Thursday, October 2, 2008

Devoted Dad Gets a Win

By David T. Pisarra, Esq.

I had a win last week, well, as much as anyone wins in the Family Courts. One of the fathers that I’ve been representing for the past 9 months had the value of his relationship to his child validated by the courts. This is a man who is going through an agonizing divorce and child custody battle. We’ve been in court a dozen times seeking and fighting restraining orders, custody orders, visitation enforcements.

The mom has done everything in her power to prevent dad from seeing his 2 1/2 year old daughter. For 10 weeks she denied him visitation, before he hired me. She has used the Nuclear Option in custody battles and alleged that there sexual molestation by the father, on absolutely no evidence.

Finally the court ordered an independent evaluation of the respective parenting skills of the parent, which involved full psychological evaluation of all parties. The report came back heavily weighted in favor of my client, and so, in a last ditch effort to alienate the father from his daughter, mom decided she “had to move” out of state.

Thankfully the judge saw this case, after all the court appearances, and the psychology, for what it was. A mother doing everything she could to rid dad from his daughters life, and he put a stop to it. She can move, but if she does, dad gets full custody here in California. Suddenly she doesn’t quite “need to” anymore.

This was nothing more than what is called Parental Alienation syndrome and it is is a hot button issue, and which side you come down on, is very much determined by whether you are the parent who is trying to destroy any relationship between your kids and your ex, which frequently masquerades as “protecting the children”, or whether you are the ex, the “target”.

It is a pattern of behavior that creates fear, anxiety and distrust of the target parent. Frequently it is the mother, but it could be either parent, who tries in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, to create a wedge in the relationship between parent and child.

The subject is difficult to identify because of what the alienator does, as an example, “Susie, I want you call me as soon as you get to daddy’s house. You know you can ALWAYS call me if you need me.” On the surface this looks like mom is just being a concerned mother. But the underlying message is that “Dad’s is not a safe environment for you and I’m concerned for your welfare.”

Many judges, lawyers, therapists, counselors and evaluators will not see this as an example of PAS, but when comments like that pile up, it begins to create a wedge between child and parent. The goal of the alienating parent is to destroy the relationship between parent and child, so that in a child custody case, full custody is given to one parent in contravention of the other’s rights. Father's already have a hard time with this, as they are usually not the primary caregiver, so already their relationship is being minimized due to time constraints.

This topic was widely covered in the media in April of 2007, when Kim Basinger released a private family phone call from the father of her daughter, Alec Baldwin. This was a clear attempt at parental alienation, and was in my opinion a wholly inappropriate and mean spirited thing to do. Mr. Baldwin has a book coming out today about his trials and tribulations in Family Court, called “A Promise to Ourselves”. as he said in his public apology, “I have been driven to the edge by parental alienation for many years now. You have to go through this to understand. (Although I hope you never do.)”

It is a common belief that men don’t love their children as much as women. Well, in the case I’ve dubbed ‘Big Daddy and the Psycho’, he drives 2 1/2 each way, twice a week, to spend 2 hours with his daughter, and every other week he makes that trip a third time, to pick up the baby for a weekend visit. He spends 10 hours a week in traffic, to see his child for a mere 4 hours a week.

Dads can be, and are, dedicated parents also.

This article originally appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press (9/23/08).

David Pisarra is a Family Law attorney focusing on Father’s rights and Men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or 310/664-9969.


Over time it may well be that Lesbian breakups and their bitter custody battles will lend credence to the notion of the vindictive ex syndrome many of us men endure when marriage breaks down. Would it not be ironic if this is the catalyst to bring some semblance of order to the chaos now permeating family courts in many countries. The feminist groups are so far silent on this turn of events. Why? Is it a difficult one for them to comprehend that those of their gender can be as bad toward their same sex partner as they can toward a man.

The following situation appears to be one of adoption rather than biological, through a sperm donor, and then the vindictive partner married a man and turned an anti-gay group against her former lesbian mate. Was marrying a man part of the strategy? How far will a women go to "screw" their ex? Go figure. My head still spins doing "what if" analysis on these unions. This isn't meant as a slight against same sex couples only that given what we men go through, as complex and emotional heart breaking as that is, lesbian and gay unions on split up are even more complex when children are involved. I want to point out that a man is quite capable of doing this to his ex as well but experience shows it is more commonly the female with with the vindictive ex syndrome.(MJM)

Another Lesbian Custody Battle, Another Vindictive Mother

I've often discussed the issue of the rights of lesbian “social mothers”–women who agreed to employ a sperm donor so that they could have children with their lesbian partners, who are the biological mothers.

I do believe that children fare best when they have both a mom and a dad, and that fathers offer much to children that mothers don’t provide. However, this is not possible in lesbian couples.

When two lesbians agree to have a child together, and when the child has bonded with both his or her biological mother and his or her social mother, I believe that the relationship between the child and the social mother should be protected. I also believe that the biological mother has a responsibility to her children and to her former partner to hold up her end of the deal with the partner with whom she created the child, and that courts should hold her to her commitment.

These cases are now becoming routine. When the relationship goes sour, the lesbian biological mom does to her ex exactly what heterosexual mothers so often do to their ex-husbands--drive her out of her child’s life. When heterosexual women do this, our society makes excuses for them and assumes that the ex-husband must have done something bad to merit it. With these lesbian breakups we can see the truth much clearer--some women (straight or gay) are vindictive, and this vindictiveness drives them to purge their exes from their children’s lives.

The Montana case detailed by the Associated Press below is another example. Also notice this common theme--the lesbian biological mother is so vindictive that she employed a conservative, anti-gay group to legally pursue her vendetta against her ex.

From Former same-sex partner gets parental rights (Associated Press, 9/30/08):

MISSOULA, Mont. - A judge ruled in favor of a woman who sought parental rights to a boy and girl adopted by her former same-sex partner, a decision described as a first for Montana.

Michelle Kulstad sought joint custody of two children — an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl — adopted by Barbara Maniaci. In his ruling Monday, District Judge Ed McLean agreed.

"To discriminate further against Ms. Kulstad because of her sexual preference in this day and age is no different than telling a person to go to the back of the bus because of her skin color," McLean wrote.

Attorneys for both sides have said the same-sex parental rights trial was a first for the state, whose voters in 2004 rejected same-sex marriage by about a 2-to-1 margin.

McLean said Kulstad was a legal parent, even though Maniaci adopted the children — the boy in 2004 and the girl in 2006. The judge said Kulstad must receive joint decision-making authority in the children's lives, including their health care and spiritual upbringing.

Kulstad and Maniaci lived together in the Missoula area for 10 years, raising the children in tandem before ending the relationship in 2006, according to evidence presented at the non-jury trial in May.

Maniaci, who is now married, argued that she and her husband should be able to raise the children as they see fit. She said Kulstad was neither their adoptive parent nor a biological relative.

Austin R. Nimocks, who represented Maniaci, did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday. Nimocks also is senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal agency.

Kulstad said she was not listed the adoption records because it is illegal in Montana for same-sex couples to adopt.

The work of Fathers 4 Justice and the Pain of Fathers ~ Activism in the UK

Equal and Shared Parenting ~ The Movie