February 2, 2022

Do Child Support Obligations Change If The Child & Parent Are Estranged? | Cup of Joe

Why Does Little Jason Not Want To See His Mom? Child Support Case Study


We…Are…Live!  Third case study for 2022.

This is a real quote: “I don’t watch TV shows to figure out the ending. If that was the case, I would write the sh*t myself .”  (anonymous mother). 

In this week’s case study we have a mother who had a drug problem while in a marriage. Her name was Traci.  The father was Russ. They had a child, a boy named Jacob. The marriage did not work out. Traci and Russ got divorced. Because of the drug problem, Russ had full custody of Jacob. Traci had supervised visitation.  Traci also had to pay Russ child support. 


Jacob didn’t want to see his mom on the scheduled visitation days. Traci knew Russ was behind Jacob’s reluctance. Traci, who was clean from her drug problem, was sad and went to court. Jacob went to visit his mother and was very upset. He asked his mother why she could not drop the case.  And Traci, not wanting her child to suffer, did just that – she dropped the case. 

But she did ask the court for one thing – to allow her to stop making child support payments, which were very difficult for her.

That is what this case is about:  The court had to decide whether Russ was alienating the child from his mother. If he was Traci would not have to pay anymore. 

So the case was brought before a judge.

Let’s take a peek at how the trial went and find out what happens.

The Laws You Need to Know

  1. A parent has a duty to support a child until the age of twenty-one 
  2. Child support payments may be suspended where the custodial parent has unjustifiably frustrated the noncustodial parent's right of reasonable access. 

The Scene

Monroe County Family Court Courtroom – Rochester, NY


The Trial

JUDGE: Will the Clerk call the next case?

CLERK: Come to order. Calling case number 22 on the calendar, Traci M. v. Russell M.  Will each of the parties please raise your right hand?  Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

TRACI: Yes, I swear.

RUSS: I do..

JUDGE:  Good morning all. We are here on the mother’s request to modify her child support obligations.  I understand that Jacob is almost 13 years old and he does not want to visit with his mother. We will now proceed with the trial to determine whether Russ alienated the child's affections toward his mother.

Let me call the representative from child services to testify first.

CHILD SERVICES REP:  Good morning, Your Honor.

JUDGE: Do you have any information as to why Jacob does not want to visit his mother?

CS REP:  Yes, Your Honor. Jacob's refusal of visitation is a manifestation of the extremely high degree of conflict which exists between the parents This conflict has had immeasurable impact on Jacob's ability to maintain healthy relationships with either parent. When we informed Traci of this she withdrew her visitation case. She no longer exercises her court-ordered right of visitation.

JUDGE: And an investigation was conducted as to the mother?

CS REP: Yes. Tracy had a substance abuse problem, which negatively impacted her ability to parent Jacob. Traci has been clean and sober for four years and is employed.

JUDGE: Thank you. Let’s hear from the mother.  What was the cause of the breakdown in your relationship as parents with you and Russ?

TRACI: Russ harbors a deep disdain of me arising out of an incident that occurred more than a decade ago when Jacob was five months old. Jacob suffered an injury at a birthday party while in my care. Russ believes I intentionally burned Jacob's genitalia. 

JUDGE:  Well, what did happen?

TRACI: Jacob suffered a minor burn on his thigh due to an accidental burn from my cigarette lighter. Russ failed to notice Jacob suffered from a serious bacterial infection around his genitalia while he was in Russ's care.

JUDGE: Any witnesses to the accidental burn?

TRACY:  Yes, my adult son from another marriage, Joseph. 

JOSEPH: I was there during the incident. My mom was lighting candles, okay? She went to pick up Jacob and the end of the cigarette lighter touched his leg. Only Jacob's thigh was burnt and only slightly. 

JUDGE: Do you want Jacob to be part of your life?

JOSEPH: It has been five or six years since I last saw Jacob and I would love to have contact with my brother. I know of no reason why Russ did not want me in Jacob's life. My mother never abused me and he loved her with all his heart.

Traci was not cross-examined by Russ about the birthday party or the resulting injury.

JUDGE: Tracy: When did your visits diminish?

TRACI: In 2015 I had only eleven visits with Jacob and about twelve visits the year before. Of late, there were thirty consecutive missed visits none of which were caused by me. My last visit with Jacob was January 13, 2016. I haven’t not spoken to Jacob since then. On that last visit Jacob sat in my truck, looking scared and confused, and he wanted to know why I could not just drop the court case. It broke my heart and that’s when I decided I was not going to make him come anymore.

JUDGE: Did you try to have contact with Jacob after that?

TRACI: Since I dropped the visitation court case Russ has not responded to my many text messages. Russ has not allowed me to have Jacob's direct telephone number and Jacob does not have my number.

JUDGE: As to the visits you did have: how did they go?

TRACI: Jacob improperly has been put in the middle of an adult situation. At first Jacob enjoyed visits but his demeanor consistently changed from happy to sullen as soon as Russ returned at the end of a visit. I soon learned to say goodbye to Jacob before Russ appeared. At one visit at the Strong Museum I suggested going outside to the playground area and Jacob refused because he said it was not in the agreement. On Christmas Eve 2015, Russ’s brother transported Jacob to a shopping mall for a visit exchange. The Uncle, however, first brought Jacob to the mall security office and had him sit underneath the security camera and gave mall security notice of the exchange. This is how Russ just constantly instills fear into him. Another example was when I asked Jacob about school. Jacob told me to stop questioning him, because he doesn't know what he can talk about. Russ videotaped visitation exchanges, further upsetting Jacob's stress. He said he needed to do that to prove that he took Jacob to the scheduled visits.

JUDGE: Do you think Traci is entitled to be part of Jacob's life?

RUSS: First of all, this is my son and he was abused and being a parent, as we are, you would never get over somebody hurting your child no matter what it is. It is Jacob's choice whether to have a relationship with his mother.

JUDGE: Did you stop communicating with Traci after that?

RUSS: After the injury to Jacob, I continued to have a relationship with Traci, Jacob, and her older son Joey, and Traci continued to enjoy unsupervised time with Jacob. I attended substance abuse meetings with her.

The Judge's Ruling

JUDGE: Child support payments should be suspended if a parent intentionally orchestrated and encouraged the estrangement of the other parent from the child or actively interfered with or deliberately frustrated visitation rights.  

This Court finds Mother's testimony and Joseph’s testimony and only portions of Father's testimony to be credible.  However, this Court finds Father was insincere and not credible when he testified that he had encouraged Jacob to visit with Mother 

The Court finds Father has subverted Mother's visitation with Jacob and finds there is a constant undercurrent from Father of disapproval of Mother which constrains Jacob from enjoying time with his Mother. The Court finds Father has engaged in a pattern of undermining Jacob's relationship with Mother.

Traci’s support obligations are hereby suspended.

So Ordered. We are adjourned.

Justice served?  Let us know. We’ll see you next time.

Click HERE to read the case.

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