Would you pay this man $7,500 to decide whether you are a fit parent? New film exposes the dark underbelly of the $50bn a year divorce industry in the US
- ‘Divorce Corp’ exposes the $50 billion-a-year American divorce business
- The documentary, narrated by Dr. Drew Pinsky, reveals the incestuous business relationships among judges, attorneys and court professionals
- Gloria Allred says, ‘follow the money’
- American rights enshrined in the Constitution do not exist in family court
- Dan Brewington of Indiana went to jail for blogging about the custody evaluator and judge in his divorce
‘Joe Kegan’s’ Facebook page featured pictures of himself strutting his stuff in bondage clothing — wearing chains across his chest and black leather chaps, but no pants.
Another photo of a sign hanging from a balcony during one of his parties read, ‘It’s snowing!’ — generally a reference to cocaine or meth in use.
And a flyer for his birthday party was entitled ‘The Dysfunctional Family.’ It promised, ‘BB (bareback) anal sex with strangers following the event!’
Day job: Dr. Joseph Kenan, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist and child custody evaluator
For his day job, Kegan was actually Dr. Joseph Kenan, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist and child custody evaluator. He charged thousands of dollars to determine whether parents were fit to care for their children.
This sordid story is among the multitude of shocking revelations in the new documentary ‘Divorce Corp,’ now playing in selected theaters. The film is scheduled to run through January 16.
Kenan’s double life was discovered by Deborah Singer, a mother whom the psychiatrist evaluated, and her attorney, Dennis Braun.
In ‘Divorce Corp,’ Singer and Braun relate how Kenan showed up at Singer’s home in an Aston Martin sports car to interview her.
‘He was dressed very well,’ Singer says. ‘But he didn’t know my name, and didn’t know my husband’s name.’
By night: His Facebook page featured pictures of himself strutting his stuff in bondage clothing ¿ wearing chains across his chest and black leather chaps, but no pants
His birthday flier: It promised, ‘BB (bareback) anal sex with strangers following the event!’
Singer says Kenan seemed anxious and was sweating.
‘I sat down with him; he put a microphone in front of me and said, tell me about birth to 10 years old,’ Singer says.
‘My instinct was that something was wrong.’
Afterwards, Kenan took Singer’s check for $7,500 and went directly to her bank to cash it.
Shortly after that, Braun says in the film, he had lunch with a friend. They happened to run into Kenan.
The friend knew Kenan — and knew that he had a Facebook page full of lewd images.
Shocked: Deborah singer was evaluated by Dr Kenan and couldn’t believe what she discovered when she dug a little deeper than the surface
Undone by Facebook: Dr Kenan’s Facebook page led to his being removed from Singer’s case
‘There was one after another of shocking photos of sex, porn stars and cocaine,’ Singer says in the film. ‘If I had one image like that on my Facebook page they would take my child away from me.’
Singer and Braun filed a petition with the court to have Kenan, who at the time was also president of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, removed from her case.
In court documents quoted by the Los Angeles Times, Kenan said his Facebook page was not meant for public viewing and was shut down.
‘Ms. Singer misunderstands the bawdy humor I occasionally present to my friends, as evidenced by some of those pictures,’ Kenan wrote, according to the Times.
‘I do NOT promote what she is concerned I promote. My comments are entirely in jest. In fact, my comments serve to educate the community’s problems through satire.’
Kenan’s lawyer said his private life did not affect his professional performance.
In a hearing on August 3, 2010, Kenan was removed from Singer’s case, according to the Times. However, another mother who wanted Kenan removed was not successful.
‘You’re saying Dr. Kenan should be disqualified because of a goofy Facebook page,’ said Commissioner Mary Lou Katz. ‘What on earth does it have anything to do with this court?’
Bound: There was a seeemingly endless stream of shocking images
No limits: The pictures showed a man who appeared to have very few boundaries in his personal life
The Los Angeles Times reported in 2011 that Kenan had been involved in at least 250 custody cases over the previous 10 years, and court officials said they had received no complaints about him.
‘I found it somewhat disingenuous that the court would say they had not heard that Dr. Kenan was one of the questionable evaluators,’ attorney Braun says in the film.
When the story went public, attorney Braun says in the film, he received calls from 100 or more other women who felt they’d been mistreated by Kenan.
‘They were crying on the phone,’ Braun says.
Singer also filed a complaint against Kenan with the Medical Board of California.
But on Sept. 2, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that the state medical board had found insufficient evidence to bring disciplinary evidence against Kenan.
Singer received a letter from the board that stated, ‘A complete investigation was performed, including a subject interview. We then retained an expert witness to review the case, which resulted in a conclusive finding that there was no evidence of professional misconduct.’
Kenan’s attorney, Joel Douglas, said the photos did not reflect fairly on Kenan’s work.
Not fit: He was removed from at least one case, but another woman who tried to remove him from her case failed
Also profiled: Mark Byron detailed the horrors of his divorce in the film
‘Everybody is entitled to their private life, and the medical board, to its credit, was able to get away from the hue and cry and look at it objectively,’ Douglas said, according to the Los Angeles.
Kenan himself was interviewed in the Divorce Corp movie. He admitted that he was ‘able to hide things.’
He also said that becoming a child custody evaluator was easy. ‘It took my attending a two-day seminar that one could basically sleep through,’ he says.
Why did Kenan agree to participate in the documentary?
‘I think there are wrong things going on in the family court,’ Kenan said in an interview with the Daily Mail. ‘And my perspective … I thought would be helpful to people to help create change.’
Kenan says he is not free to discuss his involvement in Singer’s divorce or any particular case.
But he says, ‘I’ve done 350 cases. And I’ve learned that if you dig into anyone’s life far enough you find things that you don’t like.’
‘When you find out people have a sexual side, or have a life outside of what people are in court … what do you do with this information? You throw out all the custody evaluators?’
‘If you don’t know this side of humans, you may get shocked when you find stuff.’
In the film, Singer, the mother who booted Kenan from her case, says, ‘Do whatever you want in your private life, but you do not get to determine what is best for my child.’
The case of Dan Brewington: His child custody background check came up normal, but an unusual series of events landed him in jail
The ‘Divorce Corp’ documentary exposes the dirty secrets of the $50 billion per year American divorce industry.
‘Our objective was to do an expose on the family court system in the United States,’ Joseph Storge, the film’s director, says.
The film is narrated by Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of the TV show ‘Dr. Drew’ on HLN. It includes interviews with divorce lawyers, mediators, judges, psychologists, journalists and people who have gone to court for divorce.
‘Divorce Corp’ takes direct aim at unscrupulous judges, lawyers and family court professionals, and the incestuous system that enables them to feed each other business and get rich.
‘Follow the money,’ says celebrity attorney Gloria Allred.
Every year, according to Storge, the director, two million Americans go through divorce. The average uncontested divorce costs $15,000 to $25,000.
Contested divorces can easily cost more than $50,000, and custody battles are even more expensive.
The documentary is ‘about the money and what drives the business,’ Storge says.
‘How do these lawyers and custody evaluators and forensic accountants make money? Why is there so much money? Where is money made in the system?’
David Hoffman, a lecturer at Harvard Law School, says, ‘You have lawyers who are in it for the money, who are greedy and who milk a case.’
For example, Ulf Carlsson, of California, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his divorce. ‘The attorneys don’t want to settle the cases,’ he says, ‘because once they do, their income stream has been cut off.’
‘Basically what the court does is it creates a battleground in which each side hurls the harshest accusations they can come up with because they’re desperate to win,’ Hoffman says.
The film explains that basic American rights enshrined in the Constitution do not exist in family court. There is no right to an attorney if a litigant can’t afford one, no right to a speedy trial and no right to a trial by jury.
Also divorced: Ulf Carlsson claims basic rights granted by the constitution are thrown out the window in divorce courts
Judges alone make decisions. And they do whatever they want.
Boston attorney Gerald Nissenbaum explains, ‘All judges have the same middle name — God.’
Ulf Carlsson found this out the hard way. During testimony in his divorce trial in Sacramento County, the judge, Peter J. McBrien, abruptly stood up and walked out of the courtroom. He did not return.
A few days later, Carlsson explains, his attorney was notified that the trial was over. The judge ruled against Carlsson on every single issue.
Carlsson appealed the judge’s decision. He says McBrien retaliated by having him fired from his state job.
The California Commission on Judicial Performance issued a scathing order imposing public censure on McBrien.
The commission said McBrien engaged in serious misconduct so that Carlsson’s trial was fundamentally unfair, denied Carlsson his due process rights and investigated Carlsson without disclosing his actions.
However, citing McBrien’s long tenure in family law, the commission did not remove him from the bench.
Jailed for obstruction: Dan Brewington criticized the judge in his custody case on his blog and ended up in jail for more than two years
For the director, Storge, the most shocking thing he learned about divorce was that people do not have the right of free speech. ‘A judge can put a gag order on you,’ he says.
‘Divorce Corp’ profiles the case of Dan Brewington, a father of two girls in Dearborn County, Indiana.
After being separated from his wife for two and a half years with no complaints or allegations of abuse, Brewington went through a custody evaluation. His evaluation was overwhelmingly normal, but the custody evaluator said he was only looking for ‘the bad stuff.’
Brewington felt he was being railroaded, and started a blog called ‘Dan’s Adventures In Taking On the Family Court.’ The judge, James D. Humphrey of the Dearborn Circuit Court, didn’t like it, and ordered him to take it down.
Brewington, believing he had a First Amendment right to criticize a public official, refused. So two and a half months later, the judge took away Brewington’s visitation with his daughters.
A year after that, according to the film, Brewington wrote on his blog, ‘One of the biggest child abusers is wearing a black robe and holding a gavel.’
The judge had him arrested. Brewington was convicted of intimidating a judge and attempted obstruction of justice, and sentenced to five years in prison. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the verdict. He served two and a half years.
Welcome home!: The picture that welcomed Dan Brewington home after his prison sentence
Brewington was released for good behavior on September 5, 2013. A week later, the case was argued before Indiana Supreme Court, with many civic and news organizations supporting Brewington’s case because of its First Amendment implications. A decision has not yet been announced.
‘Divorce Corp’ uncovers conflicts of interests among judges and attorneys, how the system creates incentives for parents to fight over child custody, and how frustration over court rulings sometimes leads to violence.
The film contrasts American adversarial divorces with what happens in Scandinavia.
‘What we found there was pleasantly surprising,’ Storge, the director, says. ‘They don’t use lawyers. They don’t get the court involved. They don’t fight over child support.’
‘I hope our film can at least raise awareness and expose a system that so many people are injured by,’ Storge says. ‘I hope it gets people interested in reforming it.’
Donna Andersen is author of Lovefraud.com.
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