Bad Custody Evaluations: Martha C. Jacobson, Laura C. Hohnecker, Martha Jacobson, Laura Hohnecker, Juliette Lippman et al. what 
to do about a bad custody evaluation

Martha C. Jacobson, Ph.D.
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, attorney 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 crackpot alienation 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.

A lawsuit was filed in Broward 
County, Florida, April 17, 2013, against Martha C. Jacobson, Laura Hohnecker, Juliette Lippman, and other defendants for, variously, 
negligence, intentional torts, defamation, malpractice, conspiracy, interference with child custody, and abuse of process 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 referral game. 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 Jacobson's 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.)

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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 persuasive foreshadowing 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 in court.

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 her when 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. Thus far, 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 Need THIS?

Next: 2012 Martha Jacobson evaluation case,
which resulted in a 7-year-old child being abruptly removed
from her home and barred from contact with her mother for 6 months.

What You Should Do if You Find Yourself in a Custody Evaluation Like This.

therapeutic jurisprudence and forensic psychology research WARREN FARRELL
Does a Custody Evaluation, wherein, inter alia, he ponders what a 13-year-old girl is doing in the bathroom for an hour, watches an 11-year-old brush her teeth, admires the idea of a father's tickling and wrestling a pre-pubescent female to the floor, pontificates on the relationship between eating salad, diabetes, and girls' body shapes, admires the culinary competence required to cook Spaghetti, and generally demonstrates his ignorance of child development and age-appropriate parenting. The father who hired him paid $20,000 for this remarkable piece of crap. therapeutic jurisprudence and forensic psychology research -- If 15-year-old daughter refuses to go spend overnights with Father then she should be punished by both parents.

Evan Stark on Coercive Control, child custody evaluations Why forensic evaluators should turn over everything in discovery
The MMPI-2 in Child Custody Evaluations: Can't Say
The Rorschach Test and Other Projectives
Are Psychologists Hiding a Lack of Expertise?
When You Should Just Walk Out.
Corrupt evaluator, abusive psych, sharp judge

Civium in moribus rei publicae salus
...will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do

The Child-Centered Divorce Dealing with forensic psychologists and discovery of test data in court Family Court is Not a Family-Friendly Place Parenting Coordination

Report on bad custody evaluations around the country.
But also see caveat, below, with regard to "trainings"
Florida Handbook on Discovery - 2007 - 2010
Clark v. Clark, September 15, 2010 Fla. 4th DCA: "material harm of an irreparable nature [to allow] expert to exclude recording, reporting or other people from being present".
Are Psychologists Hiding Evidence?
Child Custody Evaluations -- Reevaluating the Evaluators
Releasing Records in Child Custody Evaluations (J. Poliacoff)
Signs of a Bad Custody Evaluation (J. Klass)
Wile E. Coyote Therapeutic Jurisprudence Index
Right of First Refusal in Parenting Plans
Child Custody Evaluators "In Their Own Words"
Parenting Coordination, a bad idea
Parenting Coordinator Practical Considerations
CCHR on Psychiatric Fraud (Excellent)
Those Joint Custody Studies

Psychology is not science -- or good law
Psychology is not science -- or good law

Psychology is not science -- or good law It doesn't matter WHAT the protocols are. It doesn't matter how unbiased the examiner. It doesn't matter how copious the information gathered or how conscientious the assessment. For getting at the "truth", it absolutely doesn't matter how much training the evaluator has in domestic violence, feminism, fathers' perspectives, or abuse defense. All the training does is create a belief bias.

The general public -- and this includes judges -- need to be educated that there is very little expertise in forensic or applied psychology. There is no predictive power. There is absolutely no way to take sociological surveys about groups of individuals -- and this includes psychological testing -- and apply any of it to one individual. At best, we have insightful guesses. Moreover, training in psychology does not improve insight; those who go into the field frequently do so because they are people who already have problems and lack the insight to figure them out. And the training itself is as likely as not to diminish this cognitive function as it is to enhance it, because its practitioners learn to deny their own flawed human cognitive synthesizing in order to substitute even worse rote protocol under the pretext of neutral scientific investigation (i.e. "art", the bullshit excuse offered by those who know it's not science.) does not endorse more "trainings" or protocols or education. The problem is that opinions of practitioners in a field that has little value to offer are being substituted for evidence and the rule of law. You do not fix this problem by advocating for more of it.

Psychology is not science. There is no falsifiable unifying theory with causation and prediction. There is no expertise. There is only familiarity with the presumptions, protocols and lingo of the field, just as one would find with "expertise" in astrology. No matter how expertly mapped, or with what nuance and consideration of all relevant details, the positions of the stars still say absolutely nothing about anything. -- liz


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