Case studies-Follow up.

Previously on April 11, 2012, we blogged about several difficult cases involving parental discipline which resulted in unjust results and charges of child abuse. These cases, like most of our cases, tend to rectify themselves over time (or to be perfectly accurate, we tend to rectify them). In this entry, we will provide updates on these troubling cases:

  • We described a 15-year-old who was removed from his father for purported extreme discipline issues. We represent the father. That child is back with the father, and sees his mother sporadically.
  • In the case of the two girls where the parents shared 50/50 custody, that situation has also improved. As in the above case, we are representing the father here. The daughters were removed from the mother’s care for excessive discipline. Their father retains primary custody, but the mother has regular visitation.
  • In the case involving the pre-teen sending inappropriate texts and photos: the father slapped her in frustration over the misbehavior and over lost custody as a result when the daughter reported his allegedly abusive behavior. The father retained custody in this case, but the mother continues to seek additional visitation. We represent the father here as well.

As one may ascertain from the above examples, our success rate concerning father’s rights is fairly impressive.

All of these cases have certain commonalities. In all instances, the parents have worked together with a counselor on the children’s behalf to improve the children’s relationship with both parents as well as addressing complaints of abuse. The counselors, in turn, invite both parents to participate. When the counselors do not involve both parents, the situation becomes one-sided; akin to a marriage counselor who works with only spouse and somehow expects the marriage situation to improve. More often in these situations, one side becomes utterly polarized against the other, which becomes the same expectation when a counselor meets with only one parent and the affected child (or children).

The fourth case we outlines in the April blog entry involved a father accused of abusing his five children. That case has not been rectified and, if anything, has worsened. At the time of the April entry, that father had not seen his children for over four months. As of this month, he has now not seen them in nearly seven months. In the past, Sandia Family Law has represented parents who reportedly used drugs, or who have been accused of flagrantly abusing or neglecting their children, as well as others who have pending criminal charges or existing records and have still managed to obtain equitable visitation and custodial arrangements. The father we are describing has been accused of nothing more than spanking his children.

How is it possible that merely spanking one’s children can lead to, for all intents and purposes, a complete obliteration of one’s parental rights? In this case, it seems to be a perfect storm of bad luck, bad clinicians, bad counselors and bad court decisions.

First, the children were seemingly encouraged by other parties to call consider spanking as outright abuse. The spankings in this case were neither frequent, nor were they more excessive than was first reported. However, the disclosing child seemed to get an inordinate amount of attention when he started referring to these instances as “abuse”. The counselors started meeting with him more often. The reporting child then began getting an inordinate amount of attention from the mother. Two more of children seemed to be able to pit the parents against each other even more than they already were. The two children who reported that the father was abusive began to garner the support of other individuals. Before long, the story had grown to mountainous proportions.

It is possible the father was in fact abusive? Is he lying or minimizing his culpability? While anything is possible, there are more than sufficient facts to support the father’s version of events. First, the children had given no previous indications of anything untoward in the father’s home. They were all seen as personable children who got good grades, had friendly relationships and seemingly enjoyed their time in their father’s home. Alternately, police reports document instances of violence in the mother’s home, as well as her inability to control the children, her history of drug abuse and purported lies to police. Most individuals involved in the case believe the father.

However, those whose opinions matter most to the court, i.e. – the children’s counselors, believe and uphold the children’s revisionism indicating that their father was the abusive parent. The counselors have sided with the mother as well, and refuse to involve the father in any counseling and refuse to even consider his version of events. The counselors have effectively allowed the children to run this circus and have further provided them with a forum consisting of full attention and unfettered popularity for their position, and practically nothing in the way of meaningful scrutiny.

While there are many other factors at work in this case, it is hard to ignore the difference in outcomes between the “abuse” cases where both parents are actively involved in the counseling process and this particular case, where one parent is inexplicably prohibited from engaging therein. I hesitate to think of the potentially different and more amicable results that could have been had here had these counselors engaged the father from the beginning.

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