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Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Ch 8. Dads Visitation and Access Rights

In Activism, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Liberty, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers on June 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Living On The Outside Looking In

In today’s society, nearly half of children are being born to single mothers. Combine this with the high rate of divorce and a parent (usually the father) ends up on the outside looking in, wondering what is happening with his children. His access to them is limited and controlled, either by the court, or by the mother. For this reason, access rights need to be defined clearly to avoid later issues arising as to whether a certain day, weekend, or holiday belongs to one parent or the other.

What Needs To Be Known

On the following pages, you will find information on:

  • What Parents Need To Discuss On Access Rights;
  • Sample Visitation Schedule;
  • Sample Long Distance Visitation Schedule;
  • How To Address Denial Of Access;
  • Collecting Evidence Of Denial Of Access For The Courts;
  • GrandParent Access Rights;
  • Child Refusing To Visit;

You will learn that hiring an attorney is not necessarily a first step to address denial of access. Many state or local governments have developed procedures for enforcing visitation orders. In addition, the Federal government has made funding available to states for developing model programs to ensure that children will be able to have the continuing care and emotional support of both parents. Check with your local CSE agency and clerk of court to see what resources are available to you and to find out about laws that address custody and visitation.

Denial of access is a major problem, even with court orders in place.  According to the US Dept. of Health & Human Services study, “Survey of Absent Parents” over 60% of mothers regularly violates the access rights of fathers, cutting off all contact between the children and their fathers within five years. Unlike child support, mothers are not jailed, even with multiple Contempt of Court ruling against them for violating the father’s court ordered visitation rights.  However, Michigan has recently passed a law to limit the driving privileges of a custodial parent violating the access orders.

The best way to address repeated denial of access rights is to have the court order the offending parent to provide the court with a cash or certified bond that is forfeited if the orders are again violated.

Ch 8. Dads Visitation & Access Rights.

Kentucky SC: Biological Dads Have ‘Inherent, Equitable Rights’ « Fathers & Families

In Activism, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 30, 2010 at 6:44 pm

June 28th, 2010 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Given the unusual facts of this case, and recognizing the inherent, equitable rights of biological parents who are deprived of parenting through no fault of their own, the grant of joint custody to Trevor cannot prevent Cahill from going forward with his paternity action.

That’s the Supreme Court of Kentucky writing in this case (Leagle, 6/17/10). Let me repeat the key words: “recognizing the inherent, equitable rights of biological parents who are deprived of parenting through no fault of their own…” Let me be clear; those words have the power to blaze trails into the law governing paternity fraud and adoption where none have gone before. They were written by the highest court in the state.

For twelve years I have studied the many ways in which fathers can be deprived of their rights by family courts and family law. One of the easiest ways is for mothers to keep the truth about paternity secret from dads. Over the years, I have read scores of cases in which a father was deprived of his parental rights through that simple expedient. Not once in all that time has there been a case that recognized the “inherent, equitable rights” of fathers.” Not once in all that time have I read a case that recognized the simple principle that rights cannot be lost without some action on the part of the individual whose rights they are. I’ve said it before: the most heinous mass murder has, literally, greater due process rights than the most upstanding single father.

The simple “Due Process 101” rule is that no one can be deprived by the state of their rights absent notice that the state is trying to do that, and a hearing at which the person can attempt to defend himself. But in the case of fathers’ rights, that most humble of notions is often nowhere to be found. In paternity fraud and adoption cases, fathers are routinely stripped of their parental rights with neither notice nor a hearing.

But in Kentucky, at least, that may have come to an end.

The facts of the case are weird, the holding unremarkable. Follow the bouncing facts. Trevor and Bethany Smith got married in October, 2002 and divorced in December, 2003. Their petition for divorce recited that Bethany was then pregnant by another man. Their divorce was finalized in February, 2004, but they remarried on July 15, 2004. The child was born the next day. They divorced again in September, 2007. Shortly after that, Bethany informed Andrew Cahill that he was the father of the child who had been conceived during her first marriage to Trevor and born during the second.

Strange as those facts are, they give a pretty good indication of how ridiculous presuming paternity on the part of the husband can be in an era of readily available DNA testing. Technically, because the child was born during the term of their second marriage, Trevor was the presumptive father. That would be true despite the fact that (a) both parties had admitted the opposite in their first divorce proceeding and (b) accurate information about paternity was only a couple of mouth swabs away.

And that is what Andrew Cahill wanted – accurate information about paternity. He filed a suit to establish paternity and get custody if the child proved to be his. Trevor and Bethany resisted his claim of paternity and requested the trial court to block his request for testing. All three courts – trial, appeals and Supreme Court – ruled for Cahill.

As I said, apart from the odd facts, this is just an off-the-shelf paternity case, but the Supreme Court took it further than that. Cahill is just the type of dad I’ve been researching for years. He had a brief relationship with a woman who more or less simultaneously had a relationship with another man. In this case, it was her off-again/on-again husband. Cahill never knew the child was his until she told him some time after September, 2007. By that time the child was three years old.

Trust me on this. In the past, the court might have shed a few crocodile tears for the unknowing father, but ultimately would have ruled that bringing a new person into the child’s life would be too disruptive and therefore (altogether now) the best interests of the child required that he/she have nothing to do with the actual dad. No longer. If Cahill proves to be the child’s father, he will have some measure of parental rights to be decided by the trial court.

In vain did people like me point out that bringing a new father into the child’s life is exactly what mothers do when they divorce and remarry. No, the child’s best interests either weren’t so important in those cases or, more likely, courts knew perfectly well that children adapt to those situations well enough. Whatever the case, the upshot was that if Mom wanted to remarry, she could; if Dad wanted a relationship with his child, well it was his tough luck.

And of course the fact that the dad’s absence during the important early life of the child had been brought about, not by him but by her, went entirely overlooked. In short, she controlled his parental rights as surely as if they were hers to begin with.

But in Kentucky, that has changed. Now we have the Supreme Court referring to “inherent” parental rights. That would seem to mean that simply being a biological parent creates parental rights. That is, they don’t come from legislative enactment or even from Constitutional authority. They come from the biological fact of parenthood.

They are “equitable” rights, i.e. not those created by law but by the facts of the situation. So dads in the dark about their paternity can no longer be deprived of those rights (called by the U.S. Supreme Court “far more precious than property rights”) simply by the nefarious actions of the mother. It’s an old rule of equity court that person who seeks equity must do equity and must have “clean hands.” Therefore, a mother who seeks to deny a father his equitable parental rights, must prove that her hands are clean. Lying to him about paternity or withholding the truth about it doesn’t qualify.

The court’s language is dicta, i.e. not a controlling holding. But ever after, attorneys and courts will be quoting those magic words “the inherent, equitable rights of biological parents” that the court said it was “recognizing.”

It’s the thin edge of the wedge.

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Kentucky SC: Biological Dads Have ‘Inherent, Equitable Rights’ « Fathers & Families.

Parental Alienation and Malicious Mom Syndrome get CBS “Flashpoint” Attention

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 27, 2010 at 12:38 am

June 26 2010.

The strident views of the “abusers getting custody” are losing ground in Family Courts across the country.

Just last night, I watched an episode of “Flashpoint” in which a mom kidnaps her children, and the officers in pursuit actually use the terms “Parental Alienation” and “Malicious Mom Syndrome”

http://www.cbs.com/primetime/flashpoint/video/?play=true&pid=K5pqbmaXOY_1X5LdRiqze_eOtopaLd0w

Unfortunately, they drag the dad to the scene in handcuffs.  The mom conspires with the boyfriend to kidnap the kids, and almost gets away with it as she hold the police off with a gun.  And to keep story more confusing, the police drag the dad to the scene in handcuffs.  Why?  Because he punches out mom’s lawyer for conspiring to take the kids.

However with those familiar with the term “protective parent” know that in the 1980 a group of Underground Parents who specialized in kidnapping children for Munchhausen Mommies

This scene still takes place in family courts today, as abusive parents make false allegations in court, and kidnap children.

Abusive Canadian Mom Gets Four Years in Prison

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Brainwashed Children, Child Custody, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 27, 2010 at 12:23 am

June 24th, 2010 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Almost every day, a piece flits across my screen by some blogger or another moaning about “abusers getting custody.”  Now, by “abusers” they mean fathers.  (You see, I’ve cracked their code.)  These are the people who propagate the story that, if fathers succeed in getting some sort of enforceable rights to their children, the kids will be abused.  That’s because, according to these people, only dads abuse children.  Never mind that, there has never been a year in which the Administration for Children and Families has been comparing mothers’ and fathers’ abuse of children, that mothers did less than twice the abuse and neglect that fathers did.  No, for this crowd, it’s only dads who are dangerous to children.  Period.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the same people who peddle this nonsense also drink the “believe the woman” Kool-Aid.  So they’ve got websites that collect stories by mothers who say their ex-husband is an abuser and got custody, and then report those stories as true regardless of the facts.  So several months ago, an op-ed by one of these people appeared in the Christian Science Monitor regaling us with another such story.  The only trouble was that the woman’s charges against the father of the child had been investigated by both the sheriff’s department and the family court and found to be baseless.  Add the fact that for years afterward, the child had been in dad’s care and there had been no abuse.

But as I say, never mind all that; never mind that, in that case as in so many others, there was literally no evidence of abuse beyond the self-interested mom’s say-so.  Those who claim that abusive dads get custody stick to their talking points.

All of which is to lead up to this article (CBC, 6/21/10).  A woman in Quebec has been sentenced to four years in prison for the brutal abuse of her eight children over more than a decade.  She beat the young ones with wet rags, but as they got older, she graduated to hockey sticks.  She held one girl’s head under water because mom thought the girl had stolen her marijuana.  Hey, what’s a mother to do?

Provencial child protective authorities had been coming out to the house for ten years at least when finally one of the kids called the police and had Mommy Dearest arrested.

This is not exactly garden-variety child abuse.  Any parent who hits a kid with a hockey stick has upped the ante on that.  But one must ask where are the “abusers getting custody” forces?  If they’re really concerned about kids, what’s their response to this or any of the countless other cases of custodial mothers abusing their kids?  We’re all waiting with bated breath.

Thanks to Jeremy for the heads-up.

GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive.

Parental Alienation IS a Crime! | momlogic.com

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Parental Alienation IS a Crime!

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Dr. Michelle Golland: A Nassau County Supreme Court justice has sentenced a mother to six weekends in jail for civil contempt. Per the judge, the guilty mom — Lauren Lippe — engaged in a pattern of “alienating” behavior wherein she made false allegations of sexual abuse against her children’s father, Ted Rubin — allegations that were calculated to interfere with her ex-husband’s scheduled time and relationship with their children.

Ted Rubin with her daughters

nypost.com

“The extensive record is replete with instances of attempts to undermine the relationship between the children and their father and replace him with her new husband,” Justice Robert Ross stated in his ruling. “[These instances included] manipulation of the defendant’s parenting access, utter and unfettered vilification of the defendant to the children, false reporting of sexual misconduct without any semblance of ‘good faith,’ and her imposition upon the children to fear her tirades and punishment if they embrace the relationship they want to have with their father.”

“Parental alienation” is the practice of mentally manipulating or bullying your own children with the express goal of damaging their relationship with their other parent. Both parental alienation and its related practice, “hostile aggressive parenting,” deprive children of the stable and loving relationships they need when coping with divorce (and life in general).

Children who are emotionally bullied by one parent in order to hurt the other can develop a severe opposition to contact with and/or overt hatred for the target parent. Often, there seems to be no logical reason for the children’s behavior.

During the crisis of divorce, it is key to keep the peace between the parents so the children don’t feel like they’re in the middle of the conflict. Let’s face it: The couple is divorcing each other, but they should not be divorcing their children. Healthy, reasonable parents want their children to feel emotionally safe with both parents; they desire to strengthen their children’s bonds with both parents even through the divorce. Healthy parents encourage visits with their exes, never talk negatively about them in the presence of their children and honestly try to set aside their own hostile feelings in order to help their children feel less distress. Healthy parents are sensitive to their children’s feelings and needs, and encourage positive feelings toward their exes because they know that’s paramount to their kids’ well-being now and in the future.
Alienating parents, on the other hand, may seek emotional comfort from their children and attempt to validate their pain and anger against their ex-spouses by trying to get their children to align with them and them alone. They speak negatively of their exes and subtly communicate their anger in front of the children. Alienating parents often manipulate and use their children to hurt their exes on purpose — and with a vengeance. They may tell their children that their other parent doesn’t love them or doesn’t want to see them. They may destroy or hide communication from the other parent. They may give in to their children’s desire to avoid the parent, actually encouraging such behavior instead of encouraging their children to have a healthy relationship with their ex.
Signs of Parental Alienation
  • Children perceive one parent as causing financial problems for the other parent.
  • Children have knowledge of the divorce details or legal procedures.
  • Children show a sudden hostile, negative change in attitude toward target parent.
  • Children are not delivered for court-ordered visitation and/or are not allowed to “choose” to visit the target parent.
  • False allegations of abuse are made against the target parent.
  • Children are asked to choose one parent over the other.
  • Anger and negativity toward target parent is reinforced.
  • Children are given the impression that if they have a good time with the target parent during a visit, it will hurt them.
  • Children are asked about the target parent’s personal life.
  • Children are “rescued” from the target parent when there is no danger.

In regards to parental alienation, the judge in the New York decision stated, “… Interference with the non-custodial parent and child’s relationship is an act so inconsistent with the best interests of a child, as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as a custodial parent.”

Judge Ross found Lauren Lippe in civil contempt of court and ordered her to spend every other weekend in the Nassau County Correctional Facility during June, July and August. My hope is that during this time, she receives psychotherapy and education regarding the pain and damage she has inflicted upon her children.
What can we learn from this horrible situation? We can learn that it took years of inappropriate conduct on the part of the mother, $165,000 in attorneys’ fees and an unquantifiable amount of damage to the relationship between her ex and his children before the court would punish this type of behavior. The father is now going to be asking for full custody of his children; however, the psychological damage done to the kids in this case may make it impossible for them to ever bond with their father — which is the biggest tragedy in this case. Only time away from their mother’s influence will make the idea of a healthy relationship with their father possible.
It’s important to recognize the negative emotional consequences of parental alienation on children in high-conflict divorce, and that’s why I advocate for divorce therapy for all of my divorcing clients who have children. My goal is to avoid this type of harmful behavior and educate my clients about ways to create a peaceful and less stressful experience for their mutual children.

Read more: http://www.momlogic.com/2010/06/new_york_dad_and_parental_alienation.php#ixzz0ryOrdZHA

Parental Alienation IS a Crime! | momlogic.com.

Children harmed by sole custody, report says – thestar.com

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 21, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Family court judges are misguidedly harming children by granting sole custody to one parent – usually the mother – in bitter divorce battles, says a comprehensive new report.

Too many children are being “robbed of the love of one parent” by a legal system that is out of touch with the needs of children and treats them like property to be won or lost, says Edward Kruk, an expert on child custody issues.

“The system is set up to polarize parents, to make them enemies, to set up fights over custody and exacerbate conflict rather than reduce it,” says Kruk, an associate professor of social work at the University of British Columbia, whose three-year study is now in the hands of Canada’s justice minister.

He calls what’s happening in Canada’s divorce courts “a national shame” that leaves families bankrupt from legal fees and pushing parents, especially fathers, to suicide.

Especially devastating are the long-term effects of court orders that essentially cut one parent out of children’s lives – usually the dad – in a misguided effort to foster peace between warring parents, the report says.

Citing a host of North American studies, Kruk’s report points to the long-term dangers: Some 85 per cent of youth in prison are fatherless; 71 per cent of high school dropouts grew up without fathers, as did 90 per cent of runaway children. Fatherless youth are also more prone to depression, suicide, delinquency, promiscuity, drug abuse, behavioural problems and teen pregnancy, warns the 84-page report, a compilation of dozens of studies around divorce and custody, including some of his own research over the past 20 years.

“Parent-child bonds are formed through daily routines – preparing breakfast, taking the child to school, having dinner, getting ready for bed. Without that, it’s very difficult for parents to have any real connection with their kids,” Kruk said in a telephone interview from B.C. “It’s so destructive for children to have a loving parent removed from their lives.”

The effects of divorce on kids are now so well documented, significantly more couples separating today are opting for “equal shared parenting” – voluntary custody arrangements in which the children live with each parent roughly half the time, says Kruk. While a landmark federal study, For the Sake of the Children, recommended that approach back in 1998 and it has since been adopted by other countries, including Australia, it’s still rarely used by Canadian judges and needs to be made law, except where there are extenuating circumstances, such as domestic violence or mental health issues that make one parent unfit, says Kruk.

Instead, most judges still rely on a “winner takes all” approach in custody battles. In some three-quarters of cases, judges grant sole custody to mothers, believing that it’s impossible for warring parents to make shared custody work, Kruk’s report finds. That’s despite a growing body of research that shows animosity and even physical violence can increase “significantly” when one parent has sole control, says the report, Child Custody, Access and Parental Responsibility: The Search for a Just and Equitable Standard.

Even court-ordered “joint custody” is really a misnomer, Kruk’s report shows. In fact, the non-custodial parent – usually the father – ends up with just a few days a month (typically every second weekend and every Wednesday) with the children. While research shows even that minimal sharing of time actually forces warring parents to lay down their arms and work together on “parenting plans” that work best for each of them and their kids, says Kruk, it makes it far more difficult for the non-custodial parent to develop a strong bond with their kids.

Research has shown that women and men work comparable amounts of time outside the home and now devote almost the exact amount of time – 11.1 hours a week and 10.5 hours a week respectively – to child care, with men playing a key role in their children’s upbringing, says Kruk. Yet divorce lawyers openly tell fathers not to waste their time and money seeking equal custody, unless they can prove the mother is unfit.

All of which gives one parent a huge psychological advantage over the other, and incentive to fight to the death – in some cases actually alienating the kids from the other spouse – to win what comes to be seen as their “property,” says Kruk.

But there are signs even mothers are at risk, Kruk warns. He’s now studying 14 Vancouver-area women who have lost custody of their kids to their ex-husbands, in some cases because fathers argued that demanding careers kept the women away from home too much. Surprisingly, those women are now teaming up with fathers’ right groups to push for legislation making equal, shared parenting the norm.

“No court order can make people get along,” says Justice Harvey Brownstone who wrote the book Tug of War on divorce in Canada. He has seen cases over the past 14 years in which courts imposed shared parenting, only to have one parent refuse to take the child to his hockey game or administer medication as a way to make their viewpoint known to the ex-spouse.

“Parents who are hell-bent on undermining each other’s relationship with the child will inevitably find a way to create conflict, which most often results in further litigation, which in turn prolongs the child’s exposure to a parental tug of war.”

Children harmed by sole custody, report says – thestar.com.

Divorced fathers raise voices for full measure of parental rights – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on June 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm

By Tom Fontaine
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, June 20, 2010

Divorced dads increasingly are seeking legal and political remedies from a legal system that they feel has been slanted toward mothers, say attorneys and lawmakers.

“It’s a trend and a voice coming through that’s very strong. I think they’re tired of paying out money and not having the same rights when it comes to their children,” said Karen Stewart, author of “Clean Break” and founder of a company that assists divorcing couples.

Maria Cognetti, an attorney in Camp Hill, agrees.

“There is no group out there that is as vocal and in the face of legislators as the fathers’-rights groups. There’s nothing even close on the women’s side.”

Kevin Sheahen, 55, of Bethel Park is former Pittsburgh chapter president of the National Congress for Fathers and Children. He depicts fathers’-rights groups as underdogs in their efforts.

“Very few (fathers) stick around beyond the heat of their own issues. Once their issues are resolved and things calm down, they move on with their own lives,” Sheahen said.

In Pennsylvania, which averages about 30,000 divorces annually, groups such as the NCFC and Fathers-4-Justice have focused on child-custody laws.

In Pennsylvania, the battle has centered on a proposed policy called “presumption of joint custody.”

The proposal would require custody cases to begin with the legal presumption that the parents are entitled to joint custody.

“Unless there is an unfit parent, a parent shouldn’t have to fight to see their own child,” said Jeffrey Dick of West Mifflin, a board member with the Pennsylvania chapter of Fathers-4-Justice.

Cognetti, however, pointed out that “many presumptions often lead to a not-thorough-enough review of a case being done.” She added that a presumption becomes much harder to overcome, “and it almost gives the court a basis not to look at each case individually.”

Downtown attorney Jay A. Blechman, past president of the Allegheny County Bar Association, agrees.

“Custody should always be determined on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Cognetti said the proposed policy, however, wouldn’t help good fathers.

“Whenever I represent a good dad, I want to go in and get primary custody for him. I don’t want to get shared custody. If you have a presumption, it could be hard to overcome, and your good dad is not helped,” said the Camp Hill attorney.

A custody bill by Rep. Kathy Manderino, D-Philadelphia, which unanimously passed the House on Monday, doesn’t include a presumption policy.

Manderino wants the courts to “ensure that both parents are treated equally” by ignoring gender in custody cases.

“Both parents — when fit, willing and able — should share in raising a child, even after separation or divorce. This legislation would make that concept the cornerstone of Pennsylvania’s child-custody law,” Manderino said.

Other measures include requiring judges to give written explanations of custody decisions; requiring parents in contested cases to put proposed parenting plans in writing; allowing for the appointment of a children’s attorney; and identifying factors to be weighed in custody decisions.

Rep. Bob Belfanti, D-Northumberland County, said the bill doesn’t go far enough. But legislation he sponsored — which includes a presumption policy — has failed to generate enough legislative support.

Thomas Tessaro of Franklin Park, a board member with the local National Congress for Fathers and Children chapter, said Manderino’s bill “does nothing to stop fathers from being excluded from the lives of their kids.”

He said federal statistics show Pennsylvania mothers win custody 75 percent of the time. Joint custody is awarded in 10.8 percent of the cases. Fathers win custody in 8.2 percent of the cases.

Two local attorneys said most measures in Manderino’s bill are standard practice in Allegheny County.

“The bill is simply taking what is common law and making it statutory, so it would be simply a continuation of the work being done here,” Blechman said.

Attorney Carol McCarthy agrees.

“Equally shared custody can only work if parents can work cooperatively together. That’s what creates problems for kids — the state of friction between their parents,” she said.

“And the case law is clear — it’s all about the children’s best interests, not about the parents.”

Divorced fathers raise voices for full measure of parental rights – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Nassau County judge jails mother who falsely accused ex of sex abuse and alienated him from kids

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parents rights on June 7, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Nassau County judge jails mother who falsely accused ex of sex abuse and alienated him from kids

June 7, 7:38 AMAlbany CPS and Family Court ExaminerDaniel Weaver

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In a decision that will surely generate controversy and fuel gender wars and the ongoing debate over parental alienation, Nassau County Supreme Court Judge, Robert Ross, has sentenced a woman to six weekends in jail for alienating her children from their father.

The court went into great detail describing the mother’s behavior toward her ex-husband, the defendant in Lauren R. V Ted R. The mother’s behavior reached a crescendo, according to Judge Ross, when she made a false report of sexual abuse against the father to Child Protective Services.

The factual findings concerning the mother’s behavior as stated in the decision by Judge Ross are extensive but worth reading in their entirety as they form a basis for his decision.

Concerning the plaintiff’s (mother’s) behavior, Judge Ross stated:

“Plaintiff intentionally scheduled their child’s (N.’s) birthday party on a Sunday afternoon during defendant’s weekend visitation, and then refused to permit defendant to attend. She demanded that N. be returned home early, in order to “prepare” for her party, but D., the other child, was enjoying the time with her father and wished to remain with him until the party began. Plaintiff castigated N. for “daring” to invite her father to take a picture of her outside her party. According to the plaintiff, “this doesn’t work for me!” Plaintiff threatened to cancel N.’s party, and warned her that her sister, too, would be punished “big time” for wanting to spend time with her father. Plaintiff’s taped temper tantrum, offered into evidence, vividly detailed one instance of how D. and N. have been made to understand that enjoying time with their father will be met with their mother’s wrath and threat of punishment.”

Mother consistently lied about father’s custody rights

“Plaintiff conceded that when she completed N.’s registration card for XXX., she wrote that defendant is “not authorized to take them. I have custody. Please call me.” At trial, she claimed to fear that defendant would retrieve the girls directly from school. However, she later admitted that defendant had never even attempted to pick them up at school. Her testimony at trial sharply contradicted her sworn affidavit dated January 23, 2008, in which she stated that “the defendant consistently attempts to pick up the girls unannounced from their schools and activities, which disrupts not only the girls, but those in charge of the aforementioned.” In her sworn affidavit, plaintiff claimed that she completed the registration card because defendant sought to attend the end of D.’s art class and then had the audacity to drive his daughter home. The art class “incident” occurred well after the registration card was completed by the plaintiff. Moreover, nothing in the parties’ agreement prohibits the defendant from visiting the children at extra-curricular events or from driving them to or from such events. In point of fact, there was no dispute that D.’s Friday art class in Huntington ended as defendant’s alternate weekend visitation commenced.”

“Plaintiff wrote to Dr. L.1 (then the XXX. principal) and Ms. T. (N.’s fifth grade teacher), demanding that they restrict their conversations with the defendant to N.’s academics, as plaintiff is “solely responsible for her academic progress and emotional well being. Notwithstanding the nature of their joint legal custody plaintiff insisted before me that, “I have custody, he has visitation.””

“The plaintiff made/completed an application for admission to XXX on behalf of N. in October, 2007. On the application, she checked the box “Mother has custody,” rather than the box directly below which says “Joint custody.” She identified her new husband, R. L., as N.’s “parent/guardian,” and she failed to mention the defendant. During cross examination, plaintiff insisted that she only omitted reference to the defendant for fear that his financial circumstances would adversely impact N.’s chances for acceptance. However, no financial information was requested anywhere on the application. Moreover, plaintiff acknowledged that none was required until after an applicant was invited to attend.”

“By applying to XXX without defendant’s knowledge – – but with N. completely involved in the process, plaintiff orchestrated the decision to be made, as well as alienating the child. Had the defendant not consented to N.’s attendance at XXX, after the fact, N. would be angry with him for purportedly interfering with the enrollment, even if defendant’s objections to a private school placement were sound. In no event was he consulted as to this educational decision.”

“When asked how she might handle things differently now, plaintiff did not indicate that she would first discuss the possibility of a private school with the defendant, as she is obligated to do pursuant to the Stipulation.”

“In a similar pattern of being advised “after the fact,” defendant testified that there were countless times when plaintiff deliberately scheduled theater tickets, family events and social activities for the girls during his visitation, and he was compelled to consent or risk disappointing the girls. These occurrences continued even during the time span of proceedings before me.”

Mother claims children don’t want to see father

“Plaintiff was forced to concede at trial that the defendant was prevented from enjoying his visitation rights after he returned with the girls from his niece’s Bat Mitzvah until this Court granted defendant’s emergency application to compel the plaintiff to allow the defendant to take D. and N. for the ski trip he had scheduled for his half of the Christmas recess. Plaintiff insisted that it was D. and N. who refused to see their father, because they were angry with the ‘choices” he had made on their behalf, including his objection to N. attending XXX. Defendant was made aware of the children’s position because they parroted their mother’s demands on several occasions. D. even read from a script during the brief dinners he was permitted. As plaintiff wrote in one e-mail when she was describing her role with respect to the children: “I am in charge here, not them. What I [sic] say goes. They may bring their shoes. You are responsible for the rest. End of story.””

“In vivid testimony, the defendant recalled how the plaintiff willfully prevented him from exercising his rights to visitation with the children from November 4, 2007 through December 21, 2007. I observed the plaintiff smirk in the courtroom as defendant emotionally related how he was deprived of spending Hanukkah with his children, and was relegated to lighting a menorah and watching his daughters open their grandparents’ presents in the back of his truck at the base of plaintiff’s driveway on a December evening.”

“The fact that the children were as angry as they were with the defendant in November and December, 2007, demonstrates, in my view, that efforts to alienate the children and their father were seemingly effective. The children demanded that defendant meet “their” demands before they would permit him to visit with them again. They demanded that defendant permit N. to attend F. A., that he withdraw his objection to their participation in therapy with their mother’s therapist, and that he pay for 75% of D.’s Bat Mitzvah but limit his invitations to a handful of guests and have no role in the planning of the event. Plaintiff’s contention that she had no involvement in these children’s “demands” was belied by the very fact that the children had intimate knowledge of their mother’s position on all of these issues. The children, in effect, were evolved into plaintiff’s sub-agents and negotiators, having specific details of the financial demands of the plaintiff, and information as to the marital agreement.”

“The mother alluded to the ambivalence of the children in seeing the defendant. But such abrogation to the children’s wishes, under these circumstances, was in violation of the agreement. It was wholly improper for the mother to adhere to the children’s wishes to forego visitation with their father (see, Matter of Hughes v. Wiegman, 150 AD2d 449).”

“Plaintiff half-heartedly testified that she wants the children to have a relationship with the defendant. Her view of the defendant’s role was a numbing, desired nominality, evident by her actions that were without any semblance of involvement by the defendant – – notwithstanding the clear joint custodial provisions. At critical points in the cross-examination, plaintiff was noticeably off balance – – hesitating and defensive – – with answers that dovetailed to either narcissism, or, a poor grasp of the affects of her conduct. The plaintiff was dispassionate, sullen, and passively resistant to the alienating efforts of the plaintiff. The continued litany of instances of alienating conduct, turned repression of the defendant’s joint custodial arrangement into farce. The endurance in recounting instance upon instance of alienating conduct herein, was as daunting as it was indefensible.”

Mother calls father f—–g asshole & other names in front of children

“Plaintiff relegated the defendant to waiting endlessly at the bottom of her long driveway. When defendant drove up her driveway on October 26, 2007, so that the children would not have to walk down with their heavy bags in a torrential rain, plaintiff ran down the driveway where she had left her car, drove up the driveway and blocked defendant’s vehicle. The children watched as the police listened to their mother angrily demand that their father be arrested and, when the police refused, heard their mother scream that she is a taxpayer and the police work for her. She frequently disparaged the defendant in the presence of the children, calling him a “deadbeat,” “loser,” “scumbag,” and “f——-g asshole.” On one particular occasion, while holding N. and D. in her arms, plaintiff said to the defendant, “We all hope you die from cancer.” Just this past summer, when defendant insisted that D. retrieve her clothes from plaintiff’s home in preparation for their visit to N. on her camp visiting day, plaintiff urged to defendant that “Judge Ross will not be around forever, d___.” Before the beginning of each of defendant’s vacations with the children, the plaintiff staged prolonged and tearful farewells at the base of the driveway, during which plaintiff assured the children that they will return to “their family soon,” and if “things get too bad, they can always tell Daddy to bring them home.””

Mother accuses father of sexual abuse

“The crescendo of the plaintiff’s conduct involved accusations of sexual abuse. Plaintiff falsely accused defendant of sexual misconduct in June, 2008, shortly after defendant moved to Huntington and the children’s friends were enjoying play dates at defendant’s home. Plaintiff testified that D. shared that she was uncomfortable when the defendant tickles her, and conceded that she knew there was nothing “sexual” involved. Undaunted by the lack of any genuine concern for D.’s safety, plaintiff pursued a campaign to report the defendant to Child Protective Services. To facilitate this, she spoke with W. M, the psychologist at the school D. attended. Plaintiff also “encouraged” D. to advise Dr. C. (the chidren’s pediatrician) that defendant inappropriately touched her – – but he saw no signs of abuse. Plaintiff also advised Dr. A., Ms. M., Dr. R. (the children’s prior psychologist) and family friends of the allegations and, ultimately, the Suffolk County Department of Social Services opened a file on June 3, 2008, and began an investigation.”

“According to the Case Narrative contained in the New York State Case Registry, a complaint was made that “On a regular basis, father inappropriately fondles 13 year old D.’s breasts. This makes D. feel very uncomfortable. Last Sunday, Father hit D. on the breast for unknown reason… ” When the caseworker and Suffolk County detectives interviewed D. on June 3, 2008, she reported only that her father tickles her on her neck and under her arms, and she categorically denied her father ever fondled her breasts. She admitted that her father was not attempting to make her uncomfortable, but that he still regards her to be a tomboy. The detectives closed their investigation.”

“Thereafter, and significantly, when the CPS caseworker met with plaintiff on August 19, 2008, plaintiff was quick to state that her ex-husband “did it again.” Plaintiff claimed that the defendant hugged D. too hard. According to the caseworker’s notes, the caseworker repeatedly cautioned the plaintiff not to bring the children into her disputes with the defendant. This warning was contained in CPS records.”

“Although unfounded child abuse reports are required to be sealed (see, Social Services Law §422[5]), such reports may be introduced into evidence,”by the subject of the report where such subject… is a plaintiff or petitioner in a civil action or proceeding alleging the false reporting of child abuse or maltreatment” (Social Services Law §422[5][b][1]). Allegations that defendant had injured the child were found to be baseless and, by making such allegations, plaintiff needlessly subjected the child to an investigation by Child Protective Services, placing her own interests above those of the child. This report was not made in “good faith” – – rather, the investigating agency warned the mother not to re-utilize the allegations and her children in her custodial litigation with the defendant.”

Mother’s behavior not affected by pending contempt proceeding

“The concern of a pending contempt proceeding did not affect the plaintiff’s conduct. For example, knowing that defendant had parenting access with D. on July 3, 2009, plaintiff invited D.’s close friend, C. C., to a country club for a fireworks display and advised D. of this invitation. She then instructed D. to tell her father she was invited to a friend’s party on that date. Another example occurred on June 13, 2009, when plaintiff quietly escorted D. from Alice Tulley Hall during the intermission, ignoring the instructions from the G. Y. Orchestra staff that everyone remain until the conclusion of the entire program. Plaintiff purported she was unaware that defendant attended this special program in Lincoln Center. Defendant, who was in attendance at the concert, was left waiting at the stage door with flowers for D. Plaintiff ignored his text messages questioning where his daughter was. The plaintiff, when confronted with the notion that she may have precipitously ushered her daughter away before her father was able to give her flowers, retorted to the Court that “it was not her responsibility to make plans for T.””

“The evidence before me demonstrates a pattern of willful and calculated violations of the clear and express dictates of the parties’ Stipulation of Settlement, incorporated but not merged into their Judgment of Divorce. The extensive record is replete with instances of attempts to undermine the relationship between the children and their father and replace him with her new husband, manipulation of defendant’s parenting access, utter and unfettered vilification of the defendant to the children, false reporting of sexual misconduct without any semblance of “good faith,” and her imposition upon the children to fear her tirades and punishment if they embrace the relationship they want to have with their father. The unfortunate history here also reflects the plaintiff’s hiring and firing of three different counsel, expressed disdain towards the children’s attorney, and utter disregard for the authority of the Court.”

Judge Ross discusses parental alienation

Aware of the controversy surrounding the subject of parental alienation, Judge Ross spent some time addressing the issue in his decision.

Ross said:

“Differing “alienation” theories promoted by many public advocacy groups, as well as psychological and legal communities, have differing scientific and empirical foundations. However, interference with the non-custodial parent’s relationship with a child has always been considered in the context of a “parent’s ability to encourage the relationship between the non-custodial parent and a child,” a factor to be considered by the Court in custody and visitation/parental access determinations. See, Eschbach v. Eschbach, supra. Our Appellate Courts recognize such factor, as they have determined that the “interference with the non-custodial parent and child’s relationship is an act so inconsistent with the best interests of a child, as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as a custodial parent.” See, Leistner v. Leistner, 137 AD2d 499; Finn v. Finn, 176 AD2d 1132, 1133, quoting Entwistle v. Entwistle, 61 AD2d 380, 384-385, appeal dismissed 44 NY2d 851; Matter of Krebsbach v. Gallagher, 181 AD2d 363, 366; Gago v. Acevedo, 214 AD2d 565; Matter of Turner v. Turner, 260 AD2d 953, 954; Zeiz v. Slater, 57 AD2d 793.”

“Where, as in the instant case, there is a finding of a willful violation of a court order demonstrated by a deliberate interference with a non-custodial parent’s right to visitation/parental access, the IAS Court, as a general rule, must schedule an evidentiary hearing before making any modification of custody. See, Glenn v. Glenn, 262 AD2d 885. See, also, Entwistle v. Entwistle, 61 AD2d 380; Young v. Young, 212 AD2d 114; Matter of LeBlanc v. Morrison, 288 AD2d 768, 770, quoting Matter of Markey v. Bederian, 274 AD2d 816; Matter of David WW v. Lauren QQ, 42 AD3d 685; Goldstein v. Goldstein, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 08995 [Dec. 1, 2009].”

The sentence and justification for the sentence

Judge Ross found Lauren R. in civil contempt of court. She will spend every other weekend in the Nassau County Correctional Facility during June, July and August.

Judge Ross acknowleged that “An imposition of sentence upon a finding of contempt should contain a language permitting the contemnor an opportunity to purge.” However, in this case, a jail sentence was the only option available because it is no longer within the power of the plaintiff (mother) to purge since the violation was of a past court order. Furthermore, remedial intervention through counseling and parental training during the course of the trial was unsuccesful and if re-utilized, the “Court cannot release from imprisonment upon future compliance.”

The matter of approximately $165,000 in attorney fees will be the subject of another hearing.

Read article by Dan Weaver on parental alienation in Saratoga County

Read other articles by Dan Weaver on family court and similar topics in Nassau County

Nassau County judge jails mother who falsely accused ex of sex abuse and alienated him from kids.