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Mother claims custody system is broken

For five years, Wendy Titelman hasn't been allowed within 3,000 feet of her children. After she was charged with taking her daughters across state lines in violation of her custody agreement, a judge awarded full custody to her ex-husband.

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But then she was acquitted of the charge — and the jury foreman at her criminal trial wrote a letter asking why she was indicted in the first place.

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Now Titelman's trying to clear her name and regain custody in a court system she says is broken. Titelman has filed numerous motions over the past seven years, criticizing the Cobb County system for allegedly failing to protect her children from her ex-husband, who she claims has abused their daughters. Andrew Titelman's attorney, John Mayoue, wouldn't comment on the custody battle.

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But Cobb County Chief Superior Court Judge James Bodiford claimed in a recent hearing that the system isn't broken — and suggested that Titelman might be causing her own problems.

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At the July 21 hearing, a clearly perturbed Bodiford required that Titelman's lawyer, Hal Carter, remove several sentences — including a line suggesting that Bodiford might've been bribed — from a motion. "This is one of the worst cases of my career," Bodiford said angrily. "I am sick and tired of [Titelman's] actions."

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Titelman's case is one of many heated — and time-consuming — custody battles snaking through Georgia's courts. "Any time you're dealing with family dynamics, it gets emotional," says state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, D-Decatur, who's pushed for better custody laws. "It's bound to be a long and drawn out process."

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What's more, with the passage of a recent bill that recalculates how much child support should be paid, Benfield worries that parents will end up back in court over financial disputes that will further clog the system.

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Wendy and Andrew Titelman divorced in 1998. Shortly thereafter, court-appointed visitation supervisors reported their children showed signs of abuse. However, both Kennesaw police and the state Department of Family and Children Services investigated the allegations and filed no charges against Andrew Titelman.

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Last year, Wendy Titelman unsuccessfully tried to have Bodiford recused from her case, claiming he dismissed evidence that proved the abuse.

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""I don't want my children to suffer the consequences of a broken system," Titelman says.

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Wendy Titelman says her lawyer again is asking for Bodiford's recusal, based on his harsh comments at last week's hearing.

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Bodiford is scheduled to hear the accusations again Sept. 28.



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