The battle against alleged fraudulent child custody evaluator Stephen Doyne is heating up as the California Coalition for Families and Children (CCFC) is expanding its involvement in the Emad Tadros v. Stephen Doyne lawsuit (San Diego Superior Court Case 37-2008-00093885-CU-BT-CTL)  involving the alleged fraud and misconduct of Doyne in a psychological evaluation in San Diego in a child custody dispute. CCFC points to Doyne’s attempts to silence its criticisms of his allegedly extortionary practices, perjury, and fraud. CCFC counsel Cole Stuart is concerned that the corruption goes far beyond Doyne himself and may extended to political contributions to the campaigns of San Diego Superior Court judges.
CCFC this month issued the following press release:
Thousands of Children Pawns in Culture of Greed and Corruption
in California Family Courts
San Diego, CA – Revelations that the San Diego Family Court system’s highest paid psychologists, administrators and referring attorneys may be engaged in multiple levels of corruption, fraud and kick-backs has led the California Coalition for Families and Children (CCFC) to demand a full-scale investigation.
What started as a lawsuit filed by one of the state’s leading Psychiatrists – Dr. Emad Tadros, Vice Chief of Behavioral Health at Scripps Mercy Medical Center—has rapidly expanded to include law violations by judicial staff, tax evasion, and hefty “referral” bonuses between lawyers who profit from—and in many cases encourage—the conflict and misery of divorcing families.
Top custody evaluator lied on resume and received credentials from “fake” diploma mill
It was only after Dr. Tadros himself went through a family court hearing in 2006 that he began noticing a pattern questionable reasoning behind the custody recommendations of San Diego’s top family court evaluator – Dr. Stephen Doyne. Upon investigating Doyne’s background, Tadros learned he had lied on his resume when seeking court-appointed work and repeatedly misrepresented his professional certifications during client disputes. Doyne billed these clients over $300 an hour to interview thousands of children in private and make life-altering custody recommendations that often increased hostility and pitted parents against each other. According to Tadros, more conflict would lead to more cash for the lawyers and evaluators.
Tadros’ lawsuit cites two inconsistencies in Doyne’s resume:
- Two area colleges—USD and UCSD—deny that Doyne taught psychology courses there (as his resume claims)
- Doyne’s additional “Diplomate” credentials were obtained from a notorious fake “degree mill” that according to an investigative piece in The American Bar Association Journal, also awarded a high-level diploma to a house cat.
Referrals and Paybacks net Doyne millions
According to Coalition spokesperson Cole Stuart, Doyne prefers “high conflict” cases where the parents have lots of money but can’t agree on anything. Doyne cashes in by taking advantage of a feuding couple, entrapping them in an endless string of additional sessions to resolve the conflict the “winner take all” environment he engenders.
Doyne often receives referrals from divorce attorneys for these cases, and according to a recent legal brief filed by the Coalition, paybacks for these referrals may include generous finder’s fees.
The Coalition estimates Doyne earns over $1,000,000 per year preying off of conflicted families – far higher than the average family court psychologist salary of $60,000 – $120,000.
A ‘cottage industry” thriving on people’s misery
Kathleen Russell, a cofounder and staff consultant at the Center for Judicial Excellence, a Marin County community-based judicial watchdog organization, says the entire California family court system has evolved into a “culture of cronyism” from which a “cottage industry” of private evaluators and mediators has grown and thrived.
In Sacramento County, the average rate for a court-ordered evaluation and report is $15,000. In Marin County, evaluators may charge as much as $60,000. “Families are being ruined emotionally and financially by this system,” says Barbara Kauffman, a family law attorney in Marin County.
Evaluators use future custody of children to extort cash payments and illegally avoid taxes
Private custody evaluators – including Doyne – are pulling out all stops to avoid paying taxes on the money they charge families in disputes. The Coalition for Families and Children are requesting to review Doyne’s tax records to prove that his noncompliance with Court reporting rules allows him to commit felony tax evasion. According to Title 5 of the California Rules of Court, every custody evaluator must file credentialing paperwork within 10 days of being hired to each case. The Coalition says that Doyne has not filed any such paperwork for at least 6 years. Coalition members in past disputes claim they were charged “up front” cash payments by Doyne and others for any hope of a favorable custody decision.
The Superior Court of San Diego County recently admitted that it does not see itself as responsible for verifying the qualifications of each child custody evaluator it appoints. Instead, it claims that responsibility for oversight belongs to the “Public at Large”.
However, with limited regulatory oversight and virtually no avenues for members of the public to challenge important evaluator decisions such as child custody, The California Coalition for Families and Children says that an unscrupulous agent can commit negligent—even criminal—behavior without fear of accountability. In the case of Doyne, the Coalition contends that his network of referrals and relationships with judges has provided the legal and political cover for him “to remain in the shadows”.
Says Coalition spokesperson Stuart: “With layers of people making huge amounts of money off the current system – including judges and administrators – the court has little incentive to make changes.”
Stuart said that the Coalition is in process of obtaining the campaign finance records of every elected San Diego Family Court Judge to determine if Doyne and other evaluators are illegal contributors.
Thousands of Cases Could be Affected – Coalition Calls for Reform
According to the Tadros suit, Doyne was committing fraud each time he provided his “credentials” to clients, patients, colleagues, and courts. Such fraud could lead thousands of disenfranchised parents to seek legal damages against Doyne, their attorneys, and the court, and request that their disputes be reopened and Doyne’s reports tossed out.
Says Stuart: “The Coalition is asking the Legislature to immediately audit the San Diego family court system to begin reforming the way that family courts do business – including how evaluators are supervised, credentialed, and hired. Parents need to regain confidence that custody decisions are being made by certified, competent professionals whose primary motivation is the well-being of the child – not getting rich.”