Appeal court Den Bosch

May 7 2020, ECLI:NL:GHSHE:2020:1520

What can and cannot be expected from a parenting study?

Research into the limitations of parties amounts to a psychological examination of the parents and that does not fall within the powers of a parenting researcher. Nor can a parenting researcher be expected to conduct research into the (quality of) care provision. What can be expected of it: the parenting research focuses on why the parenting system does not function, provides insight into the behavior of the parents, and offers parents the opportunity to change destructive interaction patterns that harm the children. In addition, the expert report not only provides very useful information to the judge, but it is also a great help for parents to help find a solution.

In 2011, the parties were separated and the parenting plan was included in the decision as an appendix to the covenant.

In 2016, the parties agreed on a settlement agreement, whereby further agreements were made about the exclusive decision-making power for the mother with regard to the care and education of the children, as well as the transfer of the children, unless acute life-threatening situations or irreversible interventions arise during the children.

Parties have joint authority. The children have the primary residence with the mother. The children have been supervised since July 2019. Mother has asked the court for one-headed authority and a change in the care scheme. The court has established a provisional care arrangement and has the case pending pending progress reports from the family guardian.

Appeal

The mother appealed against this interim decision. The father has occasionally appealed.

On appeal, the mother indicates that the father suffers from PDD/NOS. That he questions the children’s diagnoses and the medication.  And that he is not sufficiently involved and cooperates insufficiently.

Father states that he is very involved and that it is the mother who often works against.

The Certified Institution ceases to be able to implement the contested decision as a result of the conflict between parents. The GI would like a judicial investigation into the authority, but also ratification of the contested interim decision. At the hearing, the family guardian indicates that he does not see how to improve the existing situation. He sees that the parties are autonomous and are not open to advice (and instructions) that the family guardian gives to the parents. The Child Protection Board wonders at a session why the mind of the guardian does not take a more active role. For example by promoting the temporary custody of the GI, so that the parents temporarily cannot fight each other over custody issues. During that period it can be seen how to arrange authority, care and parenting tasks / contacts between the father and the children.

Parenting researcher

The Court then acts thoroughly and appoints a guardian ad litem to advise the court on the contact arrangement. In addition, a psychologist is appointed as a parenting researcher (as in art. 194 of the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure). He is instructed, in close cooperation with the GI, to make an inventory of what needs to be done / changed with both the mother and the father in order to establish a form of cooperative or, which seems more appropriate, parallel parenting, or another form of parenting that suits the situation. For this purpose, the expert, in coordination with the GI and the guardian ad litem, must conduct research into the possibilities of the parents in joint parenthood, or if joint parenthood no longer appears to be responsible, into the possible role of the mother, or the father, or a neutral authority in the provision of authority.

The father then wants the parenting researcher to also investigate the system of the children and the parties, whereby research must also be carried out into the care provision or the possibilities and limitations of the parties.

Task of the parenting researcher

The court points out that a parenting investigation cannot extend that far. Research into the limitations of parties amounts to a psychological examination of the parents and that does not fall within the powers of a parenting researcher. Nor can a parenting researcher be expected to conduct research into the (quality of) care provision. What can be expected of it: the parenting research focuses on why the parenting system does not function, provides insight into the behavior of the parents, and offers parents the opportunity to change destructive interaction patterns that harm the children. In addition, the expert report not only provides very useful information to the judge, but it is also a great help for parents to help find a solution.

What does this mean for other parents?

This statement confirms that judges are reluctant to accept that the situation between parents seems unrepentant. Every effort should be made to try to improve rapport and communication, especially if the poor cooperation between parents is associated with contact arrangement problems.