Dad unfit because he would not take his kid to McDonald’s

Seriously. This is a real story. New York father and attorney David E. Schorr is in the midst of what appears to be a very tense divorce. The McDonald’s-related events have resulted in a defamation suit against a psychologist in the ongoing divorce suit. I’ll summarize the facts briefly, what it has meant for the divorce suit and why this story might be important for people going through a divorce, about to go through a divorce, or have visitation established.

Bedford divorce attorney The Kielich Law Firm

Custody in a divorce

Here are the facts circulating in the news: Schorr and his wife have a four year old son. They (the parents) are going through a divorce. As part of the temporary orders filed while the divorce is pending grants Mr. Schorr visitation with his son. On October 30 he took his son for dinner. He told his son he would take him anywhere but McDonald’s. Mr. Schorr believed his son had been eating too much fast food. His son demanded McDonald’s. Mr. Schorr then told his son he had to pick something else or go without dinner. The kid chose not to have dinner. His son, predictably, threw a tantrum.

Dad realized his strong arm tactic had failed but didn’t want to reward bad behavior. He offered the same deal and his son chose the same result. Mr. Schorr decided to return his son to his wife early. He pled with his son to change his mind while they waited for Mrs. Schorr to return to her apartment building. Eventually she returned and Mr. Schorr turned the child over to her.

Subsequently, a psychologist appointed by the court to evaluate the family provided report to the court including these events and said it “raises concerns about the viability” of Mr. Schorr’s weekend visitation and advised the court to reduce or eliminate his weekend visitations. Mr. Schorr then filed a defamation suit against the psychologist.


Is this really an unfit father as the psychologist is alleged to have implied to the divorce court? In my lay, non-psychologist, non-parent opinion, it doesn’t seem like this one event would be enough to take prove a father so unfit that visitation should be eliminated.

Maybe it wasn’t the best parenting but the old you-eat-what-you-are-served-or-don’t-eat-at-all routine is not exactly a new concept in parenting in this country. It may be a little dated but hardly the sort of things that will make judges gasp in horror. As a kid I went to bed without dinner more than once. I definitely was never offered the option of anything in the world but McDonald’s.

In my opinion as a divorce lawyer, I find it surprising that such a minor event would cause a psychologist to recommend eliminating visitation. We don’t have access to the psychologist’s report or the history of the divorce. Maybe there are other events and this one was something more than an isolated event of questionable parenting.

I can’t speak for New York law but under the Texas Family Code, eliminating visitation takes a lot more than a single questionable act. Texas law favors relationships with both parents where feasible so it would be more likely for the court to order supervised visitation if any reduction in visitation were to occur at all.

It is extremely likely that the news story lacks a lot of important details in this family law proceeding.

Lessons for Texas divorces

Unfortunately, in divorces too often minor situations that most people would brush off become major problems. It’s rare that they end up as national news; but nevertheless they can become outstretched in a divorce or SAPCR proceeding. (SAPCR is a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.) In the midst of a divorce or SAPCR, parents should strive to always be on their best behavior and really think  through their parenting decisions.

It’s unfortunate that relatively minor and isolated incidents, or even just appropriate disciplinary actions, can get out of hand. For example, child behaves poorly and then spanked. Is it corporal punishment or child abuse? Sometimes legitimate parenting is misconstrued as something terrible. It’s easier to offer a legitimate explanation for a legitimate parenting act than it is to create an excuse for a poor decision or an outright bad act.

Perhaps the most practical takeaway is behaving reasonably is usually the best way to make a divorce or custody proceeding result in a fair result. Antagonizing your spouse or the other parent is rarely productive especially in situations like these where the marriage ends but the co-parenting relationship remains.

Often that antagonism results in using the children as a weapon against the spouse or parent. This is one of the worst decisions to make in a divorce or custody proceeding. Judges hate it and often punish it. This is an easy way for a psychologist or other expert to present a legitimate basis to limit or even exclude a parent from meaningful access to the children. It might be expected for spouses to hate each other during a divorce but weaponizing the kids against the other party is a choice and never a good one.

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