Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You

Domestic Violence: A Judge Is Dead

October 26, 2023 Attorney Billie Tarascio
Modern Divorce - The Do-Over For A Better You
Domestic Violence: A Judge Is Dead
Show Notes Transcript

When a Maryland judge, who recognized the signs of domestic violence in a divorce proceding, ruled against a father, he had little idea that he would be shot to death in his driveway just hours later. Elsewhere, in Arizona, a judge asked for an armed guard to be present at all times in the divorce courtroom, yet the children of the marriage were still allowed to stay with dad without any oversight or conditions.

What's happening with domestic violence cases in the courtroom, and why are the grim statistics getting worse? In today's special episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast, host Bille Tarascio presents a sobering picture of domestic violence cases that's put everyone on edge.

If you're not sure if you're situation would be considered domestic violence, check out the Power Wheel for signs that you may need to take action to keep yourself safe.

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Announcer: Welcome to the Modern Divorce Podcast. In today's episode, and throughout the month of October on our social media channels, we've been talking about domestic violence, and Billie has something more to say about that. Listen in.

Billie Tarascio: A family court judge is dead after taking custody away from an abusive man. My name is Billie Tarascio, and in this special edition of Modern Divorce Podcast, I want to talk about this case. and what we can learn from it, and the importance of safety planning, and the continual frustrations that I have with how the family court addresses [00:02:00] or doesn't address domestic violence.

A Maryland judge heard shocking evidence in a divorce case hours before he was killed in his driveway. What do we know? Pedro Argote was absent on the last day of his divorce hearing when the judge granted Saul Custody of their four minor children to mom after the evidence that they heard. Then, later that day, Argett showed up and shot him dead in his driveway.

He is now a wanted man and he remains at large. The judge had ruled against him after hearing testimony from his wife and his adult daughter that was not in common to him and his wife about their isolation. and subjecting them to various acts of violence in recent years. An audio recording from the hearing did not capture any obvious warning signs that Argaud posed a danger [00:03:00] outside to anyone in his family, but it does provide highlights into new insight of the abuse allegations he was facing.

His adult daughter from a previous relationship said she spent most of her teenage years confined to her bedroom. She said Argo had cameras installed throughout the house and he was watching her every move. During emotional testimony, she said he would beat her with a belt and other objects, whatever he had close by.

She said the reason I worked up the courage to testify was so that my siblings wouldn't have to go through the mental torment that I have. And she told the court, explaining that she left home at 18 to escape the abuse and has not had contact with her father yet. The judge found that Mr. Argoat had isolated the children and the mom over the past two years.

And that has gone on throughout the marriage and it's shocking. He found that Argoat was abusive in multiple ways. Our goat's wife described in detail how he rendered her powerless and mistreated their children. She wept while [00:04:00] recounting how he would stuff a towel into the crying baby's mouth. The conditions worsened after he found out she planned to leave him.

That usually happens. However, before she could get the paperwork together, Argoat himself files for divorce, the court records show a messy, illegal battle ensued, and Argoat's abuse escalated. Argoat's wife requested a protective order soon thereafter, saying that Argoat was carrying a gun and surveilling her.

But they later settled on a nesting arrangement wherein he would live on the first floor of the house and she would live upstairs. Throughout their marriage, Argot handled the family's finances, controlled their joint business ventures, including the most recent food truck and digital advertising company.

He limited his wife's access to their shared vehicle, according to court documents. In March 2023, a written opinion said he had an uneasy sense that father engages in absolute control over mother, their finances, and their [00:05:00] lives. The judge referenced this statement again Thursday, saying that his prior assessment had become crystal clear during recent testimony.

Exhibits include photos of Argoat smiling and posting with his children, riding bikes and swimming. In one photo, two of his children are sitting in their driveway. Next to a chalk message that says, I love you dad. In an October 11th email sent to his attorneys where a foregoat said he purchased her SUV and left it outside her house, but the attorney told him to remove it and make the shared vehicle.

Available. You cannot force a vehicle upon my client, the attorney wrote. This is not a sensible solution. The recent divorce hearing lasted two days. During the first half, which took place in September, Argaot represented himself. He testified about the couple's finances and repeatedly questioned whether his children were receiving adequate homeschooling instruction from their mother, claiming she was too lenient on them.

During his testimony, Argoat at times expressed frustration, but his voice remained calm, and he often addressed the judge [00:06:00] respectfully, as your honor. I'm not sure I find that believable, Will Gouchen said, explaining his decision to proceed. The attorney representing the wife said she believes Argoat didn't come to court on the second day of the hearing.

After he claimed he had a headache because he knows the writing is on the wall. An attorney was representing the children and she said she was concerned for their safety because Mr. Argo had not showed up to that second day of the hearing. She urged the judge to resolve the case quickly in hopes of keeping the children safe, saying the best case scenario for them would likely be moving to Florida with their mom, who had a family support system there.

The best interest attorney said that even supervised access to their father would be detrimental. The judge ruled out giving visitation rights to Argoat and barred Argoat from contacting his children or visiting the family home. Then Wilkerton was shot in his driveway Thursday night where his wife and son were home.

That [00:07:00] is the case that I want to talk about and I also want to talk about what I've seen in Arizona. This violence that we're seeing seems to be escalating in families, outside of families, throughout our country. It seems that we have an epidemic of very violent, very angry, usually men. And there are more guns in our society, floating around our society than ever before, and no one is safe.

Now the truth is that women in these circumstances and children are shot so often, more often than we'd like to talk about. The statistics on the prevalence of intimate partner violence with a gun in the United States are staggering. On average, every month, 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.

Nearly 1 million women alive today have been shot, or reported shot, by intimate partners. And over [00:08:00] 4. 5 million women have reported being threatened with a gun by an intimate partner. This is an absolute epidemic. It happens all the time. And, in this case, She, Argot's wife, went to go get a protective order, because he had a gun, and instead settled.

And we encourage settlement all of the time in family law cases. But when there has been a history of domestic violence in your relationship, you need to get as far away as possible from your husband, boyfriend, partner. Because getting out of a relationship is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence.

And far too often, I see in Arizona courts, judges not take this seriously. Judges don't. Usually, in Arizona, look at how much control was exerted over the victim. The fact that this judge looked at that is, is outstanding, and it is in line with the research and the information that they [00:09:00] have on domestic violence.

But in Arizona, coercive control is not a crime, and usually not even talked about. Usually, the control or isolation is not even talked about. And it should be. And unfortunately, this judge is now dead. But what I hope is that it encourages more education in the judiciary, especially all the way out here on the West Coast, because no doubt this, this community in Maryland has been rocked.

Everybody should be rocked, and everybody should be rocked, and it shouldn't take a judge dying for everyone to be concerned, because there is real danger to children and women. Let me give you an example. We have a case right now where we're representing someone. And the judge has insisted that there is an armed guard in the courtroom at all times when this man is in the courtroom.

However, the children do not have supervised visitation. The judge in [00:10:00] Maricopa County has not ordered supervised visitation, even though she sees it fit to have a guard in her courtroom protecting her at all times. In my opinion, Arizona judges are not doing enough to protect women and children, especially children, from domestic violence.

They do not take domestic violence seriously enough. They go out of their way to find no significant domestic violence so that they don't have to apply the presumption of, that is against, joint legal decision making. And it's sick, and it's wrong. And so instead of holding abusers accountable. and making them go to courses and making them prove that they can be safe.

We placate them. And we placate them because we don't want it to get worse, right? We don't want to escalate their violence. Like, what happened here? A judge refused to placate dad. A judge held dad accountable. A judge said, no, you are dangerous to these children. You [00:11:00] cannot have time with them. And the consequence was he was shot.

And the alternative is that we placate. Okay, it's probably not that bad. It hasn't happened that recently. We can go ahead and give you parenting time. So, the truth is, in Arizona, what would most often happen in a case like this is these people have been going through a divorce for a long time. For a long time.

And there was nothing in this article or nothing that I've read that has indicated that there have been very recent incidents of domestic violence against The children in question and what I see happen so many times in Arizona family courts is judges will say well nothing's happened So the kids are safe and this very brave judge didn't do that He didn't do that.

He and the best interest attorney called it and Ruled based on the evidence. The older daughter was very very brave and her Testimony was not discounted. The judge believed the daughter The judge [00:12:00] believed the wife. The judge made a very good decision for the children and unfortunately it cost him his life.

Safety planning is absolutely essential when you are going through a family law case. The other thing is sometimes moving away is the very best thing you can do, and I'm also really happy to see that this best interest attorney recommended that mom move to Florida without dad where she could get family support.

Being around your family when you are leaving a a situation of domestic violence is an excellent, excellent thing. This is a tragedy. But these types of tragedies help bring awareness and help bring change. And my hope as a family law attorney who has watched the court system fail victims of domestic violence again and again and again and again is that this type of Tragedy can bring about reform.[00:13:00] 

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 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 percent 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 WinWithoutLawSchool. com. To get representation options, go to MyModernLaw. com.