An Australian judge has taken the unusual step of writing a letter to two children purporting to explain why he ordered their father out of their lives forever. He shouldn’t have. Judge Tom Altobelli wrote the letter to the kids, ages 11 and six to be opened by them when each turns 14. In his order, Altobelli gave sole custody to the children’s mother and restricted the father’s contact with them to letters and birthday cards. That’s right, no weekends, no overnight visits, no face time at all, nothing – ever. Read about it here (Fox News, 6/6/12).
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “this guy must be a horrible father to lose custody completely.” But you’d be wrong. Indeed, reading between the lines, if there was an abuser in the house, I suspect it’s the mother, but it’s impossible to know. But whatever the case, the judge deprived the children of their father for all time ”because the court ruled she was the better parent.” That’s it. The judge figured she did a better job of caring for the kids and so kicked the father out of their lives entirely. If there’s a clearer case of “winner take all,” I’ve never seen it. Needless to say, according to all reputable social science, according to every possible notion of justice and fair play and according to the best interests of children, that’s a stupid, destructive and utterly unnecessary decision. But it’s worse than that.
It should come as no surprise that the mother leveled charges of child abuse at the father in the middle of their custody battle. Those are so common now that we’re surprised when they’re not made. And, as he’s required to do, Judge Altobelli looked into those charges and found them to be unsubstantiated.
“At the time I had to decide the case your mom believed in her heart that your dad hurt you,” he has written.And why did she believe “in her heart” that Dad was a child abuser?
“My job is to look at all the information, and listen very carefully to what everybody says, including the experts. I decided that you had not been hurt by your dad,” Altobelli wrote.
“Even after I told your mum what I decided, I think she still believed in her heart that your dad had hurt you. This just goes to show that sometimes words do not change a person’s heart,” he added.
The mother became convinced the father had sexually abused their daughter, a view she reached after her own mother had seen a clairvoyant who had predicted the abuse.That’s right, according to grandma, a clairvoyant predicted that he would abuse the kids and therefore the mother concluded that he had done so even though there’s no evidence that he did. Mom then used that patently bogus assemblage of non-facts and hocus-pocus to claim sole custody and it worked! Just when you think family courts can’t get any more rabidly anti-father, someone ups the ante – someone like Tom Altobelli. Just imagine a father trying some stunt like that. ”Hey judge, I want you to cut Mom out of her kids’ lives forever, because my mother says a psychic told her she might one day abuse one of them.” He’d probably be committed to a mental institution, but when Mom does it it’s all taken very seriously. More to the point, it’s taken as grounds for depriving the children of their father. I’m just amazed.
And of course Judge Altobelli missed altogether the salient fact that a parent who imagines abuse by the other parent for the sake of preventing contact with the children is herself either an abuser or very close to it. Family judges so loathe the concept of fathers and their relationships with their children that they can’t seem to grasp a simple fact – children need both parents, so when one parent tries to come between the children and the other parent, that is itself child abuse. Judge Altobelli claims Mom is a great parent, but nothing he says in his letter backs that up and her behavior belies it.
My guess is that this is another case in which the parents were so in conflict that the judge essentially ruled that they can’t get along well enough to co-parent, so he gives the kids to one parent alone. We’ve seen that once before in Australia and in extreme cases, I can see the point. Parents who are truly at each others’ throats can in rare instances be utterly unable to co-parent for the sake of the children. But the one previous case I referred to and this one have a couple of things in common. First, it was Mom who leveled the false charges and second, it was Mom who got custody. What neither judge managed to notice was what was obvious to everyone else. Yes there was extreme conflict, but Mom started it with her false allegations. If conflict is the problem, why not let the person responsible for it bear the consequences?
In his zeal to take a father from his children, Judge Altobelli failed to consider that concept.
As the final indignity, Altobelli tops illogic and anti-father bias with cowardice. Having deprived the children of their father by his own order
The judge’s letter which is to be opened once the children turn 14, is a plea that the children renew contact with the father, explaining that their mother’s claims he abused them are false.That’s right, in perhaps the most craven and cowardly move I’ve seen, Altobelli actually passes the buck to the kids. He has the power to order continued contact between the children and their father, but refused to do so for reasons that from here look entirely specious. Having abdicated his responsibility, Altobelli then shamefully tells the kids to “renew contact with their father.” Let’s see. Mom is so desperate to keep Dad out of their lives that she makes up charges of abuse, but according to Altobelli’s “reasoning,” when they get to be 14 she’ll all of a sudden allow him to see them again. Please. Somehow Altobelli missed the fact that the entire exercise on her part was to separate the father from the children. His pretense that, in the future, the kids can accomplish on their own what he could have ordered with the stroke of a pen is nothing but a salve to his conscience made guilty by his shameful kowtowing to a mother.
It doesn’t get much more disgraceful than this.