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Published September 3, 2009

ACT NOW! Protective Mother Faces Legal Catch-22

system favors abuser, punishes mother - lives at risk

In June 2009 Iowa's family court gave Hanna Newberry full legal and physical custody of her son based on her ex-husband's long record of documented domestic violence.  Soon, all that could change.  Because of a legal catch 22, Newberry's abuser is poised to regain custody, while Ms. Newberry is sent to jail.

Before the divorce was finalized, Ms. Newberry faced escalating threats against her and her son's life by her ex-husband.  She fled the state to find safety, leaving an note with her abuser and her attorney as to how she could be reached if the father desired visitation. 

" I and my children are 9 year victims of domestic violence.  We have experienced unbelievable acts of abuse and terrorism at the hands of my husband. He has severely abused and terrorized two former wives as well. The system has been protecting this abuser for over thirty years, and because of this the system is empowering him to continue his abuse - he thinks he's above the law.  Now he is using the court system  to continue his campaign of manipulation and control.  He has threatened my life, held guns to my and my children's head.  He won't stop until he kills us, of this I am certain.  Why is the system protecting him instead of us?"  Ms. Newberry asks.

The abuser, rather than contacting Ms Newberry to arrange visitation, went to the police  and sought to have Ms. Newberry arrested.  The police department wrote an arrest warrant which was signed by Magistrate Rob Rolfe, Esq.,  charging Ms. Newberry with 710.6(b) Violating Custodial Order, a misdemeanor. Mr. Rolfe has also served as the abuser's attorney in real estate deals. The abuser also initiated proceedings in Family Court to demand that Ms. Newberry "show cause" for depriving him his scheduled visitation.  

Here's the Catch-22.  Ms. Newberry is required to appear in Family Court  to answer the order to show cause and to explain why she fled from Iowa.  She is also scheduled to appear as a witness for the prosecution for 2 charges of violating an order of protection that are pending against her abuser.  However, if she returns to Iowa, she will be arrested, put in jail, and custody will be given to her abuser.  On the other hand, if she fails to appear at the family court proceeding, the judge will find her in contempt and  could give custody to the abuser. If she fails to appear to testify at the order of protection trials, the prosecution won't go forward and once again the abuser will not be held accountable.

Ms. Newberry has asked the Family Court to allow her to respond to the proceeding by telephone but the judge has refused.  The prosecutor could prosecute the abuser for violating the order of protection without Ms. Newberry since there are other witnesses.  And the state can chose not to prosecute this frivolous claim of custodial interference.

"I was living in Decatur County, Iowa until June 12, 2009 when I left the state to find safety for myself and my children.  As our divorce was coming to an end the threats and harassment were getting worse and I was in fear for my life.  Apparently the state of Iowa believes I am a criminal because I did this.  I was given sole legal custody and primary physical care. During the divorce proceeding I told the court that I planned to move.  No moving restrictions were placed in the decree.  No notification requirement was entered.  In fact, when I left the abuser was not even exercising his visitation.  He was also behind over $7000 in child support.  Within four days of my leaving the state of Iowa, legal proceedings were filed against me by the abuser.  This is not about visitation-it is about the abuser maintaining control over me by keeping me in the state of Iowa.  If only the state was as aggressive in holding my abuser accountable as they are with pursuing me." Newberry said. 

ACT NOW - click here to send a message to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Governor Chet Culver, urging them to intervene to protect Ms. Newberry and hold her abuser accountable.

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