In a recent pow wow with my law partner Dror Bikel, we discussed how frequently we hear parties in child custody matters make the same complaints regarding their former partner's parental skills. So, without any personal commentary, here it goes:
The top 10 things she complains about his behavior as a father in custody cases, in random order:
1. He only wants to see the children because his family is forcing him and/or to impress his new girlfriend.
2. He lets the kids eat junk food, and they return to me suffering from stomach aches and irregularity.
3. He's a hoarder of junk, and it's unsafe for the children to be around the mess he creates.
4. He never interacts with the children. Instead, he talks to his friends in the playground or leaves the kids with his family. He never reads to them at night and instead always lets them watch t.v.
5. He's so careless that he has let the baby find a coin, and she then put it in her mouth.
6. He's always late dropping off the kids and when he finally shows up, the diaper is always dirty. He also brings back all their clothes dirty for me to clean.
7. He has no right to seek custody. The children belong with me.
8. He returns the kids with cuts and bruises.
9. He returns the kids starving.
10. He's hiding his money and owes more in child support. (he's not declaring all his income and/or he gets money from his family.)
The top 10 things he complains about her as a mother in child custody cases, in random order:
1. She spends too much and is living the high life now (e.g., vacations, spas, buying a new apartment, new clothes, new car).
2. She's not using the money for the children.
3. She doesn't need the money. Her family is rich (note: grandparents have no legal obligation to support their grandchildren).
4. She's keeping me from my children, and refuses to consider equal time.
5. She's over anxious. Any childhood illness or boo boo that occurs under my care is a major medical emergency.
6. She lies, tossing out false accusations of violence and/or drunken events.
7. She blames me for everything. I only left her because she treated me poorly.
8. She's overly controlling. She's inflexible about scheduling visits and refuses to allow me to go on vacations with the kids.
9. She's overly critical of everything I do or purchase for the children.
10. She obsesses over the children.
Putting aside the merits of these complaints, parties to a lawsuit should know that judges hear these same grievances sometimes over 20 times daily. As a result, even when valid, with the exception of allegations of violence, without a documented pre-separation history of any of these issues in their extreme form, their impact is diluted and tend to fall on deaf ears.
Perhaps judges often decline to give significant weight to these complaints because with the exception of allegations of violence, they are pretty much the same objections that married couples in an intact relationship gripe about, sometimes even light-heartedly, in happier times. Your thoughts?