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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Children detained in legal dispute released on conditions

Family law attorneys in Georgia and elsewhere are likely familiar with the dynamic that arises in child visitation cases that is generally referred to as parental alienation. It involves a legal dispute about visitation rights in which the non-custodial parent usually files a petition to obtain some degree of time with the children. In response, it is determined during fact finding that the custodial parent has unfairly and unjustifiably vilified the noncustodial parent to the children in such a way that they refuse to visit with the other parent. This tactic, usually carried out by the custodial parent, is universally criticized and soundly rejected by jurists, psychologists and social workers alike.

In a case in another state, a family judge became so irritated by the refusal of the children to engage in reasonable visitation with the father that the judge ordered the children and the mother held in contempt. The court sent the children to a juvenile shelter facility for abandoned or abused children. The court received harsh criticism from some quarters, and in response to a suggestion by the father, she recently released the children to be allowed to go to summer camp.

In response to criticism, the judge noted that this was tied for the worst case of parental alienation that she had handled. She found as a fact that the mother, a renowned eye doctor, had “brainwashed” the children to believe that the father, an internationally famous traffic safety researcher, was violent. The parties have been involved in the visitation battle since their separation in 2011.

A guardian ad litem appointed early in this legal dispute to represent the interests of the children testified that the mother had meddled, obstructed and ruined what was once a loving relationship between the children and the father. He described how the children would become hysterical when the father came to pick them up. The parents and the children have been ordered to engage in counseling, and the case will be reviewed in the future for progress. In general, the same result could occur in a Georgia visitation case with the same facts.

Source: Chelsea, Mi. Patch, “New Twist in Case of Kids Sent to Juvie for Refusing Lunch with Dad“, Beth Dalbey, July 11, 2015