Sunday, November 17, 2013

Order of Protection entered against dangerous husband can produce a modification of child custody - IC 31-17-2-8

16 November 2013

“For the first time in three years I feel like I no longer have to worry that my children are going to be exposed to further violence” said Craig Scarberry when asked for his thoughts on Friday's ruling in a Madison County protective order case.

If you have been a follower of my child custody postings you are likely familiar with the case of Craig Scarberry, the Anderson, Indiana man who lost custody of his children for changing his religious preference from Christian to agnostic. The custody dispute with the children's mother, Christine Galbraith, has never really ceased as Scarberry continues to advocate for their children's well-being.

Both parents have subsequently remarried which has resulted in four adults, sometimes with different objectives and allegiances, interacting with each other. Those interactions have not always been amicable. The man Christine chose to marry is Brandon Galbraith. He is the incendiary element that creates an imbalance in the relations between these blended families. This leads to hostilities and a poor environment to which the children are exposed.

On Friday 15 November 2013 Magistrate Steven D Clase, Madison Circuit Court 2, issued an Order for Protection pursuant to the Indiana Civil Protection Order Act [IC 34-26-5-1] against Mr Galbraith on behalf of Craig Scarberry and his wife Courtney Scarberry. This was following a courtroom rant by Mr Galbraith, about a half hour in duration, during which he admitted to numerous offenses against Mr Scarberry including a physical attack, threats, and incidents of stalking or intimidation. Mr Galbraith demonstrated for the court his behaviours that are consistent with a domestic abuser or stalker. His domination of the proceedings [Scarberry got to speak no more than five minutes], his agitated physical composure, his use of rationalization for the offenses, and his demonstrated willingness to continue the behaviours led to the immediate granting of the requested relief. Mr Galbraith is now forbidden from being around Mr Scarberry and may not have any direct or indirect contact with him. This immediately prohibits Mr Galbraith from using the email account that he stated he shares with Christine. That is the account through which Christine directed Craig to use to send all communication to her. The underlying reason for the shared account now being apparent – Brandon has to monitor Christine's communications with Craig.

This is the situation that presents a danger to children of divorce. Christine has an overwhelming insecurity and no confidence in herself. She lacks control internally and thus seeks control through external means – having sole custody of the children. Because she lacks confidence in her own decisions she attaches herself to someone who assumes all control and decision making authority – Brandon Galbraith. He is the type of person who responds to the most basic drives and whose actions are manifestations of those primal instincts. Primarily he is territorial. Observations of him in court and the community reveal a substantially impaired intellectual functioning. His actions are aligned more heavily towards the impulsive end of the range and far from the more advanced rational thinking that has evolved in man over the eons. In short, he is a modern day cave-man with an attitude problem. His primary drives are securing territory, ensuring mate exclusivity and reproducing. Although Christine already had three children with Craig, whose basic needs she is unable to meet, she has birthed two additional children with Brandon. I anticipate, that if she is not already, that she will soon be pregnant. She must demonstrate her loyalty to her new mate – Brandon – by producing a greater number of offspring with him and providing resources to them while neglecting those to which Brandon has no biological connection – the ones who can't pass on his genes.

Like Christine, Brandon is also an insecure person who lacks confidence. For him though, this is the basis of his need to impose control rather than be controlled. To avoid confronting his perceived inferiority he must control his environment and those who breach the barrier that circumscribes it. This leads to his jealousy – the underpinning of his hostility. He is aware of his inferior intellect and guards against exposing it although he made a thorough presentation of it on Friday. This awareness leads to feelings of anger, fear and sadness. Brandon fears that Christine's allegiance remains to Craig. She feels as though she got “dumped” by Craig and desperately wants to rekindle the relationship. That is why she was still having sexual relations with Craig, as her ex-husband, while concurrently having sexual relations with Brandon. When Craig became aware he ceased the sexual activity with her. Brandon is keenly aware of who terminated that relationship and who wanted to continue it behind his back. Brandon is sad that he is second choice [or possibly much lower but second of those willing to be with Christine]. That he is only appreciated [that may be too generous – clung to may be appropriate] by someone with such low self esteem who isn't even wanted by a former partner for free sex. This leads to his anger, anger at himself for not being a more worthy suitor. Combining these results in jealousy. Brandon desires to be wanted as much as Craig by Christine. Brandon desires to be as good of a father as Craig. Brandon most wishes to not be subjected to the comparative measure of Craig. Thus, because he is unable to reconcile his own feelings, Brandon becomes hostile to Craig – the innocuous structure in whose shadow Brandon exists.

People like Brandon – men most often – are a danger to children for which they reside with but are not biologically connected. Genetically it is in their interest to devote resources to their offspring while neglecting those produced by another mate. Thus, babies are likely to be beaten to death, young girls are much more likely to be sexually assaulted and necessary support may be withheld by a man brought into the home who does not share a biological connection with those children. Brandon refers to the son of Craig and Christine as “my son” yet he has no legal or biological connection to him. He views the children as property and a barrier to his dominance. Christine is aware of these dangers as she has purportedly taken the children she shares with Craig out of the house while the two she shares with Brandon remain with him following or during his violent outburst. Christine's decision to have Brandon remain in her home is the substantial change to at least one of the factors enumerated under IC 31-17-2-8 that must be demonstrated for a change of custody. Factor 6 is the mental and physical health of all individuals involved. Allowing a violent person such as Brandon Galbraith to reside in the household with the children is not just poor judgment but weighs against the mental health of the parent who would expose the children to his ongoing violence. Factor 4(C) is the interaction and interrelationship of the child with any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests which includes subsequent spouses. Here also is the children being exposed to an individual with a violent history whom she fears.

I often give clear notice that an order of protection is inappropriately named as it does not protect. However, in this instance it can provide some relief to Craig Scarberry in that Christine may no longer legally bring Brandon to a parenting time exchange, thereby reducing the likelihood that Brandon can physically attack Craig while the children look on and scream in terror. Brandon is now prohibited from repeatedly driving up and down the street where Craig's home is located and taking photographs of the children in the area – something that upset neighboring parents previously. Brandon and his 125 pound dog will no longer be allowed to approach Courtney Scarberry and glare at her. Brandon will not be allowed to harass other people about Craig. Craig coaches a sports team on which his son plays. Brandon became a coach on the team awhile after Craig but Brandon was promptly removed following threatening acts against Craig made during the children's practices.

Here we have a scenario for a change of custody to be granted based upon an underlying lack of fitness on the part of the custodial parent – her coping skills. Her method of addressing her own insecurities and lack of confidence in child rearing is to invite a dangerous, violent man into the household to control her life. This lack of fitness stems from her derogation of and attacks on the children's father – through proxy. Coupled with allowing a violent individual – who has attacked the children's father in their presence and has stalked father's current wife – to remain in the household clearly established a change in circumstances in which it is not in the best interest of the children to remain with her. In Arms versus Arms, [803 N.E.2d 1201, 1208 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004)] the mother had physical custody of the child, a caseworker stated that her current coping methods presented a risk for physical and emotional harm to her child. Mother spoke ill of Father and his girlfriend, calling them names in the child's presence. The child visited a psychologist who determined that the child's awareness of conflict had emerged and the child was being emotionally harmed by the behavior.

These “jeopardizing circumstances” caused the child great harm, and for the sake of the child's mental health, the Court concluded that Father had presented sufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding that it would be in the child's best interest to modify custody of the child to Father and eliminate overnight visitation with Mother to protect the child from psychological and emotional harm. In the Scarberry case we have more than speaking ill of the other parent and that parent's subsequent partner. Here we have the other parent being attacked and the subsequent wife stalked in the presence of the children. These “jeopardizing circumstances” are clearly enough to warrant a change of custody.

The court issuing the protective order has done what it can do in this case. Craig and Courtney as well as Christine, to some extent, have attempted to get along in their post divorce relationship. Craig and Courtney now have a tool to help mitigate the aggressive and dangerous acts against them by Brandon Galbraith. Unfortunately for Christine what will need to be done to protect her and the children in her household is up to her. I would like to be able to believe that Brandon treats her with the dignity and respect that she deserves as the mother of his children but based upon my observations of him and a review of the record I can't. Anyone who sits by and watches her children scream in horror and does nothing to stop the attack on their parent obviously knows her place in the relationship. From all of my Domestic Violence experience I can assuredly say that if it hasn't happened to her yet, an attack by her dangerous husband on her is forthcoming.

Christine Galbraith is writing herself a prescription for loneliness by welcoming a violent man into her life and that of her children. She will lose the older children to their father, she will lose her husband to the criminal justice system, and finally, she will lose custody of her remaining children through a CHiNS case.

If you are experiencing Domestic Violence report it to the police.

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