Thus, because of the “sanctity in the union of parent and child,” where a person interferes with the parent-child relationship, that person should be held liable in damages.
The court next addressed the issue of damages. The court held that there were two elements of damages that could be awarded to the plaintiff, including (1) “expenses incurred in recovering the child, including legal fees,” and (2) “compensation for the loss of the child’s services and/or his care, comfort and companionship.” Id. at 1302. Thus, a parent may recover all out-of-pocket costs associated with re-obtaining custody, as well as any damages for the loss of the parent-child relationship.
The potential for psychological and physical damage to children of divorce and the parental relationship looms as a potential harbinger of doom over every divorce case. This specter becomes reality when one parent interferes with the rights of custody or visitation of the other parent by preventing the child from visiting the other parent, or by kidnapping or secreting the child from the parent who has the right to custody or visitation. This article will discuss the visitation and custody interferences that occur during divorce and alert practitioners and judges to the psychological damage to the children. This article will review the alternative remedies available to circumvent custody and visitation interference and address the problems associated with enforcing these remedies. This examination will reveal that the available remedies lose effectiveness proportionate to the severity of the interference with custody and visitation rights. There are numerous types of visitation and custody interferences that courts must address: modest abuses related to timeliness and access for telephone contact and visitation; issues of child protection when allegations of physical and sexual abuse occur, such as eliminating or limiting contact with the other parent; and in the most severe cases, loss of a relationship due to actions characterized as kidnapping. In addition to these described interferences, more subtle actions occur which create problems. Parents involved in serious custody and visitation disputes frequently engage in programming and brainwashing techniques directed at the child to the detriment of the other parent, thereby interfering subtly or overtly with the parent/child relationship.