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Divorce, My Ex, Our Kids
Aired September 10, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST (voice-over): Sheryl Lee Ralph was a Hollywood star who seemed to have it all. But off-screen, her home life was crumbling. Her marriage fell apart and she says her husband used their kids as pawns against her.
Ten years later and married to another man, she is still fighting to leave that marriage and the memories behind.
Then, a turn of events we didn`t see coming. Dina Shacknai returns to discuss the latest and turns in the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of her 6-year-old son Max at his father`s Coronado mansion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: All right. That`s Dina in our green room.
First off, though, we`re welcoming actress and author of "Redefining Diva," Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Sheryl Lee, now, you`ve been divorced for a long time, but you`re heading back to court with your husband -- ex-husband --
SHERYL LEE RALPH, ACTRESS: My ex.
PINSKY: -- tomorrow.
RALPH: That`s right. How about that?
PINSKY: Why? What`s going on?
RALPH: You know something? I the ongoing thing of child support. Sometimes you have children with people and then somebody decides, well, you had the child, so you support them.
PINSKY: OK. So that`s kind of the theme we wanted to get into here tonight, which is that these days, most marriages end in divorce, which is --
RALPH: Which is sad.
PINSKY: -- mortifying, sad.
RALPH: It`s a crime.
PINSKY: Another topic for another day.
RALPH: That`s right.
PINSKY: But many people are dealing with their exes because they still have kids with them.
PINSKY: And we figured this is a topic a lot of people deal with. And you`re in the midst of some stuff.
RALPH: Right. And I wish it would go away. Honestly, I wish it would go away.
But just the other day I was sitting there thinking. I said you know what? Divorce is all about ego. Somewhere it gets into somebody`s head, that it`s my ego, you`re not taking me down and I`m taking you down first. And when it gets like that, it`s just ugly for everybody.
PINSKY: It`s ugly, right? And it seems like people always want there to be a bad guy. Our fantasies are shattered. It must be somebody`s fault. We attack one another, make somebody bad, and the kids are the ones that suffer.
RALPH: They always suffer. And it`s very, very difficult for the children because no matter how amicable your divorce is, your children are hurt.
PINSKY: Right. Now, that`s the other piece -- that`s the other dot I want to connect here for people. Let me just say that even in -- if there is such a thing as an amicable divorce which I`m not sure there is, I`m going to see your kids some day. That`s what`s going to happen here.
RALPH: That`s right.
PINSKY: Either I`m going to see them with addiction, on behavioral problems, with trauma issues. They`re going to call the radio show. They`re going to -- I don`t want to do that anymore, people. I think we need to pay attention to this.
Now, you feel that your husband who, by the way, I think we have a -- we reached out to your ex-husband. We`ve got to give his statement here ahead, because as I said, you guys are going to court tomorrow. And to be fair, let`s hear his -- we have to give his statement. His attorney told us he had filed the court -- he has filed the court with the court opposing -- I`m not sure how to read this --
PINSKY: -- opposing your request for child support.
PINSKY: He sent a sworn declaration claiming the court no longer has jurisdiction over the matter, but he has and will continue to voluntary support his children. He questions your California residency and says your financial declaration omits income for the past three years. He says you have been deceiving and playing games with the court and with him.
RALPH: It`s so sad, because when he starts to talk about my California residency, I have a wonderful husband now. State Senator Vincent Hughes, an incredible loving man.
And between the two of us, we made the decision. We knew how awful divorce was for the two of us. He has two children. I have two children. And when he and I came together, our children were young. And mine were the youngest.
And he said we`ll commute because it`s hard enough you can`t just uplift your children and move there.
PINSKY: But did he have the same experience that we`re trying to protect people from, children being caught in the cross fire and being used as pawns in these power struggles?
RALPH: Oh, yes. We just did not want -- we did not want moving my children to make it any worse for them. As it turns out, the years passed, where do you think both my children have moved to? Back East. And my son is living with my current husband, going to college happily.
PINSKY: And has your husband -- he takes issue with your participation. Has he supported your kids?
RALPH: My husband?
PINSKY: Your ex-husband, your ex-husband.
RALPH: My ex-husband -- my ex-husband is like some ex-partners figure they can do parenthood the way they feel they can, which means if I want to give them this, that`s what I give them. If I want to give them that, but don`t you tell me that I need to pay child support.
PINSKY: I see.
RALPH: That`s what happens. Buy the car, but you get stuck with the payments.
PINSKY: Oh, that`s interesting. Let`s take some calls here, more people want to take this conversation.
Cindy in Wisconsin -- Cindy, go ahead.
CINDY, CALLER FROM WISCONSIN: Yes, Dr. Drew. I am calling -- I`m a grandmother of some kids, four grandchildren that their parents are going through, their parents are going through divorce right now.
PINSKY: Cindy, can I stop you right now? You sound like you`re about 38. You`re a grandmother of four kids? How old are you?
CINDY: I am 53.
RALPH: All right.
PINSKY: Fifty-three, four kids. OK. So go ahead. They`re going through divorce.
CINDY: Anyway, they live with me and I do see a lot of behavioral problems.
PINSKY: Of course.
CINDY: And just wondering what we can do as family members to help them get through this?
PINSKY: What do you think?
RALPH: You have to be as loving as you possibly can. And I don`t know whether it`s your daughter or your son. Do not say anything awful about that other parent. You know, just support them in the best way they can.
And I have found whenever your kids act out, the best response is to hug them and let them know just how very much they are loved and they`ll know you will smile some day.
PINSKY: That`s right. Here are the basic bits, which is tell them that you love them, tell them that their parents love them, that this is not their fault, and create as much stability in their lives as possible, consistency. It must have been hard to go through this.
RALPH: Very hard.
PINSKY: I know you talk about it with great intensity now, I bet -- but I see sadness in your eyes.
RALPH: Because, you know, you love your children and when you`re the custodial parent, the children long for the parent that`s not there. And sometimes people play the kids against --
PINSKY: Stick with the sadness. What was sad about it?
RALPH: Because your family`s breaking up.
PINSKY: That`s something that you value greatly and it ruptures.
RALPH: Absolutely. Everybody else in your family is married.
PINSKY: You were together 10 years.
RALPH: Almost 10 years.
PINSKY: It is sad.
RALPH: Your parents are married their whole life. I had the gift of spending my whole life with my parents and then you get a divorce.
PINSKY: Did you feel --
RALPH: Less than your self-esteem gets messed up. You don`t feel great because you didn`t keep it together like your parents --
PINSKY: You blame yourself for the divorce.
RALPH: Of course you do.
PINSKY: Women always -- women have a way of taking this stuff on. I don`t mean to make you cry, but you`re about to. And ten years later you`re still dealing with this. Yes.
RALPH: And it`s awful.
PINSKY: Does he take some of the responsibility? As a woman, do you have to take it all on yourself?
RALPH: You have to. Because you`re the one, when -- your kids look at you and say you can fix it, mommy. You can do anything.
PINSKY: It`s nice they feel that way. And it`s nice women take that on and want to be that person, but it`s not fair. I can`t tell you how often I say to women, I go, this is not fair. I can`t say how often I say to women, I go, this is not fair. The situation you`re in is not fair.
Cindy`s situation is not fair.
PINSKY: Not fair.
RALPH: And then when you go to court and things and people play games. They shift things here, they shift things there. Then they want to talk about your residency. Then they want to -- they say you lie about the money that you give them tax returns. It`s like, what?
PINSKY: But all that is so nominal compared to the tragedy. It`s a tragedy.
RALPH: Because your family is crushed. And then you have to deal with your kids. And I know your kids get hurt. Unfortunate. I get to be able to see past it.
I love my children. There`s some times I have wanted to cuss their father out, but I can`t. Because if I cuss him out, it`s like I`m cussing them out.
PINSKY: Yes, because he`s their dad.
RALPH: Because he`s their father. And even though I don`t want to, you`ve got to hold on to the love that you felt, because your children are in your home.
PINSKY: OK. Now, listen. That note, how complex this is emotionally is what I want to get into in the next couple segments. I`m bringing in a divorce court judge and I`m bringing in a psychologist. This is really the complexity which is you want to value or honor the children`s love for their dad so you can`t really continue that split by talking negatively about the dad.
PINSKY: Yet you want to punch him in the face.
PINSKY: OK. All right.
RALPH: I`d even move my children out of the state and then what?
PINSKY: I know lots of you are still connected to ex because of the kids. Call us, 855-373-7395. We`re going to keep this conversation going. Be right back.
PINSKY: We are discussing the phenomenon of staying connected to an ex because you have kids together. Joining me now to keep this conversation going, clinical psychologist, Dr. Ramani Durvasula, and Lynn Toler, the judge on "Divorce Court" and author of "Making Marriage Work."
Now, Lynn, I`m going to start with you. How do you navigate breakups when you`re connected by kids? You must see this a ton.
LYNN TOLER, JUDGE, "DIVORCE COURT": You see it all the time. The sad part about it is divorce courts are not really designed to engage the problem in all the levels that needs to be engaged in. And I think that when people go to court, it`s going to be fair and it`s going to work out. But it is woefully inadequate on so many different levels.
PINSKY: OK. I`m going to stop you, because Sheryl Lee is having a huge reaction to that in here. She`s like, yes, yes, yes.
RALPH: It`s right.
PINSKY: In other words, you expect the courts to sort out your troubles.
RALPH: I thought that they were -- like she just said, I thought it was going to be fair. I thought they would come in and understand. I thought that they would see it, and they didn`t see it.
PINSKY: So, Lynn, she`s being sort of the nice guy and conceding things and doing the caretaking role, taking all the responsibility. And then the courts gang up on her.
TOLER: Yes. And it`s not so much that the court is ganging up on her, it`s just not adequate to respond to the problem. Divorce -- when divorce courts were originally put together, divorce was a rare thing, and you had time to get into the nuances of it. Now it`s overwhelmed with all different -- with so many divorces and there`s so much involved in it.
It`s -- your divorce is your whole world, and it`s 1/100th of that judge`s day.
RALPH: She`s right.
PINSKY: And, Ramani, 60 percent of Americans are going to experience this. Most people are going to experience it. Most of those probably have kids.
RAMANI DURVASULA, PH.D., CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes.
PINSKY: And you heard what Sheryl Lee said. Taking responsibility and feeling like the fantasy of something that she had anticipated from her parents had been shattered.
DURVASULA: It is this loss of a fantasy. And the issue becomes that we are looking for fairness. We want this to all be fair. We want the mess- free divorce.
There`s no such thing as a mess-free divorce, because it brings up our stories with our own parents, with our kids. And guess what? You`re stuck with this person for the rest of your life.
I think people go into divorce court and say this is game over. I`m done with this son of a gun. Guess what? The game is just beginning.
RALPH: That`s right.
PINSKY: Again, what I was telling people, the viewers is so much of what I see later with substance abuse is coming from families that rupture -- the kids feel ruptured for a long time and then don`t trust relationships.
DURVASULA: They don`t -- and you raise an important point, Drew, and that`s 60 percent -- you say 60 percent of marriages end in divorce. That makes it feel normal. It`s not normal.
RALPH: That`s right.
DURVASULA: It`s very disruptive and it breaks everyone`s hearts.
I`ve been divorced. I know how hard it is. I mean, it broke my heart. It broke my ex-husband`s hard. It broke my daughter`s heart.
We had to create something out of the ashes. But -- I mean, even with all the professional training, I was not prepared for the body count it would leave.
PINSKY: Lynn --
RALPH: You know, it`s like you try -- divorce is like just ripping the skin off of your own body.
DURVASULA: And your kids too.
RALPH: And your children.
PINSKY: And, Lynn, I`m sitting here with women. Women talking about how this tears their hearts out, and all this goes down in the courtrooms.
TOLER: Yes. It all goes down to the courtroom, and they can`t see all of the nuances. And everybody`s telling -- you`re getting opposite stories from both sides. There`s not a lot of forensic evidence in a divorce case about who said what with what kind of anger in his voice and all of that. So it gets lost in the translation.
So, there has to be an out of court resolution, because in court is never going to be satisfactory.
PINSKY: Do you try to navigate the emotional landscape, as well as the legal landscape? Or do you se your job as just the legalities?
TOLER: A judge`s job is just the legalities.
TOLER: They don`t have the ability to do more. They don`t have the time to do more. And they don`t have the mandate to do more.
PINSKY: Let`s take --
TOLER: And that`s why I like mediation and collaborative divorces as the next step to deal with this new wave of the divorce phenomenon.
PINSKY: I hate the idea this is a wave. Let`s try to slip in a call from Kathleen in North Carolina. Kathleen?
KATHLEEN, CALLER FROM NORTH CAROLINA: Hey, Drew, how you doing?
PINSKY: I hear this girl`s story loud and clear. I am living it. Ten years ago, my husband left myself and two children. We lived in Connecticut to have not one but two affairs. I filed for divorce, let him go, got custody of the children, relocated to Bloomington, North Carolina, to be with my family.
And he`s constantly playing games. He`s in contempt. I`ve got to fly back to Connecticut and bring him back to court.
He`s not paying this. He`s not doing that. He makes three to four times my salary. Even owns an airplane. He has a girlfriend.
Move on. He won`t leave me alone. He constantly meddles and plays games. He cannot disengage.
PINSKY: Kathleen, and you have kids together?
KATHLEEN: Yes. We have two. One just went to college.
PINSKY: Is that why the engagement or is it --
KATHLEEN: Yes. First it was tuition. First it was redoing the child support with one child leaving. Then, it was he`s going to pay what percentage of the tuition.
And then, it`s the flight to visit the children. I`m responsible for 30, he pays 70. He bought an airplane, wants me to pay a private airplane where the judge meant the commercial airline.
We had to work -- it`s one thing after another. The judges don`t want to hear it and you`re paying money to your lawyer and end up going to mediation.
PINSKY: I got to tell you guys, these stories are awful. They are heart breaking, but I`m a little surprised at how much of a male/female story this is. Because I`m not hearing about how men are sharing the misery with women. They seem to be causing the misery.
RALPH: Sometimes, I think, that some men -- and we talked about this -- I think that some men love themselves much more than they love their children. Because if they loved their children more, they wouldn`t do some of the things that they do.
PINSKY: But, Ramani, I`m going to a quick break with --
TOLER: I`m going to have to disagree --
PINSKY: Lynn, go ahead -- go ahead. Well, hang, I`m going to have you hold that thought. I`m going to start with you when we get back from break.
PINSKY: But, you know, people come from broken families. That`s a narcissistic injury. We may be perpetuating or creating men that do this thing.
We`re going to take a quick break.
And later on in the show, you`re going to hear -- oh, yes, we`re going to talk about the Coronado mansion mystery. It heats up, as we mentioned earlier on.
So, stay with us. We`ve got more calls.
PINSKY: All right. We`re talking about divorces and people being required to keep their exes in their lives because of children.
Judge Lynn Toler, you wanted to make a comment to something Sheryl Lee said about men and men caring about themselves more than their kids. And before you answer, I don`t know if you were thinking about this topic during the commercial break, but you were up on the screen behind us here. I notice you had a flash of emotion across your face.
Was that something else or was that this topic that was troubling you?
TOLER: It was that topic. I think that men have their fair share of horror stories as well. I think women are more -- we tend to define ourselves more by our relationships, so we may speak about it more and be more outwardly about it.
But I`ve seen a number of men taken to the woodshed and back by the women in their lives. And, you know, weird and narcissistic and inward focusing is not solely a male characteristic, and I don`t think we can just divide it upon gender lines like that, because I do see a lot of guys who really get hurt from this.
PINSKY: Judge, I think you`re right. You brought up that "N" word, the narcissism word, that we think is part of what`s perpetuating these problems. Kids coming from these broken problems are at risk for narcissistic injuries. And they`re the ones that do it again, right?
DURVASULA: And divorce is all about narcissistic injury. That`s why it gets so ugly so fast. When somebody leaves you, it`s like being slapped across the face.
And I think men and women process this differently. That`s why it gets so inflamed. What we`re trying to do in the courts is put a dollar value on a broken heart, and you can`t do it.
And so, it comes down to dollars and cents, where there`s so much emotional heavy lifting to be done, particularly when there`s kids. And when you bring in narcissism in this, there`s no more empathy. You`re not even thinking about other people.
PINSKY: Let me ask, throw a little lighter fluid on this -- do men have an easier time putting a price tag on a broken heart? Do you think that`s something that -- you know what I mean? To me it feels like, as a man, like a man could, like, operate in that kind of a system. For women, it can`t be compared.
DURVASULA: I`m reluctant to say that because I do think that women often get themselves more financially dependent in marriages. So they might have to put in a different kind of a fight.
So, I actually think both genders are guilty of putting dollar value.
PINSKY: All right. Let`s take a quick call from Joel in South Carolina. Joel, I got to be quick here. What do you got?
JOEL, CALLER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. It`s the mandate that gets men. I went through a horrible divorce. I had my daughter from the time she was born until she was four years old. And once my daughter got of age, did not only divorce, and she got custody. And she left me when my daughter was first born.
I raised my daughter until she was four years old. Then she was stripped out of my life. So, now, I`m the one that`s left holding the bag and I`m paying her $600 a month when I barely get to see my child.
PINSKY: Joel, I just got to tell you, yes --
RALPH: My heart goes out to Joel, because we hear that a lot as well.
And, Joel, please understand. This is not us against them. I hear you and I understand you. I just have to be a woman talking about a man.
PINSKY: But listen to what everyone is talking about here -- the pain and the intensity of what`s going on here.
PINSKY: Everyone that`s calling, everyone in this room, it is a shattering experience. And we`re going to keep the conversation going. For one more break, hope you`ll stay with me. Judge, stay with me as well.
Keep taking your calls at 855-373-7395. Back after the break.
PINSKY: All right. We are discussing a topic that is inflaming emotions. It affects 60 percent of you out there. It is divorce but not just divorce, having your ex in your life because you had kids together.
Sheryl Lee Ralph, you are now with a blended family and a happy marriage.
PINSKY: Judge Toler, you`ve been sitting, listening to divorces. And you yourself had to go through it. You`re also like Sheryl Lee in a blended family. It must wear you down to hear these stories and to, sort of, think about the extent to which it has affected your own life.
TOLER: Yes. No, it is difficult to hear. It`s tough especially when the children are involved. You cannot resolve the issue. And it is difficult to make one person be reasonable when the other person is being reasonable and to bring that home.
On a personal level, we did a lot of segregating the situation out. So it wasn`t as -- I didn`t go through the divorce. I got the divorced guy, but he did a good job of separating those two things. So I had a better experience than a lot of people in blended families do.
DR. DREW: And Sheryl Lee, you`re still troubled.
RALPH: You know what? I thank god that god has blessed me with an incredible husband. My husband Vincent could not be any better. He has really helped me move through this greatly and loved my children as almost like he would love his own kids. But this thing with my ex is rough. I had to pay my ex.
DR. DREW: And you`re going to court tomorrow.
RALPH: I got go to court tomorrow.
DR. DREW: It`s not going to be pleasant.
RALPH: And -- and this is the part that gets me. Not only did I have to pay him, but he wouldn`t pay for his own children`s school fees but he paid for his girlfriend`s school fees. It wasn`t until they broke up that she told me he`s paid for my children`s school fees. Come on. Can you not see why some people get hurt sometimes?
DR. DREW: Outrage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Outrage.
DR. DREW: It goes from pain and shattered fantasy to outrage.
RALPH: Exactly. And then I got to get on TV and smile. Like everything is okay. It`s not okay.
DR. DREW: I`m going to take a call from Denise in New York. Denise, what have you got for us?
DENISE, CALLER: Hi Dr. Drew. I enjoy this show and your life changes and enjoy watching the judge Toller and I enjoy watching Sheryl on TV.
RALPH: Thank you.
DENISE: I wanted to find out from Sheryl if she thinks after all this is cleared up, if she can have an amicable relationship with her ex. Because I went through a divorce. I`m very -- I have a very amicable relationship with my ex. As a matter of fact, he`s staying with me and my current husband.
RALPH: Bless you.
DENISE: It`s a trying time right now. And I hope things work out for you and your children.
RALPH: Thank you so much. And I appreciate that. My children are the love of my life. And god bless them. They are no statistics. They are healthy and happy. Will I -- do I think I could have a good relationship with my ex? Absolutely because just like happiness, I choose to be happy. Could I have a good relationship? Yes.
DR. DREW: That`s a great sort of place to ask you a question about not just choosing to do better with the ex. I`m sure people at home want to know what kinds of -- what can they do to reduce the risk to kids and what are the warning signs, how do they navigate?
DURVASULA: No. 1 is you`ve got to put the fighting away in front of the kids. Most of the research we know about the divorce is it`s the contention between the parents in front of the kids that`s the source of the problem. And the fact is these are your kids. If you can`t navigate the ship by your kids and you`re so selfish that you make this about yourselves, I wonder if you`re fit to have those kids in the first place. You`ve got to learn to check your nonsense at the door when you bring those kids into the world and stop. You`ve got to learn to cease and desist and face those kids even if it means leaving money on the table and walking away.
DR. DREW: Mind you, you can control yourself. You can`t control your spouse.
DURVASULA: No, you cannot control your spouse. But sometimes you have to transcend. I mean, you made this choice. You brought these kids into this world. Again, you may need to make more sacrifices than your spouse. This is not a teeter-totter in the preschool playground. This is real life. Sometimes adult life is not fair. You`ve got to protect those kids any way you can psychologically.
DR. DREW: And again, Judge Toler, I`m getting back to my sort of sense that it`s women once again taking this on more than men. Is that what you see out there?
TOLER: I see the guilt more about the children more in women. But I see both sides really getting beat up by not a man or a woman, by an unthinking and uncaring ex. Someone who racks up wins and is keeping score as opposed to determining how we`re going to live forward. It`s still about beating you.
DR. DREW: Joseph in Maryland, what have you got? Joseph, are you out there?
JOSEPH, CALLER: Greetings, Dr. Drew and everybody, thank you. Hopefully you can hear me okay. I just wanted to comment and piggyback on what the judge just said. I so much agree with it. I just came out of a divorce 40 days fresh. And we have seven children involved.
DR. DREW: Oh. Joseph.
JOSEPH: Seven children. One woman. I mean, married 13 years. And she was involved in an adulterous relationship. And she was the one that pushed for the divorce which I think is the worst creation of man right now. Because you got two people in front of the judge and both of them are at fault. But I`m struggling to have a life with my kids. I`m feeling a lot of heartache but I`m trying to rise above that and still be part of their lives. Unfortunately I`m in another state right now. I`m scratching my way to get back to where they are So at least I can have an impact on their lives. Four girls, three boys. And they`re all small. You know 15 --
DR. DREW: Joseph, you got to get back. What`s keeping you from getting back there?
JOSEPH: It`s just a job situation. That`s a kind of thing that spearheaded us getting apart. I was a professional. My career was a problem. And a loss of job is what separated us initially. And it was both the two of us agreeing do what you got to do to keep money into the house. After I moved to take the job, that`s when my ex started talking about divorce and wanted to end the marriage.
RALPH: I`m sorry. I am truly sorry.
DR. DREW: Yes. Joseph, our heart goes out to you. I`m glad that it`s not as contentious as what we`ve been hearing about tonight, but your priority has got to be those kids. You`ve got to get back and take care of them. You`ve got to be the dad.
This is the note for everybody in our country today. Our kids are our future and we`ve got to put that as a priority. In order to do so, we`ve got to redouble our commitment in our relationships. And understand this. A divorce is just an amplification of other -- I don`t want to say unhealthy maneuvers, but pitfalls in relationships. When there`s a win, you both lose. You have to not always win. When you win, you both lose. That`s just the way it is. You`ve got to get used to compromise. It`s a much more -- and as men we`re not great at that. We like to be right.
RALPH: You want to win.
DR. DREW: We want to win. But when you win, somebody loses. Judge Toler thanks for joining us.
RALPH: Love your show.
DR. DREW: Yes, we do. Sheryl Lee, thank you for sharing your story. Ramani I think I`ll have you back.
Now, you`ve seen Dina Shacknai on our show pleading for police to reinvestigate the death of her six-year-old son Max. He died at his father`s Coronado mansion. Dina is back with an exclusive update after this.
DR. DREW: Dina Shacknai`s son Max died tragically after a fall at his father`s Coronado mansion. Dina is back with us with her attorney with an exclusive update. Before you say so, I would say you seem emotionally spent today. So do the best you can. Whatever you`ve got to tell us, we`re here to support you.
DINA SHACKNAI, SON DIED AT CORONADO MANSION: Thank you. Well, we`ve heard from the Coronado police department. They have elected not to reopen Max`s investigation.
DR. DREW: Did they acknowledge all the investigation and the forensic work you guys had done? Did they look at it even? Angela`s shaking her head no.
ANGELA HALLIER, ATTORNEY FOR DINA SHACKNAI: What we learned was as you know we had a biomechanical engineer and a medical examiner --
DR. DREW: Last time they were here they reviewed for us all this tremendous forensic work that suggested that this was not an accident or there were lots of missing pieces. And I`d hoped they`d look at that.
HALLIER: They did not have their biomechanical expert they contracted with when they did their initial investigation even look at our biomechanical engineer`s report, which played a critical part in the analysis. So they had no biomechanical expert on their team review our biomechanical work.
DR. DREW: I watched this one`s body react to that statement. She was literally like --
DR. DREW: You`re pissed.
SHACKNAI: I was shocked.
DR. DREW: Shocked, yes.
SHACKNAI: I couldn`t imagine that -- when we were debriefed by Dr. Jonathan Lucas about Max`s death, he cited Dr. Gomez`s report as the linchpin for his report on death. So for them not to even -- so for me not to -- for them not to include their own expert in a re-evaluation didn`t make any sense. They said that Dr. Lucas and the medical examiners round tabled this but there`s no one who is an expert.
DR. DREW: I`m going to ask you to dig deep. Mom, what have they done to you?
SHACKNAI: Well, I think that they made a commitment to -- I feel a disingenuous act and they really encourage us to present our information, fly our experts in and they would listen. There was nothing. We got a three line letter without even an explanation. With me they dismissed the importance of a life and their own accountability to citizens.
DR. DREW: As Max`s mom did you expect a phone call or something? I mean, they`re not heartless, I`m not accusing them of anything. But it`s like they`re saying move along.
SHACKNAI: That`s what it is. Saying thank you very much but we`re sticking with what we think in the first place. After nine months and after Max`s death and going through this every day to find out what happened to him, it was a three-line letter and a phone call from the commander --
DR. DREW: You did get a phone call?
SHACKNAI: I called him. I called him.
DR. DREW: And how`d that go?
SHACKNAI: Well, it was a long phone call. Because I was pretty upset about it. I learned on the phone call Dr. Gomez was not included. I also learned that the diagram -- I think you`ve seen that -- of that figure, that tall figure was prepared by somebody at the San Diego district attorney`s office. Prepared the independent expert`s work. Why? and the inaccuracies of the diagram are striking. The person is eight inches taller than Max.
DR. DREW: What do you want people viewing out there to know about what you`re going through?
SHACKNAI: I want people to know to please -- I want them to please contact their -- the sheriff`s department. Think about it in terms of this can happen to anyone.
DR. DREW: So this is as a mom you`re appealing to other moms.
SHACKNAI: To other moms, other dads. I`m saying this can happen to anyone. And none of us are immune. And we cannot ignore it.
DR. DREW: And you`re squeezing my hand very firmly, which I`m encouraging but is that anger or is that holding back emotion? What is that?
SHACKNAI: It`s frustration. And it`s incredulous they would dismiss it.
DR. DREW: It`s anger.
SHACKNAI: I`m angry and I`m frustrated and demoralized. I believed in a system, a system that failed me and failed max.
DR. DREW: Okay. Listen, I have to take a quick break. We`re going to take calls on this and we`ll hear more on this story. And how -- the topic today has been about kids and divorces and this is part of that story. I mean, your story is that too. And how to move on when there`s been a tragedy and you`re sharing custody of a child that things go poorly for. We`ll talk more about that after the break.
DR. DREW: We have been discussing all show divorces and children caught in the crossfire. Now we`ve got Dina Shacknai`s tragic story. Joining us, TV`s divorce court judge Lynn Toler and Ramani Durvasula.
I`m so story about your loss. It`s nothing we can get our heads around. You have to remourn these losses. Does this get in the process of moving forward? Getting lost in the forensic data and details, how do you move forward from this? How do you move on? How are you going to do that?
SHACKNAI: That`s a great question. I think that it`s so important because Max will never come back.
DR. DREW: Right.
SHACKNAI: But through this, other children can be saved. And so with Maxy`s House, we are creating safety programs for children not only in Arizona but throughout the United States. So parents can proactively consider a safety plan for their child that can go along with a joint custody agreement. So we are creating some web interactive programs that it will be applicable in each state so parents don`t have to wait until after the fact. So that`s one of the things. And I know that Max would want -- if he were here he`d say mommy make sure you do the best you can to make sure this doesn`t happen to other kids.
DR. DREW: The other question is you`re doing so much for Max`s memory and you`re doing with so many difficult institutions. My concern is you taking care of you and being able to move forward. Again, you`re having to mourn multiple losses especially with how this investigation is ending now. That`s my concern for you. I know you are very wise and you know all of this better than just about anyone. But I want you to move forward from this. It`s been so many losses. You need to take care of you at this point.
SHACKNAI: I agree. I agree and I want to say that I think everybody has to look at themselves in the mirror every night and live are themselves. You have to make a choice about what you can live with. And you can either say I can go forward and I can help other kids. Or you say and for me, i`ve thought about it every -- so many moments. For me I couldn`t just step back and say I`m not going to think about this anymore. That I wouldn`t be able to live with.
DR. DREW: Judge Toler, I wanted to know your thoughts as well. I`m running out of time for this block, but your thoughts?
TOLER: I think that Ramani is right about the system. It`s a good one but it`s return by fallible people. It doesn`t make it right, but to have positive efforts towards helping people so they don`t have to get into it or having the positive plans is a good way to focus your energy when you can`t fix what you`re in.
DR: DREW: I have time to slip a call in here from Tammy from Tennessee. Tammy?
TAMMY, CALLER: Yes, Dr. Drew.
DR. DREW: Yes ma`am.
TAMMY: I was wondering is the investigation where she said that it was the bio --
DR. DREW: Biomechanical expert.
TAMMY: Right. Why can`t they do that?
DR. DREW: Right.
TAMMY: Actually do it?
DR. DREW: That`s the question we all sort of shake our heads and wonder. I mean, why not do something really careful with this? And Angela, you`re the attorney in this. Are you going to push on this?
HALLIER: Push with him or other ways? There`s other ways to go.
DR. DREW: Fair enough. I have a break here. Your calls up after the break.
DR. DREW: Want to thank my excellent panel. It`s been a show where we`ve been discussing divorces, its consequences, getting tangled with exes, and the Shacknai story is an example of that. I`m anxious to hear what comes next. I know my viewers will watch carefully. We`re going to take a couple more calls. Jeannie in Michigan.
JEANNIE, CALLER: How are you?
DR. DREW: I`m great.
JEANNIE: I really want to tell Miss Shacknai how sorry I am. I`ve followed this case from the beginning. My heart goes out to her. I wonder how can they expect someone from this tragedy to move on so quickly? my husband passed away and he was not my child, but it took me a whole year just to realize he wasn`t coming home. And I have a son who happens to be a neurosurgeon patient. When I was reading about accidents I could picture being there. It is a horrible thing to go through. There are many times children have died. How can she move on quickly? can she go to the supreme court with this or higher court?
DR. DREW: I knew that`s how my viewers were thinking. Go further. Where do you go?
HALLIER: There`s other agencies that we can ask to review this. Because this wasn`t a court decision, there`s not an appellate process available, but there`s also a public interest, public pressure, political pressure and changing the laws in the future. So things like this doesn`t happen.
DR. DREW: Thank you for that call. Up next, who do I have up there? I don`t see a name yet. Kathryn, what do you got for me? Kathryn, are you there?
KATHRYN, CALLER: Yes.
DR. DREW: What you got?
KATHRYN: I`m wondering if Rebecca Zahau`s minor sister who was also in the house with Max and playing with him supposedly has been investigated for the death of Max.
DR. DREW: Would you like to address that?
HALLIER: From what we can tell, the police department never looked at this as a possible homicide. All their investigation was focused on was it being an accident and how the accident happened. She was interviewed. We`ve seen the transcript, but it does not appear she was interviewed with an eye towards someone did something to max.
DR. DREW: Lynn, you`re the one sort of off the set for us today. Do you have any final thoughts for us?
RALPH: I just want to point out something that her attorney said. You know, the great shadow power in the world is prosecutorial discretion. Whether or not we`re going to prove something. And I think people should be aware of through this case that that is very important. And public pressure and stuff does change that. And prosecutors and charging agencies have a lot of power. People should be knowledgeable about that.
DR. DREW: Very interesting. Guys, thank you. Thank you to Judge Toler. Thank you Ramani for joining me. Thank you ladies for keeping us updated. You see the interest people have for this. A note about tomorrow now. I am bringing back the special guest we had before. Her name is Liz Cy Velazquez. Internet bullies called her the ugliest woman in the world. She wants people to tweet what`s the horrible thing done with you. This woman brushes that all off. We`re going to talk about body image, how people get through this kind of bullying. Call us tomorrow. Thanks for watching. Nancy Grace is next.