Remedies for Parental Alienation: Attorney Fees and Child Support

By Andrew J Thompson

Recently I’ve dealt with several cases in which the objective, outward behavior of an alienating parent comes across as anything but harmful to the relationship between the parent and child.

For example, Mom “delivers” the children to the hallway outside her apartment at the time Dad comes to pick them up for parenting time.  The children, all boys, 15, 13 and 11, all refuse to go.  Mom says, “I’m sorry, they just don’t want to go with you.”  Then she ushers them back into her apartment.

What’s wrong with this scene?  The mother’s attorney argues, “What else is she supposed to do?”

The reality is that the children couldn’t get to this point without Mom playing a significant role in the outcome.  But undoing the harm can be very challenging.  What if the children won’t go with Dad even if he picks them up after school?

The bottom line is that once parental alienation has been engaged, reversing the problem means that the alienating parent has to feel the other parents’ pain.  If her attorney says “what can Mom do?”, the first thing I have to suggest is that she pay Dad’s attorney fees for having to bring this to her attention, in a way that actually gets her attention.

The core of the truth is that what this mother has had to do that brings the children to a point where they won’t even go with their father is something very brutal – though none of it may be visible on the surface.   She has subtly, or much more aggressively, given the children reasons to feel that time with their father, or even any relationship at all, is unnecessary or serving their own interests.

Alienation of parental affection is drastic and extremely harmful to a child.  Typically the alienating parent will cite a laundry list of defects in the other parent – anger, alcohol, laziness, lack of concern and involvement, dishonesty, infidelity, sometimes even violence – as reasons for allowing their children’s relationship with the other parent to die.

But when you take children who’ve grown up and lived with parents with any or all of these factors – and stayed in their lives – they continue to love and cherish that parent, even seek their affections.  In reality, an alienating parent doesn’t need to alienate a bad parent – that parent will drift to the sidelines without any help.  The involved parent is a good parent. 

When a parent is removed from his or her role by the other parent, it takes a very strong message to change the dynamic that set the backdrop for alienation.

So to answer the other attorney’s question about “what can she do?”, the first answer to that is, well, she could pay my client’s attorney fees for having to bring this to the court’s attention.  Absent that minimal step, it’s doubtful she gets any message other than a subtle form of reinforcement, i.e. this is harder on him than it is on her.

But you or may not be able to persuade the court to take that step on a first try.  If not, you have to have secondary remedies to offer.  Realistically, only three things ultimately work:

(1) financial sanctions: awarding attorney fees and/or offsets against child support;

(2) incarceration: drastic as it seems, it becomes a necessary remedy in many, if not most cases of parental alienation, because even financial sanctions tend to fail; and

(3) change of custody: ultimately this is quite often the only change that enable the children to restore their relationship with an alienated parent.  Anything short of it, means the alienating parent remains in control, and the kids do not have the chance to get what they need from the parent who has been boxed out of their lives.

Yet in many cases, a court will not take any of these measures until it has seen that really nothing else works.  Often, courts craft remedies that only serve to reinforce the existing alienation tot he point the alienated parent cannot afford counsel and is unable to make the arguments on his own to get the court to do what truly needs done.  When that happens, parent and child(ren) both lose.  The parent is ultimately wiped off the slate from the children’s lives.

A great deal of education must be conducted by attorneys for alienated parents – and those attorneys need to understand what they are dealing with in order to accomplish that.

The wise custody attorney will explain to the court what is really going on, and explain that “band aid” types of remedies won’t stop the “internal bleeding” that is occurring in the relationship between the parent and children.  To save what it is the court intends to save, strong and meaningful remedies need to be put in place and as early as possible.

If you’re a parent, grandparent or friend facing a situation involving parental alienation, or an attorney with a difficult case needing help presenting your case to the court, please contact the Thompson Law Office today at (317) 564-4976 or via email at andrew.thompson@thompsonlawoffice.co.

The Mother’s Tale in Divorce

We do a significant amount  of work in our firm for men and fathers.  We see an inordinate number of cases where Dads and the kids are unfairly, or wrongfully alienated, and it is quite harmful to those children and really to our larger culture when this happens.

But we all see plenty of cases and frequently represent Moms as well.  Their stories are usually quite different.  The worst, and unfortunately most common, of these stories, are ones where the Moms are left caring for the kids, alone, with no help in time, and often very little help financially.  The challenge in these cases is what can she do about a co-parent who just gives up?  Sadly, the answer is often very little.

But she is entitled to support for the children, and to the father taking ownership of his share of time with the children as well.  Many times however, she may be as well off if he doesn’t participate too much, but at the same time, the father’s involvement needs to be encouraged to the extent possible.

Financial issues are very important as well.

At the Thompson Law Office, we help women and mother’s in divorce situations deal with the stresses they will face as a single person or parent.  call us today for a free, initial consultation at (317) 564-4976 or (877) 365-1776.

Help for Parents in Dealing with Child Protective Services

By Andrew J Thompson, Esq.

Is the following something you can relate to: you’ve been through a bitter divorce or paternity battle, all the while doing whatever you can to be the best parent you can be.  But the other parent, out of fear, anger, or for some other reason, has reported you to child protective services, and now they are investigating you as a parent.  What did you do?

In many cases, there are very good reasons for CPS’ involvement, to the point of terminating the rights of parents who leave children, without heat or food in their home, inadequate shelter from the elements, or outright physical or emotional abuse, e.g. harsh, physical punishment with extreme objects of force.

But that isn’t your situation.  Instead, you have found yourself on the wrong side of a custody battle, with a now-estranged judge, who is behaving punitively toward you, even though nothing, not even what is reported to CPS, fits the model of abuse or neglect in parenting.  So why are they investigating you?

I have seen many, many instances when a parent has been investigated by child services, and had some or all rights stripped from them, even though that parent is the one person who takes a child’s best interests to heart to the greatest extent possible.  How can this happen?

Consider the following, a single father, with no girlfriend, roommate, or significant other, has his children at home with him on alternating weekends.   His two year son goes back to his mother’s on Sunday evening with a small cut over his left eye.  The father tells the mother exactly what happened – the boys’ five year old sister came to the father and told him the boy was playing in

This is a very difficult situation. You need to be diligent and persistent about pursuing, restoring and protecting your rights.

You have recourse anywhere in the United States because the Constitution respects your rights as a parent above the authority of the state.  Don’t minimize the ultimate importance of this protection. Practically speaking, however, enforcing your rights can be very time consuming, expensive and difficult.  The state has a great deal of power and resources, and generally, once you’re in the CPS system, you are treated with suspicion.

You need to be patient, persistent and forthright in asserting your rights and your will as the parent – more interested in the care of your children than any agency can be.

Regardless of your sex, a good resource may be: http://www.familylawandfathers.com which addresses issues relating to parent’s rights in much detail.  Depending on your finances, it’s possible, though harder than ever, you may be entitled to pro bono representation via your local legal services organization, but the truth is you will receive limited service on a pro bono basis.  If you’re looking for sound, experienced representation, contact the team at the Thompson Law Office, by calling Andrew Thompson at (317) 604-1276, or by email at ajt@thompsonlaw-in.com.  We do offer sliding scale fee rates for individuals with limited resources as well – but don’t kid yourself!   You need to be prepared for a time consuming and expensive battle that comes down to the protection of your rights and of your children.

Hanging in there as a parent to your kids is so important! I wish you well.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Divorce, Paternity and Custody Battles

Custody and Divorce Success and Discovery: Using Private Investigators

By Andrew J Thompson

Best Interests of the Children – these words are cited in nearly every state statute relating to custody.  Most states have factors they incorporate, a bit like a report card, to ultimately determine what they believe demonstrates the children’s best interests.

Sadly, the outcome of this analysis is often more predictable in advance, than it is instructive regarding a child’s living environment.  In part, this is due to the fact that not much helpful evidence is typically obtained in a custody case – and the same is often true in divorces that do not involve custody issues.

When a court has little to go except for a general perception of the parties, you can bet it will regularly default back to theoretically tried and true formulas that it uses to decide custody and parenting time outcomes in most cases.

The typical litigant who wants to change that outcome,is likely to rely heavily on their own testimony, or that of family and friends, but that does little to sway any court’s opinion, no matter how forcefully the testimony is presented.

Third party experts’ testimony, instead, is often given great weight in the courtroom, for better or worse.  Whether these experts are therapists, whose opinions should not be treated as “expert” regardless, or independent evaluators, whose opinions are normally given tremendous weight, the magistrate or judge who hears the facts of the case is likely to reach an outcome that is directed by the opinions of the expert unless one or both parties can give the judge reasons to change his or her opinion of the facts.  And this means coming up with some evidence that cannot be ignored by the court.

A private investigator is almost a necessity if you are going to demonstrate anything that will outweigh the opinion of an appointed evaluator. An investigator is a third party who is reasonably independent and is beholden to facts and evidence first, and his clients’ wishes second.  

The kind of facts you need to uncover are facts that are hard to get to.  So you made to have ongoing investigation to confirm the evidence you need.  Often, the investigator’s best inroads are through other third parties who witness what is going on with your children regularly: neighborhoods, parents of classmates, classmates themselves, teachers, coaches, bus drivers, etc.  You need someone, and usually more than one person, that you may or do not know, who can and will collaborate what you know to be true.

The right and best way to retain an investigator is through your attorney.  This will make the investigation more directed, efficient and cost effective, and it may help you preserve attorney-client privilege regarding evidence the investigator uncovers and you need to protect.

If you’re facing a difficult custody or divorce matter, and need to find a way to change a likely outcome in your case, contact the Thompson Law Office today at (317) 564-4976, for a free, initial consultation – or email the author at ajt@thompsonlaw-in.com.

Charges of Child Molestation, Domestic Violence and Battery

If you are charged with a domestic crime, or threatened with such charges, you probably feel like your life has been turned on its head. It becomes vitally important to assess your situation properly, even following the shock of allegations you would never imagine would have made about you.

Whatever it takes, support from family friends, professional support, etc., you need to remain calm. In a way, the situation will force you to do just that – it is incredibly sobering. But the emotional shock alone can cause problems for you at work, at home and just in coping with basic day to day activities.

I’m an attorney, and not a psychiatrist. But I know that if you are struggling in basic life activities, your ability to make sound decisions and act wisely with respect to your legal troubles will also be impaired. Do whatever you can to have your mind in the right place, so your attorney will be able to provide the most help he can for you.

Then it becomes very important to find the right attorney for your needs. Part of remaining calm and processing the situation wisely, is to quickly understand that is not the time for bargain hunting. You do not want to find a lawyer who will take your case at the lowest fee or for the lowest retainer. In fact, you will probably hurt yourself severely if that is how you make your decision.

I would also suggest that it is not the most experience that is necessarily the right answer for you. Experience matters for sure, but it is the right kind of experience in the right places that will help you navigate these difficult times.

In terms of the kind of experience that matters most, a kind of empathethic experience is probably first. This doesn’t have to be someone who has been charged with the same offenses, but it is someone who has experienced a similar situation, either on his own, through a family member or close companion.

Very close in importance is the experience and relationship an attorney has with the judge and the courts where your case will be heard. It cannot guaranty a positive result, and if your case can go to a jury, the relationship with the judge is far less important, but it can make a difference in many ways.

Along with finding the right attorney, you need a cogent and effective strategy for handling your case. You and your attorney form a team – and a bond on that team. You need to be clear about your goal, and have a clear understanding that the goal is achievable and how you will get to that goal.

You will always be best served to be sure you have your whole case in order as you want it to go. This is an unbearably hard thing to face. Take it on with all of the vigor and sincere determination to do the right things that it demands.

Andrew J Thompson is an attorney practicing in Indianapolis, IN. He may reached via email at: ajt@thompsonlaw-in.com or by phone at (317) 269-3422.

Termination of Parental Rights

Under Indiana law, a termination of parental rights occurs when a court issues an order that permanently ends all legal, social, and financial responsibility between the child and her parents. The parents have no rights to custody or visitation of the child. The parents also have no duty to future support of the child, but must pay any past due support obligations until they are satisfied, see Indiana Legal Services’ web resources.

Indiana law provides for the voluntary termination of parental rights, when it is determined by a court, on recommendation of the Department of Child Services that such a termination of rights is in the best interests of the child. The parent whose rights are to be terminated must be fully informed of his or her rights by the court before an order is entered.

Usually, children are best served with the full integration of both parents in their lives in every way. Where parents live apart and there is extraordinary conflict, it may not be possible for both parents to be involved in the children’s lives.

While I recommend to every single parent to seek to create an equal balance of parenting time and support for the children, where this is not possible, and an amicable alternative does not exist – it can sometimes be in everyone’s best interests to terminate parental rights.

Typically, this would be the case if one parent is completely unable or unwilling to spend adequate time with the child, and a sizeable support arrearage is mounting. After all, a custodial parent who is unwilling to allow a child to have ample time with the otehr parent should not expect support from that parent.

Again, this is a decision of last resort. Even to parents who are substantially alienated from their children and forced to pay support nonetheless, I do not recommend this course of action until every other avenue of rebuilidng the relationship has been exhausted.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers