Modification of a Custody Order: Part 7- Poor Parental Judgment
In determining custody, a court should consider if a parent has exhibited poor parental judgment. Poor parental judgment can take on a variety of forms but generally it consists of a parent placing his or her own interests over those of the child. This can include degrading the other parent in front of the child or discussing inappropriate subjects in front of the child. It can include incorrect or unsubstantiated allegations against the other parent. It can include any number of stupid, selfish, thoughtless and mean things that parents do to their children or to their ex.
In one case, a mother was awarded custody in part because the father repeatedly discussed inappropriate subjects and disparaged the mother in front of the child. In the eyes of the court, he was unable to place the child’s needs ahead of his contempt for the mother. In another case the mother degraded the father in front of the children. The court found that this conduct showed she lacked insight and judgment since her statements about the father upset the children.
In a third case, the mother contacted the State Police and incorrectly reported that the father was driving while intoxicated with one of the children in his vehicle. She also falsely reported the father to Child Protective Services. These acts plus other nonsense cost her custody of her children.
Now, everyone makes mistakes, so a court must consider if a parent has insight into the inappropriateness of their poor behavior or remorse for such. If a parent makes mistakes or has disputes with the other parent, they must isolate these errors or disputes and not involve the children or let these disputes impact the children. If they can do this and the children are not affected, a court can overlook such.
When a parent cannot see the error of their ways, this can compound their misconduct. A court will consider not only the parent’s poor parental judgment but his or her lack of remorse or insight into the inappropriateness of his or her behavior. For example, in one case, the court found that the mother, who among other things had made unfounded CPS reports against the father, lacked insight into the importance of the children’s relationship with the father and the impact that her behavior had on the children.
On the other hand, in another case the Court found that although the father’s behavior was troubling at times, he, unlike the mother, “manifested a markedly greater ability to isolate his disputes with the mother without involving or impacting the children.” Based upon these circumstances, the court modified residential custody to the father even though it was “apparent that the mother loves her children and is capable of meeting their physical needs.”