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Case Notes: Fabricating Abuse in a Custody Case

In M.O. v. F.W., 2012 PA Super 49 (2012), the Superior Court affirmed the decision of the trial court awarding sole legal and primary physical custody of the child to Mother due to Father's histrionic and fabricated allegations of child abuse.

In M.O., Father and Mother entered into a custody order which granted primary physical custody to Mother and partial physical and shared legal custody to Father. A year and a few months after entering this Order, Father filed for Protection From Abuse on behalf of the minor child. Father alleged that Mother and her boyfriend physically, emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused the minor child. Father then filed an emergency Petition to Modify Custody.

After a hearing, the trial court determined that Father's allegations were unfounded, and that he, in fact, fabricated what little evidence he presented in an effort to obtain full custody without the interference of Mother. Consequently, the court granted Mother sole legal and primary physical custody (with Father to receive four hours of supervised visitation a week). In addition to fabricating evidence and producing only speculative testimony, Father attempted to have the Judge "recused" (i.e. taken off the case) when Father realized the case was not going his way.

The Superior Court affirmed the well reasoned decision of the trial court and admonished Father's behavior stating that "manipulation of the court system cannot be allowed."

Custody disputes often involve flaring tempers and differences of opinion. However, you cannot lie to the court. The repurcussions for submitting false evidence are high, as Father in this case found out. Father originally had unsupervised partial physical custody with overnights. But because Father attempted to "play" the court system, his custody was reduced to only four total hours of supervised visitation a week.

Providing good advice on conduct is one of the most important roles of your legal counsel. Be sure to hire experienced and respected legal counsel on your side to avoid the pitfalls of emotionalism and inapproriate conduct.