Disneyland Dads: E- Tickets in Family Court and Evilsizor Attorneys

By Susan Bassi

Growing up, I was fortunate to have a father who played an active role in my life, always pushing me to eventually stand on my own. He taught me to ski, swim, ride a bike and to work hard. His cheerful smile and jolly laugh, always balanced with a stern look that reminded me when I had gotten out of line. He fostered my love for learning, reading, exploring, and imagining as he built up my confidence knowing one day I would need to fly on my own.

Early on, trips to Disneyland were filled with joy, laughter, and moments with our extended family. It felt like we would drive for hours on end, as I slept in the front seat stretched between my parents as they drove down Highway 5 until we eventually arrived at the magical theme park that brought to life the vision of Walt Disney.

It was in that theme park we learned of the precious E-tickets, where we had to decide on just one ride, and not an unlimited supply. Each trip found me contemplating if my E-Ticket would be used to fight pirates in the Caribbean or tour Adventureland and its Enchanted Tiki Room. After using the treasured E-Ticket, we would hit the arcade where my dad would feed quarters into the old-fashioned shooting gallery and we would blast away, eventually making me a pretty good shot.

Reflecting on those memories fifty years later, I can’t help but notice the stark contrast between the happiness of those times and the painful realities of the modern family court system. Especially the harm that family court has inflicted on the children of Allan and Catherine Kassenoff, in a divorce case that has attracted the attention of the media, worldwide.

In the 60s and 70s (my parents divorced in 1975), the courts operated under the Tender Years Doctrine. The focus was on maintaining stability and love for the child, recognizing the importance of both parents in their lives. My parents’ troubles were their own. It was a time when divorces went quickly, judges discouraged conflict, and parents could settle their legal split without the use of attorney.

But something changed. A shift in societal attitudes, coupled with the portrayal of divorce in movies including “Kramer v. Kramer” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” transformed the landscape of family court. The Parent Trap ending, where children’s lives are seamlessly woven back together after a divorce, became far less likely.

John Evilsizor is restrained by his wife after threatening a reporter in front of the Contra County courthouse.

In 2016, I found myself at a Contra Costa Family Courthouse, witnessing a tragic scene unfold. Joe, a father eagerly awaiting his custodial time with his daughter, was arrested during a hearing for violating a gag order that prevented him from talking about his divorce case online. As the news of Joe’s arrest circulated, I was tasked with explaining to Joe’s mother, who was traveling from Missouri, why her anticipated two-week visit with her son and granddaughter would instead be spent visiting him in jail. It was a heartbreaking moment that highlighted the failings of California’s  current family court system. A moment crafted by Joe’s ex-wife, an attorney, Keri Evilsizor, and an army of lawyers and custody evaluators she would employ to put Joe in jail for blogging about their divorce. A case similar to the Kassenoff divorce.

When Keri emerged from the courthouse the day Joe was arrested, her father, John Evilsizor threatened a young reporter covering the hearing in a mob-like moment. Keri, an attorney who did not know reporters were outside the courthouse looked almost gleeful she had put her child’s father in jail for his summer vacation with their daughter, which was to include her grandmother.

Just as too many good fathers are being denied time and opportunity with their children, because of family court, there are too many stories of abuse that are ignored by local police and district attorneys. When men have patterns of violent or abusive conduct, family court is not where women should be sent to have it addressed. Domestic violence is a criminal act that should not be minimized as it often is in family court. Attorneys appointed to represent children during divorces too often ignore, or cover up, abuse allegations, to keep the flow of money churning.

It has become increasingly evident that family court proceedings are often biased and flawed, and overseen by indifferent, incompetent or corrupt judges.  Custody battles have turned into lucrative opportunities for attorneys, with exorbitant fees charged to families, sometimes surpassing the cost of a college education. Fathers continue to share their stories of struggle and injustice, fighting to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children while navigating a system that seems stacked against them.

These fathers strive to provide stable homes, attend to their children’s needs, and make sacrifices for their well-being. Yet, they find themselves trapped in a web of legal proceedings, with lawyers and custody evaluators, and other court appointed “experts” draining their financial resources. The best interests of the child, the very foundation of family court, has been overshadowed by profit-driven motives and biased decision-making.

This Father’s Day, I can’t help but think of Jeff, a father who reached his breaking point in the face of such relentless adversity. The emotional toll of the family court system pushed him to the edge, leading him to contemplate his own demise that included planning his suicide in the office of the court appointed therapist, Marcia Clark.

Clark seemingly spent years more interested in billing Jeff for bogus “reunification therapy,” than in restoring his relationship with his children that had been undermined during Jeff’s Santa Clara County divorce case. A case that saw a vindictive ex-wife, her attorneys, and court appointed “experts” constantly interfering with a divorce case that spans nearly a decade. His desperate cry for help, however misguided, illustrates the anguish experienced by many fathers entangled in a system that repeatedly fails them.

Jeff will spend this Father’s Day in the Santa Clara County Jail.   By family court order issued by controversial Judge Vanessa Zecher, Jeff is not permitted to call or speak to his children, even on free jail calls.

Families trapped in modern family courts, are demanding that court administrators and the state’s Judicial Council acknowledge the flaws in the family court system and work towards meaningful reforms.

To the children who have lost fathers due to divorce or other circumstances, it is crucial to understand that it was not your fault. The complexities of family court should not burden you. As for grandparents, apologies for the delay in reporting on this unfortunate reality. It is imperative that we continue to provide information that raises awareness about the flaws within the system and advocate for change. Am grateful  the Davis Vanguard is providing an online platform to expand reporting on California’s family courts and hope all the moms and dads  impacted by the system will support this important work.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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