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Systematic Verbal Abuse and the Emotional Wellbeing of a Child

Father [F] and Mother [M] never married, but had a child together in 2006 [D].  M did not tell F that he was a father until D was a month old.  F accused M of deliberately getting pregnant and ruining his life.  Family court granted M sole physical custody and F and M were granted joint legal custody of D.  F was awarded visitation of D from 5pm to 7pm two weekdays and 9am to noon on alternating Saturdays.

In November of 2017, the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services [DCFS] received notice that F was verbally abusing D.  F refused to meet with DCFS and the case was closed until October of 2018 when DCFS received another complaint.  F came to D’s home for his visitation after 7pm, but D did not want to leave with him because she had home work.  By this time D was 12 years old.  F became angry and started throwing metal objects at the door.  D was so frightened she hid in a closet and cried.

A social worker from DCFS investigated and discovered that F had had 22 call out reports from the police department in the last six years.  He had also spent 11 months in jail.  Further, DCFS discovered F constantly belittled D calling her fat and telling her she would be a drug addict by the time she was 18.  F constantly insulted M to D calling M a whore and a drug addict.  (No abuse of drugs by M was found by DCFS.)  F also berated D for her mother’s race – M is from Central America. (F is from a different culture, but not specified in court proceedings.)

D told DCFS that she did not want to see F.  He screamed at her, belittled her; she felt scared, sad, and stressed to be with him.  DCFS felt it had enough evidence to request the court find D was in substantial risk of emotional harm from F.

At trial F represented himself and called D to the stand to testify.  D said she felt stressed and hopeless when she had to be with him.  The trial court ruled that there was sufficient evidence to prevent F from seeing D, except for monitored visits and after attending counseling and parenting sessions.  F appealed.

The Appellate Court agreed with the trial court:

“The confluence of five factors supports the court’s finding of a risk of serious emotional damage to Daughter. The five factors are violence, systematic verbal abuse, racism, impulsivity, and lack of insight. This combination created substantial evidence [D] suffered ‘severe anxiety,’ which in turn was evidence of a substantial risk.  [D] would suffer serious emotional damage.”

The court found F to be violent, he verbally abused D, she was emotionally scarred from the abuse, he constantly made racist comments, he was impulsive and lacked insight – everything that happened to him was someone else’s fault.