Friday, June 11, 2010

Enforcing contact, New York style

Daniel Clement at the New York Divorce Report details a novel way that a judge dealt with a mother who repeatedly violated the terms of a contact order in favour of the father. Having found "instance after instance of the mothers deliberate and wilful attempts to alienate the children from the father, including false reports of child abuse, bad-mouthing the father in the presence of the children, and deliberately scheduling theater tickets, family events and social activities for the girls during the father’s visitation", the judge obviously felt that serious action was needed. He therefore made an order requiring the mother to report to prison every other weekend, coinciding with the father's scheduled contact and thereby both punishing her for breaching court orders and ensuring that the contact went ahead.

It's a clever and (to my knowledge) unique idea, but is it the best solution? Imprisoning the 'custodial' parent is always an option for a court when dealing with the flagrant disregard of a contact order, albeit an option of last resort, but one of the problems with it is: who will look after the children whilst that parent is in prison, where the non-custodial parent is not in a position to do so? The order made in this case does gets around that problem but, as Daniel says, it is still hardly likely to endear the father to his daughters, who will clearly blame him for their mother's imprisonment. As usual in such situations, there are no winners, only losers.

It is not clear from the report whether anything of this nature has already been tried, but surely the best option is to attempt to educate the mother, along the lines of our own contact activity directions? Of course, if that has already been tried and failed, then the court may have to do something more drastic. As Daniel also says, transfer of custody is another possibility, but the judge may not have considered it suitable here, in view of the mother having destroyed the children's relationship with the father. In which case prison may, after all, have been the only option.

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UPDATE: Much more detail about this case can be found here. As will be seen, "remedial intervention through counselling and parental training during the course of the trial was unsuccessful".

1 comment:

  1. Well, it seems noone else is prepared to stick up for fathers' seeing their children so I will.

    The Judge's approch is a good one, you only need to do it once or twice as an encouragement to others to stick to the orders also. Professionals do tend to over-complicate matters with wooly statements which mean nothing (about childrens' welfare being paramount).

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