As seasoned Family Law attorneys, we know all too well that emotionally charged divorce proceedings and impending custody battles can easily bring out the worst in parents. As a firm, we encourage our clients to negotiate amicably to avoid not only the financial expense, but also the emotional cost, that results from “battling it out in court”.
This methodology may have well served a Westchester county woman who not only paid a former soap star actress $57,000 to prep her for her ‘role’ as a witness in court. She also delivered her son to a forensic psychologist enough times to accumulate a $40,000 -$50,000 bill, all in an effort to undermine the boy’s relationship with his father, with the goal of achieving full custody.
The New York Law Journal highlighted this case in which the mother, so fixated on undermining the father, was found by the court to be untrustworthy. In fact, she was stripped of custody after the judge found she could not be trusted with parental custody of her five-year-old son. The court decision read, “[W]hen left to her own devices, she misused her decision-making authority to trot a mentally healthy child to numerous psychological appointments clearly aimed to deprive him of a relationships with this father—a result that may have, and if allowed to recur, certainly would rob [the boy] of his remaining childhood.” While the judge wrote that revoking the mother’s right to custody “may appear extreme,” the judge seemed more gravely concerned that left to her own cleverness, she may continue to negatively impact the welfare of the child and attempt to build another meritless case to alter access and custody.
This decision address a disturbing possible new trend in the area of custody litigation; i.e., the use of hired forensic psychologists to bolster a parent’s argument, and the use of trial consultants (in this case, a former television actress) to prepare witnesses for testimony. According to Timothy Tippins, a New York Law Journal columnist and professor at Albany Law School who represented the father, “[T]his is a very important decision. It is very instructive not only for lawyers and judges, but also for forensic psychologists, for therapists who don’t stay within the bounds of therapy and inject themselves in litigation roles and for forensic consultants who are engaged to prepare a litigant for the interviews with the court appointed evaluator.”
*The information contained in this blog is presented as general information and is not to be construed as legal advice to apply to any person or particular situation. Please keep in mind that the law is constantly changing and therefore you should always consult an attorney for legal advice based on the individual circumstances of your situation.