Gibson’s access

Slate asks why Mel Gibson is allowed access to his young daughter, despite allegations of spousal abuse:

It’s an unintended consequence of gender-neutral family laws, enacted in many states in the second half of the 20th century. For generations, states defaulted to granting mothers custody of minor children. Then, as feminist mothers and participatory fathers began to reimagine parenting roles, states began to adopt laws that focused less on gender. 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” as California custody law states. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers supports this now-standard idea, propounding in its model for a parenting plan that noncustodial fathers ought to have liberal overnight visitation with their children. 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.
But maybe in light of the rest of Gibson’s history, the judge’s decision was too liberal. Would it have been such a stretch to propose reining in his visits with his daughter pending the investigation into his alleged abuse? Would it really hurt Lucia? Once the investigations into the domestic violence claim and into the authenticity of the recordings are concluded and the court makes a determination about Lucia’s safety around Gibson, he’ll be awarded whatever visitation the court deems appropriate; that’s what will happen, and that’s how it should be. The controversy here involves a temporary order in an ongoing proceeding, in the context of an allegation that may have merit and may not—so the challenge is how to proceed justly and in the best interests of the child, who, in this case, is an infant.

In my experience, parents have been denied all access to a child only in the most severe cases. Where there are allegations of child abuse, supervised access is usually ordered, as a balance between protecting the child’s safety and her right to spend time with both parents. (See R.T.F. v. S.L.R., 2005 NSSC 102, for example.)
With Gibson accused of hitting the child, it is a bit surprising that his access doesn’t have to be supervised, at least on an interim basis. On the other hand, Grigorieva may not be the most credible source, either. Poor child.

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