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MC v. MC

Decided: September 30, 1986.

MC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MC, DEFENDANT



Rosalie B. Cooper, J.s.c.

Cooper

OPINION

This matter originally came before the Court on a default application by the mother for custody of two children. One child, B., presently lives in Ireland with his father and his father's parents; the other child, M., resides with her mother and her mother's parents in New Jersey. (Initials, rather than full names, are being used to protect the interests of all parties.)

After hearing plaintiff's testimony the Court adjourned the matter for approximately one month to permit further testimony and to allow for the appearance of defendant. Although the father appeared and presented his position pro se at the adjourned hearing date, the Court appointed counsel remained at his side for two days and was available to assist him. In addition, the Court appointed a guardian ad litem who participated in the hearing and represented the interests of both children.

The undisputed facts as elicited from the testimony of both father, an Irish national, and mother, a United States citizen, indicated that the couple met and thereafter married in Ireland in 1979. There were two children born of the marriage: B., presently 5 1/2 years of age and M., presently 2 1/2 years of age. By virtue of their parent's status, each child holds dual citizenship in Ireland and the United States. 8 U.S.C.A. ยง 1401(e).

During the course of the marriage the parties customarily came to New Jersey to summer with the mother's parents. In 1985 the mother returned to New Jersey in May; the father, after completing his duties as a school teacher, followed in June.

Both parties testified to numerous marital arguments, which escalated through the summer of 1985, resulting in a Domestic Violence Order being issued at the behest of the mother. The Order was dismissed approximately one week after issue. The

marital disharmony of the summer culminated in the father returning to Ireland in September with the then 4 1/2 year old B., leaving the mother and M. in New Jersey. The father testified that the mother and M. were to follow shortly. The mother denied this.

Plaintiff claimed that as a result of the father's chronic alcohol problem, she was a victim of the "battered wife syndrome". She offered no expert testimony supporting this position. Although the father admitted to one punching incident, he denied that any alcohol problem existed. At the Court's request, defendant submitted to an alcohol evaluation by an expert who, noting the difference in the Irish and American mores concerning alcohol intake, was unable to come to any definitive conclusion.

The mother's undisputed testimony demonstrated that she has sufficient means and facilities to support herself and her two children in New Jersey.

A child psychologist testified on behalf of plaintiff to the close bonding between the mother and daughter and advised of the extremely adverse psychological effects of granting custody of M. to defendant. The expert suggested that the child reestablish contact with the father on a gradual basis. Although the psychologist had not had the opportunity to interview B., she recommended similar interaction between B. and the mother. In an effort to reestablish a relationship prior to the father's return to Ireland, the Court ordered two supervised visits between the father and M. These visits were effectuated with the cooperation of the mother and reportedly went well.

The father stated his position clearly and unequivocably: both children should be with him in Ireland, and he would permit the mother to visit the children there. In support of his position, the father submitted letters of good character which the Court accepted for their limited value.

Among these letters was one from the children's grandfather, with whom B. and defendant now reside. The next to the

last paragraph of the grandfather's letter reflects an attitude that the Court finds extremely disturbing:

Finally, B. is growing up a handsome, happy and popular young boy. We had several inquiries re his well-being from the Americal (sic) Embassy. But how could one reply to such hypocricy (sic), when a mother leaver (sic) her darling boy when others ...


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