Case Study: Alienation, Legitimation and Custody

At Family Matters Law Group, we believe in a father’s rights and a father’s relationship with his children. We’re committed to helping fathers who believe the odds are against them and that the law will almost always favor the mother. Many people do not know that Georgia law is actually gender neutral and favors ruling in favor of both parents if at all possible. It is only in rare cases that the Court will rule for sole or majority custody for one parent.

It is important for children to know both of their parents, and being kept from a parent who wants to be involved in their children’s lives can have lasting repercussions. What happens in a situation where a tense co-parenting relationship is established that overwhelmingly favors the mother, where there is no paternal legitimation, where there are no court-ordered visitation rules … and the mother passes away?

In this case study, we’ll examine a situation where a father needed help legitimizing his seven-year-old daughter and obtaining custody of her following the death of her mother.

Case Summary

A family friend referred the father in this case to me. The father was able to see his daughter a few times each month, yet never on a consistent basis. His ability to visit with his daughter was dictated by the mother’s discretion.

Additionally, their relationship was beyond strained, and they were completely unable to co-parent together consistently. This case was unique because the parents had established a tense working relationship focused on the whims of the mother, who died unexpectedly.

Key Issues in This Case

This case highlights why it is so important to establish paternity and legitimation following a divorce or a break-up — or even better, at the birth of the child. Because the mother passed away, before any Court mandates could create a stable environment for the daughter to grow up in, the father had no legal rights to her.

Additionally, the maternal grandmother hid the minor child from her father in an attempt to get around the law. To make matters even worse, the grandmother was actively engaging in parental alienation.

Action and Case Resolution

From the start, this case was heavily litigated. We filed for legitimation and custody on the basis that my client had in fact established a meaningful relationship with his daughter prior to the mother’s passing, that he did provide child support and that he was entitled to custody of her as her biological parent. As a result of these facts, our client’s rights should be superior to the rights of the maternal grandmother.

Perhaps most frustrating of all was that the grandmother convinced the child to say her father spanked her abusively, leaving bruising. My client told me that when this alleged incident occurred, he was not present. I filed for a psychological custody evaluator to conduct an analysis on the psychological status on every member of this case: the grandmother, the father and the child. Through this evaluation, it was discovered that the grandmother had actively engaged in serious parental alienation against the father.

The case went through a two-day trial. The Court heard testimony from various witnesses that included both parties. The grandmother claimed that her granddaughter would suffer irreparable and lasting harm if she were not awarded sole custody of the minor child. My client presented evidence that he was involved in his daughter’s life and did not abuse her.

The Court found that my client had not abandoned his opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship with his daughter and, most importantly, the grandmother would intentionally damage the father-and-child relationship if she did not have limited contact with the minor child. He was entitled to sole legal and physical custody of his daughter.

Why I Took This Case

This case was referred to me by a family member of the client. It is my firm belief that the best interests of the child are the most important part of any and every custody case. I hope that through sharing this case study, fathers in a similar situation will know they have rights and that we’re here to help. I instantly wanted to help him because of the brazen grandmother who wanted to poison a beautiful father-daughter relationship and who also thought she was above the law.

I am dedicated to springing into action when I see a client who is overwhelmed and ready to give up, like my client mentioned here. Despite feeling that he had no recourse and despite the grandmother’s outrageous behavior, I moved to act on his behalf.

He deserved to have an ally, someone on his side, to help him get through this difficult time. He is now actively raising a bright and beautiful little girl who suffered no lasting harm from this tumultuous court case.If you are a parent in the metro Atlanta area (Henry, Clayton, Fayette and Fulton counties) and you need assistance with a custody case, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at Family Matters Law Group. We’re ready to listen and committed to fighting for your rights.