Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The unpleasant details of how Tamar Epstein deliberately destroyed her marriage with the encouragement of the Kaminetskys (part 2)

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The terrible travesty of justice in this case is not just that Tamar decided to have custody litigated in court instead of in Beis Din – although this decision by itself is extremely troubling and contrary to halacha. The terrible travesty in this case is that the destruction of a family with a young child could have been avoided. And even if divorce was going to occur, it could have been settled amicably and quietly. 

Instead of pursuing either of these two outcomes, the Kamenetskys encouraged the Epstein family to engage in no-holds barred warfare against Aharon, the Baltimore Beis Din, and even the very notion of halacha, and a Jewish community. This has included kidnapping the parties’ child and then getting that kidnapping to be treated as a fait accompli by violating several agreements between the parties, tricking Aharon into canceling a pendete lite civil court trial in which it was likely that the child would be returned in order to bring the case to Beis Din, committing perjury in court and the Baltimore Beis Din, violating the Baltimore Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the civil court case, and then successfully arguing in civil court that Aharon couldn’t contest the kidnapping because he had voluntarily cancelled the pendete lite trial to bring the case to Beis Din. 

There is no low to which this campaign would not stoop or any level of crime in which they would not engage, including a vicious Tisha Ba’av assault (in which Cheryl Epstein [Tamar’s mother] signaled her henchmen to attack by telling the child to give Aharon a kiss) that endangered the life of the child, Federal capital crimes, and a capital crime under halacha.

Part 1 described what happened before the parties went to the Baltimore Beis Din.
The following describes what happened next:

The parties agreed to postpone the Court trial scheduled for December 2008 until January 2009 and then until June 2009 (at further prejudice to Aharon) in order for the Beis Din to hear and decide the case.  Until the Beis Din issued an interim custody schedule in March, Tamar generally refused to let C spend time with Aharon (such as on holidays) other than the time explicitly required by the August 2008 Order, except for a brief period covered by the mediation agreement.

Beis Din heard the child custody issue in March, and said that the next step in the process was that Beis Din would issue a custody decision immediately after Pesach [Passover] in April 2009; Beis Din issued an interim custody schedule to cover the period before Beis Din was to issue a custody decision.  Under this schedule, C was with Aharon four out of the six weekends (and starting on Thursday instead of Friday) covered by the schedule. Tamar opposed this custody schedule, arguing that it provided C too much time with Aharon. 

Tamar later wrote Beis Din she had a settlement proposal that she would present in five days. Then, Tamar wrote Beis Din that she had a proposal and wanted to mediate. Aharon agreed to consider any proposal but said he would not enter into mediation if it seemed unlikely to work because he did not want the ruling of Beis Din to be delayed. Tamar took four weeks to submit a proposal, which Aharon believed indicated the parties were too far apart to reach agreement.  Aharon wrote Beis Din that there was no agreement regarding C’s schedule, and asked Beis Din to rule that C return to Silver Spring. Tamar wrote Beis Din that she still wanted to mediate and falsely accused Aharon of lying as to whether the parties had an agreement regarding C’s schedule. Aharon again wrote Beis Din to rule that C return to Silver Spring again noting the urgency of Beis Din issuing a decision on the matter.  Tamar wrote the Beis Din demanding a get, correspondence that was not then shared with Aharon.  The Beis Din refused Tamar’s demand to order a get because there were no grounds upon which to tell Aharon to give a get.

Given that Beis Din had previously said that it would issue a custody decision shortly after Pesach and that it would hold no further hearings on custody, Beis Din’s decision on custody seemed to be imminent.

Without Beis Din’s permission, Tamar filed a motion and then a supplemental motion to postpone the June 2009 civil Court trial.  Tamar’s grounds for postponement were that she needed more time to prepare for the civil Court trial and wanted a court-ordered custody evaluation (both of which were irrelevant if Beis Din was to decide the matter).  Tamar specifically told the Court that the Court – not Beis Din – would decide the case.  In filing these motions, Tamar violated the parties’ mediation agreement for Beis Din to decide the case, as well as the binding arbitration agreement.  For Aharon to agree to this motion would have been to show his acquiescence in Tamar’s decision to disregard the Beis Din and have the court try the case.  In addition, should Beis Din have decided that C return to Silver Spring, postponement of the civil trial would have made it much more unlikely that the Court would effectively uphold such a decision, given the further time that C would have spent in PA.  Thus, Aharon refused Tamar’s request that he agree to postpone the trial so that Tamar could have more time to prepare for trial in civil Court and so that the Court could conduct a custody evaluation because the Court, not Beis Din, would decide the case.  Tamar also filed suit in civil court for absolute divorce, in which she also demanded sole physical custody, without permission from Beis Din.  

Tamar’s to’ain, Frederic Goldfein, a medical practice trial lawyer, was able to fool the Beis Din as to what Tamar was doing in civil court, which resulted in the Beis Din ordering Aharon to postpone the Court trial, even though Tamar had told the Court that the Court, not Beis Din would decide the case.

Aharon filed a motion to postpone the Court trial, despite the further legal prejudice (as explained above), in order to give Beis Din time to issue its decision.  At that point, the Court had before it Tamar’s motions to postpone the trial so that she could prepare for a court trial and so that the court could order a custody evaluation so that the Court, not Beis Din, could decide the case, and Aharon’s motion to postpone the trial so that the Beis Din could decide the case.  The Court denied the motion to postpone the trial.

Before the civil trial occurred, Aharon agreed to the Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the MD case before it went to trial.  Tamar refused to abide by the Beis Din’s orders regarding dismissing the MD case before it went to trial.

The civil trial on custody and Tamar’s motion for divorce was held in June 2009. Tamar complained that the temporary custody schedule from the Beis Din provided C too much time with Aharon.  Tamar’s sister and brother-in-law and Yael and Rabbi Ranan Cortell testified and harshly criticized Aharon’s parenting skills.  But on cross-examination, both admitted that they had not spent significant time with Aharon and C (then nineteen months) for well over a year.  Their testimony was so lacking in credibility that Tamar’s closing argument acknowledged that Aharon was a good parent, thus disavowing their testimony.  Instead, Tamar claimed that the fact that Aharon generally davened with a minyan while the parties lived together showed that he wasn’t that interested in spending time with C.  Tamar urged the Court to rule that C should remain in PA because Tamar had already kept her there for so long – in violation of the parties’ Reconciliation and Mediation Agreements.  Tamar specifically argued that C should remain in PA because Aharon had agreed to postpone the civil Court trial from October 2008 to June 2009 (to take the case to Beis Din). 

Tamar deliberately asked the Court to impose a custody schedule that would render moot most of C’s monthly time with Aharon because he is Shomer Shabbos [Sabbath observant].  Tamar requested that C be with Aharon on alternate weekends starting at 6pm on Fridays (instead of Thursdays) and that C and Aharon be restricted during such times to the vicinity of Tamar’s house in PA.  Tamar also said that she should bring C to Aharon in Silver Spring for one additional Sunday each month.  Tamar recognized very well that these alternate weekends would actually be limited to Sundays, as Tamar knew Aharon could not generally leave work early enough on Fridays to pick C up from Tamar’s house before Shabbos, even when sundown is late.  In addition, Aharon would not generally be able to pick C up on Saturday night as he would not be able to leave Silver Spring early enough to arrive at Tamar’s house before C’s bedtime.

At trial, Aharon opposed Tamar’s motion for divorce.  After the court heard evidence on whether Tamar had grounds for divorce under civil law at the trial, Tamar acknowledged that there were no grounds for divorce.

Goldfein again lied to the Beis Din as to how the matter came to be tried in civil court, correspondence that was not then shared with Aharon. After the civil Court trial, but before the Court issued a ruling, Beis Din ordered the parties to jointly dismiss the civil court case.  Aharon agreed to follow Beis Din’s order and dismiss the civil case but Tamar violated the Beis Din’s order and refused to dismiss the civil case.

As Tamar had urged, that C had already been in PA for fourteen months at the time of the trial was largely the basis for the Court’s decision that C should remain in PA [“At this time, the child has spent fourteen months of her life in Pennsylvania with Defendant and her maternal grandparents and is undisputedly thriving.  Uprooting the child from her current environment at this time is likely to have a detrimental impact upon her”], even though the Court concluded “both parties are fit and proper to have physical custody of the child” and that “Defendant has made minimal efforts to foster the relationship between Plaintiff and his daughter.  The Court further finds that Defendant’s indifferent approach to C having a mutually awarding relationship with her father is rooted in spite and is not beneficial to the child.”  The Court also criticized Aharon for davening with a minyan while the parties lived together.

The Court largely adopted the general custody schedule suggested by Tamar: C to be with Aharon every other weekend in the vicinity of Tamar’s house starting on Fridays at 6pm and one additional weekend per month.

On July 15, 2009, Tamar filed in court a motion to amend or alter, asking that the court even further limit C’s time with Aharon.  The court denied Tamar’s motion.  Aharon filed an appeal by way of an in banc review.

As Shabbos often starts before 6 pm and Aharon generally couldn’t leave work in Washington D.C. early enough to get to Philadelphia before Shabbos starts, that meant Aharon generally couldn’t pick up C until Sunday morning.  Thus, every other weekend, that generally meant Aharon leaving Silver Spring at 5am (usually too early to daven) to pick up C and davening with tallis and tefillin at a rest stop on I-95.  No matter the weather, Aharon and C generally spent the day at parks and shopping malls -- because they had no place else to go – until Aharon brought C back, not returning to Silver Spring until 11pm.  Although Aharon eventually found a family to whose home in the general Philadelphia area he and C could come, Rabbi Sholom Kametnetsky put extreme pressure on that family to stop doing so.  Rabbi Kamenetsky eventually forced that family to withdraw their hospitality.

The Baltimore Beis Din refused the demands of Tamar to rule that Aharon was obligated to give a get.  The Baltimore Beis Din even refused to state that it was appropriate for Aharon to give a get.  This was despite the Baltimore Beis Din being fooled by Tamar’s to’ain Goldfein as to how the case came to be tried in Court. The Beis Din had held three hearings into the case with the participation of both parties, and determined that there were no grounds to rule that a get must be given.

At Tamar’s request, the Washington Beis Din sent two hazmanos [summonses] to Aharon in September and October 2009.  The summonses were signed by Rabbi Kalman Winter, brother-in-law of Shimon Glick, Tamar’s brother’s father-in-law.  The head of the Washington Beis Din at the time was Rabbi Gedaliah Anemer, longtime leader of the Washington D.C. area Orthodox community.  Aharon responded that Tamar had no right to involve another Beis Din given that the parties had brought the case to the Baltimore Beis Din whose orders Tamar had violated, causing severe damage to Aharon and C.

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