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Court found evidence of deliberate parental alienation causing harm to children. Pustilnik v. Pustilnik, 73 A.D.3d 824 (2d Dep’t 2010)


Parental alienation is a problem that can have a profound impact on the relationships between children and their parents. It is a situation in which one parent deliberately tries to damage the child’s relationship with the other parent. The alienating parent may make false allegations of abuse, interfere with visitation rights, or try to turn the child against the other parent. Parental alienation can have long-lasting effects on the child’s emotional and psychological well-being, as well as the alienated parent’s relationship with the child. It is a serious issue that requires prompt and effective intervention to minimize its harmful effects. In Pustilnik v. Pustilnik, the court reviewed the standard for proving parental alienation.

Factual Background
In Pustilnik v. Pustilnik, the parties were involved in a contentious divorce and custody battle. The mother was seeking sole custody of the children, and the father was seeking joint custody. The court appointed a forensic evaluator to investigate the situation and make a recommendation regarding custody. The forensic evaluator found that the mother had engaged in a campaign of parental alienation against the father. The evaluator found that the mother had made false allegations of abuse against the father, interfered with the father’s visitation rights, and tried to turn the children against the father.

The court ultimately awarded joint custody to the parties, but with the father having final decision-making authority. The court also ordered the mother to undergo counseling and to cease any efforts to alienate the children from the father. The mother appealed, arguing that the forensic evaluator’s report was flawed and that the court had erred in awarding joint custody.

The Pustilnik case is significant because it establishes the standard for proving parental alienation in New York. The court in Pustilnik adopted a three-part test for determining whether parental alienation has occurred. The test requires the following:

  • Evidence of a parent’s behavior that interferes with the child’s relationship with the other parent;
  • A finding that the parent’s behavior is deliberate, and not a result of a good-faith parenting mistake; and
  • Evidence that the child has been harmed by the parent’s behavior.

In Pustilnik, the forensic evaluator’s report provided ample evidence that the mother had engaged in behavior that interfered with the children’s relationship with the father. The evaluator also found that the mother’s behavior was deliberate and not the result of a good-faith parenting mistake. Finally, the evaluator found that the children had been harmed by the mother’s behavior.

The court in Pustilnik also made clear that parental alienation is a serious problem that can have long-lasting effects on children. The court noted that parental alienation can lead to a breakdown in the relationship between the child and the alienated parent, as well as emotional and psychological harm to the child.

The Pustilnik case is an important one for New York family law attorneys and their clients. It highlights the importance of addressing parental alienation and taking steps to prevent it. It also serves as a reminder to all parties involved in custody battles to act in the best interests of the child and to avoid using the child as a pawn in their disputes.

Note that custody modification in New York is governed by the best interests of the child standard. A parent seeking a custody modification must demonstrate a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s welfare. The court will consider various factors, including the child’s needs and preferences, the parents’ ability to provide for the child, and any history of abuse or neglect. The court’s decision will be based on what it deems to be in the child’s best interests, and it will not modify custody unless it is convinced that such a change is necessary for the child’s well-being.

If you are involved in a divorce or custody battle and suspect that your co-parent is engaging in parental alienation, it is important to contact an experienced New York family law lawyer. An attorney can help you gather evidence of parental alienation and present it to the court. An attorney can also help you take steps to protect your relationship with your child and prevent further alienation.



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