In today’s New York Post there was an article about a Long Island woman getting jail time for her repeated interference with her ex-husband’s time with the parties’ children.
The article describes how the woman tried to keep the father and his daughters apart for weeks at a time and that she even falsely alleged that he groped one of his daughters. The story goes on to say how the mother went on expletive filled tirades about the father in front of the children. Further, she often scheduled last minute trips and events meant to frustrate parenting time. The father was forced to either consent to not disappoint the girls and when he did not, she would berate him. The judges stated that she. "… is a vengeful roadblock, the barbed wire standing in the way of her two daughters and their desperate dad."
All of the above acts are very typical acts of parental alienation. In the past we have blogged about programs dealing with parental alienation and the fact that there is some consideration to adding parental alienation as a diagnosis to the next DSM. Parental alienation syndrome is a very polarizing term because the person who coined the phrase, Dr. Richard Gardner, was self-published and the scientific bases to his conclusions were questioned. His proposed remedies to alienation were also severe and there were a few notorious cases where his recommendations were followed by tragic results. On the other hand, there is more and more research about parental alienation and its insidious effects. The alleged conduct of the mother above contains some classic alienating behavior.
But what is the remedy. We have recently blogged that the NJ Appellate Division rejected tort damages for emotional distress as a remedy. in most cases. There are criminal statutes to prevent interference with custody orders but, anecdotally, they rarely seem to be used. Similarly, there are court rules allowing for sanctions for interference with parenting time. However, all too often, this becomes a he said/she said situation and court’s rarely hold hearings to get to the bottom of this much less impose sanctions. In fact, often this kind of conduct results in the appointment of a parent coordinator, often adding another level of costs even though the Appellate Division, the the recent reported case Parish v. Parish (which was my case) has made clear that parent coordinators should not be dealing with enforcement issues.
While jail is a drastic remedy and probably not appropriate in all cases, it is refreshing to see that a judge got tough with repeated custodial interference. Perhaps this will serve as a deterrent to others, but probably not because many people who do this feel justified and/or believe that they are protecting their children. We can only hope.