In October, a high-profile custody dispute between TV personality Michael Strahan and his ex-wife, Jean Muggli, was settled, prompting Strahan to dismiss the allegations he had made against her regarding their twin teenage daughters.
Strahan had previously accused Muggli of “a pattern of abusive conduct” toward the ex-couple's teen daughters and requested that the courts award him primary custody of the children. The claim included allegations of both physical and emotional abuse, including that Muggli had failed to bring the children to court-mandated therapy sessions and stopped them from getting to various recreational and educational commitments. As part of the settlement, Muggli agreed to all the terms proposed by Strahan and his lawyers, including moving the girls from North Carolina to Manhattan so they can continue attending school there. In return, Strahan agreed to dismiss the abuse claims “with prejudice,” and the couple will embark on a shared custody agreement.
Complexities of Custody Battles with Abuse Allegations
Custody disputes regarding the children of unmarried, divorcing, or divorced parents can get quite heated and complicated on their own. However, when allegations of abuse are introduced to the conversation, custody battles can become even more complicated because the State of New Jersey seeks to put the child's best interests first. If your ex accuses you of abuse, either of himself/herself or the children, it immediately raises the question of your ability to care for your children safely. This means the courts must consider a whole new are a whole other set of factors, including:
- Whether there are formal abuse charges or convictions against you
- Whether there is any other evidence of abuse (including physical evidence or testimony of witnesses)
- Whether your ex has any ulterior motives for making such a claim
- If the allegations have merit, how to balance the child(ren)'s safety with your parental rights
What We Can Learn from the Strahan Case
Fortunately, even if a custody battle involves allegations of abuse, you still have options that may allow you to keep custody. Here's what the recent Strahan custody dispute shows us:
- Negotiation is still possible. Since abuse allegations in Family Court are not necessarily criminal charges, there may be ways for you to meet certain stipulations that cause your ex to drop the claims—just as Muggli did in the Strahan case.
- There may be alternative solutions that don't involve stripping a parent of their custody rights. In the Strahan case, the decision to move the girls to Manhattan allowed both parents to live in closer proximity, enabling a joint custody situation that was agreeable to both.
- You can resolve the custody while other issues remain in dispute. Despite the couple's resolution of the custody matter, Strahan and Muggli are still in an ongoing battle regarding upping child support payments. The parents and the courts are treating these as separate matters.
If you are embroiled in a complicated custody dispute in New Jersey, or if your ex is accusing you of abuse to weaken your custody chances, the Lento Law Firm can help. To learn more, contact us here or call 888-535-3686.