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As has been the trend, a court has held that despite what may be the superior parenting skills of one parent, that parent may be denied custody if that parent does not promote the relationship of the children with the other parent.

In an April 26, 2012 decision, the Third Department in Jeannemarie O. v. Richard P. affirmed the order of Ulster County Supreme Court Justice Henry Zwack which, after a hearing in a divorce action, awarded the father temporary custody of the children.

When the parties were together, the mother had taken the more proactive role in raising the children. She had been the primary caretaker before the parties’ separation. The mother was more aware of the children’s needs. Contrasting, the father had exhibited occasional poor judgment in such serious matters as maintaining unsecured guns in the home.

Nevertheless, the mother’s positive attributes were outweighed by her cumulative efforts to interfere with the father’s relationship with the children. The mother had acted to prevent the father from having a meaningful role in the children’s lives and demonstrated a willingness to deceive in order to achieve her goal of parenting without the father’s involvement. The court noted:

Evidence that the custodial parent intentionally interfered with the noncustodial parent’s relationship with the child is so inconsistent with the best interests of the child as to, per se, raise a strong probability that the offending party is unfit to act as custodial parent.

The mother had placed her own self-interest ahead of that of the children. She lacked insight into the importance of the children’s relationship with father. Among other things:

  • the mother unilaterally moved the children several hours away from the father;
  • sought multiple orders of protection against the father—all of which were ultimately dismissed;
  • canceled agreed-upon visitation arrangements; and
  • made unsubstantiated allegations against the father as to, among other things, substance abuse and violence.

With regard to the mother’s most serious claim against the father — that he sexually abused one of the children — the lower court had that the child’s statements had likely resulted from the methods the child’s counselor used to elicit them or from manipulation by the mother. The mother had engaged in “inappropriate coaching of the children” to support her goal of alienating them from the father.

The mother placed her own self-interest ahead of that of the children. She lacked insight into the importance of the children’s relationship with the father and the detrimental impact of her actions upon them. On the other hand, the father showed greater willingness to foster a relationship between the children and the mother and to improve his own parenting skills.

The father was reprsented by Kyle W. Barnett of Van DeWater & Van DeWater of Poughkeepsie. The mother was reprsented by Stanley Alter of Alter & Alter, L.L.P., of New York City. The children were reprsented by Reka Nori of Kingston.

  • Adrienne Cashdollar

    Just wanted to say that this happens to mothers as well. I am a divorced non custodial mother of two teenage girls, ages 17 and 15. My eldest daughter has not spoken to me since October 2011. On my birthday of all days. She was told by her father (the custodial parent) that I am not the caring parent she thinks I am, and the TWO events I had missed at her school was proof. Thankfully my youngest daughter is not that gullible and refused to believe them.
    Many of the points brought out in this hearing are similiar to mine. For instance:
    1. Constant attempts to coerce the girls into telling lies about me and my new husband so as to have my parental rights and visitation terminated.
    2. Constantly interfering with spring and winter break and vacations.
    3. Telling my daughters that time with me is unnecessary because I dont “entertain” them in the manner to which HE as them accustomed. I pay child support that I cannot afford and there is not much left to “entertain” them with.
    4. Has filed no less than SEVEN petitions filled with lies and frivilous accusations of neglect and abuse to try and have me removed as the girls’ mother. All of them have been thrown out of court.
    5. His constant lies are what ultimately made my daughter no longer speak to me. He had told them both that the last time we were in court the judge told ME that if “I” filed one more meaningless petition he would take my children away from me and I would see jail time! The truth is, I have NEVER filed a petition in family court to start trouble. I had one filed one in answer to one of his. And the judge actually told HIM to stop with the petitions, not me!

  • childrensuffer

    It is interesting when the truth is voided and key details are dismissed and not included.
    When from the onset the mother never had a chance of being believed since she was not from “their neck of woods” The father’s means, influence and social standing had everything to do it with it. Prior to her ever leaving his words rang true – “If you ever leave me, I will take the children from you, with an evil grin.” And when the mother asked why? Why would you say or do this? “I can, I will and out of spite, I hate you that much.” Truth is not warranted, it is all about what you can or can’t prove, manipulate the system….who has the $$ and influence… You can read as many court words,documents, etc but they mean nothing if the real truth is not in them..

  • G Trieste

    I am a father in Ulster County family court, in a custody trial.
    The trial started in July 2013, and will be ongoing until Nov 2015.
    All during this time I have been denied all contact with my daughter.
    The judge has issued a restraining order prohibiting all contact, but refuses to give any reason.
    I have never been found unfit or abusive or neglectful.
    Explain to me why, although I raised my daughter from birth, only at the onset of a custody trial I am suddenly denied all contact with my child.
    And there is no remedy, as there are no appeals or other review until the case is over, by then my daughter will have have seen her father for three years by court edict. Then the judge will say, because I have not seen her for that time it would be in the best interests for her to stay with her mother. The court creates the situation that justifies the end result.

  • G Trieste

    I am a father in Ulster County family court, in a custody trial.
    The trial started in July 2013, and will be ongoing until Nov 2015.
    All during this time I have been denied all contact with my daughter.
    The judge has issued a restraining order prohibiting all contact, but refuses to give any reason.
    I have never been found unfit or abusive or neglectful.
    Explain to me why, although I raised my daughter from birth, only at the onset of a custody trial I am suddenly denied all contact with my child.
    And there is no remedy, as there are no appeals or other review until the case is over, by then my daughter will have have seen her father for three years by court edict. Then the judge will say, because I have not seen her for that time it would be in the best interests for her to stay with her mother. The court creates the situation that justifies the end result.