Mother Defies Law, Claims it is to Protect Children

In a case that has galvanized attention in Nassau County, Long Island mother Amy Margolis plans to defy a court order by refusing to allow visitation by her children to their father’s home, citing an allegedly violent encounter between her soon-to-be-ex-husband and his live-in fiancée. She is insisting that the children will not visit their father or stay in his home while his fiancée is present.

According to Ms. Margolis’ 15-year-old daughter, she and her 13-year-old brother witnessed a physical fight between their father, Alan Cohen, and the woman with whom he cohabitates, Christina McCarthy. Mr. Cohen allegedly pushed Ms. McCarthy to the floor, twice, and then she slapped him in the face, twice. The children also noted that their father appeared to have “claw marks on his neck” that were attributed to Ms. McCarthy’s nails and that she showed them her hands were bruised.

Ms. Margolis responded to her teens’ report by asking a Nassau County judge to issue an order to prohibit visitation while Mr. Cohen’s fiancée is around. She wants the court to mandate anger-management classes or counseling for Cohen and McCarthy. She also declared that she would defy an existing court-ordered visitation date set to occur prior to the judge determining her application.

The New York post asked me to comment on this story, since even though I am not currently representing either party, I am well-known for my expertise handling difficult family disputes like this one. I explained that Ms. Margolis is risking a contempt charge, which could in turn lose her future visitation rights, expose her to the possibility of paying her estranged husband’s legal fees, and she may be subject to incarceration for violating the court’s order.

The knee-jerk reaction may be to laud Ms. Margolis for risking so much to protect her children. Although it is easy to sympathize with her not wanting the children exposed to violence, the truth is that there are two sides to every story.

Mr. Cohen denies any violence in his relationship with Ms. McCarthy and downplays this particular incident, explaining it as an exaggeration by a daughter who is “prone to bad behavior.” Furthermore, he is quoted as saying, “The woman (Margolis) is on her sixth attorney and has been pursuing vengeance for nearly six years.” He believes that his former wife is gaming the court system for reasons of revenge, not protecting their children, and is frustrated that the court allows people to take advantage of the system for personal gain unrelated to the best interests of children. That said, Mr. Cohen has stated that he doesn’t want his daughter to feel forced to visit if she is uncomfortable.

It will be interesting to see how the judge ultimately decides this situation – and what the consequences turn out to be for Ms. Margolis.

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