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Child CustodyVisitationMom’s Allergy to Dad’s Cat Does Not Prevent Visitation in Dad’s Home

May 5, 2008

Imagine a mother seeking to prevent children of the marriage from having visitation with their father in his home simply because he has a cat, particularly when there was no claim that the cat was vicious or endangered the children.

In Mandel v. Mandel, decided by a Nassau County court last week, a mother claimed that the children’s exposure to the cat in their father’s home posed a serious health risk to her and, as result, sought to limit the father’s visitation.

In the case, the mother claimed that she had to be hospitalized because she had severe allergic reaction to the cat. The father testified that, in order to protect the mother from exposure to the cat, the children would change their clothes either at the father’s home before returning to the mother’s home or immediately after returning to the mother’s home in her garage. The father also testified that the children were exposed to other dogs and cats in the homes of their friends.

The Court found that there was no precedent for excluding the children from the father’s home because the cat presented no risk to the children. The Court urged the children to continue take reasonable precautions to limit the mother’s exposure to the cat following the visitation their father.

I suspect that there was really something more going on in the case then whether the children should be around the father’s cat. In its decision, the court alluded to the fact, that the cat did not become an issue to the mother’s health until the father stopped paying the mortgage on the former marital residence now occupied mother and children.

But, like my mom always said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Because the father may have done something that the mother did not like, the mother had the knee jerk reaction of attempting to restrict the father’s access to the children to gain some advantage.

What should give the mother some concern is that this decision is an interim decision and there will soon be a trial. If the court felt that this mother was using the issue of the cat and visitation to obtain advantage over the father, the mother’s strategy will have backfired. If, for instance, as a result of this application, the court felt the mother and was manipulative or lacked credibility, the result, at trial, could be devastating.

Hopefully, an amicable settlement is imminent.

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