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Parental Misconduct Can Be Basis for Change of Child Custody

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Oct 18, 2006 | 0 Comments

Does this sound familiar?  Parents divorce and are granted joint custody of their child, with the mother having primary physical custody and the father having liberal visitation.  This arrangement works fairly well for a year or so, but then problems develop.

The "problems" that arose include:

  • Mother prevents father's new wife from picking up children from day care by not adding her name on the approved list;
  • Mother plans to change child's last name, by including her maiden name and hypenating it with the father's (child's) last name;
  • Mother refuses to allow child to continue seeing a therapist she had been seeing for six months;
  • Mother interrupted the child's holiday visitation with the father; and
  • Mother calls father's new wife a "dirty wh—" in front of the child.

I can tell you from my own practice that these types of parental misconduct occur far too often.  In fact, I either have (or have had within the past three months) custody cases involving every one of these allegations.  It seems as though the parent gets so caught up in his/her own negative feelings toward the ex-spouse that they simply forget about the child's interest or welfare.  How can any parent defend calling the child's step-parent a dirty whore?

When presented with the facts set forth above, the Missouri Court of Appeals found that the mother's actions "constituted an ‘adverse circumstance' that was “adverse to [the child's] best interest'” and that "the best interest of the child warranted a transfer in custody from [the mother] to [the father], with [the mother] having specified visitation."

Kudos to the Courts in Missouri for recoginzing the seriousness of these types of problems and for actually doing something about it.  Far too often, Courts will give parents a "slap on the wrist" in such situations, believing that will discourage such future conduct.  However, the opposite is often true, and parents become emboldened when they see that they can get away (for the most part) with such conduct. 

You can read the Missouri Court of Appeals' full decision in Giannaris v. Giannaris by clickingHERE.


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J. Benjamin Stevens

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