Please Read My Letter – A Parent’s Plea to NPR

I was very moved today to write about the pathology of the Family Court to Representative Urban of Stonington, CT after hearing her speak on NPR’s “Where We Live” and share the trauma that this inflicts on children in Connecticut: (The following is what I posted on Facebook. Go to the end of this article and sign my petition too please.)

Dear Representative Urban,

My name is Monica Szymonik. I just finished listening to NPR’s “Where We Live” and agreed with a lot of what you said about our young people in crisis.

I have been involved in Family Court reform for many years, after Judge Jose Suarez stripped me of most of my parental rights in 2011 when he served in Tolland county (Peters vs Senman). I have virtually no legal rights to my son with autism, in spite of me being endorsed by professionals and Officers of the Court as a fit and capable parent. I published a book last year on my ordeal, called “Broken System, Broken Heart” to help other mothers overcome the enormous loss of their parental rights.

Judge Suarez has continued to artificially separate parents from their disabled children throughout his career. He was up for reappointment just last month and you may remember him being one of the controversial judges. Judge Suarez has not only caused irreparable damage to my relationship with my son by depriving him of a loving mother, but Judge Suarez also removed my husband’s two boys from him (my stepsons) in 2017 (Szymonik v Szymonik), just days before his reappointment hearing.

As I mentioned, my husband and I both have children with autism, and are both fit and loving parents. However, the Family Court routinely erases one parent from the equation, due to unconstitutional CT statues that declare that equality in parenting plans require two “yeses”. In other words, both parents can’t play equal roles in their children’s lives unless BOTH parents agree to this. CT statues allow one parent to simply disagree to the notion of equality, which then forces both parents to litigate, even though the other parent is amendable to equal parental rights for both parents. Two fit parents are then forced into protracted Family Court litigation, which is why I am in the situation I am in, serving as an “every other weekend” mom to my special needs child who desperately needs two parents. Children such as my son are unduly burdened and punished by being deprived of the formative relationship with one of their parents, and separates them from their peers, who often enjoy full relationships with both parents.

My reason for writing to you is because myself and hundreds of other CT parents need reform in the Family Court. Fit parents should never face the fear of losing custody of their children, and yet they do. The Title IV child support bonuses from the federal government incentivizes Family Court judges to create inequality in their orders. Parent lobbyists are trying to change this, year after year, yet we are up against powerful Family Law attorneys that often run the bulk of the judiciary committee.

The bills pertaining to parental rights in Family Court have died in committee yet again. My representative, Prasad Srinivasan, brought bill 6645 to the committee that calls for preservation of parental rights in a divorce, yet that bill also did not survive. I asked legislators to please resurrect the bills, but I have not received a response from the 60+ legislators that I wrote to.

I heard you speak on “Where We Live” this morning on NPR. I see that you are concerned with child welfare in Connecticut. I also saw that you stressed how important it is to catch problems early. While I can’t speak for every childhood mental illness, I believe that many of these problems would not exist if Family Court judges preserved parental rights at the time of divorce, instead of endorsing the winner/loser culture that has plagued our society for decades.

Parents like myself have fewer rights to their children than parents who have been substantiated for abuse and neglect, because abusive parents are put on a case plan, and after completion of the plan, may receive all their rights to their children in 12-15 months. I have been asking the Family Court to restore my parental rights for half of my son’s life. The Family Court is more of a threat to parental rights than DCF.

Below, you will see the letter I sent to about a third of our legislative body. It’s been five days since I sent this letter, and I have not received a single reply. I believe it’s time that Connecticut discontinued the stripping of legal and physical custody of one parent at the time of divorce, and supported equality in parenting agreements.

Please tell me your thoughts, and if you believe that allowing children to have the support of two fit parents could circumvent some of the mental illness that is pervasive in the older adolescent children, which contributes to the issues discussed on NPR today.

Thank you for caring so much about your young people in Connecticut, and for your contribution on NPR today.

Sincerely,

Monica Szymonik 
Constitutional and Civil Rights Activist
Author of “Broken System, Broken Heart
Autism Advocate

Glastonbury SEPTA
CT Coalition for Family Court Reform

Subject: Please resurrect the parental rights bills that died in committee

Members of the Judiciary Committee,

On behalf of myself and hundreds of other parents in Connecticut, we are wondering what caused the languishing of nearly 15 parental rights related bills? I am not aware of public hearings related to any of our bills, yet many other child welfare related bills were afforded a hearing, such as An Act Concerning the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds. If this Act made it to a public hearing, what about bills concerning fundamental parental rights? Why did they die in committee? Will any of them make it to a public hearing? We are very concerned.

Our families are fractured and are desperate for change. The legislative branch has become the only glimmer of hope many of us have left. We cannot get relief by going to court, no matter how many hoops we jump through at the direction of judges and court-appointed vendors. We are out of money, and we are out of time.

These bills are not solely designed as a benefit to parents like myself, but designed to benefit to our children and extended families of our children, whom many have been cut out of these young people’s lives by unconstitutional Family Court orders.

The now-dead bills are designed to promote the health of our society and our younger generation, who are still developing brain synapses and formative attachments. The absence of one fit parent is the one of the core risk factors in whether or not an adolescent child will develop a dependence on illegal substances, become suicidal, become a teenage parent, engage in delinquency, and fail to finish school. We already know all this, as the veracity of the evidence supporting this has been widely accepted for decades.

The current Connecticut statues, which allows a Family Court judge to create a “best interest” finding by selecting a winning parent and a losing parent, are unconstitutional.

The determination of “best interest” in an intact family would never be dictated by a state judge, as it lies solely within the intimate decisions of two fit parents. The state cannot remove a fit parent from an intact marriage, so therefore the state does not have a claim on the rights on a fit, but divorcing parent. A change in marital status is not a waiver of parents’ fundamental right to family integrity – nor is it a compelling state interest to relegate one parent to “visitor” status, overnight, without a fitness hearing.

Under the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, a change in marital status is not a trigger for a state actor to make a “best interest” determination, which is rooted in nothing more than the opinion of a Family Court judge. The Supreme Court does not recognize “best interest”. The Connecticut state statues do not reflect any U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding parental rights whatsoever. Yet the Connecticut statues allow this anyway. This is why parents like myself need reform. Our families have suffered far too long. Constituents do not want our future doctors, lawmakers, teachers and parents to come from broken homes. It’s in society’s best interest to have happy and healthy children. It’s in the network of our collective value system.

On behalf of many devastated parents, who are rapidly running out of time to save their parent-child relationship, we need the Judiciary to amend the current statues and make them constitutional. We call on the Committee to resurrect the 2017 parental rights bills that have died. We can’t keep waiting, year after year, hoping that the legislature will help us.

My 10 year old son with autism spends a mere four days a month with his maternal family (that is, when my parenting time is not punitively withheld from me by my ex), and has done so for most of his life because of Judge Suarez’s unconstitutional and draconian 2011 court orders. I am forced into constant litigation simply to be an equal parent (I had a trial finish just last Friday). My son’s time is running out, as he is testing two years behind his peers in school, because he does not have the full support of two fit parents. My son deserves more than one parent and one visitor.

Please let us know how and why these bills died in committee? We are not asking for funding, so the Appropriations Committee does not need to approve anything. The Children’s Committee surely would support children being raised by two fit parents, with all the fatherhood initiatives that the state receives in federal grants.

We would like to know what led up to the bills being blocked. Is there anything the public can do to resurrect any of these bills? We have not seen any reform since 2014.

On behalf of the CT Coalition for Connecticut Family Court Reform, the National Family Law Policy Center, The Family Civil Liberties Union, countless other advocacy groups, and 22 million appropriate and capable non-custodial parents nationwide, we would like to know.

Thank you,

Monica Szymonik 
Constitutional and Civil Rights Activist
Author of “Broken System, Broken Heart”
Autism Advocate

Glastonbury SEPTA
CT Coalition for Family Court Reform

Please sign my petition to revive this equal parenting bill and help me protect the children of Connecticut:

Monica is also a member of “The National Family Law Policy Center” complimenting her years of experience bringing awareness and education in the area of family law policy in Connecticut.

        The National Family Law Policy Center develops and promotes policies which enable children to have two full loving parents in their lives regardless of the marital status between those parents.

          We educate legislators, judges, executive actors, attorneys, and parents through publications, conferences, research, educational seminars, amicus briefs, and other means, on constitutional family law issues that inform and that place limits on family law policies.

          The National Family Law Policy Center is a private nonprofit corporation. Our work is funded solely through Tax-deductive gifts from private companies, foundations, and individuals. The National Family Law Policy Center is currently seeking 501(c)3 status.

About The Author

Monica Szymonik

Monica Szymonik is a Certified Health Coach, PLTI graduate, parental rights lobbyist, crusader of justice, and lifelong health guru. Her “Moms Unshackled” web-based health coaching program guides women into overcoming legal abuse in the family law industry. Monica met her life partner while giving public testimony, and together they are creating a book entitled, “Don't Visit Your Kids!” – designed to empower parents on moving through fractured Family Court system with fewer battle scars than they both endured. Monica is also a guest blogger for “Fix Family Courts”, volunteers for the National Family Law Policy Center, and has been featured in the Huffington Post, Glastonbury LIFE, and CT Mirror. Monica is very excited to share "Moms Unshackled", which delves deeper into health saving strategies that are outlined in her book.