September 28th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
I wonder if family court judges will ever learn. If this article is any indication, the answer is “no.” (EOnline, 9/26/12)
It’s another celebrity divorce and custody case, this time involving television actor Paul Nassif and soon-to-be-ex-wife Adrienne Maloof.
The two have been married for 10 years and have three sons, Gavin who’s nine and twins Christian and Collin who are six. Nassif filed for legal separation in July and what do you think happened next? Maloof leveled charges of child abuse, of course. Nassif categorically denied that he had abused any of the children, but what difference would that make to a family court judge? Maloof asked for and received a temporary restraining order, so the kids couldn’t see their dad.
In due course, the Department of Children and Family Services investigated and found that the charges were not only inconclusive, but unfounded. The court held a hearing that resulted in severely limited visitation for Nassif. He’s only allowed to see the children for eight hours on Saturdays. Given that there’s no evidence of abuse, why would the judge separate the children from their father?
Nassif’s attorney Lisa Helfend-Meyer told the court, “There is also no evidence that their should be any monitored visits…the Children and Family Services said the allegations were not only inconclusive but unfounded.” Nassif also denied allegations of abuse, saying that “every one of them is false” and insisting that when it came to custody of the kids, “all I’ve ever wanted is a 50/50 share.”
The point is that the allegations were baseless and found to be so by the DCFS, but they worked anyway. Maloof wanted to deprive Nassif of his children and they of him, so she leveled charges for which there was no evidence, but the judge gave her what she wanted anyway. That’s true even though, according to Nassif’s lawyer, the judge understands the children need their dad.
Helfend-Meyer tells E! News she was pleased the judge saw there was “immediate emotional harm for [the] children” in not seeing their father and confirmed that Nassif will be allowed to see his kids for two Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What’s also true is that the boys, particularly Gavin, are old enough to have talked to the caseworker for the DCFS. Since the charges were ruled unfounded, that means the kids denied that Nassif did anything harmful to them. And of course there was no other evidence that he did.
So on what basis does this judge keep the children from seeing their father 95% of the time? Maloof’s say-so, that’s what.
A child can see what’s going on, so why can’t an experienced family court judge? Maloof charged Nassif because she figured she’d get an advantage in the custody battle, and she was right. The judge is doing exactly what she wanted, even though she lied about the abuse.
What the judge should have done is give Nassif primary custody and Maloof supervised visitation. That’s supported in California law that encourages parents to promote healthy relationships between the other parent and the kids. Since Maloof did the opposite – i.e. she lied in order to separate the kids from their dad – her ability to promote good father-child relationships looks doubtful. She should have supervised visitation until she can prove that she’ll do what the law requires.
Some studies show as many as 85% of abuse claims made in the course of divorce and custody cases are found to be unproven by judges in the cases. But parents, mostly mothers, keep making them for the good and sufficient reason that they work. As long as judges keep rewarding mothers who make fraudulent charges of abuse, they’ll continue to make them. Why wouldn’t they? In the meantime, the kids would like to see their fathers, and vice versa.
Immediately after Wednesday’s court hearing, an emotional Nassif told E! News: “It’s been very difficult. The point is, I want to see my children. The children are the ones that are being affected by this.”