On October 9th, 2019, the New York Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department affirmed a lower court ruling in favor of a mother in a parental alienation claim. In the case of Pandis v. Lapas, the court determined that it was appropriate to award sole custody of the children to the mother. Additionally, it denied the father’s claim for relief from child support on the grounds of parental alienation.
Sole Custody Was Awarded to the Mother
The couple involved in this case had two children together—one who had just finished high school and another who was a young teenager. In reviewing the evidence, the court awarded the mother sole custody and ruled that the father owed her $3,593.75 in child support and that he was responsible for covering more than two-thirds of the “add-on” expenses—which in this case meant contributing a significant amount to the younger child’s private school tuition and to the older child’s college tuition.
New York Recognizes Parental Alienation as a Serious Issue
Parental alienation is the process by which one parent—often maliciously—turns a child against the other parent. Essentially, it is a form of psychological manipulation. Of course, for obvious reasons, children are especially vulnerable to parental manipulation. With that in mind, New York courts acknowledge that parental alienation is a serious issue.
However, in this case, both a lower court and the appeals court determined that the father’s parental alienation was without merit. While the court noted that the father’s relationship with both children was indeed damaged, it also noted that the father’s own conduct was the primary factor in causing the deterioration. Thus, parental alienation is not applicable.
Remedies for Parental Alienation Vary—May Include Termination of Child Support
The remedies for parental alienation will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Often, courts will try to create a structure whereby a parent can rebuild their relationship with their children. However, that is not always possible nor is it always in the best interests of the children. To account for this, other remedies may also be available. As explained by Syracuse, NY child support lawyer Richard J. Bombardo, “One remedy to parental alienation is allowing the affected parent to obtain a reduction or termination of child support obligations. In fact, in several recent cases, New York courts have terminated child support on the grounds of parental alienation.”