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Custody: It's Gonna Be Alright, Daddy.

About a month ago, I was called in to help on a divorce case that was going very badly, at least badly for daddy's custody/visitation requests.

Within the context of the divorce, the mother had accused Daddy of sexually abusing his five year old daughter. The case was caught in limbo in the court system.  This case was not in Atlanta, Fulton County where there are regular status conferences so that the parties see the judge often, nor in Marietta, Cobb County where, when one party asks for a hearing, they usually have it within a month, but in another county where scheduling has become a four letter word. Because of this, daddy had not seen his daughter in more than nine months.  

There was no order preventing him from seeing the child, just a very hostile mother who had done much and might to much more to prevent any contact.

This hearing was just to set a date for the trial.  Daddy was there and Mommy was there.  And for some reason, Mommy brought the child.

I'm no fan of child abusers.  Not only is there probably a special place reserved in hell for their ilk, I'm in favor of there being a special place reserved under the prison for them, too.  But not every person accused of abuse has committed abuse.  The claim of abuse is a nasty weapon which can be wielded by nasty people to accomplish dishonorable ends in custody cases.  In this case, prior to the divorce, Mommy had never claimed abuse.  The child had never made an outcry.  No doctor or therapist had seen the child, so none were prepared to support Mommy's specious contention.

The Judge called the case.  Opposing counsel argued that it wasn't ready for trial.  I argued that it was, since it was over nine months old, and that it cried out for prompt resolution.  I informed the Judge that Daddy had been deprived of his daughter, and daughter of her daddy, for those nine months.  The Judge agreed that the case required prompt resolution and set it down for her first available calendar...in October.

As we left the court room, Daddy, his other attorney and I talked about what to expect next.  Mommy came out, dragging daughter behind her.  As they headed down the hallway, daughter pulled back from her mom and turned toward Daddy. She gave him a smile and a pinky waive.  Daddy smiled and waived back.

Suddenly, daughter broke away, running down the hallway and springing up into her father's arms.  He enveloped her in a big bear hug, lifing her off the ground, tears now streaming down his face.  "It's gonna be alright, Daddy," the little girl consoled him.  "It's gonna be alright."

He hugged her a minute longer as a very angry mother scowled, then set his daughter down and watched her walk away.

As I said, there is probably a special place in hell reserved for child abusers.  I hope that right next door is a special place reserved for people who falsely cry abuse. 

I'll do my part to make that a reality at trial, even if it is not until October.

Michael Manely

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