Sullivan County Family Court Stories: Part 1
This is the first in a series of articles that The SullivanTimes will be publishing about the Family Court system in Sullivan County.
Bloomingburg attorney Glen Kroll, who says he handles some 200 cases (assigned and retained) in family court each year, believes that Sullivan County’s Family Court system works better than all of the other locations around New York State where he has practiced family law.
“We have probably not only the most efficient court system, but we have the best judges. (Judge Mark) Meddaugh and (Judge Michael) McGuire are better than any other county that I’ve seen.” Kroll, who once ran for District Attorney, said that handles cases in Ulster, Orange, Delaware, Rockland and Dutchess Counties, as well as in New York City.
Orange County attorney Aliza A. Reed, is Kroll’s opposing counsel in a current Sullivan County Family Court case. She also handles cases in most of the same counties as Kroll. She believes there is good and bad in all the area family courts and left it at that.
Monticello attorney Richard Zirt said: “I don’t find the judges (in Sullivan County Court) are in any way biased against anybody. They do the best they can with the overwhelming caseloads that they have.”
Kroll and Reed have been battling it out for some 18 months in a case that does not seem to have a light at the end of the tunnel. They both agree that their clients fight about everything.
Reed represents Michelle Grant, who divorced Trevor Grant nearly five years ago. The father is represented by Kroll.
Zirt represents their child, who is age 8.
“He’s (Trevor) been using and abusing the court system, in my opinion, as a tool to harass her (Michelle) and unfortunately the courts don’t have any preliminary process to review when someone files a petition ...and what happens is she just keeps getting dragged into court on all these baseless violations,” Reed told The SullivanTimes on Tuesday. “She just feels she’s not getting any proper resolution from the court. The court is not providing her any resolution to the issues. It’s costing her thousands of dollars and time off of work and stress..and she’s been doing this since she separated and divorced.”
In an extended interview last month, Michelle Grant said that she had been hit with 17 violations by the opposing side. Her attorney said only one of them had any merit and it was so minor.
Nearly five years ago, Michelle Grant said that she filed for divorce due to an affair and moved from White Sulfur Springs to White Lake with her son. “The relationship was broken and I was looking out for the best interests of my son,” she said, adding that devised her own visitation agreement and had it notarized in the Town of Liberty clerk’s office.
“When we initially parted ways, he was seeing his son only as he felt necessary,” she said. She said that her ex husband eventually started seeing her every other weekend. “I felt that if he wanted to see him, there was no reason why he shouldn’t.”
But later, things changed. Michelle said that her ex husband petitioned the court for more time. First, he wanted and received the court’s approval to have Thursday nights to go along with his every other weekend visitation. “I wasn’t happy but understood it.”
But when Trevor petitioned the court again seeking to add Wednesday nights to his visitation, that was a line in the sand for her.
“He was granted a lot more access than he should be having,” she said, adding that she doesn’t like that her son is moved back and forth during the school week. “I felt that my son needed one home that he is in most of the time for stability.” Reed said that the father was not part of the son’s life the first two years after the divorce but, since getting remarried, he suddenly wants to be involved.
Kroll said his client works from 7 am to 3 pm and that he wants to spend the extra time with his kid. He also believes that “children are very resilient” and that they typically accept new arrangements as long as they know what it is. “They become accustomed to it. They see it as normal. They want to see both parents.” (Zirt would not comment on how the couple’s child is coping, saying that he never comments on pending litigation).
Michelle Grant said that McGuire granted her ex husband the extra visitation “every time he petitioned the court for more time.”
Since then, she said that her ex has hit her with the 17 violations in an attempt “to prove to the court that I’m an unfit parent, so that my time will either get reduced, or his will get increased or custody would change.”
Michelle Grant said was especially incensed when she said McGuire gave her ex legal advice from the bench regarding her ex husband’s concern that he wasn’t notified every time she took their son to the doctor. “I’m tired of being pushed around and I’m tired of being treated like a stupid person when I’m a damn good Mom. I’ve had it. The last four years have been a complete assassination of my character because of Judge McGuire. He’s allowed my ex husband to come into court with violations and waste the court’s time on things that just are not true.”
The pair have been using an app to communicate in which Judge McGuire has access to. “There’s a lot of harassment and aggressive tones on there. He demeans me as a parent. I am still a victim of my ex husband’s abuse. And for some reason, it just sits there. I have never filed an order of protection because he’s never gotten physical with me. It’s not physical. This is mental/verbal.”
Kroll says that his client, a correction officer who does weapons training, “is a normal guy, he’s not mean, he’s not nasty. And he loves his kid.”
But Reed strongly disagrees. “In my opinion, he (Trevor) has a classic narcissistic personality disorder..that was stated by the AFC (Attorneys For Children) in the matter. He recognized that from the get-go.”
Reed said that her client is being “made to appear that she is the bitter ex spouse that is upset that he’s remarried. That the spin they have put on it this whole time. But that’s not the reality.” She added that Trevor Grant makes lists of perceived violations “of all the things she did while their son was in her care. It’s very self serving. He comes in with two large binders and he really bullies her in court. “
One thing that Kroll and Reed do agree on is that it’s sad that the parents are fighting over so much.
“It’s sad to see.” Reed said. “There’s no resolution. They can’t get along. They have joint custody but they can’t get along and fight over everything including water bottles. But the court says it doesn’t see that joint custody is an issue.”
Reed added: “I’m more concerned about this child’s health and well being from stress from the situation. He shouldn’t be tugged between two parents.
McGuire has scheduled a trial for May.