Like the boy that cried wolf, losing credibility can be a parent’s undoing in a child custody dispute. For example, calling the cops on mother for serving your child mac & cheese, isn’t likely to make a case that mother is harming the child, unless you have solid evidence that noodles are toxic to your child’s health. In fact, doing so may give the court reason to give you no custody rights at all.
Recently the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to award child custody to the mother, after bearing the brunt of repeated, unfounded allegations from the child’s father of sexual abuse and child maltreatment.
Father had a history of accusing mother and her stepchildren of sexually abusing their child, and yes, even called the police after learning that mother had served the child mac and cheese for dinner; where not surprisingly, no arrests were made.
But after four county child protection investigations, three forensic interviews of the child, a child custody evaluation, several doctor’s visits for food allergy testing, and a six-and-a-half day child custody trial, father’s claims of sexual abuse and food allergies proved unfounded. By making repeated, unfounded allegations of neglect and abuse, it was father who was believed to have harmed the child. In fact, a fifth child protection investigation and child custody evaluation (which took nearly two years), opined that the child was endangered by father’s ongoing false accusations of abuse. The custody evaluator opined that false sexual abuse allegations “are such a serious issue that I have to consider …. that alone disqualifies [father] from having [custody”.
In its 86-page custody order, the court agreed, and found that father’s food-allergy and sexual-abuse allegations were not credible, and, were in fact detrimental to the child’s health and well-being, and that the child was most safe with mother.
And the court didn’t stop there…
It awarded mother $150,000.00 in attorneys fees, explaining that mother needed the fees to defend father’s ongoing efforts to take custody of the child by bringing false allegations. In so doing, the court stated, it was “very obvious that father was trying to bankrupt mother in hopes that her attorney would withdraw for nonpayment”. Father himself testified that he had paid more than $1.5 million in attorney’s fees, and was unable to pay mother’s attorney’s fees. The court was not sympathetic.
The law allows a court to award attorney fees to a party who is prejudiced by conduct that contributes to the length and expense of a proceeding. See Minn. Stat. §518.14 subd. 1. Father’s ongoing false allegations of food allergies forced mother to repeatedly engage in more litigation and incur additional attorney fees.
Losing custody rights and paying $150,000 in attorney’s fees to the other parent is not a desirable outcome when seeking child custody rights, it is important to consider the credibility of any allegations raised in a Family Court proceeding. Consulting with, and seeking legal advice from an experienced Family Law attorney is recommended whenever considering an action to pursue child custody rights.
Contact Beyer & Simonson
If you are facing divorce and any of the divorce-related issues such as spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, property division, or domestic abuse matters, you need our experienced Minneapolis divorce attorneys to help you. Contact Beyer & Simonson in Edina, Minnesota today at (952) 303-6007.