HOUSTON - One of Johnny Depp's former colleagues is speaking out on his behalf.
Actor Greg Ellis suffered from his own drama in the court system and has started a non-profit to help other families going through something similar.
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Greg Ellis recently released his book and video podcast The Respondent about his life's story. While the Emmy-nominated actor is often recognized for his roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Trek, he's now getting his name out there, helping those stuck in family court.
"I think we have a national health emergency going on that very few people are talking about; certainly very few politicians," says Greg. "And that's our ‘boy crisis’ and family law is fueling that, the cartel of our family law system, it's systemic."
Greg had been married twenty years when things went sour. He says his now ex-wife made an anonymous call to the police and falsely claimed he threatened to harm their children. Like a script out of Hollywood, he feels he was unduly arrested in 2015 with no evidence of abuse. That sent him into a downward spiral, losing touch with his two beloved sons along the way.
"I was living the American dream! I've worked hard to live in a beautiful house, two young boys, my sons were the meaning of my life," says Greg. "And I was ignorant of this system until it appeared on my doorstep. I was ushered from my home in handcuffs. I was incarcerated, first of five incarcerations, and put through the tumult of the family law system for five, six years, and my son's lost their father for half their childhoods."
Greg says he went from a world of presumed innocence and respected privacy to assumed guilt and ruthless judgment. He believes he and Johnny Depp have suffered similar pain through the courts and has openly supported his friend, through tweets like this one.
Depp wrote the Dedication in Ellis' book, long before his own trial began.
"This isn't just me or Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt or whoever it may be," says Greg. "There's a countless number of regular public citizens I speak to. This is tens of thousands of people in America. It's also South America, England, the UK, parts of Europe. It's a horrific system, and we really need to do something about it."
Greg hopes his book and podcast will not only help others work through the court system, but also help heal his relationship with his sons.
"I love them so very much and miss my boys. Criminals get more rights than parents and children," states a somber Greg Ellis. "Terrorists, pedophiles, and murderers get Miranda rights. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Not so for parents in family law. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but it's true - they stole my freedom, kidnapped my children, and murdered my family. My family is no more."
So how can a couple, who break up, spare themselves from a future of pain and public humiliation, like Greg and Johnny Depp? Dr. Andy Hahn, the founder of "Life-Centered Therapy Institute" shares this advice.
"I will tell you why couples get stuck," states Dr. Andy Hahn. "There are lots of reasons, but the major reason is called mutual grudges. A grudge is when you feel like your values are violated. And when you feel that way you get like, let's just say, you're willing to do whatever it takes to make the other person miserable even if you're cutting off your own nose to spite your face. If you feel that grudge in your body and choose to become it and go back where it's being catalyzed by your partner, but it won't be about your partner, it will be about something else."
So, he says to figure out what that sensation is and know that it's not your partner's fault.
Dr. Hahn wrote the self-healing guide, "The One-Hour Miracle". He suggests couples do everything they can to understand each other so that it doesn't turn ugly if they split up.
"The best thing you could do is assume you don't understand what's motivating your partner and say, I want to understand what's it like for you and I will make no assumptions and have no expectations about what that is that you're going to know, and you're the expert and my job as your partner is to get to know you intimately from the inside out and say, 'Oh, that's what it was like for you,'" explains Dr. Hahn. "If you could do that with each other, you might go apart, but it won't be out of a place of grudginess, or rage or fear. You might at some point say, 'we just have to go our separate ways,' but there wouldn't be reactivity."
There is help available for families, like the non-profit "Children and Parents United", that Greg Ellis founded. He hopes to play the most important role of his life: sparing others the pain he has endured of his family being torn apart. Greg is also working with legislators in Ohio where they have updated laws to better protect dads from losing their children. He says California and Texas are next on his list.
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