Mark Ashton, a partner in our Exton (Chester County), Pennsylvania office and former editor of our Pennsylvania Family Law Blog wrote an interesting post entitled “Listening to Your Kids During Traumatic Times” .

In this post, Mark, from a child’s perspective, lists 15 things that parents going through this process should consider, as follows:

During the early stages of my legal career, I had the opportunity to work on a tragic case, Khan v. Rajput, which resulted in the unpublished appellate decision,

The case centered around my efforts to facilitate the return of two young children to their father, Mr. Khan, after their mother removed them from New Jersey to Pakistan, without his consent. Ms. Rajput, then a medical student in the US, escorted the children back to her homeland to live with her family. After several months, she returned to the US without the children in order to complete her schooling. Upon arrival, she was arrested at the airport but patently refused to return the children to their father. She was subsequently released from custody, and we instituted trial court proceedings to ensure the children’s swift return. However, Pakistan’s unwillingness to be a party to Hague Convention meant that unless the case became a national story that it would be an uphill battle to compel their return.


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Your spouse cheated.  Or perhaps he or she walked out, ruining the life you had worked so hard to have for your family.  Now the whole Earth is tilted on its axis and the future holds uncertainty, a lifestyle far different from that which you have had for years, and being yet another "broken family." 

Back in 2009, we blogged about the possible inclusion of Parental Alienation Syndrome in the long awaited next version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

In that post, I discussed a US News and World Report article that addressed a movement afoot to add "parental alienation" to the next addition of the DSM (ie.

As a matrimonial lawyer, I often get the question "how old does a child have to be to decide who they get to live with?"  There is a perception out there that there is a magic age where a child is empowered to decide which parent they get to live with.  This simply is not the case. 

Rather, a child’s preference is only one factor a court must consider when deciding custody.  Why is the child’s preference not absolutely determinative?  Because it is not always reliable and may not be in their best interests.  Maybe the child is too young or too immature for their preference to be relied upon alone.  Maybe one parent is improperly influencing or pressuring a child to express a preference that is not their true preference.  Maybe the child feels bad for and/or feels the need to take care of the parent because of some physical or mental infirmity of the parent or a feeling that the parent is the victim of the other parent.  Perhaps the child has been promised something by the other parent or is trying to play one parent against the other.  Perhaps the child (maybe a teen) feels that the other parent will give them more freedom. 

This issue becomes even more difficult after an initial custody determination is made or agreed to and then a child expresses a preference to live with the other parent.  That was the issue in the unreported (non-precedential) decision in the case of Traynor n/k/a Dallara v. Traynor decided on March 29, 2011.  In this case, the father appealed the denial of his motion to change the custody of his 11 year old daughter who allegedly decided that she wanted to live with him.


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Last week, the news reported the decision in the custody case involving Miami Heat guard, Dwyane Wade’s, children, after one of the longest custody trials ever in Cook County.  Apparently, a large part of Mr. Wade’s decision to seek sole custody of his children was allegations regarding his wife’s alienating behavior.  In the decision issued