Sunday, September 19, 2010

Family Courts "Splattered in Blood"

Sunday morning, three children ages 7,12 and 14 took their last breaths,as their father, during a court ordered visitation, Muhammed Goher, 47 of Houston, Texas opened fire. The school bags, neatly at the foot of the beds where the children were shot, splattered in their blood. Beanie Babies along the wall of the 7-year olds bed, soaked in her blood.

On Friday, Norma Goher, the children's mother dropped off the kids to their father, the couple was divorced, and he was to return them back to her on Sunday. The family court knew Muhammed was not stable and yet the judge went ahead and signed the order for visitation anyway. A hearing on visitation issues and removal of overnight visits with the father was scheduled for September 27th. In my opinion, one more time of court mandated "daddy time", cost the kids their lives.

There is an automatic presumption that it is in the best interest of a child “regardless of court orders”, prior violence or threats, to maintain visitation with both parents. Victims of domestic violence face a double edged sword. Either expose their children to imminent danger, or defy the court system refusing to allow visitation. Like so many others before her, Norma atttempted to deal with a violent relationship in a dysfunctional family court environment.

In family court the two parties are presumed to be on a level playing field--law abiding individuals who have a disagreement over a private family matter. A core assumption of family law is that family disputes are not criminal disputes. As such, there are few safeguards built into the family court system to protect against the criminal dynamics that dominate family disputes in cases of family violence. In addition, the accusations the victim makes in family court, no matter how serious, carry no more authority than one person's say so. One of the most serious consequences is that when a family violence victim opens a case in family court against her abuser, the abuser is given equal opportunity to fight back against the victim's accusations, often because the abusers past is not an issue. Unless, of course, he is brought in from county or state prison sporting an orange jump suit and leg shackles.

There are lawyers and men’s groups who argue using domestic violence with a broad brush is not a reason to deny fathers visitation with their children. Accusing mothers of lying or making up stories to keep fathers’ from their children.

Under the current laws, a parent without custody is entitled "reasonable visitation." There is a high burden of proof as evidenced in this case when a court refuses to take into account dangerous abusers pose to their children.

Until we place the issue of labeling these cases as a "private matter" or an isolated incident, expect the death toll among children to rise. Expect the courts to continue to ignore obvious danger signs when a victim of violence is or has ended the relationship.

After killing his children, he shot himself in the head, but remains alive and is expected to survive the attempted suicide.

(Susan Murphy Milano, is with the Institute for Relational Harm Reduction & Public Psychopathy Education for more information visit and is the author of the new book "Time's Up A Guide on How to Leave and Survive Abusive and Stalking Relationships available for purchase at the Institute, and where ever books are sold.)

Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit by Susan Murphy Milano from the Book "Time's Up" from Courage Network on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

3 more children who received death sentences from family court.

Kathy said...

When will the courts learn? How many children have to die before the court system starts to genuinely put the best interests of the child first? When will the system accept that some parents are not safe parents? When will they accept that when women cry wolf there usually is a wolf posing a threat to their children?
This is a global issue not only a US issue.

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