The Story of Ruth Drollinger and her four children.
This site is dedicated to all the mothers around the world who value their children enough to leave abusive men, ending the generational cycle of abuse, and to those precious few individuals who empower them to do so.
During preparation for Mark's highly publicized felony trial, the prosecutor informed Ruth that law enforcement had responded over 40 times to their rural home.
Like many women, it took 6 or 7 times of separation before Ruth finally left for good. Ruth believes that she suffered from the Stockholm Syndrome which made her unable to leave despite the danger that her husband posed to her and their children. At any time, she could have been killed Several times during the violent stage Mark would threaten homicide/suicide with guns, his favorite was a M16 assault rifle (AR 15) Sometimes he would keep Ruth up all night with the terror. The children were abused by their father as well. Ruth left Mark when she was pregnant with her fourth child and the other three were 6, 3 and 1 years of age.
Mark faced his first felony in 1991 for domestic violence after three misdemeanors. The court system in SW Montana tolerated six more years of domestic violence and 7 more guilty pleas and convictions before it finally issued him a sentence of two years in the State Penitentiary . .which was . . . . . what else, deferred. . It is estimated that Mark served a total of 4 months in jail for the assaults against his wife and children.
A Word To Child Advocates!!!
"The court's primary responsibility is not only to enforce the laws, but to seek to protect even the weakest members of society. The "Best Interests of the Child" statutes were enacted primarily because children are not property and should not be treated as such. It is not the court's job to assign equal blame in family law cases involving domestic violence. If the courts cannot recognize the danger implicit in these types of cases characterized by batterer manipulation and retaliation, and act accordingly, than the court itself is perpetuating the problem."
Impoverished, alone, isolated with four small children in a log cabin in rural Montana, priced out of the legal system and denied legal aid, Ruth faced insurmountable barriers. With the encouragement and support from her counselor, Dr. Jim Deming, legal representation for her four children through the Guardian Ad Litem program and Mrs. Anita Nybo, and a flimsy protective order, Ruth made the decision to represent herself in court. Armed with the law and the facts in her case, Ruth was able to establish an impressive record in the Montana Courts, in addition to getting important facts on the record in the United States Bankruptcy Court and the Washington State Superior Court. The evidence has thus far enabled Ruth to win at least two significant State Supreme Court cases and in the process break the generational cycle of abuse for her four children. This mother of four has fearlessly been confronting a "good ole boy" network in Montana for the last ten years. Thus far, Ruth has removed three judges from her case, each of whom, it was determined, committed an abuse of discretionin her case by failing to recognize and protect her and the children against continuing acts of domestic violence by her husband, Mark Stoneman.
Although the children can no longer be used as pawns as a means of exerting control over their mother through visitation, the children are now suffering from being deprived of much needed child support and a place that they can call home. Having lost his rights to see his children unsupervised, Mark is intent on depriving his children of food and shelter. Like many women, Ruth trusted the Court system to give her the economic power she needed to be independent of her abuser. This hasn't happened. And her abuser, a trust fund recipient of a family fortune, has used his access to lawyers and the courts to see to it that Ruth and the children get nothing.
Ruth was awarded only a fraction of the couple's assets in her 1998 divorce following her tumultuous ten year marriage. In this case, Ruth, who was awarded custody of her four children, only received one-half of the marital residence and some personal property. Unlike other states, Montana's property distribution statutes are discretionary. The court did, however, award Ruth a forfeiture provision on the house should Mark fail to make his mortgage payments.
Regarding her personal property, the divorce decree ordered Ruth to return wedding gifts from her former in-laws. A year after Ruth returned these items, Mark's mother filed a $7,000 lawsuit against Ruth claiming that the pictures she returned were damaged. Even though these allegations were entirely false, Ruth had no way of defending herself since she was living in Washington State at the time and had no knowledge of the charges against her. It was determined that Mark trumped up the lawsuit with the help of his mother as a means of following through with previous threats to take away her valuable horses and beloved pets. With the assistance of several friends in the Park County Montana Sherriff's department, Mark and the deputies herded four of Ruth's horses into Ruth's horse trailer, broke into the marital residence, and in the process arrested Ruth's tenant who was merely trying to protect himself and Ruth's property.
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A woman who is STRONG and SELF-
SUFFICIENT cannot easily be controlled.
You have found a mother of four children from the United States who survived 10 extraordinary years of domestic violence and then faced the unthinkable, a "good old boy network" of gender biased judges in the state of Montana who sympathized with her husband, a convicted felon sentenced to two years in the state penitentiary for almost killing her. Read on and you will learn how this woman named Ruth, a survivor, took on these prejudicial judges, and one by one got each overturned on appeal for abuse of discretion. Learn how Ruth took the law into her own hands in an effort to protect her children, and follow her as she makes her final appeal to obtain a property award and child support that the courts have kept from her for the last ten years. Blackmail, coercion, murder of pets, assault, legal abuse and manipulation of children in the context of visitation were aspects of domestic abuse disregarded by the court of record. Along the way, Ruth's case, has caught the attention of the national media and legal giants like the American Psychological Association, Northwest Women's Law Center, and Coalitions Against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault in a number of states, each of whom provided Amicus Curiae in what has become a landmark women's rights case. Currently, the Battered Women's Justice Project are seeking help to file Amicus Curiae on Ruth's behalf in order to educate the judiciary on Economic abuse, what it is, how it contributes to the financial instability of battered women and their dependent children, and what the implications are for the general public when women, like Ruth, are forced into homelessness and poverty. How she did it.......
Now that Mark had possession of the house and Ruth's horses and beloved pets, he sent Ruth a blackmail letter stating that unless she agree to terms to sell her share of the marital residence to his brother, her horses would be killed. Weeks later, Ruth's favorite horse, a registered Arabian named Warrford, was found dead in a shallow grave near the marital residence with a bullet hole to the head. Mark's Montana attorney admitted to supplying the backhoe used to bury Ruth's horse at a permanent order of protection hearing he attended with Mark in Washington state. The next day Mark's attorney filed a $50,000 lien against the marital residence, which in Ruth's opinion, was intended to encumber title to the house. Ruth filed a Writ of Mandamus with the Montana Supreme Court and was granted relief. Despite these horrific events, the District Court denied all of Ruth's motions at a remand hearing and then proceeded to reward Mark by giving him control of the marital residence and allowing him to rent the house to tenants he had placed in the home after scaring off Ruth's tenants and depriving her of money that was necessary to make her share of the mortgage payments and pay the taxes and insurance. .
Ruth repeatedly warned the District Court that by allowing her former husband financial control of her only asset, Mark would take it from her just as he had done in the past with her personal property. Ruth's warnings went unheeded and as predicted, Mark stopped paying the mortgage payments and began pocketing thousands of dollars in rental income that he was ordered to send to the court. When Ruth learned of the proposed auction on her only asset, Ruth immediately filed an inch thick brief with evidence of Mark's default on the loan and his plans to bid on the marital residence at the scheduled auction. Although the District Court held a hearing, it was not a hearing on Ruth's motions regarding Mark's default of the mortgage payments and much needed child support. Instead the District Court held a hearing on Mark's behalf regarding visitation, and despite the 2000 Montana Supreme Court's opinion reversing the District Court and ordering that visitation was to be supervised only, the judge at the time proceeded to order Ruth to drive to and from Montana and provide the children to Mark for regular visitation or go to jail. She was also told that the District Court had no intention of helping her to obtain any of her property. Fortunately, Ruth's second appeal was pending regarding the transfer of jurisdiction of all custody and visitation issues to the state of Washington, and the Judge was reprimanded.
Ultimately however, Ruth was forced to file three successive Chapter 13 bankruptcies in the U.S. bankruptcy Court in order to save her house. By November 2004, Mark collaborated with the mortgage company and convinced the bankruptcy Court to lift the stay on the sale. By that time, Ruth had run out of options and she had no where to turn. It was at that time that Ruth's elderly parents took pity on their daughter and grandchildren and mortgaged their house in order to come up with the money to pay off the debt. In April 2005, the Montana District Court finally provided Ruth a hearing with the help of a local Montana attorney whom she had hired to file a motion to enforce a forfeiture provision in her decree. The judicial demeanor of the judge at the hearing was appalling. Despite having a reputable attorney, the District Court pulled out all the stops at the hearing by bullyingRuth on the witness stand, threatening to find her in contempt of court, and preventing her from providing valuable and relevant testimony for the record. The Court then ordered his court reporter to deny Ruth a copy of the audio of the hearing even though Ruth had paid for the transcripts and was legally entitled to it. After it was apparent that a final order would not be forthcoming on Ruth's motion's hearing, Ruth withdrew her attorney and resumed her pro se efforts in the lower court. Ruth eventually filed another writ of Mandamus with the Montana Supreme Court after the District Court vacated back to back hearings and Ruth had purchased airline tickets and incurred other expenses to travel to Montana. Although her writ was denied, the high court ordered the District Court to provide Ruth a final hearing and order in her case. The District Court issued an order refusing to do so.
It then took another three years for the District Court judge to issue a final order on Ruth's original 2004 motion. In the years in between, the District Court issued numerous interlocutory orders, delaying the case, and angering the Bankruptcy Judge in Ruth's Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, who had become impatient with Ruth for her inability to obtain a resolution from the Montana District Court. In the alternative to granting Ruth's motion to enforce her forfeiture clause, the District Court issued an arbitrary order to sell the marital residence and divide the proceeds and fines and penalties for the default equally in May 2006. Then in February 2007, after another hearing on the sale of the house, the District Court finally issued an appeallable order. Miraculously, Mark appealed the order on the issue of rental income and his actions allowed Ruth to move for a stay on the sale of the house. Ruth then filed her final appeal on the issue of forfeiture and child support with the Montana Supreme court. The fate of this mother's property now rests with the seven Montana Supreme Court Justices who have grown weary of Ruth's appeals for relief. Ruth would like to find Amicus support with any organization interested is economic justice for battered women and their children.
Ruth's textbook case is testing the limits of the courts. Her first appeal helped to compel Courts to require supervised visitation in cases involving domestic abuse. Her second appeal became the first in the country to test a brand new law called the "Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act". The law allows victims of abuse to move their custody cases out of the reach of abusers by requiring the presiding judge to decline jurisdiction to states where the children are better protected. Ruth's third and hopefully final appeal will ensure that Courts don't continue to punish women for leaving their abusers by depriving them of child support, housing and essentials they need to survive.
The purpose of this web site is to provide hope to women who are needlessly enduring abuse, fearing that if they leave, they will lose everything, including their children. Valuachild encourages women to fight legal abuse in the courts and report judges who violate laws and deny due process rights. Ruth has been accused of many things, including being called a "jail house" lawyer, but her accusers fail to grasp the social and moral implications of her case. Let it be known-- please pass this web site along. There is hope-- Ruth is a mother and one of many who personifies it. Domestic violence is a learned behavior-- it's too late for batterers--the statistics are that most do not change-- however it's never too late to change the future for a child of a parent who is an abuser. We all have a moral responsibility to end this scourge on our society.