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Domestic violence and coercive control before, during, and after divorce

August 03, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Domestic violence and coercive control before, during, and after divorce
Modern Arizona
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Modern Arizona
Domestic violence and coercive control before, during, and after divorce
Aug 03, 2023
Attorney Billie Tarascio

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"Leave him," they say (Or her, as the case may be) when there's violence and abuse involved. It's not a switch you can turn off easily, says Dr. Lisa Fontes, who specializes in trainings to resolve domestic violence cases and abuse. In today's podcast, with host Billie Tarascio of Modern Law, Dr. Fontes talks about the very complicated issues involving domestic violence and coercive control before, during and after divorce.

Especially when it comes to the legal process of divorce, coercive control can continue through frivolous and expensive court filings, parental visitation and support manipulations. Dr. Fontes calls them out, talks about their signs, and what can be done about it.

Dr. Fontes, author of Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship, also works as an expert witness in legal cases related to child abuse and intimate partner violence (or coercive control), particularly where cultural issues are relevant.  As a fluent speaker of Spanish and Portuguese, she researches and trains in these languages as well as English, across the U.S. and other countries.

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"Leave him," they say (Or her, as the case may be) when there's violence and abuse involved. It's not a switch you can turn off easily, says Dr. Lisa Fontes, who specializes in trainings to resolve domestic violence cases and abuse. In today's podcast, with host Billie Tarascio of Modern Law, Dr. Fontes talks about the very complicated issues involving domestic violence and coercive control before, during and after divorce.

Especially when it comes to the legal process of divorce, coercive control can continue through frivolous and expensive court filings, parental visitation and support manipulations. Dr. Fontes calls them out, talks about their signs, and what can be done about it.

Dr. Fontes, author of Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship, also works as an expert witness in legal cases related to child abuse and intimate partner violence (or coercive control), particularly where cultural issues are relevant.  As a fluent speaker of Spanish and Portuguese, she researches and trains in these languages as well as English, across the U.S. and other countries.

Domestic Violence and Coercive Control with Dr. Lisa Fontes

Announcer: [00:00:00] We hope you enjoy this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, but first, a message from our sponsor. 

Billie Tarascio: At Modern Law, we don't believe in a one size fits all solution, and we understand that some clients need full representation using every tool in the legal toolbox. This is especially true for custody and alcohol cases, which is why Soberlink has been one of the most important tools for my clients.

Soberlink's remote alcohol monitoring tool has helped over 500,000 people prove their sobriety with peace and mind during their parenting time to begin receiving real time alerts that your child is safe and to receive $50 off your device. Visit soberlink.com/modern. 

Billie Tarascio: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Modern Divorce podcast.

I am your host Billie Tarascio, owner of Modern Law and Win Without Law School. And today I am joined by a very special guest, Dr. Lisa Fontes, international domestic Violence Experts, professor. And an [00:01:00] expert witness who frequently testifies in family court on issues related to domestic violence. Dr. Fontes, welcome to the show.

Lisa Fontes: Thank you. I'm happy to be here. 

Billie Tarascio: Happy to have you here. So, Dr. Fontes, please tell us why someone would want a domestic violence expert to testify at their family court 

Lisa Fontes: hearing. Absolutely. And I do wanna say that I testify not just about domestic violence per se, but also about coercive control, which I'm sure we're gonna talk about and the effects on children.

A lot of times people feel like even their attorney is not taking seriously the experiences that they've had of domestic abuse and course of control. Their attorney may not understand what it's about and therefore doesn't bring them to the fore in the case. Mm. But they feel that it's very important in their own history, and it's very important that the judge understand what happened to them, what is still [00:02:00] happening to them, even after a separation, and what might happen to them into the future through pest post separation abuse if it's not stopped.

So a lot of times it, it. Takes an expert somebody who's been qualified as an expert to explain that, to explain the scholarship on domestic abuse and to explain how these cases will go if the abuser is not stopped. I. I, 

Billie Tarascio: there are so many things that we could talk about, and I've known you for a while and I know I can vouch personally for just how wonderful you are and just how much information you have.

But one of the things that you just mentioned, post-separation abuse is something that plagues a lot of people after family court or once they've left and filed for Divorce. Can we talk about that?

Lisa Fontes: Absolutely. I mean, even once divorces are granted and [00:03:00] sometimes for 18 years following post-separation abuse can be an issue.

So a lot of people who are not that familiar with domestic abuse think ‘leave him.’ You know, speaking about the typical case where the abuser is male and the abused person is female, not always the case, but let's talk about that. That's more common. They'll just say, leave him and it'll be over. But of course it's not over.

And once a couple is separated, the abuser will often find many, many ways to continue to control the victim over time. So they control can control them financially. If they're obligated to pay financial support, maybe they won't pay it. Maybe they'll take out. Debts in their ex's name without permission.

Maybe they will sell property that is jointly owned. Maybe they will move money between accounts and so it, it can take a forensic accountant to try to figure out where the money it is and they can't always find out where that is. Maybe they will file for 50 50 custody or in some [00:04:00] states that's auto usually automatically granted if If, just so they won't have to pay child support because they don't wanna pay child support.

So financial abuse is one form of post-separation abuse. Another form people call either litigation abuse or legal abuse. One judge even called it legal terrorism. Wow. Because it can be filing motion after motion, after motion motion with the intention of obligating their victimized ex to come to court, to miss work, to have to arrange childcare, to go through all that stress, all the expense of having to pay an attorney to go to court for things that they know, they know the motions are false or frivolous.

It's some people, some states they call it frivolous litigation or vexatious litigation, and there are laws proposed. For instance, in my state of Massachusetts, there's a law proposed against that in domestic violence that recognize it [00:05:00] as a form of domestic violence. There's post-separation abuse through the children, so turning the children against the other parent or using the children to spy on the other parent.

Trying to fracture the relationship between the victim and the child or the children through visitation, ruining the partner's reputation in their community or their place of worship, even in their family sometimes. So those are just a few of the forms of post-separation abuse, but it can be really devastating.

I've worked with people whose exes threw stones at their house at night. Yeah. And you know, the police would come and there was no one there. Well, this went on for years. Even after he had remarried and had a new family, he was continuing, continuing to periodically appear at her house and throw stones at it.

Billie Tarascio: It really is terrorism. It really is designed to just [00:06:00] make someone feel helpless, to 

Lisa Fontes: feel fear. Yeah. 

Billie Tarascio: So when you get involved in a case, how does that work? 

Lisa Fontes: E usually, well, sometimes the attorney contacts me, usually sends me an email, I'm easy to find on the internet and says I'm working with so and so in such and such a state.

And they are at this stage of their process. So they may be separated, they may be divorced, they may be having a custody battle, they may be having a, some kind of court battle over finances, prenups, postnup. Mm-hmm. I've worked on a variety of cases, including criminal cases actually that involve trauma.

And the attorney says we think we need an expert, or the person who's been victimized contacts me. And similarly there's about five different ways that I can work with people and I try to lay that all out in an email. [00:07:00] I. And then if they want to have a first meeting, I've begun to charge for that because I, otherwise, I would literally spend all day doing nothing but that.

But we have a meeting at which we decide, does it make sense to work for, to work together? Mm-hmm. Am I the right person? Is this the right time? Is this. The best thing for your case because it not, it isn't always. Mm-hmm. Maybe I can recommend somebody else who might be better if we decide to go forward, then I'll begin to collect some of the, they'll begin to give me some of the evidence and I'll still have to see if it makes sense for me to work on the case.

If I don't believe that there is domestic abuse or coercive control, I'll say Thank you very much. Let's not go any further. 

Billie Tarascio: Okay. And does that happen? Do people ever try to hire you to prove that the other party is an abuser and you say, no, I'm not seeing it 

Lisa Fontes: regularly? Yes. Wow. That does happen. And quite a few of those people are men who may have been abusing their [00:08:00] ex.

In other words, They have taken on the language of domestic abuse and course of control and are trying to use that against their, the person they victimized. 

Billie Tarascio: Wow. And what do they, what are they usually 

Lisa Fontes: claiming? I. It's not that I've had so many of those in the cases of, of men who I suspected might have been abusers.

Mm-hmm. One was claiming that the fact that the mother of the children was granted legal Decision making and had more time with the child was a form of coercive control. Oh. And as I looked into it, there just was nothing there. Mm-hmm. Another was someone who had actually fled the country with his child.

Mm-hmm. And when it took me a while to piece it together, and then once I did, I, I said, no, I can't work on this one. Wow. But I've also had women come to me who I just the story changed not. [00:09:00] The way they often do in that, a lot of times people initially minimize what's happened. Hmm. They're in a certain amount of denial about it that I understand, but this was a different kind of pattern and I had to say if you can actually produce the medical records documenting that we can go forward.

But if not, that's a very serious allegation and there should have been. Documentation there wasn't. So I didn't feel comfortable going forward with that. 

Billie Tarascio: So you're not just a hired gun, you're not just gonna tell somebody what they wanna hear. You are going to use your expertise to come to a scientific evaluation that you then share with the court.

Lisa Fontes: Exactly. And I will only take a case if, in my opinion. Which is based on three decades of work in the field. There has been course of control or domestic abuse or other issues that I can give an opinion on. Do 

Billie Tarascio: you ever meet with children? [00:10:00] 

Lisa Fontes: I don't I don't, for the kind of work that I do, I don't need to do that, so I, I don't meet with children.

Mm-hmm. That's kind of a different role. Yeah, 

Billie Tarascio: I, I wonder because I know that there are a lot of teenagers who sometimes are who don't wanna go visit one parent, and there's, there's been a lot of discussion lately about reunification camps, about forced reunification, and I was just curious if that was ever a, a situation where you would be involved.

Lisa Fontes: I might be involved in the situation, but not in the role of talking to the child. Mm-hmm. That could be done by, you know, different roles in different places, but custody evaluator, guardian ad litem maybe a psych eval on the child. Mm-hmm. But I would not be part of that, but I, for, for a, a, a different kind of case.

I might, you know, let's say a custody case where that might be part of it. Mm-hmm. I might [00:11:00] how much time the teen spends with the other parent. The abuse, the abusive parent, I might certainly look at reports from Child Protective Services, reports from the schools, concerns raised. Love it. 

Billie Tarascio: All right, so let's talk for a minute about coercive control.

It's a crime in some states, not in Arizona where I am, but can you define what is coercive control?

Lisa Fontes: Absolutely. So in most of the states that I've worked there are course of control is not yet in the laws. It will be. It will be. Mm-hmm. It will be part of the definition of domestic violence will be, course of control will be included there as it is in Connecticut.

Colorado California. Hawaii. Oh goodness. I'm forgetting on Washington State. There we go. And it, there's a proposal in quite a few other states. Coercive control is a strategy that some people use to dominate their intimate partner. Some of the [00:12:00] tactics that are included are isolation, intimidation. Manipulation could be physical abuse, sexual abuse, legal abuse, and financial abuse.

Not all of those have to be present. Mm-hmm. But it's a strategy over time and there's more than one part of it. A lot of times when people say, oh, I was emotionally abused. Mm-hmm. What they really mean is course of control. Mm-hmm. Because emotional abuse is, is part of course of control, but usually there's more.

Mm-hmm. Maybe the abusive partner raised a stink every time they visited their family or saw friends, or they got so drunk that. The person who's victimized started isolating themselves. And so that would be isolation that they may not even be aware of. Tech technological abuse is also, can definitely, can be part of coercive control, whether that's [00:13:00] tracking someone's movements, tracking their emails, their phone calls, their social media.

Mm-hmm. So those are elements, of course, of control and, and the result is that the person who's being victimized lives a reduced life, less freedom, less freedom to associate with others, less ability to make decisions. Often they stop feeling like themselves. They feel like a shadow of themselves. 

Billie Tarascio: Well, I have to tell you, Dr.

Fonta, so many people, by the time they get to me to get divorced, have experienced the things that you're talking about. 

Lisa Fontes: That's right. I mean most, and they, and they may not have a name for it. And that's the beauty of the term course of control is it connects the dots among all these things that, you know, oh, it's just that he's in a bad mood all the time, or it's just that she, you know, has a hard time seeing my family.

But then when you put them all together, it's a whole universe of ways to control another person. Mm-hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: And let's say we prove that, [00:14:00] you know, we go to court, we prove that let's say it's the dad was. Coercively controlling and controlled mom's movements and controlled what she spent. How does that usually impact a case?

Lisa Fontes: Well, it depends on what the case is about. If it's about custody, which it often is, then we have to make the connections for the judge between coercively controlling an intimate partner and harm to the child. Mm-hmm. Fortunately, there's some very good recent research on that demonstrates that living in a home with coercive control, even if there is no physical abuse, Is harmful to children.

And we also see that the same techniques that the abuser was using to control their partner mm-hmm. They eventually use with their children. Maybe not when their children are really little and all they wanna do is please dad. But as the child gets older, they develop a mind [00:15:00] of their own. They don't necessarily believe the same things, dad believes they don't necessarily wanna do what he wants to do, then those techniques are gonna come into play.

So 

Billie Tarascio: what do you ask the family court to do? 

Lisa Fontes: It's not necessarily my job to ask the family court to do anything but I would talk about some of the things that have been helpful with people in the past. So, for instance even if there isn't a history of physical violence, it can be very helpful for someone who has used course of control to take part in a 26 to 52 week.

In person batterer intervention program. Really? And, and those groups are not, those groups that are well run are not just for men who've beaten their, their wives or girlfriends. They [00:16:00] understand the dynamics of course, of control that lie beneath. The physical abuse. And so they will address those.

And I say in person because the online programs don't have the same accountability. Right. And it's not anger management because domestic violence, domestic abuse course of control are not. Prob anger problems. They are problems of controlling the partner. Usually the person who coly controls their partner can't control their anger.

They don't usually lash out at the neighbors, they don't lash out at their bosses. They choose to lash out at their partner as a form of domination. I wanna ask 

Billie Tarascio: about this. This might be even dangerous to ask, but I've had, I've had consultations with people who have had. Partners who had traumatic brain injuries or had post-traumatic stress disorder, and they would describe incidents [00:17:00] of violence, but somehow they did not describe a relationship that felt like, and they did not feel like they were in a pattern of dominating, controlling behavior, but they were, instead with someone who, who seemed to have an anger problem.

Is that real? 

Lisa Fontes: Well, I guess what I would ask, one of the things I would ask was, is that person having outbursts all over the place? Yeah. So if somebody has a traumatic brain injury that interferes with their ability to control their emotions. Mm-hmm. You'd see it at the supermarket, you'd see it when they're driving on the highway.

You'd see it at the workplace. You'd see it with their parents. You know, it wouldn't simply be directed at their partner, right? If it's, if it's really only at home, then there's a certain amount of choice in there. But honestly, even if it is a traumatic brain injury, you know, the person has a right to decide not to stay with someone who's abusive towards 'em, 

Billie Tarascio: right?

And it doesn't [00:18:00] make them any less dangerous to their children. It probably makes them more 

Lisa Fontes: dangerous. That's right. Well, th thank you for bringing up the effect on the kids because it, it kids, you know, they, a lot of people think, oh, their kids don't really know what's going on. But kid kids sense, they're, they, they really do sense.

And research has shown that even in couples where there's physical violence, I. And both members of the couple believe the children don't know. The children know. Mm. Couples will say, oh, we only fight after the kids are in bed, or we only go into the garage to fight, or the basement. The kids know. They feel the fear.

They see, you know, the hole in the wall that was punched. They see one person acquiescing to the other and acting timid and they know. 

Billie Tarascio: Other thing I wanna ask you about is, so many times judges will say, well, it's a case if he said, she said, we can't figure out who's lying. Now you are an international expert in interviewing.

You [00:19:00] can tell who's lying. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

Lisa Fontes: I don't have a magic wand to tell who's lying. Okay. And no one does. Now, the F B I doesn't, you know, no one does. Okay. So I need to say that first, but there are some indicators about whether people are being truthful or not that I look for.

And, and yes, I have written a book on interviewing and taught interviewing across the country for forensic context. You look for I look for the attitude of the person who's telling the story by, I shouldn't say story by the person who's telling their story mm-hmm. By the person who's telling what happened to them.

So do they seem vengeful? Do they seem vindictive? Does it escalate? The person I described earlier to you who I de, I backed out of the case. It was because the, the charges kept e it kept escalating. It didn't, it wasn't [00:20:00] consistent. So you look for a certain amount of consistency. There are certain attitudes as people tell their stories, which are very typical.

I. Actually, I don't even wanna tell tell them all because I wanna be able to continue to use them. But I'm able to tell to a judge, these are the reasons that I believe this person, or these are the belief reasons that I don't. Mm-hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: So if someone is being falsely accused of something, how would you recommend they go about proving their 

Lisa Fontes: innocence?

Well, it's, it really is a, a question of evidence. Mm-hmm. So You will see situations where a 120 pound woman, mm-hmm. Who has been in the hospital, who has been in the emergency room for multiple injuries to herself, that she at the [00:21:00] time said she fell down the stairs, she was running whatever. But then once she separates from the abuser says, those were all injuries that were domestic violence.

And the 190 pound husband is claiming that she was violent against him because he took one video of her yelling. At him and cursing at him. Mm-hmm. And so you know, sometimes I'll just ask the judges, you know, let's, let's look at this. You know, let's look at the evidence that we have. Mm-hmm. So it, it really is a question of of looking at the evidence and, you know, there isn't always great evidence, 

Billie Tarascio: right? There isn't always great evidence. So sometimes somebody is making something up about you and it can be very hard to prove, to disprove a negative. 

Lisa Fontes: It can be. Right. So you just have to weigh what evidence is there?

Hospital records, police records [00:22:00] diaries kept at the time, emails, people they spoke to at the time. Mm-hmm. I encourage people to keep photographs and I encourage people to report assaults to the police. You can look at the record of the, of the two people. Does either of them have a criminal record?

Mm-hmm. Does either of them have a cri history of abuse? Or of assaults. Mm-hmm. What is their substance abuse pattern? Does that come up frequently? It does come up frequently. Yes. And being cured of alcoholism, let's say, not cured, but somebody getting their alcoholism in control, under control, will not necessarily make them stop being abusive.

Plenty of people are alcoholic and are not abusive. Mm-hmm. And plenty of people are abusive and are not, and don't abuse alcohol. Mm-hmm. So the two often go together. Mm-hmm. Alcohol or drugs. Mm-hmm. And domestic abuse, but there are. They need to [00:23:00] be addressed as separate problems. Mm-hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: That's interesting that you say that.

I don't have a ton of experience with this, but but one specific case I worked on, a father was physically abusive to a little boy and was an alcoholic. And one of the things that we got court ordered was that the father used soberlink and not. Drink during parenting time, and that seemed to, well, there were no other incidents of physical abuse after that.

I don't think it cured him as a parent or fixed the, the child's relationship with the dad, but it certainly made him more safe. Is there any evidence surrounding that type of fact pattern that would suggest that is or isn't a good idea? 

Lisa Fontes: Oh, it's absolutely a good idea. I mean people are disinhibited when they're using drugs or using alcohol, and so if they have [00:24:00] that sort of tendency, then it, it's more likely to come out because they're not able to stop themselves.

So that doesn't surprise me what you're saying. And I'm glad to hear it worked. Yeah, I'm glad to hear 

Billie Tarascio: it were too. But, or, or it made a difference. It did for that little boy. But I'm wondering, you know, if it happens again, is it, is it a bad idea or is it, should we as family law attorneys be encouraging something like, you know, no drinking and the use of soberlink and then allowing parenting time if someone's been abusive under the influence, because it's very difficult to get a judge to order no parenting time or even supervise parenting time.

Lisa Fontes: I think that that this soberlink can be helpful. Mm-hmm. But I would still recommend even for somebody who's only abusive, When they're drunk. Mm-hmm. Or when they're high, I would still recommend a batterer intervention program because they need to address the underlying belief that it's okay.

Mm-hmm. To dominate or it's natural to try to [00:25:00] dominate their partner to that degree. Mm-hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: Got it. So the, the Batter intervention program is really about the psychological dismantling of the patriarchal belief that allows you to justify your behavior. 

Lisa Fontes: Correct. Interesting. And, and to, and to deny its importance or, or even deny, you know, to blame it on the other person, oh, you made me do this because you said this, or you went there, or you smiled at the grocery attendant, or whatever.

Mm-hmm. And so projecting it out on the partner rather than saying, it's my job mm-hmm. To control my. How I behave. Mm-hmm. And you know, men who successfully complete these programs are often really transformed. And the, and the longer the programs are, the more successful they are. And some programs will have people come back, you know, as sort of alums after their initial time through it.

And a lot of times men don't wanna give that up [00:26:00] because there's a real feeling of community there. 

Billie Tarascio: It's exciting. It's exciting to know that there is a treatment, that it is effective because many, many people are stuck co-parenting with their, you know, former partner for a long time. So it's good to know that there is treatment that works.

I'm sure it only works if they want to work. 

Lisa Fontes: Right? It works some of the time. I mean, some abusers drop out, they can't complete it. It's too rigorous. Mm-hmm. And others, you know, complete it. But Don't really change. So it's not a guarantee, but it, it does seem to be the best tool that we have right now.

Mm-hmm. 

Billie Tarascio: So let's talk about a typical engagement. You said that people will do an initial interview, then they'll get you documents. What happens next when people are working with you? 

Lisa Fontes: So it really depends on where they are. But let's say the best way for me to work is that they have a collection of, of their [00:27:00] documents, the most important things, police report, medical reports legal filings.

If there have been depositions from both sides. If there are abusive texts, voicemails, videos, I don't wanna see a hundred of them. It's really traumatic for me to listen to those and to see those. So I wanna see a selection of them. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And if there's some app like Talking Parents or Our Family Wizard that has also a abusive.

Talk then I would like to see a, you know, a printout of that. They've gathered those together. I have a controlling relationship assessment form that I give people and ask them to fill out. And it asks about course of control in all different kinds of areas. So there may be things that people have not thought about and it helps me, it helps guide my interview with them because I, I won't, I [00:28:00] just won't skip anything and then I'll see, you know, people will say, yeah, there was this, but no, there was none of that.

I. And that's fine. Or they'll say, well, I'm not sure. A lot of times people, women will say, I'm not sure if I was sexually abused in this relationship. And so then I know, well, that's an area that we, we are probably gonna touch on. And I ask them to fill out a timeline. A lot of times they've already filled out a timeline with their attorney and that's great.

But I might have a few questions on mine that the attorney hasn't asked. Like, what did you weigh and what was your height? During the relationship and what was your, the abuser's weight and height during the relationship. And, and so I gather those materials. I begin to get a picture from those and then, we'll, I'll have an interview of maybe an hour and a half or so by Zoom.

Some people's less, some people it's a little more, and that will be, I'll be asking about the areas that it seemed like they had, they had more to say. I. I've, you know, this might not work for everybody. [00:29:00] I mean, I have been with people who've said, I don't wanna fill out any forms. I just want you to interview me.

And I just don't have enough hours in the day to do that. That's why I developed the form. But then other people I. They find it to be very helpful to fill out the form. It's like when you go to the doctor and they ask you about every single aspect of your physical body, and you say, oh, so finally somebody's trying to get to understand who I really am, and it's a very thorough.

I mean, I'm getting in pretty close with people and their experiences and sometimes often people tell me story about experiences they've never told anyone before. And it's an honor and a privilege, and I take it very seriously. I take their privacy and their confidentiality and their feelings very seriously.

And I, I put it all together. Mm-hmm. I look for inconsistencies. If there's inconsistencies, I ask [00:30:00] about them. Mm-hmm. Well you said this, but the neighbor's affidavit said that. Can you explain that? And sometimes I see things that people don't see themselves. And then I write a report, and sometimes they're short, sometimes they're long.

So they could be seven pages, could be 20, 25. I incorporate literature from the field scholarly work, and then the, I submit it and sometimes that encourages the other side to settle. And mm-hmm. Sometimes we go to trial. I might get deposed before trial, maybe, yes, maybe no. And then we'll testify.

And my job and my, and my job is really, you know, not to be on anybody's side. It's to inform the court. 

Billie Tarascio: So in this report [00:31:00] are you reporting the story? Are you reporting your findings? Is it a conclusory report or kind of an informative 

Lisa Fontes: report? I'm not really familiar with those terms, but I do reach conclusions about whether I believe there has been coercive control, domestic abuse, post-separation abuse best interest of the children.

I have to be careful how I talk about that because it may not be my role depending on the state. But I can talk about some of the. Possible risks to children of, of course, of control. The reports are very specific, so they're, they do talk about the field, but they also talk about the, the, the particulars of this couple or this family.

Billie Tarascio: Awesome. Well, I have found your work to be incredibly thorough, persuasive, and really helpful. I was talking to a client of mine who used you, and she just was telling me how [00:32:00] personally transformative it was for her to work with you. You know, regardless of the impact that it had on her case, she learned so much about herself and it really helped her process her experience to work with you.

Lisa Fontes: I, I do hear that from people. It, what I do is not therapy by any means, but some people do find it very therapeutic. I got, I got a note from somebody today. Is it you want, is it okay if I read it? I, she gave me permission. I would love that. Okay. So dear Lisa, thank you so much for your expertise, your report and testimony.

Your involvement has greatly impacted the way my case is being understood by the legal system. The truth of my experience being coercively controlled is finally being told. And she gave me permission to read that I testified last week for her. Oh. In her case. And she, in [00:33:00] the, in the initial proceedings, in the case, she felt like the, the judge was not taking seriously everything that had been done to her and adding my voice.

Shifted the 

Billie Tarascio: conversation. That's wonderful. That's just wonderful because so many victims are told, you know, your story doesn't matter or we don't believe you, or we don't want to hear it. And so I'm so happy that you are able to give people a voice and say it in a way that makes the family court listen.

And that's really, I think what you do is you take, you know, stories and you make them relevant to the family court case where otherwise a judge might not care to listen. I. 

Lisa Fontes: Right. And judges will often say, and it's a mistake, they'll often say, oh, I don't care what happened between the couple. I'm only here making a decision about the kids as if the person who abuses their partner is not the same person who's in the room with the kids.

They're the same person, the same characteristics, the same habits, the same personality. So thank you. I've [00:34:00] enjoyed working with you, Billie. 

Billie Tarascio: Dr. Fontes, thank you so much for coming on the show. There are literally so many topics that we could cover, but we're out of time for today. If you all have enjoyed this episode, make sure you download it, like it, share it, rate it.

Dr. Fontes does work with clients. Although she doesn't have a ton of room, we'll make sure to link to your website so that people can get a hold of you. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. My pleasure. 

Lisa Fontes: Thank you. 

We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, brought to you by Modern Law.

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Billie Tarascio: One consistent theme you'll hear from me, Billie Tarascio, is that we do not believe in a one size fits all solution. That's why at Modern Law you can find anything you need for your family law case. For the highest stakes litigation cases, we've got experienced family law attorneys who can offer you representation.

We also have embraced. Newly licensed legal [00:35:00] paraprofessionals who can offer you legal representation for less. And if you just need your documents prepared, we can offer certified legal document preparers as well. If that's not for you, and instead you are representing yourself, congratulations, you are like one of the 70% of people out there doing it on your own.

And our newest offering, win without law school. Can help. For more information about WIN without Law school, go to win without law school.com. To get representation options, go to my Modern Law dot com.

Why hire a DV expert to testify?
Forms of post separation abuse
When the abuser cries abuse
Coercive control signs
The grey areas of DV and Coercive control
When you're accused
Parenting time when abuse is present
How she works