In Part 1 of the High Conflict Custody Case Study: Peter Pan, pertinent details were shared in an effort to have you, the reader, consider how you would rule on the child custody matter. We understand the information provided is very limited. It is for informational and educational purposes only.
The conclusion of this child custody case:
The judge determined that she had inadequate information to make a ruling, but that since neither parent was alleging that the children were in any immediate danger, she ordered shared parenting, and since both parents lived in the same school zone, she ordered week-on/week-off 50/50 shared child custody.
At this point, the Mom more-or-less blew a gasket, asserting that she believed that the Dad was so neglectful that the children were indeed in danger in his custody.
So, the judge ordered a full-on psychiatric evaluation of both parents, awarding temporary child custody to Mom, but with the same parenting time split. Dad was ordered to pay temporary child support. The cost of the psychiatric evaluations was to be borne equally by both parties. The case was retained on the active docket, pending the outcome of the report.
During the 4-month period (two months to the psychiatric evaluation report followed by two more to come up on the child custody docket), the Father faithfully paid child support. Homework sheets, report cards, and permission slips were signed by the Father. He included two teachers and a sports coach as collateral contacts for the psychologist, all three of whom had positive reports. Forensic evaluation revealed a positive loving relationship between him and his parents. During an observation visit with the boys, they seemed relaxed, cheerful, and confident around him, including joking freely. He stated, and the boys confirmed, that he had carried them to every required activity that happened during his parenting time.
Mom likewise signed homework slips (sometimes directly on top of the Dad’s signature) and other school documents. She listed her sister as a collateral contact, who evidently reported nothing more than her unfounded suspicions that the Dad was likely having an affair. Mom faithfully transported the boys to their respective activities; she also signed one up for additional private music coaching in addition to his group lessons — and sent Dad the bills. She also signed one up for a competition soccer league, as his intramural season was ending. Again, Dad got the bill.
Forensic evaluation revealed that Mom was a high-functioning BPD (borderline personality disorder). She expressed extreme rage at the Dad, as well as abject fear that her sons would abandon her “also.” She engaged in splitting behavior: showing inappropriately strong affection whenever one of the boys did something that pleased her, turning cold as ice when they did not. Mom also reported having a terrible relationship with her own overbearing mother and absentee father, both of whom were now deceased.
Upon receipt of the psychiatric evaluation, the judge awarded primary child custody to the Father, with every-other-weekend to the Mother. She also ordered anger-management and parenting classes for the Mom. She also ordered a disparate split (80:20) of the marital assets in favor of the Mom, in lieu of an alimony award; due to the Mom’s assertion that she could not obtain adequate employment to take care of the boys “and be able to compete with the lifestyle” they would receive at their Father’s.
The Mom has since brought the case back to court no fewer than four times, on motions of contempt, denial of parental access, and parental alienation. She has not won yet.
Of interest: Most people see the details in Part 1 and see two parents lobbing the usual types of complaints towards the other. It was seemingly a “normal” child custody situation. The judge would have made her ruling and moved on. The turning point came very simply – when the mother escalated her claims to the father being a danger to the children. While this development caused the judge to reconsider her ruling and take further steps to get to the bottom of the situation – that decision was certainly not guaranteed. Had the judge not taken the time to notice the sudden discrepancy and act upon it – the outcome for the children most certainly would have been far worse. Sadly, the latter happens far more frequently than the former.