Friday, July 14, 2006

Modifying Joint Custody in Light of Alienation

Split custody decisions are often sought as a modification of a joint custody arrangement that isn’t working out.  Often these cases raise allegations of parental alienation.  With one parent having alienated a child against the other parent, so that the child (often a teenager) simply won’t live with the other parent, the court is reluctant to then grant the alienating parent custody of all the children on the basis of avoiding splitting siblings.  These cases almost look as though the court is saying trying to “even out” the alienation (in fact, in M.W.W. v. B.W., 900 So. 2d 1230 (Ala. App. Sept. 10, 2004), that is precisely the phrase the attorney uses in questioning a younger daughter regarding her custodial preferences in a case in which the older daughter was thoroughly alienated from father, against whom mother had made unfounded allegation of sexual abuse).

In an Iowa case involving two parents who each were doing their best to alienate the children from the other, the court granted Mother primary custody of both children due to the older daughter’s “adamant preference to be placed in the former wife's physical care, and the strong bond between the children that would be weakened if their physical care was divided between the parents.” In re Marriage of Donovan, 2006 Iowa App. LEXIS 298 (March 29, 2006)(opinion) bgf

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