Florida mom says she lost teen son's custody due to maskless pic, ex refutes claim and calls fundraiser fake
A Florida mother has asked for public help after unsuccessfully pleading with the courts the past year to be reunited with her teen son who was removed from her care over a Facebook post where she was not wearing a mask. However, as she made her claims public in an interview, her ex-husband reached out to MEAWW in order to challenge her statements and present his version of the story.
Melanie Joseph from Broward County lost the parental timesharing of her 14-year-old son Logan last year after a state Circuit Court Judge Dale Cohen allegedly punished her for not wearing a mask prior to an oral surgery appointment, which she had posted about on Facebook. The photo which was presented by her ex-husband and Logan's father Michael Manley in the court did not show any signs of their teen son being present for the appointment. She has claimed that face masks were not mandatory in the area where she had the appointment.
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The reason given by the judge to strip Joseph of her parental rights agreement was that he was upset that Joseph and her husband had moved for work after he was laid off from his job. But Joseph claimed she already had a long-distance custody agreement and the father had also moved out of the county. Since last year, she is only permitted to visit Logan twice a year and for that, she has to drive from Florida to North Carolina to do it. Joseph says that she was led to believe that if she did not agree to what was being offered to her, she would never see her son again. Additionally, her son would be required to wear a mask during any contact with her. Since her son has asthma, such a requirement might worsen his health.
“I was forced into a settlement, meaning my lawyer had stated to me that off-record, the judge hates me because I damaged his reputation by going public, on top of the fact that he already hated me because he considers me a Covid denier and an anti-masker,” Joseph said in an interview. "None of that, by the way, ever came out of my mouth.”
A GoFundMe page set up last year to raise legal costs for Joseph, read: "Melanie is a wonderful, loving mother who has been stripped of her parental rights by a Judge with very strong opinions on 'Covid Culture,' mask mandates and no respect for medical freedom of choice. Her son Logan has been effectively ripped away from her by his vindictive father using current events, and a corrupt justice system to his advantage. The presiding Judge has chosen to remove ALL Melanie's rights to her son, based on his opinion that she is a 'danger to her son' based on a single photo copied from Melanie's social media. This photo shows Melanie without a mask during a time when masks were not yet mandatory in her area, and her exercising her 2nd amendment rights by wearing her lawfully licensed sidearm. He has ruled that Melanie may not see her son until such time as she has submitted herself to a Coronavirus vaccine once one becomes available, and has provided official documentation to prove she has received it." The page has raised $31,041 of its $100,000 goal till now.
However, Manley, who is married to another woman and has his own family, told MEAWW that he did not agree with several claims that had been made by Joseph. Joseph’s former husband said that he met her almost two decades ago and was married to her briefly in 2005, for a few months. “I realized that she had all kinds of mental health problems and I learned at that point that she had two kids that were taken away from her and they live in Canada now. So, it just became a chaotic situation. So I divorced her and then probably a year and a half later she wanted to get back with me. And she got pregnant… I didn’t find out till my son was three months old that she actually had the baby… and at that point, I established my rights as his father and went through the court system to establish my time-sharing,” he said.
At the time Manley was able to get 50 percent time sharing. However, as time went on, the court awarded him more and more time-sharing with Logan as Manley claimed that Joseph stirred up “all kinds of trouble,” including “false arrests.” At present Manley is up to 90 percent time-sharing with Logan, where the teen lives at his father’s home full-time and Manley has the ultimate say when it comes to his son’s schooling and medical decisions.
He also pointed out to MEAWW that in contrary to what Joseph has previously claimed, she had not lost the entirety of Logan’s custody. She still gets to spend summer breaks with her son, where Joseph can be with Logan for 21 consecutive days. She also gets to spend 10 days in the winter with Logan, according to some excerpts of court documents shared by Manley. Manley said that one of the primary reasons behind Joseph losing the majority of her custody with Logan was that she secretly moved to a different state without informing anyone last year and planned to take Logan with her.
“In March of 2020, she sold her house and she moved to North Carolina but she never told anybody that she was moving. What she did was she tried to take him (Logan) on spring break and she tried to say that she was going to North Carolina for a vacation. The problem is that is exactly when Covid started. Nobody was allowed to cross state lines. So we said, ‘No you can’t take him on vacation right now. You can make it up at another time.” But what we found out is that she moved that week to North Carolina. So her plan was to take him and not come back,” Manley said. According to him, they had an agreement of living within 50 miles of each other and if any of them decided to move further away, they had to inform the court, which, Manley claimed, Joseph did not do in that instance.
Manley pointed out that one single maskless picture wasn’t the reason behind Joseph’s diminishing time-sharing with Logan. “She is trying to act like it’s one picture that it's one time she didn’t wear a mask. But she wouldn’t wear a mask. She told Logan he was not gonna wear a mask if he came to her house. So we did have fears, Covid-wise for his safety. She is trying to make it look like that’s why she lost her rights. But the reality is, she didn’t lose her rights. The reason she doesn’t have more custody is that she makes terrible decisions as a parent,” he said.
He also took issue with the GoFundMe page that Joseph had set up to raise legal funds to get back custody of Logan. Manley said that he had reached out to GoFundMe, informing them that his ex-wife was running a fraudulent fundraiser but the company refused to take her page down. He claimed that the money that Joseph is making off of the fundraiser, she is spending on a vacation at a log cabin at present. It is important to note that MEAWW was not provided with any evidence to prove that Joseph was using fundraiser money to fund any of her personal holidays.
“Logan does not need to be liberated. He is extremely happy. He is in high school. He has his first girlfriend. He is very stable and he is very worried about going with his mother because he feels like if he does, she is not going to bring him back. And he’s going to be stuck in the court system trying to get back to Florida. They have almost no relationship now because when she calls him she talks about all these rape stuff. And drives him nuts with all these drama instead of asking him how he is doing or being involved with him as a mother. She doesn’t do any of that,” he said.
Melanie had also claimed last month that Logan was conceived after his unidentified father 'raped' her. “My son’s father raped me — and three months after my son was born, he pursued me in court. He ended up getting a deal where custody would be split 50/50 because there wasn’t anything on paper about the rape other than records from my therapy,” Joseph said.
Apparently, she claimed that the father has a criminal record and had attacked her again when she was pregnant with another child, who is now eight years old. She added that when she tried to press charges, the case was lodged but ultimately dropped because while the state attorney “knew she was a victim” and that they “believe her,” they did not have enough evidence to prosecute and win the case.
Manley also refuted the rape and assault claims made by Joseph. “About the rape thing, this is not true. And this is just her trying to deface me and slander me, to make me look bad… and as far saying I attacked her, that’s another story that she made up. She says that I threw sneakers at her and I hit her while she was pregnant. Those charges were dropped because she made that up,” Manley told us.