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New York Appellate Court Discusses Concept of Parental Alienation

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In this case, the court discusses the question of parental alienation and whether it requires a change in the primary residence of the children.

The parties agreed to custody in 2013. The couple has three daughters. In their agreement, the father was the custodial parent and agreed to a shared visitation schedule with the mother.

During the first month of the agreement, a dispute arose and the father sought a TRO against the mother for a period of one year. The court later issued an order resolving what had become a lengthy series of disputes.

Two years later, the mother entered into litigation asking for full custody stating that the father wasn’t allowing for the children’s growth by restricting their activities.

All the motions were heard, and the court issued a temporary restraining order stating that there was sufficient parental alienation to deem a sufficient change in circumstances that justified a revision to the existing agreement.

The court made a temporary finding that included many incidents where the mother prohibited the children from spending time with their father and bad mouthed him. She also withheld important medical information about the children from the father.

A court expert concluded that both parties were guilty of parental alienation. The court felt that the evidence warranted a modification. The court assigned each parent “zones of interest.” Each parent would be responsible for certain aspects of the children’s lives. The mother, for instance, would have the final say in the children’s medical care, and the father would be in charge of the children’s education.

After signing the temporary order, the judge who had heard this case died. This court reviewed all of the evidence and was reluctant to overturn the decision.

The court went on to discuss the concept of parental alienation. This occurs when a divorce causes aggression between the spouses, which negatively affects the children. The court views sorting through the parent’s issues a daunting task. It seeks to use legal judgment while considering the parent’s and children’s behavior to determine what is ultimately best for the children.

The court doesn’t strip the parents of their right to jointly decide what is best for the children in terms of the residency schedule. Since the temporary order, the one week on and one week off schedule has worked. If the parents decide this arrangement no longer works, they can decide to change it by mutual agreement.

The court feels that the temporary custody and residency plans have worked thus far. The court is loathe to change it at this time. The parents haven’t suggested any specific changes. The request to change the visitation schedule is denied.

NY Slip Op. 51829

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