Powerhouse attorney Gloria Allred and the director of the National Center for Men, Mel Feit, join the discussion. Dr. Phil asks Gloria her thoughts on the situation.
"It sounds to me as though Mom and Grandma are very concerned about any potential danger and harm to their children, and rightfully so," she says. "We have John admitting that there are guns around that are perhaps unsafe â€¦ that presents a risk of harm." She adds that emotional trauma is also a concern.
Mel, however, has a different perspective. "Many of these accusations that occur during divorce are sometimes delusional. Sometimes, they're true, sometimes they're malicious, sometimes they're calculating in order to get an advantage in a child custody case, and they're frequently false," he says. He points out that John wants to be awarded full custody with Melissa having visitation, while Melissa wants full custody, without John having visitation. "Given the fact that she knows that she can disobey court orders without consequence because she's done that, if she winds up getting custody, even if the judge orders John to have visitation, his children will be in graduate school before he ever sees them again, and I think that's very dangerous. I think if they wind up being alienated and estranged from him, hearing horrible things about him, that can have long-term negative psychological consequences for him."
"You're dealing with what you think could happen," Gloria reasons. "Let's talk about what, in fact, is happening."
"He is not seeing his children," Mel says.
"He sees his children every other weekend and every Wednesday night," Janet retorts in a raised voice.
The family bickers.
Mel asks Melissa, "Is your position that you don't want your children ever to see their father, and you don't want John to have visitation with them ever?"
"That's my position," she confirms.
"I think that's why you shouldn't have custody," Mel says.
"She is thinking that she is concerned about the harm to them," Gloria says. "There are risk indicators in this. He is a person who was alleged to have been driving these little children around without seat belts."
"There are serious accusations here that have to be seriously investigated by a court of law, by forensic psychologists, by law guardians, and a judge will make a decision," Mel counters. "If she's unhappy with the judge's decision, she can appeal it. She is not free to disobey a court order."
"And neither is he," Gloria retorts. She adds that Melissa and John need to go back to court for a hearing which presents both sides and concurs with Mel, "But you don't go around violating court orders, and you do try to put the children first."
Dr. Phil asks Mel where the law comes down on parental alienation " bad-mouthing a parent and making false statements to a child about the other parent. "The court frowns on that in a major way, correct?" he asks.
"There's a moral and legal requirement to facilitate and encourage contact with the other parent," Mel confirms. "Saying bad things to your children about your ex, in my mind, should disqualify a parent from having custody."
"That's a he said/she said situation that's difficult to substantiate," Dr. Phil says.
Mel hypothesizes that if he were the judge on Melissa and John's case, he would suggest a 50/50 custody arrangement for a few years. "At the end of the two years, I'm going to have you back in, and the one who's done more to encourage contact with the other parent, to facilitate contact with the other parent, that person will get custody," he says.
"Children are not guinea pigs. You're not going to make them guinea pigs in an experiment!" Gloria tells Mel. "What they need is a parent " "
The heated arguing continues.
Dr. Phil tells Melissa and John, "While you may never be together as husband and wife again, you will forever be the parents of these children. That is the highest calling you will ever have in this life."
To John, he says, "For you to be able to do something to hold their mother in good light to them is a gift to your children." He says the same to Melissa about John. "They won't grow up in a home with both parents, but they can grow up with both parents." If Melissa and John can get along, their children won't feel guilty about spending time with one parent or the other. "For you two to have this hatred, the venom, the resentment and have it flying back and forth over the heads of these children, it truly does change who they are, and you're not taking the moral high ground here," he warns. "The courts are dispassionate people who can look at this situation and come up with something that you need to live with."
Dr. Phil suggests they each tell their side to the court and cut out the open warfare in front of their children. To Janet he says, "You're throwing gas on the fire every chance you get, Grandma."
"I don't even talk to him," Janet says.
"The kids are going to suffer from this if you guys don't step to the side and say, â€˜We've got to find a way to be civil with each other with regard to these children," Dr. Phil reiterates.
Mel points out that Melissa and John don't want their children to feel like they are betraying one parent when they spend time with the other. "If you put your children in the middle of this, in my view, that would be child abuse," he says.
"It's very hard for me to defend their father, and I do," Melissa says. "I don't feed my kids any lies."