By Jesse Wood
On Thursday morning, Kenneth Gottfried, owner of Go Postal, stood in the bed of his truck, parked in front of the Watauga County Courthouse on King Street, and held a sign that stated “Judge F. Warren Hughes abused my daughters.”
Gottfried, who has been in a custody battle with his ex-wife for the past couple years, said he hasn’t seen his two daughters, aged 17 and 16, in two years, because Hughes won’t let him.
Hughes had Gottfried undergo a psychological evaluation in February and brought the children into the judge’s chambers recently before again denying Gottfried the right to see his children.
This public protest in the back of his pickup truck is “one of his last steps” in an attempt to see his children before they both turn 18. One daughter turns 18 in January and another will turn 18 in a year and a half.
“Then I am screwed and there’s nothing I can do,” Gottfried said.
Gottfried said that he had a “great relationship” with his children up until the separation with his wife. Today, Gottfried acknowledges that his children don’t want to see him and he blames that on his ex-wife and Hughes perpetuating “parental alienation” – something Gottfried said he didn’t know existed until several months after the separation when he went online looking for solutions.
According to the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, “Parental alienation (or Hostile Aggressive Parenting) is a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent.
“These behaviors most often accompany high conflict marriages, separation or divorce. These behaviors whether verbal or non-verbal, cause a child to be mentally manipulated or bullied into believing a loving parent is the cause of all their problems, and/or the enemy, to be feared, hated, disrespected and/or avoided.”
Gottfried said that he fears for his daughters well being.
“They don’t [want to see me]. They are totally destroyed. They need real psychological help. They need someone who understands what parental alienation is,” Gottfried said. “[Hughes has] abused my kids by continually disallowing them to get the help they need.”
Gottfried also said that his wife has been abusive to his kids.
Asked how so, Gottfried responded, “She’s abusive by alienating them against me.”
Asked if he ever abused his children, Gottfried said, “Not at all. I love my kids.”
In addition to not meeting in person anymore, Gottfried said his children have blocked him on social media and won’t communicate via email. They also won’t tell him why they are upset with him.
“It destroys me. It’s just absolutely devastating,” Gottfried said. “It’s literally like having children who have died but they are alive.”
Hughes didn’t respond to a request for comment on Thursday, and Gottfried’s ex-wife deferred comment to her attorney, Tamara DiVenere.
DiVenere released this statement on Thursday afternoon:
“Mr. Gottfried’s allegations are false and utterly without merit. It is unfortunate that Mr. Gottfried is sacrificing the privacy and dignity of his family in this public manner. His words are clearly intended to incite and are devoid of truth.
“Judge Hughes’ ethics in the handling of this case are beyond reproach. He has always conducted himself with the dignity expected of his position. My client and I cannot state strongly enough that there has been absolutely no inappropriate behavior on the part of Judge Hughes.
“In regard to Mr. Gottfried’s allegations against Ms. Gottfried, I will simply state that they are completely false and decline comment further in order to protect the privacy of my client and her family.”