Legal Question in Family Law in Minnesota

Father's Visitation Interference/Harassment

I have parenting time with my 5 year old daughter, but the mother is constantly harassing and threatening me with frivolous letters and legalese. The former mediator never put up with this, but now the mother has had the mediator changed after I received weekly visitations and the result is that my parenting time has been cut in half!!

What is happening is that my daughter, who is very bright and full of life, has been having some minor behavioral problems in school, so the mother has now taken her to see a psychologist for the sole purpose of digging up things to blame on me.

What she has done is to make my daughter call her current boyfriend, now husband, ''Daddy'', and also never lets my daughter even mention anything to do with our side of the family, which is a loving and caring family. The mother throws away ANYTHING that my daughter brings home from me; clothes, toys, anything, and even once tore a yellow ribbon out of her hair in the parking lot drop off!!

This is truly insane and is causing my daughter stress and now it is showing in her behavior.

The mother claims to be planning a legal bomb in the next ''mediation'' this coming August.

We just need to STOP the harassment. It is frivolous and damaging to all.

Asked on 7/08/09, 2:36 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

John Jesperson Minnesota Lawyers - Jesperson Law Offices

Re: Father's Visitation Interference/Harassment

I just reviewed your question regarding parental alienation. This is an extremely difficult issue in many cases, since it is so often fueled by lingering, and deep seated, anger and resentment. What makes it so difficult to deal with is that the parent who is "protecting" the child may not (and, indeed, often does not) recognize that his or her behavior is having an adverse effect on the child. The dynamics of this sort of problem are different in each case, and a well qualified, strong willed mediator or counselor is often required. As always more facts are required, but consider the following:

First, mediators serve at the request of both parties. A single party cannot ordinarily choose a mediator, and force the other party to use that person. I am puzzled by the suggestion in your posting that the mother unilaterally chose a new mediator. Is this because the former mediator was unavailable, or chose to withdraw? If not, then you could bring a motion in court asking that you and your wife be ordered to continue working with the mediator who already has experience with your case. If the former mediator is unavailable, then you should be involved in the selection of a new mediator. The former mediator may be able to offer you a referral, taking into consideration the needs of your case. In any event, if you are uncomfortable with the manner in which the mediator was chosen, or the qualifications of that person, you can certainly object, and if the issue cannot be addressed directly with your ex-wife, it can be brought to court.

Second, mediation may be inappropriate in your case, or insufficient to address particular problems (since a mediator cannot typically "order" the parties to do anything.) You may need to bring a motion and ask the court for specific relief that is addressed to the unique problems in your case. For example, the court can order that exchanges take place at certain times or places, that communication between you is limited by certain conditions, or may order therapy, rather than mediation. You may also wish ask that the previous mediator be appointed to your case, or that another individual be selected, taking into consideration the needs and concerns of both you and your ex-wife.

There are a great many "strategic" issues to consider in deciding how to respond to your ex-wife. A lawyer will help you decide whether you should bring a motion now or later, and what that motion should address. For example, if you know (or strongly suspect) that your ex-wife is intending to bring a motion in August, why don't you bring a motion now, addressing your concerns, and "steal her thunder" on these issues? If you do so, and your motion is well conceived and well crafted, it may blunt the effect of her motion, or place her in a position where her motion only appears to be retaliatory.

Space in these forums is strictly limited. If you have further, detailed questions, you should contact my office.

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Answered on 7/08/09, 9:43 am

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