Empty home for the holidays: Parents with custodial cases say they haven’t seen their children in years

News 12 is highlighting the stories of three parents this holiday season with cases in family court and talking to advocates about the growing push for reform this Family Court Awareness Month in our special, Empty Home for the Holidays.

Blaise Gomez

Nov 15, 2022, 10:10 PM

Updated 515 days ago

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The holidays are all about family and togetherness. For some parents with custody cases in family court, the holidays are painful and spent without their children.  
News 12 is highlighting the stories of three parents this holiday season with cases in family court and talking to advocates about the growing push for reform this Family Court Awareness Month in our special, Empty Home for the Holidays. 
Jaqueline Franchetti has spent every holiday at her daughter’s grave since the toddler was killed in a murder-suicide by her father during a family court-approved visit in 2016.    
“We never had a Christmas where she really could experience and get excited about Santa Claus,” said Franchetti, who’s from Nassau County on Long Island. “When Kyra was 2, she was shot not once but twice in the back by her father.”  
Franchetti is among a growing number of parents with custodial matters in New York Family Court who say their cases are being mishandled.  
“No one has ever reached out and offered condolences or said they’ll do things differently,” said Franchetti.  
Other parents have children who are alive but were allegedly taken from them by court order during custody disputes.  
News 12 talked to two parents who say that’s what happened to them and are keeping their identities private to protect their children.  
“I was a stay-at-home mom,” says one mother. “I was removed from the home. They said I could not go back and say goodbye to my children.”  
Family court cases are sealed and are not open to the public. 
“You have no say and the decision to be a parent isn’t yours. It’s made by someone else,” said one father.  
News 12 first reported on parents’ allegations of one-sided family court orders without proof of wrongdoing last year and spoke to an attorney who said custody cases are handled much differently than criminal cases. 
Since then, other parents have come forward. 
“All you need is an accusation. That’s all you need. You have to prove yourself innocent. You never face your accusers,” said the father.  
Tina Swithin is an activist behind the national movement to recognize November as Family Court Awareness Month.  
“Common sense seems to be missing from the family court system,” said Swithin. “We have a system that’s ill-equipped to deal with these situations and uneducated on trauma and domestic abuse.”  
Swithin and Franchetti are both pushing for family court reform, including specialized training for judges handling these cases.  
Franchetti helped create several reform bills that New York lawmakers are now considering - including Kyra’s Law in her daughter’s name, a little girl who would now be in grade school.  
“I don’t know what a 9-year-old girl would like for Christmas. I have no idea and that’s how I spend my Christmas - going to a gravesite and being as close to her as I possibly can."
Lucian Chalfen, a representative for the New York Court System, says judges and court staff are dedicated to justice and the safety of children. 
“Family court judges and non-judicial staff have dedicated their careers to ensuring equality of justice for every member of the public who is served by the court,” said Chalfen.  
Chalfen says the court’s policy is to treat everyone with respect and equality.  


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