EXPERIENCE MATTERS WHEN IT COMES TO TACKLING TOUGH CASES!

Recurring Wrongful Conduct: Holiday Violations of Visitation Access

The holidays can be very frustrating times for both spouses when undergoing divorce proceedings that involve custody issues with children and one spouse acts in bad faith or arbitrarily.  If a spouse violates a temporary custody order, he or she may not face consequences at the time but must explain their actions to a district judge in the future.

If a temporary custody order describes in detail the periods of possession during the Christmas holiday, the order is binding on both spouses. The temporary custody order is binding civilly and NOT criminally per se. This is an important distinction to understand before you decide to call the police. Family law matters, with notable exceptions such as domestic violence and protective orders, are generally governed in civil and not criminal courts.  Because temporary custody orders involving children are governed by civil courts, a police officer has no immediate basis to enforce the civil order.

If your spouse refuses to release your child to you at the prescribed time mandated in the temporary custody order, there are certain things that you should do to insure this wrongful conduct properly is documented for future civil contempt proceedings.

  1. Call the police!!! Many police departments will not respond because temporary custody orders are not criminally enforceable, but if the police department decides to respond then you may request a police report to be filed noting that your spouse deliberately violated the temporary custody order. This may be used in Court to persuade the judge to hold your spouse in civil contempt or validate your properly made demand for access in accordance with your temporary order.
  2. Save and preserve any text messages, emails, letters, or recorded phone calls that demonstrate and reaffirm your spouse’s refusal to deliver your children into your custody during the holiday or other allotted time in your visitation order.
  3. Call your attorney and notify him of your spouse’s refusal to deliver the children to you.
  4. Do not be tricked or cohered into a physical confrontation with your soon to be ex-spouse!!!

By completing these four tasks you will be gathering and preserving evidence to hold your spouse in civil contempt of Court. After the Christmas Holiday season or other access periods are over, your lawyer with your consent will file a motion to hold your spouse in contempt of Court for violation of the temporary custody order. If your spouse is found in civil contempt of Court, he or she may be fined, ordered to jail for up to 180 days until the fine and attorney fees are paid, and the violation may be a solid basis to favourably modify the previous temporary custody orders. Such rulings are at the judge’s discretion.

Though you may feel helpless at the time, justice may be achieved through the District Courts in the form of civil or contempt sanctions. Judges usually look down on a spouse that blatantly violates temporary custody orders especially during Christmas or other special holidays.  Just relax and be patience if your spouse refuses to deliver the children to you and document the conduct.  Justice may take time but in the end, it is usually affirmed.

Julian Nacol
The Nacol Law Firm P.C.
8144 Walnut Hill Lane
Suite 1190
Dallas, Texas 75231
(972) 690-3333

Are You An Alienated Parent With A Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Family Experience? What Can You Do?

There is nothing worse than a family torn apart by parents who are battling over child custody.  Many of these cases are in serious litigation and often, these disputes will continue for years.

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?   In the 1980’s, forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Richard A. Gardner noticed a large increase in a disorder where one parent will program or brainwash a child to alienate the other parent.  He also found the child was self-creating contributions supporting the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent.

Dr. Gardner’s definition of PAS: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.  Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification.  It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilifications of the target parents. (Gardner, the Parental Alienation Syndrome)

There is no pure PAS diagnosis if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent even though the other parent is trying to alienate the child.

Courts are generally more conservative in their judgment acknowledging PAS in high conflict cases.  Even though Parental Alienation evidence may be overwhelming, often courts will enter judgments allowing the “parents to make joint decisions about the child’s welfare.”  This will not ever happen between two alienated parents! In many situations it will take a dramatic or tragic situation to force the court to change primary custody. When the alienating parent becomes unstable mentally, the court will recognize that there is something “out of line” and will become more supportive of the targeted parent.

What are the Best ways for the Alienated Parent to Deal with the PAS issue?

  1. Keep your “cool”. Never retaliate. Never act in anger since anger=unstable.

  2. Never give up! You cannot let your child grow up in this environment of hate. The child is the victim of a situation that he/she never asked to be in.

  3. Be “Proactive”! It is a terrible situation for the entire family, but work on seeking constructive action to solve the problem. Do not allow yourself to become a victim!

  4. Always keep a journal of dates and times of major key events. Explain when the situation occurred and what happened specifically. Any Witnesses?

  5. Always call and show to pick up the child even when you know he/she will not be there. Try to contact the police to have a record of the no-show event or take a witness to video the denial of possession. You do have an interest in your child, no matter what the alienating parent says.

  6. When you do see the child, focus on enjoying your parent-child time together. Never talk badly about the other parent and do not let children overhear inappropriate conversation on the telephone.

  7. Hire a skilled family lawyer who has experience in parental alienation syndrome issues.  Do your homework on PAS and interview the lawyer on his experience and what your issues are. If you are not satisfied look again.  This is your life and you are trying to save your child.

  8. Be prepared to financially see this case to the end.  Most of these case last for years. You cannot start and stop.

  9. A forensic evaluator in PAS cases is usually an asset in showing that there is truly alienation occurring and recommend changing legal and primary custody to the alienated parent. An appropriate parenting plan included showing how well the child will be taken care of with the alienated parent, is advised.

  10. Always pay your child support on time and never violate court orders. Never give the alienating parent reason to question your behavior.

  11. Last but not least, to show that your parenting skills are superior, take a comprehensive parenting course to be able to show the court that you strive to be the best parent you can to the child, no matter what the alienating parent says.

Concerns About Special Needs Children in a Texas Divorce

Parents of a special needs child face many challenges while raising and nurturing their child.  Many marriages falter and end in divorce due to the stressful demands required of parents with a special needs child. The stressors and emotional pressure that exists prior to the initiation of a divorce frequently accelerates during the divorce process. A special needs child is seriously affected by their parental decisions made during a divorce.

A divorce does not bring out the best in any couple. In the case of a special needs child, thoughtful and prudent care of the child should always be the main objective of both parents so the child knows that he/she is loved by both parents and is not at risk.  A special needs child will experience serious emotional and behavioral problems during this time becoming more vulnerable and not knowing what is happening in life.  The child is often afraid that he/she is losing Mom and Dad due to false and misplaced self-imposed guilt.

Many parents have already struggled with questions surrounding their child’s special needs such as correct diagnoses or the validly of treatments for their child’s conditions.  During serious custody battles, such concerns become the focus of intense parental conflicts.

Some of the more serious concerns are:

  • A child’s reactions to overly permissive or excessively rigid parenting

  • Use and dosage of prescribed medicines for a diagnosed problem

  • Proper diagnosis being made by a competent professional

  • Whether a professional label and diagnosis will be noted in school records

  • Whether a child be placed in special education classes for leaning or emotional disabilities. Whether one parent is so occupied with the special need child that the parent has lost perspective on how to best manage the child

Often one parent accepts a child’s diagnosis given by the specialist and actively advocates for the child, while the other parent may remain in denial of the child’s obvious needs. Which parent is actually and consistently working in the child’s best interests?

Special efforts are needed when setting up possession schedules for your special needs child. Both parents must understand the nature of the child’s physical/emotional problems and the level that the child can function.  When the child spends time in each parent’s home, both parents must reasonably work together and agree on a parenting approach that addresses the child’s needs.

When parents cannot agree upon the child’s actual needs and course of care, the court may appoint a specialist to conduct a complete evaluation of the child.  From this evaluation the specialist will offer specific opinions to the parents and court regarding the nature of the child’s special needs and specifically address these needs.

In a divorce involving a special needs child many joint decisions are critical to and impact a child’s self-esteem.  Other family issues and problems may need to temporally be put aside between the parents to assure a special needs child will fully receive the attention needed.  We suggest that in the divorce decree a parenting plan be included setting out specific provisions for the care of the child.

Some suggested items to include in this Plan would be:

  • Can the child be cared for in the home or an outside facility and how would these costs be covered?

  • Medical, educational, and therapeutic interventions and decision making authority

  • Treatments not covered by insurance. Who is responsible as to the authority and cost?

  • Working with the child’s school to implement plans for the educational needs of the child.

  • Care decisions on parents’ ability to work outside the home with a special needs child

  • Handling of Lifetime care and support and the cost necessary for the special needs child