Please be advised the following content discusses child abuse. Some of the information discussed comes from third-party hearsay and may not be completely accurate.
In August of 2023, video bloggers Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested on several accounts of aggravated child abuse. Knowing what to look for could help children in similar situations.
Justin Sisemore and Andrea Jones discuss the importance of co-parenting and open communication in separated families. They explore the privatization of organizations involved in custody cases, the challenges of gathering evidence in abuse allegations and the role of Child Protective Services in children’s safety.
Justin and Andrea touch on:
- The case of Ruby Franke and Jodie Hildebrandt
- The importance of maintaining cooperative communication while co-parenting
- The positive and negative impact of privatization on custody cases
- What neighbours should keep an eye out for in possible child abuse cases
Connect with Justin Sisemore
- Sisemore Law Firm
- Facebook: Sisemore Law Firm, P.C.
- Instagram: Justin Sisemore
- LinkedIn: Justin Sisemore
- LinkedIn: Sisemore Law Firm
Connect with Andrea Jones:
Read the Show Transcript
Announcer[00:00:00] Nobody wants to end up in family court, but if you do, you want an honest, experienced family law attorney by your side to help minimize the stress, mental anguish and legal costs that divorce and custody matters bring. Welcome to In Your Best Interest. Texas divorce attorney and entrepreneur Justin Sisemore of the Sisemore Law Firm, entrepreneur Andrea Jones, freelance writer Mary Maloney, and guests share insight on what to expect and how to handle family law matters, the changing landscape of family law, and living the entrepreneur’s life.
Announcer [00:00:36] Now onto the show.
Announcer: In late August of 2023, video bloggers Ruby Franke and Jodi Hildebrandt were arrested in Ivins, Utah. They were charged with six counts of aggravated child abuse, a felony. Franke’s emaciated 12 year old son had escaped to a neighbor’s house, which prompted police to search for her other minor children, including a 10 year old [00:01:00] daughter who also appeared malnourishedhis case has garnered national attention, and in today’s episode of In Your Best Interest, the panel will discuss the different players in this case, what to do if you suspect child abuse and what to expect if you are involved in a case involving child abuse allegations.
Mary – Thanks for joining us for this episode of In Your Best Interest.
[00:01:22] I’m Mary Maloney and today, Justin Sisemore, attorney with the Sisemore Law Firm, entrepreneur Andrea Jones, and I will tackle a disturbing topic, which is Child abuse. So Justin, um, you wanted to talk about this topic. I mean, it’s certainly been making headlines. This Ruby Frankie originally had a parenting slash mommy vlog called eight passengers[00:01:43] And before that she’d been married, but she separated from her husband. That vlog went down and she was after, after she separated and she was criticized for her parenting techniques as well. So then she went to work for this Jody Hildebrandt. [00:02:00] Um, as mental health coach and the two of them launched a new YouTube channel called moms of truth.
[00:02:06] Um, any additional background we should talk about before we hop into some questions on this topic?
Justin – I think one thing that, uh, is glaringly obvious, uh, and we actually have a couple of groups like this, um, in the surrounding DFW areas. And first and foremost, as a disclaimer, um, a lot of the information that.[00:02:28] You know, we’re reading and seeing, uh, is going to be third party hearsay information. So you can see some pile on effects, uh, especially with the media outlets. Um, and then the other thing I would like to comment on before we kind of dive into this is with respect to some of these groups, you know, we spend a lot of time on our podcast talking about the benefits of counseling and the benefits of some of these outlets to be able to find information.[00:02:55] You’re going to see here today, I think a little bit of the detriment, um, or a lot of bit of the detriments [00:03:00] that come from groups that have insufficient information, um, or counselors, um, and techniques that are out there that, uh, can sometimes be unhealthy. And so I think that this is a very good case of talking about number one, um, what happens when people really get caught up in the idea of being a YouTube star.[00:03:24] Um, and also, uh, some of these groups that are out there that are, you know, people are getting their information from, and when you’re in a sense or a heightened state of emotion and you’re going online, um, and seeking out individuals to kind of solve your problems, you need to. you need to really exercise some scrutiny, um, in, in who you’re teaming up with.[00:03:46] Um, and then the final point on that is, is kind of the snowball effect that can happen when you get two people that are really charged up about, they’re going to be the thought leaders of, of changing how moms are. And I think, [00:04:00] uh, what was the title of that? What’s the title of their new podcast there, Mary?
Mary – [00:04:05] The Mom’s of Truth
Justin – Yeah. So when you see like moms of truth or dads for justice or, um, you know, lawyers for men or whatever the case may be, just use your brains a little bit and maybe think like, let’s get all sides of this coin. And we don’t pretend on this podcast and know all the answers here. Uh, but it is important because when you’re called moms of truth and you’re looking to somebody, or you’re listening to somebody on a podcast.[00:04:31] Or whatever source of information you’re getting, you just got to be careful to do a little background check because things that start out pretty normal can get pretty abnormal pretty quickly. And I think the other part and the reason why I wanted to go into the disclaimer before we started is because it’s really important to get all the information.[00:04:48] So if we don’t have all the information, um, or court watchers or anybody else that follow judges around, I’ve, I’ve been looking into this more because there’s all these little pages out there that, you know, [00:05:00] really. Um, Um, they really criticize people in a big way. Um, and it’s so funny that we’re talking about this, not funny, but it’s interesting that we’re talking about this because in the last couple of weeks, um, there’ve been some really serious allegations from some people inside of the court system, inside of the counseling scenarios.[00:05:19] And, and I really try my best to not comment or opine on things until I have a pretty full or clear picture of information on the same token, on that note. You know where there’s smoke, there’s fire, obviously. So if you’re hearing the same things about certain counselors or certain judges, um, or, or, or some of these groups, you know, a lot of, a lot of people that really have the information about these groups stay silent.[00:05:45] Um, and so you don’t see them. engaging in the banter, uh, with some of these moms for truth or some of the court watchers. And even some of the judges are, are pretty hesitant to, um, comment or get back, um, and explain the other side of this [00:06:00] because these, these groups can be ruthless. I mean, they, they literally will have.[00:06:05] Eight to 10 people popping into a zoom session. You know, on, in, in, in courts and they’re watching snippets of information and then they go on their little, whatever their little platform is and just lambast people. And, you know, it’s good to have scrutiny. I don’t hear me say that, but, but you gotta get a bigger picture and a full picture.[00:06:26] And oftentimes when you see things like moms for truth, like I said before, it can get pretty one sided.
Mary – All right, so we’ll get into more details and some of that stuff as we go along here, but let’s, let’s start with Frankie’s estranged husband, Kevin, Frankie is fighting to get custody of the couple’s four minor children.[00:06:46] So as a family law attorney, you’ve seen cases where parents get separated, communication kind of breaks down. And that of course raises concerns for the parents that aren’t seeing their kids like they should. So what should parents do in that situation to [00:07:00] protect their kids if they’re concerned?
Justi – We, we spend quite a bit of time talking about co parenting, um, and having conversations and open forums, um, how to communicate.[00:07:11] We have things like our family wizard and all these third party sites. So parties can just literally say, Hey, the soccer game is here. And you know, the doctor’s appointment is here. But the reason I, I try to encourage my clients so much, I just got off the phone yesterday with a lady that, you know, you can almost predict when you do something thousands of times, you can almost predict what the fact pattern is going to be, what their trigger points are, what they’re fighting about.[00:07:37] And you know, they’ll say things like, wow, you really know him. And I’m like, no, I don’t. I just have done this. A bunch of bunch of times and you know, when you see the same kind of patterns, the same trends with respect to personality types, what you find is that a, not only do I know what the issues are that are stoking the fire on their side, but I also know that the shortcomings we have on our side [00:08:00] with respect to communication.[00:08:01] For example, This guy was very type B. Um, he was the, I’m not touching you type. And, you know, she was like going to tell him exactly how he needs to parent and exactly what needs to happen. So what happens in that scenario is you back the corner into the, or you back the cat into the corner, they start to claw back at you.[00:08:19] And then the type a person is going to continue to tell you how, you know, what your, where your shortcomings are. And then the other person on the other side really starts gaslighting. So it’s, it’s just a, it’s a toxic situation and that resulted in obviously where the communication just stops. So in this situation dad says, well, you know, working on myself and reconciliation in his mind, you know, mom is clearly not on board with that.[00:08:46] They’re separated for nine months and he has no idea what’s going on at the household. There’s no communication. There’s not really a fundamental understanding about what’s going on at the household. Clearly, um, I think it, I mean, I’m not a medical [00:09:00] doctor, but I think it takes a little bit of time for a child to be considered malnourished.[00:09:04] And if you’re going to go into a custody situation, And try to play the victim card, or I want primary custody. And I’m not suggesting that dad’s the victim here, but if you, if you have no clue what’s going on for eight or nine months, and you try to step back into the arena in any way, shape, or form, uh, with trying to get people behind you, including courts, you kind of want to know what’s going on in your kids lives.[00:09:30] I mean, one of the things I do in cross examination all the time, it’s not rocket science. You know, I get a dad that says I want to be primary. The first question I ask him, all right, who’s your kid’s math teacher, crickets on the stand. If you don’t, if you don’t really fundamentally understand what’s going on in your kid’s lives, how are you going to come in and, and just expect that not only the bad things that are going on the other side, but you’ve got to also elevate that to best interest.[00:09:57] of the child or children. And so [00:10:00] when you’re talking about the negatives of mom, certainly in this case, it appears that she has some real, real challenges ahead of her, right? And, and God help these kids. If, if half of the things that they’ve said on these about her are true. But, but the fact that dad either just chose to not communicate or he thought he was trying to rectify the relationship by silence.[00:10:24] If you’ve, if you’ve parted from the other parent and you’ve, you’ve created this wedge of communication and you could only fix what’s on your side for this long, you have no idea what’s going on. I would definitely Question some of the motives here, and I would definitely question some of the best interest standards if the case were in Texas.
Mary – [00:10:47] All right, so you were talking about experts earlier, and one of the questions you wanted to talk about is about the different experts that get involved in cases like child abuse cases, but they’re not. [00:11:00] Infallible. So how do you go about vetting the experts that you’re relying on for your information?
Justin – [00:11:06] We’ve seen some fairly significant changes in that front in Tarrant County, for example. We used to have family court services have a lot greater resources and be kind of a part of the court system. You’re seeing a lot of the privatization of that organization, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I like to look at.[00:11:31] Kind of all sides of the coin when we’re looking at any issue. And the reason I say it’s both is because, privatization obviously creates competition. It can be a very good thing. But when you’ve got courts to get used to a certain way of doing things, um, they are used to the same people, the same experts people, you know, develop a sense of trust, uh, when they’re doing these investigations.[00:11:53] What I would tell you is that A, the privatization can be very expensive. Okay. [00:12:00] And B, you’ve got some of the same people that just kind of habitually become the go to person for the courts. And I don’t think that there’s like this massive conspiracy to, you know, thwart some parents. That’s, that’s what I was talking about earlier with these websites.[00:12:14] I mean, they, they literally will say things like, you know, this judge is corrupt. She’s got this person and this person in her corner. That’s the only people they pick. And, and sometimes that can be true, but it’s, it’s usually because of a lack of options you, what we’re seeing right now, more so than ever, or a lot of these counselors don’t want to get involved in the court system because a, you get subpoenaed as a counselor and you’re paid just like a lawyer is.[00:12:41] And sometimes you’re not getting paid to go waste your whole day, just sitting there. Right. So you’re seeing a lot of counselors not want to get involved for that reason. Another reason that you see them not want to get involved is also. I, I can’t imagine how hard it is to gain trust over a child that’s been through some severe emotional or physical abuse [00:13:00] and, and then all of a sudden, that child engages in what they think is confidential information.[00:13:06] They think that there’s a trust tree there. And now all of a sudden the counselors brought in, um, in a courtroom. And if you think that that doesn’t get back to the child in some way, shape, or form, uh, unfortunately by the parents, you know, we need to think again on that because You know, why did you say that?[00:13:22] I’ve heard the direct questions. Like, why did you tell this counselor that that didn’t happen, right? Well, now all of a sudden the child’s caught in the middle. Uh, the counselor’s caught in the middle. The trust is, is really lacking there for the child. And so when we’re looking at these counselors.[00:13:37] I’ve, I’ve seen a couple, even in our neck of the woods that, that they, they start out really good. They start out with really pure intentions and then they get very jaded. I think life jades, some people in, in many ways, uh, but they get very jaded and very, you know, kind of one sided and one track mind.[00:13:55] And then all of a sudden that can evolve into a power. Struggle where they [00:14:00] feel like they are the power source. And you know, when you’re in a custody case, you get brought into court multiple times and your opinion becomes the one that the court just kind of seemingly adopts. And there’s not good people to cross examine.[00:14:13] Uh, sometimes you have bad judges that just, oh, this person I’ve known them for years and they wouldn’t say this unless that was, you know, the, the truth. The reality is we’ve exposed people multiple times, uh, either that did not get sufficient information in the case. Um, they didn’t fully investigate it.[00:14:32] They haven’t updated their reports and records for six, eight, 10 months before trial. And then they come in and say, father or mother, shall have custody. Another thing you see, people are human. You you’re, you’re involved in a custody case in the beginning. Um, dad’s really frustrated. He’s having to pay a bunch of money to experts and lawyers or mom is, um, and then they’re, they’re not necessarily just the nicest, um, on the first couple of conferences with the counselor because they don’t want to [00:15:00] be there.[00:15:00] And that turns into sometimes these caseworkers or counselors. Um, you know, they say they don’t have a bias, they’re supposed to be neutral, but the reality is if If someone starts out with, with that kind of animosity in the beginning, you can develop a sense of distaste for that parent. And, we’re trying to coach them through that too, right?[00:15:19] The that’s part of this process gives the parents a little bit of time to heal from getting sued in a civil lawsuit, their ex dragging them into depositions, making them spend tens of thousands of dollars. And then you come up with this mindset that the parents crazy and they don’t know. The other, the other side of that is I’ve got counselors that are very neutral.[00:15:39] They get hired by one side and just because they get hired by one side, the other side automatically assumes that they’re in their pocket or they’re not following their line of thinking. Uh, you get parents all the time that think that they’re, they don’t have any, they’re not capable of mistakes.[00:15:55] Everything they do is perfect. And everything their ex does is, is completely fallible. [00:16:00] Um, so, you know, you gotta really Trust the experts, but we’ve got to also look at the idea that some of these people have been in the game candidly too long and they, they don’t really refresh their skill sets. And then they get very stymied in their, in their beliefs.[00:16:17] I don’t see as much as like the male female bias. I get that question a lot like, well, this counts, it should a male be better should a female be better. I don’t see that really being the issue. I see it being honestly more of kind of an ego. situation. And I’ve, I’ve literally had a very, very well known counselor here.[00:16:35] Say, say, are you calling to tell me how to do my job? And my question to her in this case was, please don’t talk to my client about whether she needs to move out of the house and whether the court’s going to sell the house. First of all, that’s giving legal advice. Uh, this is not a lawyer by the way and I know it sounds like something you should just be able to talk about casually, but if you’re, if you’re going through and trusting a counselor [00:17:00] to talk to you about kid issues, and then the counselor is telling you whether to sell the house and how you should take that money and use it for private school, and it’s just not appropriate.[00:17:10] And so my call was very calm, very simple, like, Hey, can we just leave that out of there? And I mean, the response was like, I can’t, I don’t even want to use the words on this, but it was a couple of expletives. And I was like, Hey, you need to pipe down. First of all, like I don’t ever treat people that way.[00:17:26] That’s not how we function, but I will bring you into a courtroom and expose you for what you’re doing. If, if we have to do that. And the challenge of course, is you get into these situations where these counselors have been used by a specific judge. Uh, for a long time, and the lawyers kind of get fearful.[00:17:43] Should we ever, should we even go at this person this way? Is it going to jeopardize your client’s position? So you gotta, you gotta really vet these situations.
Mary – So um, I’m going to kind of skip over the next question and go to. Question number five here, because it kind of ties into that. And that’s the [00:18:00] fact that false claims of child abuse occur more common than you’d like to think, especially when parents are fighting about custody.[00:18:06] So how can parents gather evidence and defend against false claims? Because again, you have potentially those counselors that are in there, they may be biased or whatever. So how do they gather that evidence to defend themselves?
Justin – Yeah, a very difficult piece that we’ve talked about in other segments is it’s not.[00:18:27] Just the fact pattern. It’s not just the conclusion. It’s the evidentiary piece to get that into a courtroom. So I think that question kind of lines up with that. A, How do you gather the evidence when you believe that there’s child abuse and you can’t use a child’s hearsay statements necessarily? More so on the on the emotional abuse side.[00:18:49] Obviously, if there’s an outcry of physical abuse that can come in. And, and also you have child counselors, um, and psychologists who are the sponsors of what we call the [00:19:00] evidence for the purpose of medical diagnosis. And the reason that’s important is because if you have a hearsay objection, then one of the things that you’re going to be dealing with there is.[00:19:10] Well, was this statement made for the purpose of medical diagnosis, i. e. Are we trying to say the child is depressed or did they go to counseling and treatment, um, you know, to try to try to help them through whatever situation. And so we have the ability to use some of those statements in a courtroom, um, through the counselors.[00:19:27] And that’s why I like. To use a very select few counselors who are not only just because they’ve been involved in the court system, but they understand fundamentally that yes, their testimony can be used in a courtroom. Um, they’re not afraid of the parent who doesn’t like them and is going to file some grievance or whatever against them because they testify against them, um, because they know that they’ve done their job and they’ve done, they’ve been thorough.[00:19:51] They follow protocol. And that’s really important. I mean, we get that in the law sometimes. I mean, I’ll have a client, once every blue moon, that doesn’t want to pay their bill, they’ve [00:20:00] gone through everything, they’ve been very satisfied and all of a sudden at the 11th hour there, well, if you don’t give me this refund and you don’t do this, we’re going to file a grievance.[00:20:07] And that’s, that’s sometimes, unfortunately in our society where people go to there, they, they do that passive as aggressive threat situation. So the strength of the counselor in that process. And the fact that they have testified before and they know how to navigate, uh, these systems are there. And when it comes to getting the evidence, um, actually getting that out of the counselor, you know, the worst case scenario, obviously you have the photographs and all those things where it’s, it’s just blatantly obvious.[00:20:34] Um, you have, um, the, the child making outcries to third parties. You know, and, and, and change of mindset, you see fear, um, and their eating habits changed their, their sleeping patterns change. And, and, and a lot of that evidence is circumstantial. And so you’ve got to, you’ve got to really get a clear cut timeline, um, have the other individuals that are there.[00:20:57] Uh, you have the photographs. Not only do you have the photographs, [00:21:00] you have who took them, uh, when they were taken. A lot of times what I see too is. especially with the photographic software that’s out there now, they’ll blow up a bruise and it’s, it’s, it’s a minute little bruise and it doesn’t really clearly depict the image as it is.[00:21:15] Uh, and then other times you’ll have literally a picture that has nothing on it. And, and there’s like a little red scratch and they’re like, here, lawyer. This child was abused and I’m like, I’m not saying the child’s not abused. Don’t hear me say that, but where is the evidence that backs that up? In my opinion, one of the worst things you can do in a, in a custody case is to accuse somebody or physically, uh, physically or sexually abusing a child, um, or emotionally abusing the child.[00:21:46] When you just, you’re just concluding that you don’t have the evidence, um, that’s, that’s that you can’t put that lightning back in the bottle scenario. And it is very, very difficult to co parent after that. I’ve, I’ve got one client now that has probably been accused, I think [00:22:00] six times and she’s going on her seventh lawyer, a third or fourth counselor to try to sponsor the evidence.[00:22:06] And usually that’s what you see, you know, I’m not getting what I want out of this person or this attorney or this counselor. So I’m going to switch to somebody else that. That follows in my line of thinking. And so, that’s where in the evidencuary piece you look at all the evidence as a whole, but when you have 30 or 45 minutes in a temporary orders hearing on these abuse situations, keep in mind, you got to file them.[00:22:29] You got to have an affidavit. Generally speaking, you got to set that quickly and you got to have it heard quickly because it’s called extraordinary relief. And so for the courts to grant extraordinary relief, they got to do it quickly. Or else it’s not that extraordinary and there doesn’t need to be protection of the child or children.[00:22:45] And so as a result, the courts are like, okay, well, it’s not exigent. We’re not going to do anything yet. Let’s go get counseling. Let’s go look at, get a third party to look into this. And then the clients think the court system is broken.
Andrea – And then what about Child Protective Services? [00:23:00] Because a lot of parents have heard of Child Protective Services.[00:23:02] So when it comes to false claims or correct claims, when is the right time to contact Child Protective Services? And when is it not the right time? Because I have counselors out there, but there’s also Child Protective Services.
Justin – Yeah, that’s a great question because I, I, I will tell you as of recent, I’ve been more jaded by some of the decision or making or lack of decision making from child protective services.[00:23:25] And I go and, sorry, I go in waves on those issues. With respect to child protective services, because I’ve seen some very good case workers out there. Obviously, they have extremely limited resources and with limited resources comes lower pay and less humans, and so, with lower pay and less humans, what you’re finding is A, you know, if they’re overworked or overstretched, if they feel like the courts are involved, and let’s say, for example, they fire off a case in the beginning where they go and do an investigation, they have concerns, and then all of a sudden the [00:24:00] lawyer’s involved.[00:24:00] Now they back off. I’ve got one, literally a hearing on Thursday, same issue. Child Protective Services jumped in, guns a blazing, uh, child’s in danger, gets My client extremely concerned for good reason. And then just stops. We have no idea where they are in that course of investigation. Um, we are subpoenaing the caseworker to be, uh, at the court hearing on thursday.[00:24:24] You know, you try to get a hold of her before then. Well, she’s not answering the phone and then their clients going, well, what is she going to say? I have no idea. We just found out two days ago where she was, how to get in touch with her. We’ve reached out for a couple weeks now. The accusation started about a week and a half or two weeks ago.[00:24:41] So you can see these timelines and how fast they happen. Um, so with respect to child protective services, they, they come out. You know, in certain circumstances and, and tell people sign this, be a part of this program, come tell us all that you’ve got, and we’re here to help you. And sometimes they are[00:25:00] but I will tell you that, that, you know, when you’re giving evidence without speaking to a lawyer and you’re just signing away rights and signing for supervised access, and they’re not going to court and, you know, having this plan laid out, you can find yourself wrapped up for a long period of time.[00:25:17] With the caseworker who didn’t go and feel like a real great deal of help. Number one, and then number two, that caseworker changes, um, they have shift changes, they have supervisor changes, and then you get, you know, the left hand, not necessarily knowing what the right hand is doing. So you get stuck in this, um, situation where you have supervised access for a long period of time.[00:25:37] And then you’re like, wait, I don’t want to do this anymore, but there’s no court order. And so that’s my concern is that if you’ve got an agency that is going to step into kids lives and do these things, they need to stay with it and they need to also go to court and have court supervising you know, the court supervising their, their actions.[00:25:57] And then on a final note on that, if the [00:26:00] caseworker is, Absolutely just rude or doesn’t investigate or whatever the case may be. And we’ve seen the bad apples and the court system is ultimately the check on the bad apples. So for whatever bias you may have against lawyers or court systems out there, let’s be clear, we are checking these people and, and not, we’re not perfect.[00:26:19] But if they’re doing things incorrectly, um, or they’re, they’re, there’s long periods of time in their investigation where they haven’t been involved, it’s pretty easy to expose them in the courtroom.
Mary – So, in the, the Frankie case, neighbors had called the police about suspected abuse. Um, and one of Frankie’s older daughters also asked for welfare checks on the minor children.[00:26:42] Um, if someone suspects or sees signs of child abuse, Justin, what steps can they take?
Justin – On that, on that point, with respect to. Seeing and calling and, and making outcries, unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s very [00:27:00] hard when you have abusive situations because oftentimes abusive people recluse, right?[00:27:04] They recluse with their kids, uh, they, they cover up bruises. You don’t see them out as much. And so this, this situation with the older daughter, I found it kind of interesting because I read a little bit further. And again, I’m going off third party heresay here, but I read a little bit further that the police actually you know, she went into, uh, the house and got some of the cameras and.[00:27:28] Um, you know, some of the footage and also downloaded some of the hard drives and maybe took some of the hard drives and then the dad actually wanted to press charges on his, on his daughter, uh, for getting this information and, this just shows you how hard it is to get the evidence, right?[00:27:45] Number one, you can’t just break into the other parent’s house and. take their hard drive, uh, take their tapes and all that stuff from their computer or webcams or whatever else. And so it, it really is hard to get the evidence. And [00:28:00] when it’s, he said, she said with a hearsay objection, this just really bright lines and highlights how hard it is to get this information.[00:28:07] But you know, when it comes to, you know, gathering what you can, um, we have discovery tools, we have depositions, we have the ability to send requests for production interrogatories to subpoena. The actual text message and video footage, but the problem is these private companies, they don’t, they’re not just a data center.[00:28:28] They don’t really want to share this information from their consumer. Um, so they don’t hold it very long. And some of these phone carriers, their policies are, 18 days, six, you’re not going to go back to two years ago. So it’s really important going back to that communication. If you start to see signs, you better get after it quickly because the preservation of evidence is not always there.
Mary – [00:28:50] So if you are like a neighbor, you know, that that’s concerned about your neighbor’s kid. That you think they’re abused. What would you advise like a [00:29:00] somewhat stranger type neighbor person to do in those situations?
Justin – And that gets really, really challenging. I mean, the short answer is you, if you see any signs of, uh, of a child, this, this is an example of where the waiting game or the fear game, if you don’t make the call and you don’t contact the authorities to do a welfare check, it can go.[00:29:24] unchecked for a long period of time. By the same token, we have the nosy Nancys of the world, right? Who are up in the neighbor’s business and up in arms. You know, obviously if a child’s running out of a house, screaming, crying, it’s probably good to have somebody check in to that. You know, if you’re seeing the signs of, you know, the yelling and screaming going into the house, the door slamming, um, and you’re, and you’re the neighbor, usually the cops have been out to these places a couple of times.[00:29:50] But let’s be clear. If it’s a civil disagreement or, you know, there’s just two parties arguing and fighting the police really can’t do a [00:30:00] whole lot. They’ll separate they don’t want to breach of the peace, they want to make sure that the child is protected they can pop in and do a welfare check.[00:30:07] But a lot of times these abuse situations take a significant amount of time before they’re discovered. Um, so usually it’s the, it’s the closer family members than the neighbors from what we see. And, and usually what you see is the neighbors don’t want to get involved and down the road, they don’t want to be drug out in the court to talk about what they saw.[00:30:26] So they clam up. And so my advice would be, if, if you see some blatant actions, make sure that you, you know, you, you call them and I, I would be even hesitant to go and try to confront the parents in that situation. Um, if you see something that’s that blatant because, you know, Then they shut you completely out.[00:30:45] Now, all of a sudden, you know, we’re not going to talk to this neighbor anymore and they get shut out of the equation. So I think that, you know, in, in same with parents and relatives, like you don’t, you don’t push the gas pedal until you got your guns locked and loaded. Right. [00:31:00] And sometimes you have to gather information and, uh, you know, I would say that what we see at first glance isn’t always the full picture.[00:31:06] And so, open your eyes wider. Try to have a little bit more involvement. Just, Hey, can I come over for coffee? I’d love to see you, uh, you know, check in if you’re going to be, if you’re going to be reporting on something that severe and it’s not just a matter of, you’ve got a vendetta vendetta against your neighbor and you saw a bad thing one day, if you’re going to be involved, then get involved.[00:31:25] And check on the child. I mean, there’s nothing wrong anymore. I love when our neighbors just pop by and say, Hey, can sailor grace come over for the day? Uh, and swim be involved as a neighbor if you know, in general. And I think if you have some, some suspicious activity going on in your neighborhood, it’s important to know it, whether it’s child abuse or anything else.[00:31:43] And the only way to do that is stay involved, stay with you, stay in communication. If they shut it down, that child’s out, you need to report it.
Mary – Okay, so now the charges in this particular case are felony charges, which is a potential. Well, it is a criminal case. Um, [00:32:00] so how does a criminal case like this impact a civil case potentially like custody or?[00:32:06] related cases?
Justin – Well, obviously we have fifth amendment questions, right? So, you know, when you’re dealing with a civil matter, what we will see is if, if in conjunction, there is a criminal indictment they will have their own criminal attorney that they hire before they consult with their family or civil attorney.[00:32:26] The problem or challenge that I, that I sometimes see is the immediate response is let’s shut down all communication because there’s criminal implications. And certainly in felony child abuse, uh, scenarios, and I don’t pretend to be the criminal law expert here by any means, but you know, obviously a lot of criminal cases go hand in hand with the civil cases.[00:32:48] Um, in situations where it’s, let’s call it a class C all the way up to a class a misdemeanor where it’s, you know, the, the push, um, or I felt trapped in my [00:33:00] house or they, they took my cell phone when I tried to call 9 1 1 there, there are. There’s a, an entirely other set of facts that happen in that situation.[00:33:09] And you know, I see the most common thing I see is, um, where there’s this pushy, pushy situation and not to minimize that, but then one party swings on the other party and the other party is literally restraining them, right? The party that’s restraining them it’s not a male, female thing, a big, small thing.[00:33:30] There’s some. People that can hit hard in tiny packages. There’s some men that can hit hard. There’s some women that can hit hard. And it’s important to understand that, when you’re trying to restrain somebody from the situation, it’s not always easy. But then what happens is it escalates and that keeps happening over time.[00:33:48] And, you know, sometimes one party will have a bruise or a torn shirt, uh, or their wrist is, you know, restrained and, the police kind of come out. They look at the situation. They assess the bad actors. They see [00:34:00] who has the marks, who calls the police. I had a client two weeks ago that literally he, he restrained, he restrained his wife.[00:34:07] She’s hit him multiple times. I’ve seen the videos. Uh, I’ve heard the videos. He didn’t show them to the police. They came out and they actually assessed both parties. They, they looked at the situation. She had, she had a bruise on her wrist. Uh, his story was that, you know, basically she came in, she pushed him.[00:34:25] Um, and then, um, he was trying to exit. the room. She was like, no, we’re going to talk about this now. And she just cold caught him. He had a, he had marks on the side of his cheek. Uh, but it wasn’t, I guess considered bruising enough. Um, and his story was that then he was going to call the police.[00:34:41] She took his phone, literally took his phone and hit it. Which is interference with the 911 call. And I can tell you if the shoe were on the other foot in that scenario, um, and I have close clients and close family friends who’ve been through this, if that’s, you were on the other foot, it would have been an arrest the other way.[00:34:58] Uh, for whatever reason that [00:35:00] day you know, he was the one that was arrested and then all of a sudden, you know, this case is. Probably going to get dismissed in my opinion. Uh, but then when they dug into the other fact patterns, the lawyer was like, well, you can’t say anything it’s fifth amendment. Uh, we don’t want any record made.[00:35:14] And so he can’t tell his side of the story. And when you’re in a custody case and it’s presumed, um, you know, you can presume things in a civil case, right? So in a criminal case, you’ve got a presumption of innocence in a civil case, you can actually infer, like if someone doesn’t answer or they. You can actually infer some of, uh, the, the, the, that these things did happen.[00:35:37] Um, so you gotta be real careful in my opinion, to clam up too much, where you can actually explain away a lot of this stuff. And that’s why it’s important for me to talk to the criminal lawyers. I have a, you know, we all have pockets of people that we believe are really the best in the game. And we have some phenomenal ones in the DFW area, right?[00:35:57] But if there’s not. communication [00:36:00] between the civil lawyer, uh, or family lawyer and the criminal lawyer. And there’s not a strategic plan. What you can find is that the criminal case was B. S. For lack of a better legal word that takes a long time to process because in a criminal setting, oftentimes you want to prolong that so that witnesses go away and you know, cases get dismissed.[00:36:20] It gets reset. Prosecutors decided how this is This one isn’t worth it. And in the civil case, you want it now. It’s like if JG wentworth it’s cash now, I want my custody case over with. I don’t want to pay these people by the hour. I want to have my custody case resolved. I don’t want to have these TROs against me, get it dismissed.[00:36:37] And so they can, they can counteract each other in those scenarios. You saw in this case, you know, the, the counselor, I think, uh, she turned her license in, I don’t know the, the, what all happened behind that. Um, you know, it says, well, it’s non disciplinary. Well, I don’t know why you’d turn your license in if it’s non disciplinary.[00:36:56] I’m sure there’s, there’s other reasons behind, uh, some of [00:37:00] that. Maybe it has to do with. the very thing we’re talking about, i. e. discoverable information. They’re scared because that will come to light. And if she continues to talk, you know, the first thing they say is shut down, don’t blow, you know, don’t talk, don’t do anything, shut down.[00:37:14] That’s the, that’s the criminal mantra because you, you’re innocent until proven guilty and you don’t want to supply evidence. Same with CPS and these other scenarios. And so again, it, they can, they can tend to fight each other. Um, just by the nature of the strategic way that we approach the case, um, in a criminal or versus a civil setting.
Andrea – [00:37:34] And I think that’s another point that you made before, be careful to call the police just as a revenge on the other person. If you have an argument at home, because the police comes to the house and the police will decide what they see, right? There’s not a solution necessarily if you’re in danger, of course, but it’s not just like making false accusations towards the other party that there’s abuse is also very dangerous to make false accusations when it comes to.[00:37:56] physical abuse and call the police, correct? Because then they get involved and potentially [00:38:00] there is a criminal case, but can shut down your other one. And was it really necessary or are you trying just to prove a point to the other party?
Justin – Yeah. And you know, just to kind of follow up on that, Andrea, that’s a great point.[00:38:10] The, the, the idea that you’re going to call the police, I, we have another case where literally the. The mother has called the police maybe six or seven times. She didn’t really remember a couple of them. So when we asked her, did she call the police? And she said no in one hearing. And then now, you know, two months later, we get the discovery of the police reports.[00:38:32] Uh, of the CPS, you know, obviously they’re going to say we can’t disclose who, uh, is, you know, who called or whatever. Guess what? You get them in a courtroom, you ask the question, they have to answer it. Who called? Now, all of a sudden you’ve got perjury, right? Which is a whole nother thing. And you know, it, it really diminishes the credibility of that side.[00:38:52] When you are, when you are the. What I will call the over caller, the boy who cried wolf for the girl who cried wolf. And the police are [00:39:00] not the arbiter of your life, right? I mean, this lady was literally calling to ask them questions. She told them about their marriage scenario. There was no criminality in anything she was calling for, for four of these calls.[00:39:13] And I mean, CPS workers get real tired of that. I would imagine when, you know, someone’s called five, six, seven times case closed case, case closed. And then all of a sudden on the eighth time, you’ve got a significant event.
Andrea – Yeah. And we have friends that are police officers and they said the worst call they get is domestic, domestic calls when they say they’re fighting.[00:39:33] Again, there are bad cases out there where you have to call the police because your life is in danger. But most of them are like, Oh my God, here’s another call for domestic disturbance. And then they go and it’s nothing. It’s just the husband and wife arguing about something and then felt that the police going to solve the going to solve the case.[00:39:49] And that’s really not the right way to handle the situation I think. And people think those, it might be.
Justin – Yeah, on the false accusation situation, and that happens a lot. And unfortunately, [00:40:00] you know, it’s kind of like the newspaper article that says, so and so is a crook, and they, they should be put in jail forever.[00:40:06] And then all of a sudden they get acquitted, but that’s buried on the 11th page of the paper. Right. So it’s like the follow up piece that, that really gets buried oftentimes. And in this situation, what we see is, well, you know, what’s my recourse if someone’s called, uh, child protective services against me six times and they have called the police on me and all of this is dropped.[00:40:29] And, I would say that that’s, that’s where you get into the alienation situations, um, obviously, but unfortunately there’s not a great deal of, um, scenarios where. you know, the courts are really doing a lot to people, um, after these events occur. And it’s, it’s generally not because the courts don’t want to, it’s because clients run out of resources.[00:40:51] I mean, when you fight in somebody that’s called the police on you 15 times and they’ve probably sued you three or four times in 10 years with your kids lives. And [00:41:00] you’ve paid lawyers each time to do that, you know, you can get attorney’s fees, judgments, and things like that against them. But, you know, then you get somebody that doesn’t have any resources or money to pay them
Andrea – and collecting on those.
Justin – [00:41:11] Yeah. And that’s, that’s where those are the cases where, I mean, it’s just hard, hard, hard for me to really get behind, uh, the remedy there. Cause there’s just not a lot of civil remedy there. You’ve got, you do have vexatious litigate, uh, statutes and things like that too. I try to curb that, but the family code actually has a lot of protections because we’re dealing with children and best interest of children.[00:41:33] So you can’t just blatantly say, Hey, you can never file a modification again. Like you can in, you know, civil cases where they sue somebody over and over for the same civil wrongs. Uh, so it is a balancing act and that is why it’s important, um, to preserve. And, you know, sometimes you’ve got to go for the jugular in those scenarios.[00:41:51] Sometimes they need supervisor, no access. Are eight months to just kind of rack their brain. And, you know, I do find if you can really prove it up [00:42:00] with good evidence, I do find the courts, um, the good judges will take that step. Sometimes they get a little political though, and they just try to kind of go this mid road Kumbaya approach when they really need that sledgehammer.[00:42:12] And so I think that’s really something to think about when, with your lawyer on a, the judge and the court that you’re in. Um, you know, and b, uh, you know, what the actual recourse is. Um, you know, if you, the pro se’s are really tough too. You’ve got one party that’s paying a lawyer, they’re doing everything they’re supposed to be doing.[00:42:32] And the other side just doesn’t really do much. They don’t pay much. They don’t, they’re not very involved. They don’t even have a lawyer. Sometimes they’re fire their lawyer, the lawyer fires them, and it’s a long drawn out case. Uh, and you know, it’s not just easy to get that result even with that scenario.[00:42:47] So we just gotta be cognizant of that.
Mary – So, um, uh, speaking of long and drawn out, that’s this podcast is getting long and drawn out. So, so, so any final [00:43:00] thoughts, anything that you really wanted to cover in this conversation today, Justin, before we sign off?
Justin – No, I think we, I think we’ve really hit on, on those issues, but I, but I do, I do just want to continue to remind parents that.[00:43:11] Um, you know, that’s 90 percent of the reason we, we preach this Kumbaya, uh, approach from our side is, is for that communication. I mean, when I read the fact pattern of the story, I, it, it really hits home in so many different ways, um, because I’ve seen counselors, uh, that. And I mean, they’re, they’re high level professionals.[00:43:33] They’re the ones that say, call me doctor, by the way. Uh, I have seen these truth moms, truth bombs, dads for whatever, dads for donkeys, whatever you call it. I’ve seen these situations, um, with these groups. And I really, really want to encourage people that are out there using the internet as their source.[00:43:52] Make sure, make sure when you see a group has like 15 followers and it’s all the, I’m going to use the word whack [00:44:00] jobs that started the thing. Let’s, let’s get some other resources there. Um, I do like the idea of, of, of having a check on the court system. The purist check honestly is a court reporter, a transcript.[00:44:14] the court of appeals, the civil courts. It’s expensive though. Um, and what I’m leaning a lot more to now is in the associate courts that do not have recorders and do not have records. Um, we’re starting to bring them in. Because as, as judges enter a bench, um, and you get bias and prejudice that happen, um, they can be biased against a lawyer.[00:44:41] Um, and not even, you know, you don’t even really know it. Um, it’s important to have a check on that court system, but it needs to be the right check and it needs to be the full picture.
Mary – All right. Well, a great way to wrap up today. Great topic. Um, if you’d like to contact the Sisemore Law Firm, you can call 817 [00:45:00] 336 4444 or visit lawyerdfw.[00:45:04] com. We also invite you to follow the podcast and share it with friends who might find it helpful. Thanks so much for listening and have a great day.Announcer – Thank you for listening to In Your Best Interest with Texas divorce attorney and entrepreneur, Justin Sisemore. The content presented here is provided for information only.[00:45:22] and should not be construed as legal, tax, or financial advice. Click the follow button to be notified when new episodes become available.