Dr. Phil turns to civil and family law attorney Areva Martin for a neutral stance on Deborah and Peter’s custody battle.
“Very difficult case, Dr. Phil. First of all, no doubt about it, the law says that a biological parent has the presumption and should raise their child, but it also talks about the ways that you rebut the presumption. My heart goes out to Deborah. She stepped up to the plate. She has her own kid, she has her own life, but yet she’s stepping in to do something that her dying sister requested that she do,” Areva replies. “It’s something we haven’t talked about here. Why would the dying sister say, â€˜Deborah, take care of my child?’ She’s married to Peter. The wife wouldn’t want the child to go back to the father? We heard something about emotional abuse. I want to hear more about what kind of abuse was going on in that household that might impact this child!”
Michael says that Peter and his late wife had a loving relationship. “Six months before Diane passed away, she went to Europe with her mother. She sent her husband, Peter, a postcard from Europe. Peter and Diane were together for 30 years,” Michael says. He reads aloud the contents of the postcard: â€˜Hi, Peter. Wishing you were here to experience this with me. Maybe one day we will get to do this together as a family. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the shorts. Love you, Diane.'”[AD]
Mel and Areva argue.
“I just want to say that my sister was basically forced to move from New York City, where we were born and raised, to New Mexico, because Peter could never keep a job,” Deborah says. “She was going through emotional turmoil with [Peter] all the time. The year she got diagnosed was 2006. She was on the phone with me almost every other day, crying and having a nervous breakdown, saying she couldn’t take him anymore.”
“That’s an issue between this woman and her husband. It’s not between this daughter and her father,” Dr. Phil says.
Dr. Phil examines Peter’s relationship with Kate. “Is the lack of bond between you and your daughter, which you acknowledge, is that a product of the fact that she has been living away from you, at this time, or is it a product of the fact that you have been an inadequate father?”
“No, we’ve been living away from each other. For the first three years, I did a whole lot for her. I changed her diapers also,” Peter replies. He faces his former sister-in-law. “I loved her very much, and I still love her very much.”
“The danger now is the judge is going to say the relationship between the father and daughter has become estranged, but the court caused that by issuing a restraining order that never should have been issued,” Mel says.
[AD]”The issue about whether he was bonded with the child ” of course the child was living in another city. But there are phones, there are e-mails, there are letters. You want to see some activity,” Areva says.
“He has a right to call every other day. He calls every four or five days,” Bob says.
“They listen in his phone conversations,” Michael says. “Basically, they were monitoring his conversations with his daughter; they’re limiting them.”
“Did you appreciate Deborah’s contribution to helping taking care of Diane and your daughter, who was with Diane during the [outset] of her illness?”
“Yes. At the time, I did,” Peter replies.
“So you do recognize that she has made a significant contribution?”
“She did make one, until she took custody of my daughter,” Peter says. “Everything was destroyed, at that point.”
“I do think it is unfair to criticize a lack of a bond between this father and daughter when she has been removed from you and put into this home,” Dr. Phil says. He turns to Deborah. “At the same time, I’m very grateful, from an objective standpoint, that this child has had a loving, stable and soft place to fall.”[AD]
Acknowledging that Diane expressed a desire for Deborah to have custody of Kate in her will, Dr. Phil says, “She doesn’t have the right to give away his child.”