Judicial opinions abundant in facts and rich in thoughtful analysis are as rare as a white peacock. Hon. Richard A. Dollinger, J.S.C. has delivered such a rarity in J.F. v. D.F., 61 Misc.3d 1226(A), 2018 N.Y. Slip Op. 51829[U], a determination of a contentious custody dispute. This 27,000-word exegesis presents a myriad of multi-faceted intellectual gems requiring multiple reads to fully mine its trove. Indeed, more than one column article will be required to address its many aspects. This article will address the court’s development of a specific definition of the complex, controversial and emotionally-charged term, “parental alienation.”

Facts of the Case

The parties entered into a custody agreement with respect to their daughters, ages 7, 13 and 15 at the time of the trial that is the subject of the decision being discussed. The agreement provided for joint legal custody and designated the father as primary custodial parent. It established a shared parenting schedule with the children spending two days each week with one parent, the remaining five with the other, then flipping the arrangement during the second week. The agreement provided for a week-to-week rotation during the summer. Judgment was entered in November 2013. The post-judgment festivities began almost at once, with multiple proceedings occupying 2014 and 2015. In 2017 the parties launched what the court dubbed yet “another litigation war of attrition” that led to the decision under discussion.

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