Parenting Evaluator, Psychologist
A case study in how she does her bogus custody evaluations
For years, Broward County Hollywood, Florida-based psychologist Martha Jacobson ("Marty") frequently
has been hired in various capacities in the South Florida
family courts to act as custody evaluator, parenting evaluator, parenting coordinator, or therapist.
Without apparently any concern at all for the impact of her recommendations on the children involved, she has earned
large fees coming up with outrageous custody evaluations and recommendations
that not infrequently are to separate perfectly normal
primary caregiving mothers from their children for extended periods of time. I cannot say that she is "incompetent" because
the reality is that the field of
psychology itself is not "competent" to do what is asked of it in the court system. It
is long past the time that the public (and the legislatures, and the lawyers and judges) understood this. This particular
psychologist, however, is dangerous because she, along with the multifarious psychology and law
referral cronies she networks with, have made the Broward County family court system unusually corrupt.
Just one egregious example is the Schmitz v. Schmitz
case, 2005. In that case, set in motion by the custody evaluation done by Martha Jacobson claiming parental
alienation, the mother was tossed out of her home and spent two years
living in a La Quinta motel,
while an allegedly "inappropriate" father was given primary custody of three teenage girls.
In the custody evaluation report, Martha Jacobson speciously wrote that if the girls did not improve their
relationship with their
father, they would be "at risk" in their future relationships with men. (Aside from such a pronouncement being
bullshit -- a prediction that no psych could make, and unsupported by research --
isn't that an odd thing for a lesbian to say?) During the time period in which the children were subjected to these
machinations, their grades tanked and they suffered real emotional damage.
(Side note: during the proceedings of this case, Judge Susan F. Greenhawt was recused after she
was observed having Jan Faust, Ph.D. -- a
colleague and friend of Martha C. Jacobson -- as an apparent overnight
houseguest in Greenhawt's home while Faust was
serving as the father's forensic expert.)
There is a loose associational network of cronies who appear to be quite close in Broward County,
such that the
same names seem to show up over and over and over again working with each other
in different capacities in different cases to an extent
you might not ordinarily expect to see in such a fairly populous jurisdiction with so many lawyers.
If one follows some of these cases, one will
be able to figure out who a lot of these folks are. They include both legal and mental health people. (For example,
Vicki Plant. Plant was the Guardian ad Litem
in the Schmitz case, and now is a General Master. In a different, 2008 case, by way of explaining some
notions she had as Guardian ad Litem,
Plant admitted in deposition that she had been taught aspects of parental alienation theory from Jacobson.)
Another example of a really bad
custody evaluation by Martha Jacobson
is the 2012 case that is detailed
on this website as a "court
travesty". In this case, as she has done repeatedly, Jacobson concocted a parental alienation strategy
that unwarrantedly bolstered the father's court case (not to his ultimate benefit, because he basically
wasted money on these people and hurt his own little girl, which I suspect was not what he wanted to accomplish, but
in fairness, how would a parent who does not realize that these are just churning games, and who presumably is
taking advice from his lawyer, and in a hostile position with the
other parent, practicably call the bluff of a cadre of so-called "experts"?)
The Guardian ad Litem in this case was attorney
Juliette Lippman. The family court judge was Renee Goldenberg,
whose performance could most generously be described as
"...a departure from the essential requirements of the law...
so serious that it amount[ed] to a miscarriage of justice."
Notably, Jacobson uses the same M.O. again and again
in these corrupt custody cases. The custody evaluations often succeed in harming the
primary caregiver mothers, but occasionally she goes the other way. When this kind of thing is done -- and Martha Jacobson
is by no means the only corrupt psychologist peeing on people's lives in the family courts of this country --
what typically happens is that
the wronged parents
will fight back as best they can, which results in enormous expenses
for both parents,
with ongoing litigation, appeals,
therapies, multiple reviewing experts, and so forth.
Some parents become impoverished and defeated. Some of them
see their relationships with their children destroyed. Some parents who could have got along had they had an
opportunity to cool down from the angst and throes of the immediate relationship breakup
end up permanently hostile as the cases get nastier and nastier.
Usually these cases commence when
fathers, especially fathers with money, get their
anger played upon by their lawyers, and
the fathers seek "equal timesharing" or joint
custody from mothers who before that were the parent who did the most
parenting (often the financially dependent parent), and
the fathers are at risk for paying high child support or alimony or are just feeling unappreciated and insulted. Sometimes
one parent does succeed in "destroying" the other, but in such cases one has to question what the judges think they
are doing. Are they just inept? Helpless? Brainwashed by psychobabble? Or corrupt, too (and why)?
It's a money-making
Even if the correct litigants ultimately prevail in these cases, it is a Pyrrhic Victory.
The shenanigans waste both parents' money. (Both of them are being played here, including the usually favored
fathers.) And, of course, most sadly, unnecessarily miserable months and
years out of children's lives simply cannot be recouped and are gone forever.
Case Study: Martha C. Jacobson's biasing
creates a basis for apparently predetermined recommendations;
followup on her predictions and recommendations five years later
In this 2007 case, Martha Jacobson apparently was paid to utter an opinion that would enable the father, an habitual
drunk, to keep the mother and child in South Florida, notwithstanding that at the time the divorce
was filed, the parties had lived in Florida (away from
support systems, friends, and extended family up north) for only a short time.
This case was selected for examination in part because it fits the "pattern" (Jacobson utters similar opinions in a
formulaic way over and over again), but also because
the mother in the case is about as rational and well-adjusted
as they come, while the father is
demonstrably dysfunctional. The facts were easy. The case should have been a
slam-dunk in favor of the mother's relocation. The issues were relatively simple, and the case was
without the more difficult he-said/she-said allegations of child abuse. This case also was
selected for examination because now that the evaluation is five years old,
enough time has passed that we can now see how completely wrong
pronouncements and recommendations were.
At the time of the evaluation, the father's drinking had been getting progressively worse.
Just prior to the mother's filing for divorce (and prompting it), the father, in
one of his regular drunken rages, had become verbally abusive and then
violent with the mother's 16-year-old son from her first marriage (who had recently come to live with them). He
had thrown a beer bottle at the mother, splitting open her hand with a severe cut that required stitches at the
hospital. He had been
arrested and spent three days in jail, although the case was not adjudicated because he attended an anger
management program (another "therapeutic jurisprudence" invention).
At the time of the evaluation he was living in a rented room,
while the mother and child were
in the rental house the parties had shared.
Brief background of this 2007 case: The mother and father had been
casual acquaintances, both involved in scouts with their respective children, and living in a
Maryland when both became divorced from prior spouses. They subsequently started seeing each
other, and they got married
when the mother became pregnant.
Each had two older children from the prior
marriage. The couple moved to Florida for the father's job relocation when their mutual daughter was a year old
(the mother reluctantly), leaving their
older children with their respective other parents. Their daughter
was age four at the time of the
evaluation. The parenting evaluation by Martha Jacobson was prompted by
the father, who inexplicably refused the mother's request to relocate back up north
where both parents originally had lived and where both still had other minor children.
Below are links to redacted and excerpted clips from portions of Martha Jacobson's
custody evaluation (image gif files, click on the thumbnail to see full size).
(The comments in red on some image files are the webitor's; the order of the pages
is from left to right, and then down to the next row. Some pages from the evaluation have been omitted, e.g. portions
of family background, other heavily redacted pages.)
Commentary from the mother in retrospect about this evaluation:
Martha Jacobson, Ph.D. claims to be an
impartial, independent examiner. However, this is not the case.
- (1) At the beginning of the evaluation Jacobson asked me to be honest and forthright with her, and I was.
I trusted her as the psychologist because I felt that I was fighting for my life and
deathly afraid of the turns my life had taken. I believed that she was objective and would
both understand and take into consideration my position and the validity of my statements. As the evaluation
progressed, I began to realize that this was not the case. It was a set up. For example,
when she interviewed [the father] with our daughter,
she took pictures. She did not bring a camera to her observation of me with my daughter.
When I inquired where her camera was (his observation had been first), her reply was
"I won't need that, pictures of you and your daughter won't be necessary." The way the report is
written, she commences seemingly objective, but including small things that she uses as manipulative or
toward a more and more skewed picture; what was at first tentative becomes presumptive and
her claims become more
and more exaggerated.
[Ed. note: this is Jacobson's anti-mother formula in other evaluations too.]
- (2) Jacobson went to great lengths to downplay the police reports and my ex's drinking (when he would become abusive).
She ignored his frequent black-outs, and used scare quotes in her report for my mention of his "drinking" and
"domestic violence" as if these were not corroborated. The police came to the emergency room when I was
getting stitches. They made the complaint and arrested him. Instead, Jacobson told me that it was me who had
an anger management problem and wanted to take it out on [the father]. During our second and
last appointment after her evaluations, she repeatedly told me that I had an anger management issue.
When I asked her why I would have an anger issue if he did nothing wrong, her reply was "You are
acting out and I am writing you up," at which point she pulled out a pad of paper and began writing.
- (3) Jacobson ignored corroborating evidence from one of my contacts who had had her own occasions to have to
call the police on [the father] because of his threatening behavior while drunk. (When I first started seeing
him, I was a struggling single mother, divorced one year. I had been a stay-home parent before that
for a decade. He seemed to be a comfort to me, and promised to support us, and at the time
I did not realize the full extent of his drinking problem. We got married when I unexpectedly
became pregnant. After he accepted the job in Florida, he began regularly screaming and threatening
me that if I did not agree to move to Florida with him with our then one-year-old daughter, and leave
my other children, he would withhold all financial support. He first had got me to
move to Virginia, not actually that far away from where we had been in Maryland. Now it was Florida.
It was a new marriage. I wanted it to work. I was confused and afraid. I had given in to a short move once, and
didn't know what to say. I had been struggling before. Now with a baby it would be even worse.
I wanted everything to stay nice, and I surely didn't want to go through another divorce. I felt boxed in and
relented. Jacobson either didn't understand this or did not care because it was not what she wanted.)
- (4) Jacobson either deliberately ignored or did not understand the abusive situation,
and how fear can drive the wrong decisions. She refused to look at the police reports.
I should have left him and not moved to Florida. I knew in my heart I was doing all the wrong things,
but did not know how to make it right. After we moved to Florida, I would cry for days missing my children, and
he would tell me they no longer need me and to stop crying. I told Jacobson all of this, and she ignored it.
After we moved to Florida, I tried to shore up my optimism and
paint a nice picture of it for myself.
During the day I would try to rebuild and tell myself this was a great life,
all the while being in agony for leaving my older children. I had felt forced to move and without any
realistic choice. [The father] and Jacobson cast this as a voluntary choice. He was actually
glad to be rid of my children.
- (5) I was visibly upset when Jacobson told me that [the father] was not an alcoholic.
She said "[The father] is not an alcoholic, he just has a drinking problem." When I asked what the
difference was, she said "I am writing you up because your response is out of control." She also
omitted all of the evidence I provided her about [the father]'s family history with alcoholism, saying that
"Family history is just one theory as to why a person may have an alcohol problem.
There is not enough research to support that theory. It is not pertinent." (So why did she take these
family histories?) [Ed. note: Jacobson
utters plenty of opinions and recommendations based
on little or no research, but only if they suit her agenda.]
- (6) I provided a death certificate of [the father]'s older brother,
who died two days before our daughter was born, which reads that cause of death included severe
alcoholism. I provided evidence that [the father]'s father, another alcoholic,
died of a lung cancer possibly caused or exacerbated by drinking.
I gave her evidence that [the father]'s younger brother was arrested
for drunken domestic violence; his own children called the police because they said
their father was beating their mother and there had been years of this abuse.
I gave her evidence that [the father]'s oldest brother had been unable to hold down a job
for over 10 years because of alcohol issues. I gave her a receipts showing his constant
purchases of alcohol. All ignored or discounted. Whatever he said as a denial or
explanation, even without evidence, was what she chose to believe. She also omitted a lot
of things from her report.
- (7) Regarding my list of contacts. She told my mother that I was not trying hard enough to find
a job and that I was lying to my mother. She threatened my other contacts that she would subpoena
them to court to testify. My neighbors called me; they were very upset that they had become entangled
in this because I had promised them, as Dr. Jacobson had assured me, that the interview of them was
for her fact-finding only. She initially could not speak with my older children because they were
still minors and their father withheld his permission because Jacobson
made him nervous. Later he agreed that my son could speak with her but then she refused.
(Now they are over 18, and can say what life was really
like to live with their stepfather).
- (8) Within the first ten minutes at our first meeting, Jacobson stated
"Are you sure you want to move ahead and have me evaluate you? I hope that your lawyer did not lead you
to believe that you would be able to move out of the State of Florida because you won't.
If you continue down this path you will lose and all that money will go to my children's education.
Wouldn't you rather put it in your daughter's college fund?" (By the way I was not the one paying her --
[the father] paid her in cash. Perhaps she was trying to save him money.)
The stated purpose of the evaluation was to "assist the Court in determining what is in the child's best interest",
but the real purpose of the evaluation was to assure that I did not prevail in court.
[Ed. note: Another purpose served by these psych make-work evaluations is to provide basis
to churn more fees, through referral recommendations for various additional therapies, parenting coordination,
and so forth. Make a referral, get a referral on another case...]
- (9) One of my contacts, the therapist I had been seeing with my daughter after [the father]'s
arrest, told me after he talked with Dr. Jacobson that she was unethical and inappropriate in her tone
and tact with him. He said that he wrote a letter to the APA to report her behavior.
He said that she then threatened him several times. Jacobson told me that
neither [my daughter] nor I were ever to see him again. (This prohibition later was put into
our divorce settlement in all caps.)
- (10) Initially, I couldn't understand why [the father]'s ex-wife said what she said to Jacobson on his behalf.
They had been
in bitter litigation for years, and she not only had [the father] as a hostile party, but also
her own father who sided with him. Later it came out that he had essentially bought her testimony by settling
his litigation with her over an investment property they had, paying her what she wanted in return for her
being his supportive collateral and denying his drinking. [Ed. note: She also may have
preferred that the ex-husband and his second wife stay in Florida.]
Epilogue, five years later:
In her recommendations, Martha Jacobson hallucinated that a mother who had freely permitted her first
husband to have liberal time with her first two children, and even moved states away while this daughter and son
remained in his
custody, nevertheless would, for no good reason at all, interfere with access by her second husband to the
subject third child. As a defense lawyer might, rather than an objective neutral,
Martha Jacobson went out of her way to discover evidence that this father did not have a drinking
problem, and to discount or overlook completely the coercive control issues.
Martha Jacobson felt that
the father should have joint custody, even though he had not asked for it, and even though she knew that he
was planning to move 40 miles away to the next county right after the divorce, which would pose logistical
problems with this kind of arrangement
for a child in preschool or kindergarten. Martha Jacobson pretended to accept at face value that the father --
who clearly could not control his heavy drinking -- would refrain from drinking when he had the child, and the
only reason Jacobson offered that he should do so, was the mother's "discomfort" with her four-year-old
being in the care
and custody of a man who was drunk and having black-outs. She felt that the father needed
only a little help with his "self-esteem" issues.
So what actually happened in this case after
Martha Jacobson uttered her ignorant or corrupt custody evaluation?
According to information provided by the mother, she continues to live in Florida.
Her children from her first marriage are now
grown. The subject daughter is now age nine. Following the rendition of Jacobson's report, the mother lost her
lawyer, and was repeatedly exhorted into settling the case. Ultimately, she abdicated
her request to relocate and accepted a 50-50 timesharing arrangement. Funds were tight, so when the lease on the rental
house was up, she lived in a succession of apartments in Dade County.
Right after the divorce, the father moved
north to Broward County, where he had bought a house (apparently with marital funds, and notwithstanding that the mother
and child were in South Miami).
Almost immediately, the 50-50 arrangement devolved
into a "flexible schedule". The father (who did not originally ask for 50-50 but was urged by Jacobson to do so)
took few overnights. On multiple occasions, the father voluntarily just returned the child early.
On other occasions, when he did attempt to exercise his time share, he was already
drunk and reeking of alcohol, and the mother appropriately denied him access (as the law would
require her to do) -- which, to his credit, he never contested
As time went on, the father exercised less and less of
his timeshare more and more sporadically. Currently,
weeks or more go by without his seeing his daughter. He has a pleasant enough relationship with
he does see her, but
he could have had the same marginal involvement had the mother been allowed to move home
-- where both the father's and mother's other children and extended family already lived.
The father's drinking problem
has continued to worsen, and his health has declined. By being enabled in his misdirected bid to keep his second
wife or life within his control, or just punish his wife for leaving him
(the case obviously was not about "custody"), he never did get the help that he needed.
As of summer 2012, the father has been unemployed for nearly a year and a half.
On information and belief, he lost his job directly or indirectly as a result of his substance abuse problems.
The house he bought at the time of the divorce is in foreclosure.
he has continued to meet his child support payments of about $200 per week, but it is unclear how.
(The mother receives checks issued from a joint account of the father and the father's first father-in-law.)
The mother has struggled considerably to support herself and her daughter, but ultimately
she did go back to school and obtain an M.B.A. from a local university. (It would have been nice if she could
have gone to a better-ranked school, but, of course, like a criminal on parole,
she is not able to move from the area.) She works part-time jobs, and
continues to look, so far unsuccessfully, for full-time work in South Florida. Her older two children were
permanently denied the ostensible benefit of living in proximity to both of their parents.
Nothing good was
accomplished for anyone by this biased and ultimately pointless forensic psychologist "intervention".
Martha C. Jacobson,
Child Custody Evaluator. Children