Believe women

Child psychologist loses custody of her 2 sons

Amy Castillo was a pediatrician with a clean record yet the judge believed her husband (who had vandalized the house, threatened to kill the kids and was institutionalized) and she was denied a restraining order.

He drowned the 3 children in a hotel bathtub in Baltimore.

Now, here’s another case – a child psychologist loses custody of her 2 sons after making allegations of abuse. The judge transfers custody to the husband until the mother ‘changes her mind about the allegations.’ Even her family members are forbidden contact.

I can’t say whether these allegations are true or not, but allegations can be hard to prove and this judge’s decisions are ridiculous. Clearly, the judge doesn’t believe this woman made false allegations malicously, so by punishing her, she’s sending a message that allegations – whether or not they’re made in good faith – will be penalized severely.  Not a good public health policy.

She recalls how, on the evening she lost her children, Tin ordered her and her family to stay put in the courtroom and directed that Pennington’s nanny drive her boys to their father’s parents. As the boys sobbed, Pennington says, the exchange took place in the parking lot of a Charlotte pancake house.

It’s been 18 months since then, and Pennington says she’s seen her sons for only 17 hours, despite completing thousands of dollars in court-ordered therapy. To get more visitation, she’s supposed to change her mind about allegations she made against her ex-husband. Yet she claims requirements in Tin’s order are impossible to meet.

Change her mind? Is that what Judge Tin thinks is the answer to a mother who believes abuse took place?

When Pennington and her ex-husband divorced in 2006, they agreed to share custody. Back then, nothing suggested their break-up would end so badly.

But in 2007, Pennington filed for primary custody. She alleged, among other things, that her ex-husband wasn’t properly giving one son his asthma medicine and wasn’t adequately preparing the two boys for school.

Pennington and her ex-husband tried mediation. It failed. About two weeks later, in early 2008, she reported serious allegations to a pediatrician. A Department of Social Services investigation followed.

To protect the privacy of the boys, the Observer isn’t providing details of the allegations or identifying the children or their father, who shares their last name.

In subsequent months, Pennington reported several more incidents that she said her sons disclosed to her following visits with their father, according to Tin’s order.

But the DSS investigation didn’t substantiate Pennington’s allegations. And police concluded the allegations were unfounded, Tin’s order says.

Instead, it was Pennington who DSS cited for neglect, finding that she had repeatedly discussed the allegations with her sons. During the trial, a DSS social worker testified that one of Pennington’s sons said his mom and her boyfriend talked about the allegations all the time, “even after the judge told them not to talk about it.”

The trial lasted 13 days. When it was over, Tin issued a tough ruling from the bench. She gave custody of the boys to their father and limited Pennington, at first, to supervised visitation with her children – if her therapist and their therapists deemed it appropriate.

How is discussing abuse allegations with children considered neglect?!?
Tin also ordered Pennington to pay $266,657 for her ex-husband’s attorney fees. He was represented by lawyers with James, McElroy & Diehl.
She doesn’t just get fined for a “false allegation,” she has to pay over $250,000 for her exes legal fees, along with her own.
Tin wrote that Pennington may have believed the allegations she was making. But if she ever wanted unsupervised time with her boys, the judge required an unusual condition: Pennington would have to show a “changed perspective,” admitting that her ex-husband didn’t commit the acts she alleged, and that her actions had harmed her boys.
Tin ruled she would use testimony from multiple people familiar with Pennington’s behavior to decide if she changed her perspective. They would include therapists and her family members – as well as her ex-husband.

After the trial, Tin also forbade several of Pennington’s family members from having contact with her boys.

This is sounding more and more cult-like. She gets virtually no contact until she changes her mind about her sons being abused. The judge is basically saying, I don’t care if you believe abuse took place, change your perspective or suffer the consequences.

Pennington says she’s a good mother being punished for believing what her children told her. She says she did not repeatedly question and coach her children about the allegations.

She’s now supposed to pay her husband’s attorney fees, child support and for therapy for herself and her sons, she says. She has also spent about $268,000 on her own legal fees, according to Tin’s order.

Pennington believes she has proof that Tin’s order is flawed. She filed ethics complaints against her sons’ two therapists, and the licensing board recently agreed that Tin’s order had created possible conflicts of interests by requiring the therapists to both treat and evaluate family members.

Pennington’s complaints prompted the therapists to halt visitations – one reason she’s seen so little of her sons.

Read more here:  With stakes so high, she won’t stop

 Here’s more on Judge Tin and judicial bias: Trials that will not adjourn

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