Therapeutic Visitation

Frustrated Father trying to appease daughter

The parties, who were never married, have two children together, the younger of whom is now 17 years old. The parents have been litigating custody and visitation issues for almost the entire lives of their children.

In its December 28, 2016 decision in Matter of Sullivan v. Plotnick, the Appellate Division, Second Department, addressed a family’s relationships, concluding (?) more than a decade of litigation. By consent orders in 2004 and 2005, the mother had physical custody of the children. In 2007, the mother petitioned to modify the earlier-agreed visitation schedule. Without a hearing., the Family Court granted the father’s motion to dismiss the mother’s petition. On a prior appeal, the Second Department reversed that order and remitted the matter for a hearing. In 2010, the father filed a petition to modify the custody and visitation orders so as to award him sole custody of the children, alleging that the mother interfered with his parenting time.

In July 2010, while these proceedings were pending, the children’s paternal uncle contacted the children and revealed that the father had been previously married, and that they had two older siblings. The children were upset that the father had withheld this information and refused to visit or communicate with the father.

In an attempt to rehabilitate the relationship between the father and the children, in 2010 the Family Court directed therapeutic visitation. The father subsequently filed two motions alleging that the mother had violated that direction. He also filed petitions to vacate a 2007 support order, and sought sole physical and legal custody on the basis of the mother’s alienation. After a hearing, by order dated September 6, 2011, the Family Court found that the mother willfully violated the orders directing therapeutic visitation.


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Diary girl 2.jpgA father’s efforts to push his daughter into keeping a journal disparaging her mother and to be videotaped complaining about her mother caused his visitation to be both supervised and limited. The father’s stated intention to enhance his case that the mother was abusive to her daughter, which both the appointed forensic evaluator and the Court found was not the case, was not justification for the father’s poor judgment.

In her June 14, 2012 decision in Matter of A.H. v C.B., Queens County Family Court Judge Edwina G. Richardson-Mendelson, not only rejected a father’s efforts to expand his visitation, but further limited them.

The father alleged the mother’s abusive behavior towards their daughter constituted the change in circumstances necessary to alter existing arrangements. The father also sought to resume the liberal visitation that he had been informally allowed by the mother following the parties’ divorce. The parties’ 2003 divorce decree granted custody to the mother, but did not deal with visitation issues. As a result, a 2002 Family Court order providing for supervised visitation had remained in effect, although often not followed.

The father claimed that the daughter told him that the mother would call her “a jackass” and “stupid” and that in conversations with the daughter, the mother would disparage the father and his family. The father testified that he began to be concerned that the mother was mistreating his daughter through “verbal abuse” and by putting extreme pressure on the daughter to do well in school. He alleged that the mother slapped the daughter and abused her mentally and emotionally.

In 2009, the father gave his daughter a journal and encouraged her to write in it about her negative experiences with her mother. He also videotaped his daughter talking about her mother in a negative way.


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