Tom Lemons, Legal Correspondent
CONNECTICUT – States have different laws regarding divorce, child custody, visitation, and financial support, but how cases play out in court often depends on the depth of a litigant’s pockets, rather than the best interest of a child.
Dr. Luigi DiRubba is a chiropractor in Cheshire Connecticut and has been fighting to see three of his six children for over three years. DiRubba says his wife filed for divorce in 2016 and has made numerous domestic violence and child endangerment allegations, in an attempt to alienate him from his children and advance herself in the divorce by utilizing the justice system. As a result of the false allegations, DiRubba has been arrested six times and had several ex parte protective orders issued against him. Eventually, each charge was dismissed and expunged, after his ex-wife and her attorney were unable to provide a shred of evidence that he was abusive or committed any criminal acts against her or the children. DiRubba tried to file criminal complaints against his wife for making false reports to law enforcement, but the statute of limitations would run out before each case was resolved. The statute is only one year from the time of an arrest, and he says the courts would intentionally postpone proceedings until the statute expired, leaving him with no legal recourse against his ex-wife. DiRubba says his ex-wife was so emboldened by the ability to get away with lying that immediately after one charge was dropped, she would literally walk to the civil court division and petition for another false protective order. She also used different law enforcement jurisdictions to file her criminal complaints – essentially “cop shopping.”
The financial burden falls solely on DiRubba and has cost him over $1.3 million dollars, so far. From the onset of the divorce filing, DiRubba was ordered to pay $210,000 in annual child and spousal support. After three years, a judge reduced that amount to $110,000 per year but he was also ordered to pay his ex-wife’s legal expenses and a court ordered Guardian Ad Litem, which combined cost him another $300,000. And that doesn’t include his own legal expenses.
DiRubba says, “They (judges and attorneys) don’t care about the issues of the children. The children were rarely brought up in court, but the topic of money was always discussed during hearings.” DiRubba believes the courts are “fixed” and that judges and attorneys scratch each other’s backs to benefit their careers. “In Connecticut, we are finding more and more incestuous behavior between judges and attorneys because judges are appointed by their peers. And who are their peers? The attorneys.” That is true in many jurisdictions around the country. Even elected judges are often subjected to political pressure from special interest groups, state bar associations, or other elected officials.
Throughout the divorce process, Judges have denied and dismissed the admission of mental health evaluations, Department of Children and Families (DCF) recommendation and reversal of findings, and even the testimony of the $135,000 court ordered Guardian Ad Litem opinion. Without that evidence, DiRubba says his ex-wife has free reign to continue alienating him from the children’s lives.
In 2017, Licensed Psychologist Dr. James Connolly submitted a 42-page evaluation of the DiRubba family and concludes that significant harm is being inflicted on the children. Connolly writes:
If Anna Maria (DiRubba’s estranged wife) continues to obstruct Luigi’s visitation with the three youngest children to such an extent that the visits are substantially disrupted, it will be necessary to revisit the issue of their physical custody. Anna Maria needs to demonstrate from this time forward that she can become an emotionally temperate caregiver for her children who will no longer obstruct Luigi’s access to the children and will cease to infect them with emotional contagion which the effect of increasing their fear of their father and inducing a desire in them to avoid contact and relationship building with him.
At the same time that Anna Maria filed for divorce in 2016, she contacted the Department of Children and Families and made several allegations of abuse and neglect against her husband. DCF initially believed the allegations and submitted their findings to the courts. DiRubba was forced to participate in a domestic violence diversion program, have only supervised visitation with the children, and be added to the department’s Child Abuse Central Registry. It wasn’t until last year that DCF reversed its decision, due to false allegations, falsified evidence, and coercion of the children by Anna Maria. State Hearing Officer, Attorney Robin D. O’Shea writes:
The credible evidence in the record reveals that the Appellant and his former wife were in the initial stages of a contentious separation and divorce when the Department first became involved with the family in February 2016. Prior to that, there had been no reported concerns to the Department, even though all six children were school age at the time, played a variety of sports and participated in many activities, and were clearly visible in the community. The reliable evidence also demonstrates that the Appellant’s ex-wife has fabricated or embellished the Appellant’s behaviors to suit her own agenda.
The report goes on to reveal that DCF never interviewed the children or the father and depended solely on testimony by the ex-wife that DiRubba had been abusive throughout their 17-year marriage. DCF reversed its findings in December of 2020.
According to DiRubba, the Guardian Ad Litem told both attorneys and the prosecutor in his criminal charges that Anna Maria stated she would do anything, including lying to get an edge on the divorce, even if it resulted in DiRubba going to jail. “My ex-wife told the reunification therapist, Dr. Bob Horowitz, that if he doesn’t stop wanting to see the kids, she was going to file sexual abuse charges,” says DiRubba. The Judge has denied every motion filed by DiRubba to have this evidence heard in open court, which would have shifted the pendulum for custody and financial orders in DiRubba’s favor. DiRubba doesn’t understand why Dr. Connelly’s psychiatric evaluation and all other supporting evidence has been barred from consideration by the judge. DiRubba says, “I never wanted to take the children away from their mother, I just want to have equal time-sharing and to be a part of their lives.”
DiRubba continues to be proactive in his struggle to regain some regular contact with his children. Earlier this year, DiRubba began individual counseling sessions with Dr. Carla S. Stover, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor at Yale University Child Study Center. Stover established the guidelines and programs used by DCF and submitted a letter regarding DiRubba’s participation in the Fathers for Change program, which she developed to help fathers become better parents. In DiRubba’s case, Stover is working to prepare him for the reunification process and wanted to facilitate counseling with the children, but Anna Maria refused to allow the children to participate in the program. Stover recommends that reunification begin immediately but nothing can move forward without Anna Maria’s approval. The courts have already denied three motions by DiRubba for reunifications, and he doesn’t have much hope in the judge’s stance changing anytime soon. DiRubba is concerned that without his involvement in the children’s upbringing, they will experience further behavioral and developmental harm. “The court is allowing enmeshment and delusional pathologies in the children with her continued brainwashing alienating behavior,” says DiRubba.
Parental Alienation is a tactic used by one parent to disaffect children from having a desire to be involved in the targeted parent’s life. It usually occurs during a divorce or separation to give the alienator an advantage in custody and time-sharing proceedings. The DiRubba case is a classic example of the abhorrent practice and how false allegations, and brainwashing are used to make children fearful of the targeted parent. The belief that Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of child abuse or that it exists at all is still up for debate among some judges and that’s what many say needs to change.
Psychotherapist Karen Woodall recently published an article on a condition she calls Encapsulated Delusional Disorder, which is a psychiatric disorder that alienators often suffer from. Woodall Explains:
An encapsulated delusion is a belief in one area of life which is fixed and unshakeable even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Encapsulated delusional disorder, is seen in cases of alienation of children, when a child is showing the signs of psychological splitting and is aligned with a parent who has an unshakeable belief that the other is harmful to the child’s wellbeing. Encapsulated delusions are extremely powerful and in their strongest display, will cause the holder to bend all evidence to shape their beliefs. Children in the care of a parent who is suffering from encapsulated delusions, become fearful, anxious and bound into the belief of the parent that the parent who is being rejected, is harmful. When a child suffers a fixed and unshakeable belief that a parent is harmful, where there is clear evidence that the parent is not, the child is considered to be suffering from significant emotional and psychological harm. In such circumstances, removal from the care of the parent who is suffering the delusion is often necessary.
Woodall was asked by a reader why the courts often hesitate in removing children from alienating parents. Woodall replied:
Because removing a child has been considered to be draconian in situations where emotional and psychological abuse has not been recognized for the harm that it does over the child’s lifetime. Over the past ten years it has been increasingly recognized, however. When the wider world understands the harm that alienation does to the child, it will join the other categories of abuse such as sexual and physical and will be recognized for the serious harm it causes. For a child who is alienated, which itself is about the child being forced to develop a false self in order to survive, the emotional and psychological impact is overwhelming. A child cannot identify that abuse, they can only suffer its consequences, there are no marks upon the child which identify the abuse, only the signs of alienation, which are demonstrated by a well-recognized defense of psychological splitting. When psychological splitting is seen, further investigation becomes necessary to identify the cause of that. Until now none of this has been widely recognized, but it is being recognized and over the coming months and years, will be increasingly known and acted upon.
DiRubba believes judges often have a more nefarious motive in dismissing the effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome, and it has everything to do with money and politics. He now refers to the family court system as the “cash for kids program.”
“Having your children taken away because of false allegations, falsified evidence, and brainwashing has become a living nightmare,” says DiRubba. The fight continues for DiRubba to see his children again, just like thousands of other distraught and brokenhearted parents around the country.