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Update: Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane steps down in the Raymond v. Raymond Case. Click here to read the story.
Update: Attorney John Mayoue responds to Attorney Lisa West’s Motion for New Trial in Raymond case. Click here to read full story.
In a surprise decision, Judge Bensonetta Tipton Lane of Fulton County Superior court in Atlanta made a controversial ruling that will forever effect the children of Tameka Foster Raymond and Usher Raymond, IV. A trial that began on May 1st and lasted for several months had all the hallmarks of a daytime soap opera with both parties accusing the other of being a bad parent. There were many witnesses who testified in the case and no one ever provided proof that Tameka Raymond was unfit to be a primary parent for the children however the judge in this case decided otherwise which brings into question whether or not there was some type of outside influence that aided her in the decision. In our upcoming five part series, we will examine the handling of the case as well as all the witnesses that testified and what could have been there motivation to speak.
What is more astounding about this case is that prior to the judge’s ruling, singer Usher Raymond allegedly contacted his ex-wife and confidently asked her “how does it feel to have lost your children?” How did Usher Raymond know he won the case when the judge had not issued a decision yet? Why did judge Lane issue a preliminary ruling in the case 48 hours before she issued the final ruling? Why didn’t she seal her findings of law in her initial ruling but sealed it in the final ruling which if revealed would show the many contradictions in her decision? Did Usher Raymond’s money have more influence in the trial than the law? We are not accusing the judge of anything illegal however there were many points that came out in the trial that would have clearly made other judges render a different decision.
UPDATE: Here is clarification regarding the decision in which the judge ordered singer Usher Raymond to reinstate Tameka Foster’s Sak’s Fifth Avenue card. The Sak’s card is only a discount card that can only be used to purchase items at a reduced rate. The card is NOT A CREDIT CARD as some media outlets have widely reported. The judge stated in her ruling that the card was part of Usher & Tameka’s settlement agreement during their divorce and Usher was in contempt for removing her name off the card. Tameka is required to pay for all her purchases when using this card and the only reason she is using the card is to receive discount purchases for her styling business which essentially would alleviate her having to pay additional fees that she could use for the children.
For over a year-and-a-half, the custody case between mega-superstar Usher Raymond and his widely-vilified former wife, Tameka Foster Raymond, has been litigated. Despite continuous rumors and reports that the parties had settled or were near settlement, the case was tried before a judge over a three-month period, ending on Thursday.
This case is a journalist’s gift: it is salacious and chock full of all of the ingredients that make a great soap opera – - drugs, sex, money, corruption, manipulation, greed, deceit, betrayal, fame, fortune, stalkers, death, grief, and courtroom drama. I have followed this case very closely from its inception, reading every published online and in print article, viewing every video news report published, studying the court records, attending every court hearing, interviewing various witnesses and persons with first-hand knowledge, conducting legal research on the applicable rules and laws, and even surveying the public opinions espoused in the online blogs and chat rooms about this case.
I initially intended to publish a celebrity journalistic piece about the juicy details of this case of which the average reader was unaware. But, as I delved deep into my research of the facts and the legal issues involved, I quickly realized it was much more important for me to write an investigative news feature and review. The reason? The results of this custody case will not only affect Usher and Tameka, but could also affect every other parent in Georgia.
How It Was: Custody of the
Children in Raymond v. Raymond (Part I)
In Georgia, there are two types of custody involved whenever couples with children are divorcing: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is exactly what it sounds like. It is the physical possession of the child or children. Legal custody is the possession of the ability to legally represent the child’s or children’s interests. For instance, a person who does not have legal custody of their child cannot grant consent to any medical care for the child or cannot authorize their child to enroll in any school or government program. In cases involving joint physical and joint legal custody, it is imperative that the parents have the ability to cooperate and communicate effectively with one another sans animosity or acrimony that can affect co-parenting.
When Usher and Tameka divorced in October 2009, they entered into a settlement agreement regarding the custody of their children, two-year-old Usher V, and one-year-old Naviyd Ely. Usher and Tameka agreed to share physical custody of the children, equally splitting the holidays but with Usher having the children twelve days per month and Tameka having the children eighteen days per the month. Usher’s monthly days are not pre-determined: he simply has to give Tameka forty-eight hours notice whenever he wanted to exercise his custodial time with the children.
The custody agreement between Usher and Tameka also dictated that the person who did not have physical custody of the children at the time would be given telephone access to the children daily. The agreement further stated that, if either person wished to take the children out of the state of Georgia, he or she would first obtain the other person’s permission and, if permission was granted, notify the other person of the travel itinerary and location of the children while out of the state. On August 20th 2012, Judge Lane held the singer in contempt of court for violating this provision.
In addition to sharing physical custody, Usher and Tameka also agreed to share legal custody of the children. Although they would share legal custody, Usher and Tameka agree to Usher having final decision-making authority over any disagreements involving the children’s education, religion, medical care and extra-curricular activities.
How It Is: Custody of the Children
Under Usher’s and Tameka’s Current Agreement
Both Usher and Tameka agree that the current joint custody arrangement is not working – - but, for different reasons. Usher filed a petition to modify the current custody arrangement against Tameka on January 4, 2011, seeking sole physical and sole legal custody of the children. Nearly eleven months later, Tameka also filed a petition to modify the current custody arrangement. In her petition, she is not seeking sole custody of the children; she instead is seeking to obtain primary physical custody and final decision-making. authority on all disputed issues regarding the children.
1. Usher’s Claims
In his petition and/or throughout this case, Usher (through his attorneys John Mayoue and Ivory Brown) has claimed that Tameka is a bad mother and should lose custody of the children. He has repeatedly stated that Tameka is “crazy” and more interested in being a celebrity than in parenting her children. Usher claims that Tameka’s mental instability, her volatile nature and her unfettered desire to be in the limelight have prevented her from being present and fostering a bond with the children. He further claims that Tameka consistently and repeatedly leaves the children with virtual strangers. According to Usher, Tameka is unfit.
Usher, maintains that, in contrast, he has developed a strong paternal bond with the children, one that almost mimics a maternal attachment. He acknowledges that he has a busy schedule, but contends that, if he is not performing or engaged in some aspect of his career, he is caring for the children. Usher contends that, because of the demonstrated care he has shown the children, he should have sole legal custody of them.
2. Tameka’s Claims
In her petition and/or throughout this case, Tameka (through her attorneys Lisa West and Hensen Grover) has claimed that Usher is absent much of the time and therefore cannot effectively co-parent the children as was contemplated at the time of their divorce. Tameka does not contend that Usher is a bad father, but claims that his lifestyle as an entertainer is not conducive for rearing three- and four-year-old children, and that the children’s exposure to his life on the road is and will be detrimental to their health, safety and welfare. (Almost immediately after filing her petition, Tameka filed a request that the judge order Usher to submit to drug testing.) Tameka further claims that Usher’s priorities do not lie with his children but with his career. According to Tameka, Usher would rather be the biggest pop star in the world with groupies than be a father to their children.
Tameka maintains that, in contrast to Usher, she has been a stable caretaker and provider for their two children. She states that she and their children have a close and loving bond that cannot be mimicked or duplicated by Usher or anyone else. Tameka further claims that she does not frequently travel away from Atlanta because of her children and is committed to providing them with as normal a life as possible. It is Tameka’s position that, for these reasons, the children should live with her primarily.
How They Want It To Be: What Usher
Wants the Court to Do About Custody, What
Tameka Wants the Court to Do About Custody
This case was tried for several days in May and continued to completion last week. As is protocol in the judicial system, Usher, the plaintiff, presented his case first to the judge, followed by Tameka, the defendant. Usher took nearly nine days to present his case; Tameka took two. Both of them presented witnesses and documents in support of their claims.
1. What Was Revealed During Usher’s Case
Usher presented the testimony of five witnesses.
The first witness, Dr. Barrie Alexander, was the psychologist that the judge had appointed to conduct psychological evaluations of both Usher and Tameka. Prior to the psychologist’s testimony, Usher’s attorneys asked to confer with the judge and with Tameka’s attorneys outside the audible presence of the public. After conferring, the judge issued an order barring the public and the media from the courtroom. Thus, I did not observe the testimony of this witness. See video of media being booted from courtroom.
Usher’s second witness was Daniel Bloom, the guardian ad litem appointed by the judge. A guardian ad litem is a person who is appointed by the judge to represent the interests of the children in a custody action. The guardian ad litem is obligated to conduct a thorough investigation of any significant issues raised in a custody action that may have an affect on the best interests of the children. This usually requires the guardian ad litem to talk to the children’s teachers, caregivers, doctors, and to review any documents pertaining to the children’s welfare. At the conclusion of his or her investigation, the guardian ad litem is expected to recommend which person he or she believes should awarded custody of the children.
The guardian ad litem in this case recommended that Usher be granted custody of the children. Upon hearing this, my first thought was, “It’s a done deal. Why is Tameka wasting the judge’s time fighting this?” But, when Tameka’s attorney, Lisa West, began cross-examining the guardian ad litem, I understood.
Under cross-examination, the guardian ad litem testified that that there appeared to be a loving bond between Tameka and the children and that Tameka was affectionate with the children and they with her. The guardian ad litem admitted that Usher had not given him his tour or appearance schedule, despite the guardian ad litem’s request for the information, and admitted that he had no idea how long Usher was or would be away from Atlanta in pursuit of his career.
Under further cross-examination, the guardian ad litem admitted not knowing that Usher had acknowledged that he also resided in New York and was present in Atlanta only part of the time. The guardian ad litem further admitted that Usher had not given him his nannies’ timesheets so that the guardian ad litem could determine how much time the children were being cared for by Usher’s nannies. The non-consideration of these fundamental facts by the guardian ad litem was simply inexplicable. But, the most disturbing aspect of the guardian ad litem’s testimony was his statement that he recommended that Usher be granted custody of the children because Usher is able to provide a support system of nannies and other caretakers for the children and because Tameka has negative interactions with people. I was astounded.
Usher also presented the testimony of Jacqueline Martin, a recent short-term nanny of Tameka’s. Ms. Martin appeared to be no more than nineteen or twenty years old. Ms. Martin testified that, unbeknownst to Tameka, she had begun conversing with Usher about Tameka’s parenting and had even visited Usher at his home. Although she testified that Tameka appeared to spend little time with her children, Ms. Martin admitted on cross-examination that she only worked for Tameka a few hours a day for a few months. Ms. Martin further admitted that she had in fact complained to the guardian ad litem about Usher’s parenting effects on the children just two months earlier. It was clear to me that Ms. Martin was enamored with Usher and gave testimony she believed would be pleasing to him.
Usher also presented the testimony of Katie Benson, another former short-term nanny of Tameka’s. Ms. Benson appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties and possessed much more courtroom-appropriate attire and demeanor than did Ms. Martin. Ms. Benson testified that Tameka was stressed and overwhelmed and did not appear to have much time to parent. Ms. Benson, like Ms. Martin, worked for Tameka a few hours a day for a few months. Ms. Benson was a credible witness; however, her short-time exposure to Tameka rendered her testimony inapplicable to Tameka’s parenting skills as a whole.
Linda Brock-White was another witness presented by Usher. Ms. Brock-White was a “bombshell” witness – - not because of her testimony, but because of her status. Ms. Brock-White is the godmother to Tameka’s children, Kile (who recently passed) and Ryan, from Tameka’s first husband, Ryan Glover. Not ten days prior to taking the stand, Ms. Brock-White had returned from a respite island vacation taken with Tameka and her children to mourn Kile’s passing. On direct examination, she testified that Tameka was terrible mother who never spent time with her children and expected everyone else to care for her children. She also testified that Tameka was bossy and treated people poorly. Ms. Brock-White further testified that she and Tameka had not had any type of argument or disagreement that would motivate her to testify against Tameka. But, on cross-examination, Ms. Brock-White admitted that she and Tameka had in fact argued while on the recent vacation and that the argument had caused Ms. Brock-White to depart early from the island. Ms. Brock-White also stated that Tameka was not entitled to mourn for her son who had been buried six days prior to the respite vacation. I believe that it was at that instance that Ms. Brock-White lost all credibility.
2. What Was Revealed During Tameka’s Case
Tameka presented the testimony of four witnesses.
Tameka’s long-time marriage and individual therapist, Sola Winley, testified on her behalf. Although Usher’s attorney vehemently objected to Mr. Winley’s testimony, Mr. Winley testified that, in his opinion, Tameka did not have any type of mental disorder but that she occasionally suffered from stress-induced anxiety. Mr. Winley also testified that Tameka’s anxiety in the past had usually been brought on by the actions of Usher, such as when she found out that he had had an affair with one of her bridesmaids. Mr. Winley testified that he had recommended that Tameka take medication for a short period of time to help her cope with the anxiety and stress, but that Tameka had refused due to her overall reluctance to take any types of drugs. Mr. Winley also testified that Tameka frequently talked about her children throughout his treatment of her over the years and appeared to be a very caring and conscientious mother. Mr. Winley’s testimony was compelling.
Tameka’s best friend, DeeDee Abur Rahim, also testified on her behalf. Ms. Rahim testified that she had known Tameka for over twenty years and that she had personally witnessed Tameka’s parenting skills over that time. Ms. Rahim testified that Tameka was affectionate and close to all of her children and that she had never witnessed Tameka being abusive or neglectful to any of her children. Ms. Rahim became emotional when she testified about how Usher had mistreated Tameka throughout the years and how Tameka had suffered because of it. Ms. Rahim’s testimony was credible.
Tameka also presented the testimony of Portia Williams, her long-term nanny and baby-sitter. Ms. Williams testified that she had been Tameka’s nanny for her other children, Ryan and Kile, and also for Tameka’s youngest children, Usher and Naviyd. Ms. Williams testified that Tameka was a very loving parent who spent a great deal of time with her children. She testified that the children were very attached to their mother, both literally and figuratively, as the children were often wrapped around one of Tameka’s legs at any given point in time. Ms. Williams further testified that Usher rarely called to speak to the children when Ms. Williams was present. Her most poignant testimony was her recitation of a time when she took “Baby Usher” to be with Usher in Miami while Tameka was pregnant with Naviyd. Ms. Williams testified that she stayed in a separate hotel room with Baby Usher and that Usher came to see his son only once for a fifteen-minute period while the child was sleeping. (Ms. Williams is purportedly the nanny who discovered Usher in bed with one of Tameka’s bridesmaids). Ms. Williams was indeed a credible witness.
Tameka’s sister, Yolanda Moore, also testified on Tameka’s behalf. Ms. Moore testified that Tameka loves her children and that the children love Tameka and always want to be with her. She further testified that Tameka spends time with all of her children, but, on cross-examination, acknowledged that she might have once said, “Tameka needs to stop having these damn kids if she isn’t going to spend time with them.” Ms. Moore then testified that Usher once prevented her from assisting Tameka with picking up the children from school and that she did not understand why he would have a problem with her picking up the children given that she was the children’s aunt. Ms. Moore’s testimony regarding Usher’s treatment of his mother was the most memorable. She testified that she had heard Usher curse at his mother before and believed that Usher did not speak to his mother in a respectful manner. She further testified that she had witnessed Usher intentionally ramming his car into his mother’s car (while his mother was seated within) in a fit of rage. Ms. Moore was a credible witness.
Tameka testified. Her testimony was compelling, straight-forward and direct. Describing her children’s personalities, Tameka testified that she loves her children and spends as much time as she can with them. She also testified that Usher, who has the responsibility of paying her nannies, would frequently refuse to pay them causing the nannies to quit and that he used his access to her nannies to obtain information about Tameka. Tameka also testified that it is very difficult to co-parent with Usher given that he is hardly ever in Atlanta and given that he mostly ignores her attempts to communicate about issues concerning the children. Tameka testified that she did not believe their young children should live on the road with Usher because his lifestyle on the road consisted of drugs, sex and other vices. She stated that she wanted her children to have as normal a life as possible and that Usher was the world-famous entertainer, not their children.
Tameka further testified about the altercation she had with Usher’s girlfriend, indicating that Usher had brought the girlfriend to Tameka’s house in an effort to incite Tameka. Although she was not evasive like Usher, Tameka was often combative with Usher’s attorney. When asked about her feelings, Tameka explained that she was frustrated and angry at being in court and that she had “begged” Usher to drop his case against her so they could work the issues out. She testified that Usher has refused. Tameka asked the court to increase her child support from $8,000 per month to $11,000 per month based on the increased expenses surrounding the children’s needs.
3. What Was Not Widely Revealed By the National Media About This Case
Because there was simply too much to report, or because there was the motivated desire not to report, the media failed to reveal a multitude of important facts about the trial of this case. These facts, I believe, are critical to the determination of a fair resolution of this case, both in the court of justice and in the court of public opinion.
During the near entirety of his testimony, Usher was visibly receiving cues through head nods or shakes and too-long objections from his attorneys, including his now-infamous crying bout.
b. The guardian ad litem in this case is typically sought to be a guardian ad litem by attorneys representing fathers because of his history of rendering recommendations in favor of fathers.
c. The guardian ad litem’s services in this case were paid for by Usher.
d. The psychologist in this case is typically sought to be a psychologist by attorneys representing fathers because of her history of rendering recommendations in favor of fathers in her capacity as a custody evaluator.
e. The psychologist’s services in this case were paid for by Usher.
f. The psychologist’s report was not favorable to Usher.
g. Because of what was contained in the psychologist’s report against him, Usher sought to oust the media and the public from the courtroom during the psychologist’s testimony. Tameka did not seek to prevent the public from hearing what was in the report.
h. Usher’s attorney, John Mayoue, may have held a position of trust with the re-election campaign of the judge in this case.
i. Usher and his attorney, Ivory Brown, may be involved in a personal relationship. (unsubstantiated however celebrity bloggers Sandrarose.com & Michelle Brown of Straightfromthea.com has also reported about this).
j. Many news outlets that had carried daily coverage of the trial suddenly ceased to do so during the presentation of Tameka’s case.
k. On Friday, less than twenty-four hours after the closing arguments in the case, Usher called Tameka and bragged about winning the case. “How does it feel to lose custody of your children?” Usher taunted. “One day, I will tell my boys that they once had a mother,” he told Tameka. Usher did not know that Tameka was apparently recording his statements.
How It Will Be: What Will Happen if
Usher Wins Custody?
In Georgia, there exists no legal authority allowing a court to grant sole or even primary physical custody of children to an absentee parent based upon the fact that the parent can afford to pay for a childcare support system for the children. If Usher wins sole custody of his children, this case will be the first. It will set a precedent, which means that it will establish a rule of law that all other cases must follow. And, that rule of law would state that a person who claims to reside in Georgia can simply buy or purchase custody of his or her children. And, inversely, a person in Georgia could lose custody of his or her children if he or she is unable to buy or purchase a childcare support system designed to be a surrogate caretaker. Such a rule, of course, sounds preposterous, but it is exactly the effect of a ruling in Usher’s favor on his custody petition.
God help us all.
Update: TMZ is reporting:
Usher just got bitch-slapped in court — a judge has ordered him to REOPEN his ex-wife’s Saks Fifth Avenue credit card in his name … after the singer closed the account last year.
The closed Saks card was just one of Tameka Raymond‘s many grievances in her ongoing custody fight against Usher — and now, the court has taken her side … holding the singer in contempt for pulling the plug on her fancy charge account.
Tameka claims she needs the account to do her job as a stylist.
As for the other grievances — Tameka said Usher owed her cash for the nanny bill … and continually failed to keep her in the loop about where and when he traveled with the kids.
The court agreed … and awarded Tameka $1,300 for the nanny.
While the judge in this case has not ruled on Usher Raymond’s request to gain sole custody of the children, her order has set the tone for what can be expected. She found the singer in willful violation of Tameka’s claim as it related to the handling of the children’s travel arrangements and the language in the order is very telling .
Story developing so stay tuned.
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