February 13th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Last Friday I reported on the case of Igor Malenko and Lori Handrahan. They’re the Maine couple who have a daughter who’s now five years old. My piece reported that Handrahan had attempted to take the child from her daycare, her stepmother (Malenko’s wife) resisted, the police were called and the child was eventually returned to her father, the custodial parent. That set-to got the attention of the local District Attorney, Stephanie Anderson, who intervened with the family court judge in an apparent attempt to sway the outcome of the ongoing custody/visitation case. Malenko, through his attorney Michael Waxman, has now sued Anderson in federal court for abusing her office.
In my original piece, I said that Handrahan had only supervised visitation with Mila and that Malenko had gotten a restraining order against her having any contact with the child outside of those visits. Well, a reader alerted me to the fact that Handrahan in fact has visitation with Mila that is unsupervised, and I’ve located what appears to be the most recent custody ruling in the case that verifies the fact.
What’s far more interesting is that, assuming Handrahan’s visits to be supervised, I concluded that the court issuing the order must believe she’s a danger to the child or possibly a risk to abduct the child. Strangely enough, I was wrong about the terms of visitation, but right about what the judge in the case must think about Handrahan. Such, at any rate is a fair conclusion to be drawn from this court order issued February 1, 2011.
When they first divorced, the judge gave Handrahan primary custody for reasons I can only guess at. The linked-to order changes all that for what should be obvious reasons.
The judge begins by saying that both parents clearly love Mila and that she’s a happy, healthy child who likes being around Dad and Mom separately.
Unfortunately, all of the evidence presented to the court also shows that an effective co-parenting relationship between the parties has never developed since the Divorce Judgment was issued. Mila needs both her mother and”her father to be engaged with her individually as a parent. She has that. Mila also needs both her mother and her father to be committed to work together to collaboratively and
cooperatively love her and guide her through her childhood. She clearly does not have that. The fact that her parents are not able to co-parent her is harmful to Mila, and it will undoubtedly become increasingly harmful to her as she gets older. In Mila’s interests, the conflict between her parents must stop, or at least it must be significantly abated.
You get the picture. The parents are at each others’ throats, can’t get along and the child is at risk as a result. Well, not exactly. In fact, according to the judge’s clear findings, there’s just one person who’s at fault for the failure to co-parent – the Defendant, Lori Handrahan.
Unfortunately, the evidence demonstrates that, at least presently, a co-parenting relationship between the parties is not possible. It is not possible because the Defendant either refuses or is unable to let it happen. Whether the Defendant “refuses” to co-parent with the Plaintiff, or whether she is “unable” to co-parent with the Plaintiff is unclear. The answer to this question may lie at least in part, to the Defendant’s narcissistic personality diagnosis…
The testimony from the parties at the most recent hearing was very similar in tenor to their testimony at trial in December of 2008. The court finds the testimony of the Plaintiff to be credible. He was forthright, his testimony made sense, and his testimony was corroborated by other evidence. The court does not find the testimony of the Defendant to be credible. The Defendant was very evasive in her answers to questions, and she made a strange and unsubstantiated claim. She testified that, “pedophiles use decongestants to sedate children.” No credible evidence was presented at all to indicate that Mila was provided any drugs or was
influenced by drugs. Nevertheless, the Defendant suspected that the Plaintiff had drugged Mila. Consequently, the Defendant had a test done on Mila’s urine in February of 2010. She claimed that there “was “meth” in Mila’s urine that was documented at a national lab.” She offered no credible evidence to corroborate this claim. The Defendant indicated that the Department of Health and Human Services refused to intervene regarding her claim, so she contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency (it was unclear whether the Defendant contacted the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, or the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency). Apparently, the DEA refused to intervene as well. Based upon the evidence presented, the court does not find the Defendant’s claim to be at all credible.
When the court issued its Divorce Judgment, it was hopeful that the Defendant would be able to co-parent Mila with the Plaintiff, but there were clear signs, based on the Defendant’s pre-divorce conduct, that this hope might be ill founded. Specifically, the court was concerned about the Defendant’s ability to co-parent Mila with the Plaintiff in light of the fact that the Defendant had continually insisted that the Plaintiff was mentally ill and that he required treatment (when he was not mentally ill at all). Moreover, the Defendant insisted that the Plaintiff take certain medications for “his mental illness” (that Plaintiff did not need, but which he nevertheless took to avoid difficulty with the Defendant). Additionally, the Defendant tried unsuccessfully in two instances to have the Plaintiff involuntarily committed for mental health treatment.
Since the Divorce Judgment was issued, the Defendant has continued to demonstrate that she will not cooperate with the Plaintiff in the parenting of their daughter. She has unilaterally removed Mila from her day care arrangements. She has refused to inform the Plaintiff of where Mila attended day care, or who Mila’s medical care providers are. In August of 2009, the Defendant simply relocated to Sorrento, Maine, a town four hours away from South Portland, where the parties had been residing. She did this without any notice to the Plaintiff. All of these
actions were in direct violation of the Divorce Judgment.
The court finds that the Defendant lacks the capacity to allow and encourage continuing and frequent contact between Mila and the Plaintiff, and that she lacks the capacity to cooperate or to learn to cooperate with the Plaintiff in caring for Mila. The Defendant has shown no interest in seeking out methods for her use in cooperating with the Plaintiff or for her use in resolving disputes with the Plaintiff relating to the parenting of MIla: the Defendant has simply resisted the Plaintiff’s efforts to be Mila’s father at nearly every turn. Conversely, the court is more optimistic that the Plaintiff has the capacity and the willingness to co-parent with the Defendant. He understands that Mila needs both of her parents, and he has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the Defendant. Further, the Plaintiff has
not disobeyed the court’s orders, as the Defendant has, and the Plaintiff has been very patient and appropriate in his response to the Defendant’s recalcitrance. The court finds that Mila has spent enough time with the Plaintiff to be very comfortable with him as her dad. The living arrangements that the Plaintiff provides for Mila are quite stable and adequate, and Mila is comfortable with her life with the Plaintiff in South Portland.
The court went on to find that it is in Mila’s best interests to be in the custody of her father and so ordered. It went on to order that Handrahan have visitation with Mila and that she pay child support. Tellingly, the judge ordered Mila’s passport to be placed in her father’s hands.
So, while I was incorrect in saying that Handrahan’s visits were supervised ones, I must question why they aren’t. After all, this is a mother with narcissistic personality disorder who -unsurprisingly given that diagnosis – refuses to co-parent with Mila’s father whom the court finds to be a loving, responsible man who would cooperate with Handrahan if it were possible to do so. The judge says it’s unlikely that Handrahan’s behavior will change and fears for the child’s emotional/psychological well-being because of it.
Given all that, the only questions are why Handrahan got primary custody in the first place and why her current visitation isn’t supervised. My guess is that it should be.