Parents have a Constitutional Right to Parent their child.  After hearing the facts of this case, the Court agreed that Father and his Girlfriend infringed on our client’s Right to Parent her daughter. They always say that, “It takes a village” to raise a child.  But at what point does it become meddling into your parenting rights?  One annoying incident alone will not move a court to change custody, however, when presented with a pattern of interfering conduct the court did respond.  Interference included:

  1.  Enrolling the child in extra-curricular activities and not informing the other parent.  Just because it’s only on one parent’s time, it does not justify keeping the other parent out of the loop and not informing them of events like – swim meets – horse shows – practices – games.  In this case, Father and his girlfriend enrolled the daughter in activities and not only did they not inform the Mother so she could go to the event, but they failed to list her on the contact and emergency cards.  The activity directors refused to provide information to Mother since she wasn’t listed.
  2. Appearing at community events and on Mom’s street on Mom’s parenting time.  Father and girlfriend just happened to be trick-or-treating on Mom’s street.  They showed up in their flannel pj’s and a cup of libations in hand.  They had approached Mom and daughter at community events.  They even resorted to parking 4 houses down from Mom’s house and just ‘bumping’ into them.
  3. Keeping part of the homework and only sending part of the homework home to Mother’s house.  Girlfriend made a new folder for this purpose, which I referred to as the “decoy” folder during Trial.
  4. Girlfriend started a Girl Scout Troop just for including the daughter.
  5.  Interfering with Mother’s right to telephone/Skype contact with the minor child and interfering with the daughter’s requests to speak to her Mother.

The Court awarded sole legal custody of the child and concluded from the totality of circumstances that the Father and Girlfriend’s conduct was intended to disturb the Mother’s peace and conflict and thwart her role as her parent and impede and frustrate co-parenting. Whenever an opportunity occurred, Girlfriend with the aid an comfort of Father attempted to thwart and compete with the Mother with the purpose of disenfranchising Mother from her parenting role and degrading the Mother’s influence over the child.

In Re the Marriage of Palermo-Staveley                                                                                                                                                                                        Orange County Superior Court                                                                                                                                                                                                          15 D 005 616