The recent revelations of audio recordings where Mel Gibson admits to hitting the mother of his child, Oksana Grigorieva, and threatens to kill her has increased awareness of domestic violence issues in child custody disputes and raised some serious questions. As this article in Slate points out, the mother’s efforts to restrict Mel Gibson’s contact with their infant child to supervised visitation have so far been unsuccessful. Why? The article explains:
Policymakers across the country agreed that it was in the best interest of children to have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents,” who ideally “share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing” . . . . Custody judges are charged with determining what’s in the “best interest of the child” when deciding how to support—or whether to depart from—that general policy goal. Legally, Gibson doesn’t have to show he should be allowed to see his daughter alone. It’s Grigorieva’s burden to show he shouldn’t, and she hasn’t proven that yet because the court is still investigating her allegations.
Is the court being too cautious here? Many think so, including the author of the Slate article.
Tennessee law provides that “the court shall . . . grant such rights of visitation as will enable the child and non-custodial parent to maintain a parent-child relationship unless the court finds, after a hearing, that visitation is likely to endanger the child’s physical or emotional health.”
Another statute expands (and perhaps contradicts) this guidance as follows:
(d) A parent’s involvement or conduct may have an adverse effect on this child’s best interest, and the court may preclude or limit any provisions of a parenting plan, if any of the following factors are found to exist after a hearing:
Based on my understanding of the media reports, I think most Tennessee judges would err on the side of caution and temporarily restrict Mr. Gibson’s contact with his infant daughter to supervised visitation until the court could determine the validity of Ms. Grigorieva’s allegations. The audio recordings are very troubling and portray Mr. Gibson to be violent and emotionally unstable. Having said that, I try not to second guess those who obviously know far more than I do about any particular case, including the trial judge in the Gibson-Grigorieva matter.
Information provided by K.O. Herston, Tennessee Divorce Lawyer.