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“Bribe” the Children for Favor in a Maryland Custody Case?

As we have mentioned before, this article is not legal advice.  Nor is it a substitute for a consultation with an attorney about YOUR case and YOUR circumstances.

A particularly difficult problem in custody and visitation cases can be the practice by which a one parent showers gifts, material goods and/or just plain money upon the parties’ child(ren).  Some judges call it “lollipopping.”

By whatever name, I am sure this human practice is as old as mankind.  It is likewise, in my opinion, often an innocent sin.  Most parents do it to varying degrees.  Sometimes it goes way over the top.  The insult is compounded when the parent who is doing the lollipopping is using the other parent’s child support money to do it.

The insidious nature of lollipopping is that it can often be a case of plausible deniability.  Consider the following: “I gave our daughter a new car so she would be safe on the road” versus “I gave our daughter a car so she would want to live with me.”  Even if the latter were true beyond all truth, which version would be the testimony in court?

This syndrome is likewise problematic because it can be a “chicken or the egg” type of arrangement.  Consider a teenager, largely independent, starts to spend more days per month and then per week in the home of the non-custodial parent.  The expense of feeding same, providing the “necessary” trappings such as laptop, printer,X-Box etc. adds up.

Economic circumstances are different than before and maybe a Motion to Modify Child Support is pending with the custody challenge so, maybe “I will just change the support myself and take my chances on the consequences??”

The foregoing is NEVER a good idea.  I am merely trying to point out that the facts in such cases are rarely as mechanical as you might think.  The distinctions fine.   A lawyer I respect once told me “the truth is: what you can prove.”  It takes a courageous and talented judge or custody evaluator to identify the fine distinctions involved in lollipopping.

The classic question is: do people who are guilty of this ever get justice.  My answer is that eventually the proverbial chickens do come home to roost.

The parent who was the boring “wee-wee, poo-poo, take a bath and go to bed” parent will never get a high five.  Yet, it has been my experience that kids eventually  recognize  the bribery  for what it is.  It is really just a question of when they catch on and that depends in part upon the age and individual child’s temperament.

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

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