I am glad to see Judge William "Chip" Watkins of Putnam County Family Court finally get some of the attention he deserves.
I doubt if the few cases that have become public recently would scratch the surface of Judge Watkins unprofessional and unexplainable conduct in his courtroom. And I do think he believes it is his courtroom, in that he can follow his own rules and have little regard for facts or evidence. My own experience with Judge Watkins behavior and rulings over the years has shown me that.
I had the misfortune of falling under the jurisdiction of the Putnam County Family Court some years back, after my wife at the time took my daughter here from North Carolina where we were married and lived. The attorney that I hired here told me he believed I might have a better chance for reasonable visitation rights if I allowed West Virginia courts to have jurisdiction since the new family law courts had been created.
Of course, having fair and conscientious judges in place is a key part of the system as well. Perhaps in some cases Judge Watkins has performed well, but in some cases at least, he acts irrationally, and even vengefully, as his recent Youtube video clearly portrays.
While my divorce/custody case did not make national news like Pastor Hage's did, it is of just as great importance to me and my family. I have an amazing daughter who eight months ago was again moved to another state, but five times farther away, against my objections, but with Judge Watkins's blessing. In fact, he even let her put together the new Parenting Plan that I would have to follow. As can be imagined, it heavily favors the mothers interests, which has had her hoped for effect of virtually eliminating my contact with our daughter.
It is my opinion that Judge Watkins has been assisting my ex-wife in separating me from my daughter, perhaps because he was not able to arrest me for accidentally missing a child support review hearing on one occasion. Some might think this is simply because I am unhappy over the outcomes of hearings that we have had before him, but I think any reasonable person could see that the decisions he has made in my case have often benefitted only the mother while hurting the relationship with father and child. I will cite some examples.
For years, Judge Watkins has made me responsible for all of the transportation and associated costs of seeing my daughter, even though she was taken here from North Carolina when she was 13 months old. When we lived in North Carolina she had to take her children from her first marriage to West Virginia to visit their dad, and I usually drove them for her. After she took our child to from North Carolina to West Virginia, it would seem that it would be her responsibility to bring our child back to North Carolina. It has been an expensive double standard.
Even though my ex-wife has hindered my visitation repeatedly through the years, the court has never even given her a slap on the wrist, which has resulted in more violations. It has been like handing her a license.
Judge Watkins refused to find my ex-wife in contempt of court, even though I presented evidence proving that she violated his court order sixty percent of the time. He didn't even bother himself with looking at the evidence and continued his refusal to let me make phone calls to my daughter (2010 hearing).
He issued a Capias for my arrest, as I mentioned before, when I accidentally missed a child support review hearing in 2009, in spite of the fact that I was making regular support payments and also making regular payments towards the arrearage. Judge Watkins told my attorney he would withdraw the warrant so I could visit my child in West Virginia only if I paid my child support arrearage. Since I was not able to, my daughter and I were not able to see each other for four months, until my attorney finally convinced him that I just did not have the money to pay it.
Judge Watkins defended my ex-wife's attempt to have him reinstate the arrest warrant instead of letting her answer my lawyer's questions as to why that was important to her.
He recently approved her moving again, this time five times farther away from me than West Virginia, even though, as I pointed out in the hearing, the move was taking our daughter away from four other siblings in West Virginia and North Carolina as well as grandparents and almost all other family members.
Judge Watkins has now made me responsible for half of all plane flights to and from Texas if I want to see her even though he knows I can't afford them. He stated that I should still get to see her as many days as before the move to Texas but has allowed her mother to come up with a visitation plan that I don't have the financial means to carry out. Additionally, by accepting her new visitation plan outright, he violated two of his own stipulations with regard to the move and how to manage visitation.
As a result, I recently filed a Motion to Modify his order, and also cited some changes of circumstances. He refused to even grant a hearing on this, saying that I did not have any change of circumstances, and even seemed to chide me in the denial Order, saying that I was in contempt because I had not seen my daughter since last October. So, since I could not afford to fly her to North Carolina, he said I was in contempt. If it weren't so painful and ridiculous, it would be laughable.
On top of everything else, Judge Watkins did not sign the final order until almost Christmas which affected my holiday visitation, even though he made his decree in our summer hearing and was reminded several times. He tried to blame that on the attorney, saying they did not give him the documents he needed, but which they verified with fax transmission receipts.
It must be tough being a judge. From what I read, he doesn't even have time to file his own protective orders. Perhaps if Judge Watkins has any overseers, they can have him replaced before any of their own family or friends have to enter his courtroom.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Judge for yourselves about Judge Watkins
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