular month. ...
TYRELL v. TYRELL (pseudonym) is an ongoing 2016-23 New South Wales, Australia Divorce-Custody-Property Settlement case. The three main actors are a wealthy, 94 year-old, JW Family Matriarch; her only-surviving-child and dependent-on-mother JW Son; and the disfellowshipped (9/2020) and divorced (5/2021) ex-wife. Both litigants were/are frequently being dishonest, disceitful, and outright liars --essentially using "every trick in the book" against each other.
The JW Couple had twins -- son and daughter -- in 2006, and another son in 2010. This couple lived together until December 2019 (despite Wife openly carrying on an affair), when Police removed Wife from the family home due to violence concerns. Husband cared for their three children until September 2022, when the family court granted Ex-wife custody of the youngest child.
In order to obscure the family's status as Jehovah's Witnesses, the Husband has repeatedly interjected suggestions that he, his ex-wife, and their children celebrated holidays and birthdays -- which disfellowshipped ex-wife denies. Husband even testified that he was unaware that a Kingdom Hall was located less than two blocks from the two homes where he has lived his entire life. Amusingly, Husband testified that he always has placed the interests of his three children over and above the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and that he was "born to be a husband and father. There's nothing as rewarding as that." Husband also has asserted that he no longer is a believing JW, while disfellowshipped Ex-wife claims to still be a believer.
In fact, Husband (b:1966) was reared as one of Jehovah's Witnesses by two active JWParents in the typical WatchTower Cult fashion -- meetings, field service, TMS, etc. Twenty-six year-old Husband actually met his then 16 year-old immigrant future wife "at the door" in 1993. She was baptized in 1994, at age 17, so that she could marry 27/28 year-old Husband as soon as she became 18 years-old. Neither party has ever been gainfully employed for any significant period of time during their 25 year marriage. Rather, they depended on Husband's wealthy JWParents for the couple's $1,100,000.00 home (two doors down from parents' home), and had free access to a $500,000.00 bank account. Both parties also applied for and received government disability pensions for injuries (Husband) and CFS (Wife:2005).
Complicating complicated matters, the couple's female Jehovah's Witness Attorney (A.S.?) continued to counsel both Husband and Wife through their separation (12/2019) until five months before their divorce was final (5/2021). In fact, the female JW Attorney advised Wife to confess her adulteress affair to the Elders, advised/assisted Wife in confessing the affair to Husband, and advised Wife to forget about trying to get custody of her children due to her having committed adultery.
Note this edited excerpt from the September 2022 decision:
... I have noted on numerous occasions my concerns in relation to the conduct of two professional people -- Ms D, the children's long-time counsellor, and the [Husband's] solicitor, who was formerly the Grandmother's solicitor, ... the solicitor owed, and always owes, specific and clear duties to the Court. Certain documents that were plainly in her possession, notably from the Grandmother's former solicitor, were not disclosed until after a specific Court Order, after the final hearing had concluded. Once those documents ultimately came to light, it made clear that her client (at this stage, the Husband) had filed an Affidavit that was clearly erroneous, and therefore misleading. It is unclear what, if any steps, were undertaken to check the Husband's Affidavit before it was filed. On its face, it would appear that little if any checking was done of it. Further, in the light of the Husband's evidence that the solicitor read his Affidavit to him (along with other documents), the jurat to the Husband's trial Affidavit (and others likewise) did not disclose that the [Husband] had difficulties reading and comprehending. Plainly it was, as to form, and as to evidence, an incorrect jurat. For the reasons given, in my view, there was also clear lack of financial disclosure by the Husband in the course of this litigation. For these reasons, the conduct of the [Husband's] lawyer should be referred to the Law Society for consideration. I request that the local Registrar of the Court provide a copy of these reasons to the Law Society.
Also in these reasons I have set out the multiple concerns regarding the conduct of the children's counsellor, Ms D. For the reason given earlier, in my view, her conduct was unprofessional and unethical. Her conduct could, and perhaps should, have led to her being cited for contempt. Strictly, her actions were an abuse of the Court processes. I also request the local Registrar of the Court to provide these reasons to the relevant psychologists' registration board for consideration.
(Given that the psychologist "Ms D" was a pre-divorce, "longtime" councellor of this Jehovah's Witness Family's three children, there is a good possibility that "Ms D" was either a JW, or was "JW approved". If either case is true, she would have a large JW clientele, with a business relationship to protect.)
Here are more edited excerpts from the September 2022 decision:
The "views" of the children, at one level, are plain in their general unanimity of not wanting to see or to spend time with their Mother. This is in circumstances where they had lived with both parents for years, but following a single and eventful evening that involved the police in December 2019, they have all but ignored, and quite vigorously so, any time or connection with their Mother. To state the obvious: this is very alarming. In the circumstances, and for the multiple reasons already given, the Court cannot give very much weight to the general views of the children, precisely because they have clearly been so tainted since the Mother left the residence. Further, the strident views of the children were either ignored, or certainly unexplained, by the Father. I have great difficulty in accepting that he has genuinely tried to encourage the children to see or spend time with their Mother. Put another way, he is the only parent at home and has been so now since [January 2020]; he is their primary reference point, subject to what is said later (and noted earlier) in relation to their counsellor, Ms D.
[Ms D] might, in general terms, be styled as something of a Svengali figure, namely someone who exerts control even to the point of manipulation over another, in this case, obviously the children. As set out earlier, she appears to be, and by virtue of the limited abilities of others (e.g. the Father), and the apparently limited contact with many other adults, a person of very significant influence over the children.
This complete paradox of the children living with their Mother one day, and ignoring her ever since, together with a significant level of hostility towards her, highlights the various degrees of difficulty in finding out what has really happened in the dynamic between the children and the Father, on one hand, and as between the children and the Mother on the other. The Father even opined that if the December 2019 incident had not occurred, it was likely that the family would all still be together. At almost every level, this was (and is) bizarre.
Clearly, given the ages of the older two children, in my view, it would be a useless exercise for the Court to make Orders regarding them to spend any time with the Mother. Their age and how entrenched their views are makes such a course completely inapt. The "main game", so to speak, relates to the younger child, Z. His views, as recorded in the various reports, are quite conflicted. ...
Any separation of siblings is a significant matter in every respect, ... However, it comes down in many respects to the precarious balance between, on the one hand, Z's relationship with his Father and his siblings, and on the other, the currently almost non-existent relationship with his Mother.
In my view, there is no doubt that Z's relationship with his Father and his siblings is secure. There is no evidence to suggest in any way that those relationships are under any type of threat, or that they would in any way be threatened or likely diminished by him spending time with his Mother, or indeed, living with her. As stated during the trial on more than one occasion, and without placing any extra stress or expectation on him, he may well be or become a "bridge" between his siblings and the Mother. On any view, this would, potentially at least, be a very good outcome, accepting that if such should occur, it is likely that it will take a huge effort by all involved, which would also require significant professional assistance to achieve it. In short, Z has a good and close relationship with his siblings and his Father. The relationship with his Mother is fragile, at best.
... Questions of parental capacity in providing for the various needs of the children, and parental responsibility, are the two most crucial aspects of the considerations here. In the light of the evidence earlier outlined, in my view, it is almost impossible to understand (i) how this family lived, apart from the parents using the paternal Grandmother's funds from the "joint account" for daily living expenses (the Father seems to have been employed sporadically as a tradesman during the relationship, while the Mother earned very modest income from some crafts), and (ii) how each parent exercised their various responsibilities, especially with respect to the children. It seems to be not questioned that the Mother generally looked after the domestic side of things, including the preparation of meals, and for a number of years, she home-schooled the children, which exercise also included assisting the Father to read and undertake basic arithmetic/mathematics.
Further, the Father's evidence, not seriously challenged also, was that it was the Mother who largely supervised the household and gave it such direction that it had. It was the Mother's decision, on the Father's evidence, to put the children into school to ensure that they had a more regular education; he said that he wanted just to keep them at home because he wanted to be with them. As a result of these matters from the Father's evidence, clearly he has little concept of parental responsibility, parental planning and much else besides. On the evidence, it is almost unfathomable to work out how he filled his days during the relationship, and even still now.
The Father's further evidence about him trying to keep the Mother happy, and at the same time, supposedly trying to protect the children from the Mother's alleged violence of varying kinds, coupled with his contention that things would have largely stayed the same for the family (whatever that might actually mean) but for the [December] 2019 incident and the break-up of the family, was a model of confusion and lack of insight.
The independent reports from school in relation to the well-being of the children, supports the Mother's account of looking after and caring for the children satisfactorily. Conversely, it undermines the account by the Father of the Mother's predations against the children. To a degree, it also likewise undermines the extent of the claims of the children of the Mother's violence towards them. Put another way: how can such consistent claims of violence and similar terrible behaviour by the Mother never be noticed, over many years, by teachers at the children's schools? It is logically inconsistent. The Father's claim or explanation (if that is what is was) that everyone, including the children, were all "good actors", in my view was another bizarre and implausible account by the Father. Again it showed astonishing lack of insight, and understanding, and general perception of what was going on in the family.
The incredulity about the Father's evidence, and in turn his lack of insight and understanding, was his claim that the children were academically gifted. The ICL's cross examination of him in this regard, which was not a criticism of the children's modest academic abilities, clearly showed a number of the Father's significant parenting short-comings.
In a similar vein, the Father's "sexualised talk", firstly about his daughter X to a group of boys at school, was an alarming instance of his lack of boundaries, insight and so much else. How any parent could speak in this way about their daughter is highly disturbing in every respect. Secondly, he spoke also in a sexualised way, before strangers, at Ms H's office and in parent-teacher interviews. The Father has little or no boundaries; plainly he does not recognise them, and has rarely if ever been challenged over them.
In short, I have the greatest concern and reservations about the Father's parenting capacities, and similarly regarding the exercise, historically and presently, of his parental responsibilities towards the children. Indeed, the ICL noted fairly that the children were essentially looking after, and looking out for, him.
The assessment of the Mother in these respects is rather more opaque because of the hostile evidence of the children, and the completely unreliable evidence of the Father. Again, almost because they are independent, albeit now from a little time ago, the reports from the children's school are (indeed, must be) a reasonable and reliable base for the Court to conclude that, notwithstanding the evidence levelled against her by the other members of the family, because the good reports of the children's well-being and presentation over a number of years, it must be that the Mother's exercise of parental responsibility, decision-making and the like, were certainly nowhere near as questionable as others have made out. Further, her decision (and insistence) that the children go to school, rather than to remain being home-schooled by her, was practical and important. It was made over the shallow and inapt opposition of the Father. The Mother's home-schooling, absent any evidence to the contrary, appears to have been adequate and generally satisfactory.
... given the relative proximity of the living situations of the children and the Father, on the one hand, and the Mother, on the other, practical difficulty and expense do not really arise here. Other, more delicate, matters are in play, including the communication between Z and his Father (and the siblings). Because of what is proposed by the ICL (supported by the Mother in the alternative to her primary position), with which I agree, some very specific matters have to be put in place at the outset to try to give the plan a genuine chance to work. These will include, initially and for a short period of time, some very tight restrictions on communication between Z and his paternal family (including the Grandmother) and siblings. Everyone will need to be guided by experts, particularly in the early stages of Z taking up residence with his Mother. In my view, it is unconscionable to leave Z in the care of his Father (although, really it is being in the primary care of his older siblings). It is literally now, as recorded earlier in conversation with Ms E, an "all or nothing play".
Matters of "family violence" have been noted earlier in these reasons. Summarised, the Father (and the children) make many claims of violence against the Mother but there has been no relevant intervention by either the Father (contrary to his somewhat grandiose claims) or by Care and Protection authorities. The incident in December 2019 remains concerning but, almost bizarrely, still rather lacking in detail as to what actually happened. There was limited involvement by the Courts, except for what has been recorded earlier. As with so much of the evidence here, confusion and imprecision at multiple levels has reigned.
As already noted a number of times, there is so much doubt about much of the evidence, and so much delicacy about any possible or realistic solution, as to make any Orders of the Court somewhat fraught. It is indeed a choice between (as the ICL said) the "least worst" option. In my view, the so-called status quo is untenable for all children, but relevantly (for reasons given earlier in the light of the ages of the older children) it is not in Z's best interests simply to remain in the current household with the Father and risk being further "poisoned" against his Mother. He should at least have the possibility of that relationship being repaired and restored, to the degree that this might be possible. As such, the course now Ordered by the Court is the one that is not only in the child's (Z's) best interests but also the least likely to result in further litigation, accepting that everything here is utterly problematic. ... This includes an Order for sole parental responsibility for the Mother in relation to Z. On the evidence, it is undeniable that the parents cannot, and do not, communicate. The "co-parenting" relationship between the parents is non-existent; when it was "operational", the evidence plainly shows it to have been alarmingly dysfunctional.
CLICK HERE TO READ EXCERPTS FROM THE NOVEMBER 2022 "PROPERTY" DECISION,
INCLUDING OUTLINE OF "FRAUDS" COMMITTED BY HUSBAND.
CALIFORNIA v. RODRIGO MUNOZ was a 2016-22 California RAPE prosecution whose appellate decision provides invaluable life lessons for sheltered Jehovah's Witness teenagers of both sexes. The 2012 "rape" was not reported to police until 2016 -- according to Rodrigo Munoz, only after he made threats which could be interpreted as his considering pursuing visitation or custody of his illegitimate daughter born in 2013. In 2020, Rodrigo Munoz was found "guilty" of forcible rape, but "not guilty" of forcible sodomy. Rodrigo Munoz was sentenced to a three-year prison term.
Rodrigo Munoz and JWBaby-Momma told "vastly different" stories during trial testimony in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. The following edited excerpts are taken from the 2022 decision issued by the Court of Appeals of California.
MUNOZ and JWFEMALE met in late 2009, when they both were 17 years old. Munoz lived with his JW family, and JWFemale lived with her parents in a nearby town. Munoz and JWFemale both were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses. JWFemale was "baptized", while Munoz was not. In 2010, Munoz contacted JWFemale through social media, and in 2011, they started a relationship.
JWFEMALE'S VERSION OF EVENTS
JWFemale described their relationship before having intercourse as being "boyfriend" and "girlfriend," talking to each other romantically, but not being "intimate." She and Munoz did not "date." They spent time in groups, were alone in a mall once or twice, and held hands and kissed once in 2012. She never "made out" with Munoz, nor took off her clothes. Munoz knew that JWFemale adhered to her faith. Munoz was possessive and did not want her "talking to anybody, especially guys." At one point, Munoz asked if she wanted to have sex, which Munoz knew was not something she would do as a baptized Jehovah's Witness, and she told him no. Around April or May 2012 she told him she did not want to talk anymore. She attended his high school graduation in June 2012 because she way trying to be a good friend, but they were no longer "talking romantically."
Munoz came to JWFemale's home unannounced on July 3, 2012, and had forced, nonconsensual intercourse with her. JWFemale had nonconsensual sex with Munoz four or five more times in July, although those times she did not resist him physically and "let it happen." One of those instances involved anal penetration. She confessed to an "Elder" at the end of July that she had sex one time, and she was "privately reproved" by a Judicial Committee. After JWFemale's Elders learned from Munoz's Elders that the couple had engaged in intercourse multiple times, JWFemale was "disfellowshipped" for "lying".
JWFemale resumed a relationship with Munoz in Fall 2012, and they had intercourse a few more times before JWFemale again ended the relationship because "all he wanted" was sex. Munoz "left her alone completely" when she told him she had a problem with what he was doing, and warned if he contacted her again, she would go to the police with "proof of everything." JWFemale later found out she was pregnant with Munoz's child, delivered a premature baby girl in May 2013, and resumed a relationship with Munoz for the sake of their child. JWFemale felt like her plans for the future had been ruined, she had disappointed her parents, and "the only thing [she] could do was just stay with him, or try, for [the child], not for [her]." When she brought up the July 3 incident, Munoz told her to "forget it" and "get over it" because "things are different" now that they had a daughter. She tried to "get over it," but Munoz was sexually aggressive and possessive, and she again ended the relationship in 2014.
JWFemale described instances of Munoz stalking her in 2015, including messaging things like "I know you're not home. Where are you?" and "Confess your sins ... or I'll do it." In late 2015, JWFemale reported Munoz's stalking behavior to the police, but did not mention the 2012 rape, because "it had been a while back," and she "didn't know there was anything that could be done." JWFemale applied for a domestic violence restraining order in November 2015, in which she stated "On July 3rd, 2012 ... he sexually abused me, I was in a fragile situation and he took advantage of me and forced me into it."
In April 2016, JWFemale and Munoz attended the same social function, where Munoz told JWFemale that she was "going to pay" for what she was doing, he was "`going to hit [her] where it will hurt [her] the most,'" and she was "`going to regret it.'" That is when JWFemale decided to report the rape. Around that time, JWFemale told her parents everything that had happened, and the two families met. JWFemale's father confronted Munoz about raping JWFemale. Munoz stayed quiet and did not deny it. Child support was not discussed at that meeting. JWFemale was unaware of any child support action at that time, and she did not threaten to report the rape if Munoz refused to drop the support case.
RODRIGO MUNOZ'S VERSION OF EVENTS
MUNOZ testified that once he and JWFemale started dating, they went to the movies two or three times a week, where their sexual intimacy progressed from kissing to digital vaginal penetration. Later they spent time in vehicles where they undressed and engaged in penile vaginal contact. During one of those instances, JWFemale asked Munoz whether he had a condom, which shocked him. They sent love letters to each other. Letters were admitted in evidence from the first half of 2012 in which JWFemale expressed her love for Munoz and her desire to marry him.
The first time Munoz and JWFemale had sexual intercourse was June 5, 2012, their one-year anniversary. (We note that Munoz assigned an earlier date to the charged events than recounted by JWFemale, who described them as occurring on July 3, 2012. However both JWFemale and Munoz described the incident as taking place in JWFemale's apartment, and as the first time JWFemale had ever had intercourse.) Munoz testified that the sex was consensual, and that JWFemale provided a condom. They continued having consensual intercourse into August, at which time they agreed to "break [their] relationship" in order to "fix [their] relationship with God" by "confessing their sins" to their respective Elders. After righting themselves, they would "start dating legit." At one point they had sex in JWFemale's father's truck, and Munoz accidently penetrated JWFemale's anus. It was dark, she pulled away, he apologized, they hugged, got dressed, and talked about their relationship. JWFemale wanted to tell their parents they were still having sex and were going to run away. Munoz told JWFemale that he had just started working and did not have money saved. JWFemale was furious that Munoz would not speak to her parents, Munoz realized he had fallen short of her expectations, and their relationship ended. But they had more sex later that year in October and November.
JWFemale contacted Munoz after their daughter was born. They "kept seeing each other" after Munoz met his daughter, and his relationship with JWFemale "progressed" to being "together" again. Text messages from May and June 2014 show the two in an amorous relationship, with JWFemale expressing her love for Munoz. The relationship ended when JWFemale no longer wanted to accept money from him. Munoz maintained weekly visits with his daughter for a year or two, but JWFemale's family started to make visiting more difficult, and Munoz saw his daughter less and less.
In April 2016, Munoz had not seen his daughter in several months. He told JWFemale he was going to file a child support application, but he was still in love with her and wanted to work things out informally. About the same time, Munoz attended a social function where JWFemale's mother would not let him dance with his daughter. Munoz became upset and told JWFemale that she was "going to pay" for that. On April 17, he filed an application to determine child support (which he understood as a means "to have more custody" with his daughter), and the county opened a support case on May 3. JWFemale telephoned Munoz upset about the application, and JWFemale's father convened a meeting. JWFemale and her father accused defendant of "taking [Doe] at force" and Munoz was shocked. They discussed the DNA testing required to establish paternity, and the amount of child support JWFemale would receive. JWFemale and her father asked Munoz to drop the child support case, and JWFemale threatened to report that Munoz forced her to have sex if he continued with the application. Munoz's parents testified that JWFemale and her father wanted Munoz to withdraw the child support case, and JWFemale threatened that she would claim that Munoz abused her if he did not comply.
ADDITIONAL INFO IN COURT'S DISCUSSION
Munoz described the encounter as JWFemale providing unequivocal consent: Munoz testified that he contacted JWFemale as he approached her apartment; she opened the door; they embraced; briefly talked; and started "making out" on the sofa. After 30 seconds or a minute, JWFemale gave Munoz an inviting "little look" and they together moved from the sofa to the bed as they continued kissing. They both undressed; they started "doing first just the tip"; JWFemale retrieved a condom from the windowsill and offered to put it on Munoz's penis. Munoz was embarrassed and nervous; he knew it was JWFemale's first time; and he put the condom on himself. The intercourse started with her on top, but her legs started to shake so they switched positions. They had brief intercourse with him on top, until she asked him to stop, at which time he "pulled away" and they started cuddling. She did not push him away or cry, and he did not use force. The prosecutor asked Munoz in his mind how many seconds of unwanted sex would amount to rape. Munoz responded, "It never happened, so how would I know."
JWFemale testified that the sex was forced and without her consent. Munoz came to her apartment unannounced and was aware of her views against premarital sex. She opened the door because she thought it was one of her parents who had just left for work, and she was surprised to see Munoz. He said he wanted to talk, came inside, and told her he loved her. He "started to get too close," she "got up," he "cornered" her and started kissing her in a forceful way. She kissed him back at first, thinking it would calm him down. But it didn't and she stopped responding to the kissing. Munoz grabbed her and pushed her onto the bed. "And he just went on top of me, and I was pushing him and was telling him to stop, but he didn't." He "started grabbing [her] hand" and tried to pull down her pajamas, and she "was fighting through the whole time." She "was telling him to stop" and "asking him, `[w]hat are you doing?'" He did not answer. He held her hands and pulled down her pants and forced himself into her. At that point she stopped moving and was "just crying and crying," and "he just kept going until he stopped." Afterwards, he hugged her and said he was sorry.
... In contrast here there was no substantial evidence of equivocal conduct which Munoz could have reasonably mistaken for consenting to intercourse. If believed, defendant's testimony -- that he and JWFemale "made out," moved to the bed and undressed together, and that JWFemale provided and offered to apply a condom -- would establish actual consent. If believed, JWFemale's account -- that after kissing defendant she physically and verbally resisted as he pinned down her arms and pulled down her pants -- would preclude any reasonable belief of consent....
Munoz argues substantial evidence supports a mistaken consent instruction because after he arrived at JWFemale's apartment, she kissed him and "acquiesced when he did other things"; he could have reasonably misinterpreted JWFemale's "look" to mean a desire to have sex; he and JWFemale agree that she told him to stop; and "[a] reasonable juror could have concluded that [he] did stop more or less immediately, though it might have seemed longer to JWFemale." We acknowledge JWFemale's testimony that she initially "kiss[ed] him back." But in light of all the testimony, that is not sufficient evidence of equivocal consent to sexual intercourse. JWFemale testified that she stopped kissing Munoz and actively resisted him both verbally and physically up to the moment he penetrated her, at which time she started to cry. Had the jury believed Munoz's testimony that he "pulled away" as soon as JWFemale asked him to stop, it would have necessarily rejected JWFemale's testimony about actively resisting and it would have returned a not guilty verdict. Crediting Munoz's version of the events leads to a defense of actual consent, not mistaken consent.
... Munoz points to JWFemale's "motive to minimize her role and shift blame" to preserve her standing with her family and church. But this too is a challenge to JWFemale's credibility, not circumstantial evidence of her equivocation. Even if the jury believed that JWFemale and Munoz had done "more than kiss" before the charged incident; that JWFemale and Munoz had frequent consensual sex after the incident; that JWFemale wanted more from the relationship than JWFemale was able to give; and that JWFemale's decision to report the rape was motivated by Munoz's decision to assert his parental rights, none of that evidence establishes mistake on the date in question. Nor does the 36-minute pretext call made in 2017 provide a basis for mistaken consent. At times in the pretext call Munoz appears to acknowledge forcing himself on JWFemale; at other times he takes the position that he stopped when JWFemale asked him to stop. At the beginning of the call, Munoz responded, "are you really serious about that?" when JWFemale told him she was thinking about reporting "what happened in 2012 when everything started, when, um, you forced me to have relations with you." Munoz replied with, "It didn't even last 10 seconds," and insisted that he pulled away when JWFemale "pushed me ... [and] said stop three times." Never on the lengthy call did Munoz or JWFemale suggest that Munoz had misunderstood some act or conduct on JWFemale's part as consent. ... ...
Munoz presented one character witness, a woman he dated and with whom he had sex around the time that Munoz first had sex with JWFemale; she testified that Munoz had a character for nonviolence. ... Munoz's character witness testified that she had a three-year relationship with Munoz which started when she was 15 and Munoz was 17. Their families were close and had known each other since she was small. She was sexually intimate with Munoz throughout the relationship and had sexual intercourse with him. In her opinion, Munoz had a character and reputation for nonviolence.
ALL FAMILY COURTS SHOULD BE THIS DILIGENT
A.B. v. K.R.K.Y. is an ongoing 2009-22 Pennsylvania child custody case. The final custody order entered September 2018 provided that the parties share legal custody, and awarded primary physical custody of the parties' three children to the non-JW Mother. The order granted the JWFather partial physical custody every weekend, except one, each month during the school year; alternating weeks during the summer months; and certain holidays.
The parties were married October 2005, separated February 2009, and divorced December 2011. Since their divorce, both parties have remarried: JWFather to JWWife, who has three children - ages 12, 18 and 20 - from a previous relationship, and Mother to Stepfather, who has two sons from a previous relationship, ages 12 and 13, and a five-year-old daughter, TaylorB, with Mother.
The three children who are the subject of these custody proceedings are DavidY, age 10 (D.O.B. 10/23/08); MeganY, age 12 (D.O.B. 9/25/06); and MadisynY, age 13 (D.O.B. 4/18/05). JWFather lives in Perkasie, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Mother resides in Lehighton, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. (about 40 miles apart).
Following the parties' separation, Mother was the primary caretaker of the Children. This arrangement was confirmed by court order in February 2009. Subsequent final custody orders dated March 16, 2012, and November 12, 2013, maintained primary physical custody of the Children with Mother. The instant matter was heard on JWFather's petition for modification filed in September 2017.
All three Children attend the public schools in Lehighton, which they have attended most recently for the past two years, are doing well academically, and are involved in various extracurricular activities. Each Child was separately questioned in chambers with counsel present. Madisyn, who is an honor roll student in the 8th grade, testified that she prefers living with Mother: she has a very close relationship with Mother, in contrast to that with JWFather; she is involved in cheerleading, softball and chorus through the school; her friends are all in Lehighton; and she feels pressured by JWFather to become a Jehovah's Witness, which she opposes, wanting instead to attend church with Mother. Madisyn is strongly against living with JWFather, and does not get along well with JWFather's JWWife.
Megan, who is in sixth grade, testified that she wants to live with JWFather: she has a better relationship with JWFather than with her Mother, Mother and Stepfather like her sister and brother more than her, and treat them better, students at school bully her, which she believes is not taken seriously by Mother, and she wants to become a Jehovah's Witness. Megan plays softball, and also wanted to join the football team, but was too late for sign-ups. Given the choice between being separated from Madisyn but living with JWFather, or living with her sister and Mother at Mother's home, she preferred to live separate from her sister rather than live with Mother.
David, who is in the fourth grade, would like to spend more time with JWFather than under the current order. He has a good relationship with both his parents, is closer with Megan than with Madisyn, wants to be home-schooled, started baseball this fall, and appeared to be less sure on what the custody arrangements should be, and what the effects of a change would mean.
Unfortunately, the stress of the custody proceedings, and the tension and disagreements between Mother and JWFather over the Children's religious upbringing, and the relative importance of the Children attending activities they want to attend on weekends when they are scheduled to be with JWFather, have created emotional issues for the Children requiring medical treatment and therapy.
In February 2018, Madisyn was admitted to Kids Peace for a few days when she made threats to harm herself. Megan was hospitalized for a week in January 2018, and for another week in March 2018, when she threatened to harm herself and began making cutting marks. Both Madisyn and Megan have been diagnosed with depression and have been prescribed and take anti-depressant medication. All three Children have been in counseling, and Megan and David still receive therapy.
JWFather is a practicing Jehovah's Witness and is active in his faith with JWWife. JWFather's desire to have the Children receive religious instruction as Jehovah's Witnesses, to have the Children participate in door-to-door ministry, and to attend gatherings and functions of the Jehovah's Witnesses has strained the relationship between JWFather and Madisyn and created divisions between the parties. JWFather is unwilling to transport the Children to extracurricular activities in which they are engaged on weekends when they are scheduled to be with him, believing that this interferes with his time with the Children and that the Children's attendance at activities of the Jehovah's Witnesses is more important. Additionally, JWFather testified that he does not celebrate the Children's birthdays or religious holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, since this is contrary to the teachings of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
In contrast, Mother celebrates Christmas and Easter in her household and has yearly birthday parties for the Children, all of which are important family events. Mother is an active member of a non-denominational church, and would like equal time in instructing the Children in her faith. Mother attends all of the Children's practices and games, and is dedicated to having the Children participate in these and other activities.
For the most part, since the parties separated, Mother and JWFather have dealt directly with one another in discussing and resolving custodial issues involving the Children. On occasion, disagreements occurred. It was with respect to one such disagreement that Mother was held in contempt of court. During one October 2017 weekend, Madisyn and Megan wanted to attend a school dance and march in a Halloween parade with their teammates. Mother had attempted for days in advance to obtain JWFather's permission for Madisyn and Megan to participate in these activities, which were scheduled on one of JWFather's weekends, offering to give JWFather additional time with the Children, and to switch Mother's scheduled weekend with the Children with JWFather to accommodate this request. Notwithstanding multiple texts from Mother to JWFather making this request, and explaining the importance to the Children of attending these events, JWFather refused to respond, indicating only that he had received the text. Ultimately, Mother unilaterally decided to keep the Children for the weekend.
"Although we accepted as true Mother's repeated efforts to reach an agreement with JWFather and her good intentions for keeping the Children on this particular weekend, absent JWFather's consent, Mother's unilateral decision to withhold the Children was a violation of the custody order for which we found Mother in contempt. Nevertheless, because of the mitigating circumstances, a fine of $100.00 was the only sanction imposed; however, Mother was also advised of the significance of this violation and how disrespect for legal process can factor into the fitness of a parent to be awarded custody of children."
At times, however, JWWife has interjected herself into these discussions, often exacerbating the situation. Approximately three years ago, the parties agreed to meet at Panther Park to discuss difficulties they were experiencing with the custodial arrangements and possible solutions. At this meeting while Mother and JWFather remained in one area of the park, JWWife and Stepfather took the Children to another area of the park so the parties could talk privately between themselves outside the presence of the Children.
The parties met for approximately two hours and were still in discussion when JWWife returned and heard Mother telling JWFather that she felt JWFather was too zealous in his efforts to involve the Children in his faith, and requiring them to attend various meetings and functions of the Jehovah's Witnesses. JWWife interpreted this as a criticism of her religion and inserted herself into the conversation. This led to a shouting match, the Children in tears, and JWFather directing JWWife to leave.
In August 2017, when Mother was requesting JWFather to give up some of his weekend time with the Children so the Children could attend activities they were enrolled in, JWWife, feeling JWFather was being taken advantage of, broke into the conversation and, communicating directly with Mother, accused Mother of laying a guilt trip on JWFather. Mother responded that the issue was between her and JWFather, that JWWife was intermeddling. The exchange between Mother and JWWife rapidly deteriorated into both demeaning the other, questioning their respective parenting abilities, and Mother comparing JWWife's religion to a cult, and blaming JWWife for the death of JWWife's newborn child. As a result of this heated exchange, in which both said things that should never have been said, the relationship between Mother and JWWife today is non-existent.
On another occasion ... Mother texted Madisyn ... that JWFather may have continued the case to take his "precious family", referring to JWWife and her children, to Knoebels. In the past, JWFather chose to give up time with the Children in preference to going to Knoebels with JWWife and her children, causing the Children to feel slighted.
On another occasion, JWWife had posted conversations she had with the Children on Facebook to her friends in which she referred to the Children as her children. When Madisyn learned of this, she was offended, and wrote JWWife that the Children were not hers. Mother wrote JWWife that she would have Madisyn delete the comments.
HIT "Next Page" BELOW FOR 2010 - 2019 DIVORCES!!!
SHORT BIBLE TOPIC READINGS SELECTED FOR JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah's Witness Women
Blood Transfusions: A History and Evaluation of the Religious, Biblical, and Medical Objections (Jehovah's Witnesses perspective)
Blood, Medicine, and the Jehovah's Witnesses: The Hidden History of the Watchtower's Position on the Blood Issue
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Problem of Mental Illness
DEALING WITH JEHOVAH'S WITNESS CUSTODY CASES
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