Thursday, September 27, 2012

Appeals Court Upholds That Facilitating Child’s Relationship with a Sociopath is More Important than Anything Else in Child Custody

What is the single most important factor in a child custody decision?

a- Primary Caregiver?

b- Child’s bond with a parent?

c- Abuse and Mental Health issues?

d- Past and Future Potential Performance of Parenting Responsibilities?

e- NONE OF THE ABOVE (This is the correct answer)

Yesterday, I received a copy of the Appellate Court opinion on my custody case. I lost and they didn’t even have the courtesy of addressing some serious issues that were raised. Although this ruling was not reasonably unexpected, it just serves to underscore how powerful family court judges really are.

What was the most disturbing thing for me is that the authoring judge made two definitive statements that really reveal the disordered thinking of the legal system.

#1. As noted by the court in Woods v. Tidwell, "the trial court is not obligated to consider all relevant factors in reaching its decision…”

Tenn. Code Ann. $ 36-3-106 provides that custody and visitation determinations are to be made consistent with certain factors. These are called the Best Interest Factors. I am not going to list all of them here due to time constraints, but they are similar to those of other states.

The higher courts have previously held (in multiple cases) that consideration of the “best interest factors” are mandatory and that the court MUST conduct a comparative fitness test to decide which parent is most suited for custody. This was designed to ensure that the best interests of the child are served. Now, it appears as if it is no longer applicable.

#2 Father's relationship with the child would be best served by Father being designated primary residential parent.

This was the sole factor that the judge found to be in favor of the father. I obviously disagree with this opinion. The fact is that I had offered extra visitation, never defied a single court order, and continued to allow supervised contact despite strong evidence of abusive behavior. The only thing I asked for was that my ex undergo the recommended psychiatric treatment.

Listen up people because the court is saying that the father’s relationship with the child is more important than any other consideration. This includes abuse. Again, this contradicts previous case law (Burden vs. Burden, Tn Appeals Court 2007 and others) where the appellate courts held that the courts CAN NOT place a parent’s best interests above that of the child.

In the end, the appeal process was a mistake. It has added to the chaos of the family court system. It sets a legal precedent where it is being said that it is okay for a family court judge to disregard the child’s bests interests in favor of promoting a relationship with a parent, regardless of how bad they are.

The full appeal will appear in a separate tab on the blog for those who wish to read it. One interesting thing about the opinion is that is completely ignores a key component: un contradicted expert testimony as to mental health issues.

There was only one expert witness in my case. It was a psychologist who performed a mental evaluation on the father and found him to be Antisocial (sociopathy). He recommended that contact be supervised and layed out a treatment plan for implementing unsupervised contact. The judge in this case completely disregarded this testimony. He made no reference to it, never mentioned it. Disregarding expert testimony is not an application of the judge’s common knowledge. It is a willful omission of the best interest factors.

Again, the court is implicitly saying that it can consider anything it wishes to, regardless of the law. The judge’s authority is absolute and irrefutable.


  1. Reading this has placed a permanent lump in my throat. How can a person be diagnosed with a personality disorder so severe and still win in these situations?!?!? There was obviously no consideration for the child's present and future potential for mental, psychological, and possibly physical abuse!!! I am outraged Heather! I am heartbroken and disgusted! I pray for your strength. I pray that you maintain the courage to keep moving forward, because you will be made to pick up the pieces of a broken child in the end.

    By the way, I have to wonder if there is something else going on here? I smell a 500 pound dead stinking rat. Some type of corruption...did your ex have assistance from any of the Father's Rights Groups?

    1. No assistance from fathers rights groups that I am aware of, just a very old and dirty lawyer who loves to constantly mis-state the facts of the case.
      As a side note, if I were a father's rights advocate... I would NOT link my cause to a man like my ex. He does NOT pass for "normal" in any sense of the word. It is obvious that there is something wrong with him, but he gets by becuase he is French. People assume that his "unique-ness" is because he is from another country. Another stereotype, so sorry to the French on behalf of the court system! I have traveled the world in my lifetime and I can assure you that the French are not all narcissistic sociopaths who can't properly care for their children.
      One thing I am certain of is that I WILL keep moving forward at this point. I love my child too much to ever give up on his future.