mental illness Archives | Cordell & Cordell

Divorce opens door to criminal investigation in Florida

After an unusual divorce filing, officials in St. Johns County, Florida, have launched a criminal investigation and placed a woman in jail on perjury charges, the St. Augustine Record reports.

Sherril Thurston divorced her husband Bob, who has since passed away, in 2009. According to the news source, the divorce paperwork was filed in Florida where Bob Thurston owned property. However, Bob’s daughter, Tracie, has contended that her father and step-mother in fact lived in North Carolina when the divorce was filed. Florida law requires that one spouse be a resident of the state for at least six months before a divorce can be filed.

The separation of the couple is even more complicated, however, because Bob Thurston was suffering from dementia, meaning he may not have had the capacity to truly understand the consequences of the divorce.

According to a family law attorney in Zephyrillis, Florida, lawyers are seeing an increasing number of baby boomers looking to dissolve marriages of 30-plus years. This could be due to the lessening stigma regarding divorce for adults over 50 and the freedom couples feel once their children have grown up and moved out. As a result, child custody and support are no longer an issue. However, health issues that come with age can further complicate divorces.

Proving Parental Alienation Syndrome

Missouri Lawyers Weekly recently published an article by Allison Retka that looks at the difficulties of admitting accusations of Parental Alienation Syndrome into the courtroom during child custody battles.

Among the several professionals quoted in the article, Cordell & Cordell divorce attorney Scott Trout, weighed in on the subject. Trout explained that because Parental Alienation Syndrome is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Orders it is not a recognized psychological syndrome to the extent that it is admissible in court.

“That’s your struggle,” the article quotes Trout as saying. “You can prove conduct. You can have the child interviewed by psychologists. But you’re not necessarily trying to prove [PAS’s] scientific validity.”

The Cordell & Cordell partner explains that while you might want to ask the expert if the child in question is in fact suffering with what some might diagnose as Parental Alienation Syndrome, “I would never ask an expert [that]. You’re crossing a slippery slope.”