World Upside Down
I was sitting in my bedroom, devastated. My Charleston divorce lawyer had just called with the outcome of my child custody hearing. Judge Timothy H. Pogue ordered me to pay crazy money, starting with $25,000 a month in alimony. Another $50,000 a month towards maintenance and support. Plus $295,000 upfront towards my ex-wife Kristin Golestan’s legal fees (Later it was increased to $650,000 and I was forced to pay or face incarceration. I filed for bankruptcy— more on that later). I was losing my boys and my daily rituals of play, dinner, bedtime, and the endless cuddles, hugs and kisses with them… in exchange for a pitiful 2 days every other week, a total of 4 per month.
Judge Timothy H. Pogue “awarded” me the parenting plan the courts grant the father who doesn’t want to be a father. An absent father who misses every important function, from birthdays to long weekends, from school gatherings to doctor appointment. A father with documented history of drug and alcohol problem. What kind of justice was this? What is the deal with Charleston Family Courts?
My Proof, Their Word
Why was nothing I provided as evidence taken into consideration?
I gave the court endless transcripts of emails, texts, and phone calls, showing all the ways I was present in my children’s lives, from the delivery room onward. Everything shows that I was a 24-hour-a-day on-call dad, at home religiously at 5:30, attending every single school function, and each doctor’s appointment. To this day, no one has provided one instance of my not being there for my kids, much less one incident or piece of evidence of child care negligence. Unlike their mother, Kristin Golestan, I have never, ever, not even in one text message said “This is hard.”
[Related Post]: Who is Kristin Mehera Leiter Golestan?
Why did Judge Timothy H. Pogue give hearsay more weight than evidence?
The custody judgement entered by Judge Timothy H. Pogue was based on hearsay evidence. My proof against their word. And their word was taken at face value, despite countless other transcripts and recordings provided to the court regarding the negligence of the mother, Kristin Mehera Leiter Golestan. This evidence outlined her drinking problems, incidents of child negligence—including locking the boys in a closet for time outs—her reliance on psychics for almost daily advice on how to raise our children, her use of controlled substances in our home, and the countless texts and calls I got from her, a stay-at-home person with a housekeeper and full-time nanny, saying “Come home. This is too hard.”
I Was Labelled
What does racial profiling look like?
I’m an Iranian Muslim. I’m an immigrant who is also an American citizen. There were things said in the ruling that directly referred to my heritage. For example:
Assuming that, as a Muslim, I don’t celebrate Christmas, so naturally, I wouldn’t want any time with my sons at one of the biggest holidays of the year. I have proof of this ludicrous statement that not only assumes what’s important to me, despite my explicit, stated desire to celebrate Christmas with my children, but also uses my racial heritage and Muslim Faith against me in terms of celebrating the most widely celebrated holiday on Earth. Judge Pogue wrote: [See page 5, Pendente Lite Order]: “Father is an Iranian Muslim and does not recognize Christmas.” What does this Judge understand about modern, American Muslims? Not much, I imagine.
Truth? I have celebrated secular Christmases most of my life. You will not find a more crazy-in-love-with-all-things-Christmas guy than me.
Adding to this unjust judgement, my religious observance of Ramadan got called into question. And with no evidence whatsoever, only religious prejudice based on ignorance, it was suggested that my visits be monitored under the auspices of preventing me from harming the boys, even though I’d never done anything close to this ever in their lives. It seems like it was total fabrication that must have been based on religious prejudice, because there were no facts supporting this outrageous series of assumptions. [“Father not to have children during Ramadan fasting period (usually in summer) as Father is quite agitated (understandably) during the fasting period as he consumes no food or liquid for 10-12 hour stretches.”]
Truth? Studies show that “This finding indirectly indicates that fasting during Ramadan can strengthen the family institution and community.” After growing up in a religious tradition where we fast during Ramadan every year, it should be pretty obvious that I’ve figured a few things out about how to work with this in a healthy and peaceful manner.
Despite My Iranian-Muslim Label
The judge only allowed me to have the boys for 4 of the 25 Persian and Muslim holidays. [Page 6, Pendente Lite Order: (5) Religious Holidays; Father shall have the children for three days at the end of March to celebrate the Persian New Year. Also for the EID (End of Ramadan Dinner) and that overnight.”]
So—I am not allowed to celebrate non-Muslim holidays with my kids because I am Muslim, and, I am not allowed to celebrate Muslim holidays with my kids because, why?
Judge Timothy H. Pogue Was Offered the Chance to Correct Religious Profiling
We appealed the decision by filing a Motion to Reconsider, specifically bringing ethnic and religious prejudices to light. Judge Timothy H. Pogue denied our motion to reconsider. He wrote, on his own letterhead, that he was satisfied with his ruling:
“After fully considering the Motion and Return, the Court remains satisfied with the legal correctness and the essential justice of its Order. Further the Court emphatically denies that its Order was in anyway based upon ethnic and/or religious prejudice.”
Does this seem fair? Or does it seem like a clear case of racism infecting the Charleston family courts? Put another way, what would it have been like if an Israeli born Jew had been ruled against thusly, saying that he couldn’t possibly want to see his children on Christmas because of his religion?
How would you feel if this punishingly cruel judgement had happened to you?
Please scroll down to the comments below and share your point of view on this painful situation. And again, thanks so much for your enthusiastic support! I don’t know how I could have made through all this without the love and support of my family and friends. This is the first step in our creating community around Helping Every Loving Parent (HELP) to spend time with their children. Every story is important.