The court heard credible compelling testimony from the parties long-time rabbi and spiritual leader who not only was involved for many years with the wife’s organization as an advisor, but whose young daughter was a close friend of the youngest child; the parents entertaining each other at respective homes. Once the marital discord started, though, the couples’ relationship soured. The rabbi clearly disturbed and still bewildered by not only the wife’s distancing and resignation from the synagogue which they belonged for many years, but the denial of access to the youngest daughter by not only to him but more painfully from her best friend, his own daughter. These two children had a close bond, spent time in camp and each other’s home, which was interfered with by the mother.
The rabbi, who had often and consistent contact with the wife, never knew or heard of any domestic violence and would occasionally meet with the wife and clients of the organization who were victims of domestic violence. The rabbi relayed that, in his opinion, the wife’s descriptions of events to him were “generally truthful but often with exaggeration”.
It is clear to the criminal court, the wife’s exaggeration, coupled with an escalating need and quest to control, permeates the wife’s testimony. Moreover, in his report the doctor noted that the wife “demonstrates personality traits characterized by a high degree of anxiety, with a somewhat histrionic and medodramatic tendency, which leads to a certain degree of catastrophicing particularly in relation to her daughter [youngest daughter].” The issue of exaggeration and control by the wife was all too evident during the course of the trial, as was the fact that the father chose to ignore much of the tension and dysfunctionalism that went on during the marriage in the hope of saving the marriage, culminating in a loss of control and inappropriate verbal rage and a literal “tug of war” with each parent trying to pull the child. That rage, when taken in the context ofthis divorce action, has serious, deleterious affects on the family unit. Clearly, though, this divorce was long overdue.
This court has grave concerns regarding letters signed by the husband, apologizing for acts of domestic violence. Some of these letters, the husband claims, were signed in the presence of the maternal grandmother and all of the letters were dictated by the wife.
The court is also concerned that the license to maintain this gun during the litigation lapsed and joins in the doctor’s concern that the husband was indifferent at the time of the license’s lapse. The gun has now been surrendered, according to the husband.
While no medical testimony, proof or corroboration, but for the wife’s recitation of a host of witnesses, was ever adduced at the time of trial, the wife posits that this severe domestic violence has had two affects; the first being that she is entitled to a far greater percentage of the assets to be equitably distributed than the share that would otherwise be equitable because of the domestic violence and an award of lifetime maintenance because of her multitude of serious injuries including a broken wrist and herniated disc. The husband posits that the wife has so influenced the child through her acts that the child will have no contact with him, and he avers that the wife’s actions constitute egregious conduct which should, according to the husband, result in an inequitable distribution of assets, no maintenance and limited child support (basic needs and education expenses only). The husband posits that this is the last resort that he has to require the mother not to interfere in his relationship with the child.
The court, in refusing to grant the father economic relief because of the refusal of the child to visit with him, does so at this juncture in the hope that the mother will immediately take the steps to realize that her actions can and will have serious consequences. This court does not believe that there is a generally accepted diagnostic determination or syndrome known as “parental alienation syndrome”. Each case must be reviewed on its own merits. The court is well aware that it cannot just accept the opinion of an expert and must evaluate it and then determine its efficacy or application to the case before it. This is especially true where there are allegations of domestic violence which must be considered in the context of a custody dispute.
The court cannot ignore the fact that these parties (who have agreed to joint decision making) have entered into a stipulation settling that portion of the divorce action. This stipulation provided that not only would they engage in individual therapy but that the child will engage in therapy that the father cannot have any input related thereto at the specific request of the child. This child, it has become increasing clear, has been empowered in this divorce action and has adopted (in a rather public fashion by writing newspaper columns) the mother’s cause without limitation. A child cannot be in charge of the other parent’s custodial rights.
After careful consideration, the court has not economically penalized the mother or the child because it appears to the court that she was not, until now, truly aware of the nature of both her active acts of alienation and her passive acts by educating the child as to the process and her own concerns by making the child part of her own crisis. This does not mean that a future application of the interference continues may not be the basis for a suspension of maintenance or support nor does this court ignore that body of case law that hold that where the interference is both a “deliberate frustration” or “active interference”, suspension of support may be warranted.
This court believes, though, that the true amount of child support and maintenance should be set before a suspension is considered so that the party that would be economically penalized will fully know and understand that which is at risk. The court also believes it would be unfair to make such a determination without both parties having had the benefit of knowing the court’s findings and decisions which will now be law of the case. After reading this opinion, they both will have had a full and fair opportunity to have had the matter adjudicated. Now, with that knowledge, violation of the court’s order will be dealt with appropriately.
The mother has absolutely no right to attempt to limit access to the parent coordinator that both parties agreed to in the stipulation. This methodology was adopted by the parties in this agreement. In order for the parent coordinator to understand the nature of the parties’ relationship with the child, he must be granted unfettered access to the parents and the child forthwith.
The application by the child for an order of protection, which if granted, would further restrict access of the father to the child. As Dr. Weintrob testified, the affect of the continuing great length of time that the child has not seen the father is of great concern. The father must recognize that this child is truly afraid of him. Restoration of his relationship with the child must be based upon a restoration of trust. His underlying acts of rage and the “tug of war” described herein and the mother’s acts, will leave an indelible mark on the child.
Plaintiff must also recognize that this court does believe there has been some level of domestic violence in this marriage. While not finding it was egregious nor did it occur in front of the unemanicipated children or upon them, based upon the testimony it did happen and is acknowledged.
Thus, the court held that the wife has been credited with or has received $2,967,321.79 in assets and/or cash and the husband has received $2,952,724.44 in assets and/or cash. The wife therefore has received or been credited with $14,587.00 more than the husband. In order to equalize the distribution so that each party receives one half of the marital estate pursuant to this decision, the wife owes the husband $7,298.50. The husband may offset these monies from monies due and owing directly to the wife pursuant to this decision.
Settle separate Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Judgment of Divorce, together with the minutes of any stipulations and inquest and a copy of this decision and within 60 days.