I don't have kids, but I recently found that someone with kids that lives in my town is also an ex-JW. She just happened to post on an Apostafest thread on Facebook for an event that I attended, saw that we lived in the same place, and I met her for the first time tonight. Pretty cool.
She has a 14 year old boy that is super smart and very articulate. There is shared custody between his mom and dad. Dad is an active JW, with lots of JW family around. Kid doesn't want to go to meetings and conventions and such and wants to just live with his mom. They like to pull him out of meetings if he's not paying attention, take him outside with multiple elders, and tell him he's going to die if he doesn't listen. They like to coach him on how he should manipulate his mom to let him do more JW things too. He can see through it all, but is tired of being subjected to it.
His mom has done her best to help the judge see that this isn't a healthy environment for him. Ultimately though the judge just sees it as a kid that doesn't want to go to church. She has plead her case but this time has the hard evidence from Watchtower publications to show certain things about their beliefs that are unbecoming. At some point baptism came up and the father said that disfellowshipping doesn't break family ties, which we all know is baloney, even sometimes when kids are young and at home it gets super ugly.
The dad has messed around financially and tried to get child support lowered, though he's still never paid a dime. Mom was hoping to get her son into counseling to have a counselor state that the cult doctrine is unhealthy and to get her son's take on things to present to the court, but the dad quit his job and started a new one so that he has no insurance leading up to this next hearing so there's no money for a counselor.
Apparently in these hearings mom and dad can present what they want. Mom has tried in the past but wasn't armed with hard copies of certain publications which she has now. She has asked if I would testify as to the impact of the cult, shunning (especially since I do the podcast and can show that it indeed destroys families), and just whatever she needs.
It seems like the biggest issue for the judge is that he sees it as freedom of religion, though clearly it is only mom and dad that have that freedom. Dad has the right to indoctrinate his child, mom has the right to go against that. So proving that it is harmful to the child who is 14 might be of help, but the way it works is that you can't just show what even an expert like Steve Hassan has to say without having him there in person. There are some ex-JWs that will come testify but one of them wanted $8,000 to do so and they all charge for their services. I get that too, to a point, but we're talking a 4 hour drive and 2 hour hearing. I'm charging nothing, and I'd like to make sure that whatever I can provide is at least worth the cost.
So, if the main argument is that the judge just sees it as religious rights of both parents superseding the rights of the child, what angles might be taken? Any ideas? Mine was to show that it is unhealthy doctrine, which is an option. Apparently since dad has said that he gets his beliefs from the elite eight those WT publications are in play without the morons at the top being present. I tried to get her to say that she's a worshiper of cult experts to get their testimony allowed, but I guess your fantasy has to claim religious status to be accepted as is.
I'll take any advice and forward it on. I can only testify at the direction of the mom and upon the cross examination of the dad's attorney. She cannot afford one. She cannot afford a counselor on her own either. So she's at somewhat of a disadvantage, not that it may make a difference if the judge sees it merely as simple religious rights without the kid really having any.