Family Law Keyed to Weisberg
In Re Jaclyn P
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Respondent Robert P., the father of Melissa P. and Jaclyn P., had proceedings commenced against him alleging that he had sexually abused and neglected both daughters. Melissa’s mother testified that she first learned of the abuse when her niece and her daughter Jaclyn both reported that Melissa had hurt them by placing her fingers inside their vaginas. Melissa reported she had been playing the doctor game taught to her by her father, and that her father had also taught her the weenie game, in which he placed his penis in her mouth. She also stated that Melissa had been exhibiting behavioral problems and suffered from nightmares. Melissa’s mother contacted Child Protective Services (CPS) who sent a caseworker to meet with Melissa twice monthly for 25 visits. On one visit, Melissa described the doctor game and demonstrated by poking her fingers between the legs of a stuffed animal. She reportedly told the caseworker that her father touched her in the same manner. Melissa was taken to see a psychiatric social worker, who testified that Melissa told her in detail how respondent had molested her. She also testified that in her opinion Melissa acted in a manner consistent with that of a sexually abused child, and that she did not believe Melissa had been coached. A pediatrician examined Melissa for physical signs of sexual abuse, but found nothing unusual. He testified that abuse may occur without resulting in physical findings. A board-certified child psychiatrist testified that he interviewed Melissa, her mother, her father, and her younger sibling. He acknowledged the possibility that Melissa had been coached, but stated it was his opinion that she showed signs consistent with being a victim of sexual abuse. A pediatric urologist testified for respondent, saying that he found no physical evidence of sexual abuse. He conceded that such evidence is often not present in victims of abuse. Melissa’s paternal grandmother testified that she supervised Melissa’s visitation with her father and that Melissa never complained to her of any problems. A psychologist and family therapist hired by respondent testified that he observed Melissa and Jaclyn interact with their father on two occasions, and described a warm, bonding, nurturing type of relationship. He opined that the allegations of abuse were unfounded, but the observation occurred over a period of a couple of hours, and he never spoke to the children nor their mother. Respondent denied that he abused his children sexually. He asserted that the allegations were fabricated by his wife, who was engaged in an extramarital affair and was trying to influence future custody determinations. A psychologist testifying as the court’s expert saw the respondent over several sessions. He refused to submit to two tests she would have administered, and she found him to be defensive and suffering from a nonspecified personality disorder. His refusal to cooperate fully prevented her from determining if he was aroused b deviant sexual stimuli, and she offered no opinion as to if he abused his children. The court conducted an in camera interview of Melissa, but she refused to cooperate. The Family Court dismissed the opinion, finding the evidence even and thus the case had not been proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
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