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By: Mary Ellen Flynn, Esq.
Email: meflynn@a-f.net

A jury in Anne Arundel County was able to put a monetary value on the loss of custody of a child in a case where the Dad, James E. Nicholson, sued for interference with custody of his daughter, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and fraudulent concealment.    The Dad sued his ex-wife, her husband, the daughter’s older half-sister, and the husband and the mother-in-law of the daughter’s half-sister.

The Dad alleged and proved that after he was awarded sole legal and physical custody of his daughter, his ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, encouraged the daughter to run away to Massachusetts and stay with the daughter’s half-sister.   The Dad also proved to the jury that his ex-wife then signed a marriage certificate allowing the daughter to get married for the sole purpose of the daughter being emancipated so that she would no longer be subjected to the custody order.

On October 10, 2012, after a six-day trial, the jury awarded the Dad a $350,000 award against his ex-wife, a $350,000 award against his ex-wife’s husband, and $20,000 against the half-sister’s mother-in-law.

The tort of “interference with parent-child relations” is recognized in Maryland but only applied in the most egregious circumstances.  As held by the Court of Appeals in 2008 in the  Kahlifa vs. Shannon case, this tort can only be brought if the interference is a “major and substantial” one.   In the Kahlifa vs. Shannon case, a man sued his ex-wife and her mother for taking his children to live in Eqypt.