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Stepparent’s Interference with Custodial Relationship with Other Parent

Garth R. Goodman Jan. 24, 2024

If a parent (“A”) and his/ her spouse (the stepparent) knowingly alienate a Child against the other parent (“B”), and this conduct is directly attributable to that Child making false allegations of abuse or neglect against “B” and not wanting to spend any time and/ or have any communication with “B”,   then can “B” bring a civil suit against “A” and the stepparent for tortious interference of a custodial relationship?

If a parent has custodial/ visitation rights (nka “timesharing) with his/ her Child(ren), and if a third person such as a stepparent intends to interfere in that relationship by detaining the Child from the other parent or preventing the other parent from exercising his/ her parental or custodial rights, then that Parent may file a civil cause of action against the third person / stepparent for tortious interference with a custodial relationship.    

Further, if the third person/ stepparent’s conduct is so “outrageous” and “beyond all bounds of decency”, which causes the other Parent to have “severe emotional distress”, then the other Parent may also have a cause of action for damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  By way of example, the other Parent may have a cause of action if the stepparent knowingly persuades a Child to believe that the other Parent has been abusive to that Child, without any evidence or basis to make such an allegation(s), and the Child comes to believe the abuse to be true (when in fact it is not), and that Child no longer wants to communicate or spend any time with the other Parent, which causes the other Parent thereafter to abuse alcohol and/ or prescription medication, to lose a job and become financially unstable, and to seek ongoing therapy for major depression and anxiety, etc.

Any cause of action against Parent “A” would have to be brought in Family Court and not through a separate civil action.