I am writing this letter with hopes that media attention will help correct the wrongs that have been committed by the Seminole County court over the last 3 years.
I am a victim of domestic violence. My spouse is a former Navy sailor whom I originally left in 2009. Attempts to collect any sort of support by the state were stalemated by my spouse’s deployment to Iraq. In 2011, my spouse decided to come back to my residence and under marital property laws reinforced by Seminole County Sheriffs, integrated himself into the home my children and I had enjoyed to ourselves, funded by my parents, for two years. My spouse was arrested and convicted in 2011 of domestic violence and I sought shelter at a Seminole county domestic violence shelter, where eventually I received a state grant to establish a safety plan and housing from my abuser.
Frustrated with not being able to locate me, my spouse moved to Washington State. In the summer of 2012, my spouse was informed that I had purchased a new home, 7 miles away, in Volusia county. He promptly returned to Seminole county and abducted our four children from the home I now reside in. Due to the fact my spouse had once again evaded the state of Florida, I was unable to file divorce paperwork in his absence and he was granted rights to our children due to our marital status. After a break in into my home in November, I once again sought refuge at a shelter with the children. Shelter personnel were required to put us on a strict “lock down” due to My spouse’s constant stalking of the facility and the children’s bus stops. During this time, my spouse continued to volunteer at Idyllwilde Elementary under the watchful eye of Principal Carol Ann Darnell, under the guise of wanting to be involved with our children after 14 years of absence. The issue, due to my spouse’s domestic violence issue, he never completed the county’s required volunteer form that would have rendered him unable to supervise other children. Ms. Darnell and school board attorney, Ned Julian, took it upon themselves to notify my spouse of our location at the shelter, without realizing the serious amount of harm they were putting us into, or had subjected other children to.
In court proceedings, Judge Linda Schoonover has repeatedly ruled that the children maintain their enrollment in Seminole County schools, so as to participate in their customary extracurricular activities (that I previously oversaw). I finally have given up fighting this ruling, resigning myself of a lifetime of tortured shared custody with a man empowered to keep abusing me by Seminole County, until today. Today I was informed, by my spouse that he has been excluded from participating in activities with children due to domestic violence, finally someone at Millennium Middle School forced him to submit a volunteer application. As a result, the activities the court sought to keep my children active in, will not be feasible since the person the court granted majority time sharing to has been deemed inappropriate to care for children.
I have no criminal convictions, or charges. I am a military veteran discharged on good terms. The fact that a man who has been repeatedly investigated, reprimanded and charged with domestic violence has been awarded majority time sharing of minor children is a judicial travesty. The fact that Seminole County Public Schools has repeatedly put myself, my children and other people’s children in danger also should not be ignored.
I have been repeatedly denied an injunction for protection by Judge Schoonover, despite my spouse’s arrest and continuing abuse of myself. Judge Schoonover continues to disallow into consideration information from Child welfare workers about my spouse’s living conditions or treatment of the children. Since the beginning of my encounters with Judge Schoonover she has shown herself to be markedly biased against my first lawyer and myself, even going so far as to tell me I was manipulating the court systems and to advise me to hire a “real” lawyer. Four years of non support and countless police documented abuse encounters would show a poor track record of manipulation if that was my ultimate goal.
At this point in time my ultimate goal is safety for myself. I have been ordered to return to living in close proximity to my abuser’s rented apartment, despite living in a home I own in Volusia County in an attempt to live within my state set safety plan.
Judge Schoonover’s court orders show a willful disdain for victims of domestic violence. She continually places the abused in a position to endure more abuse at the hands of the abuser, to the point where the domestic violence advocates at Safehouse of Seminole County feel like their hands are tied when it comes to helping the abused who fall into her courtroom. There must be a resolution where victims of abuse are not afraid to face the people tasked with helping them. A culture of fear of being judged by advocates does nothing to help with breaking the cycle of domestic violence.