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Renaud v. Renaud

Vermont Supreme Court
721 A.2d 463 (1998)


Facts

Mr. Renaud (plaintiff) and Ms. Renaud (defendant) were married in October 1989 and had a son in January 1994. The couple separated in May 1996, because Mr. Renaud was having an affair and wanted a divorce. Prior to separation, both parents cared for the child and were fit parents. After separation, Mr. Renaud moved out, and Ms. Renaud and the child stayed in the original family home. Ms. Renaud then began to impede Mr. Renaud’s contact with the child. As a result, Mr. Renaud had to file motions to establish emergency and temporary visitation schedules in July 1996. Ms. Renaud later filed numerous relief-from-abuse-petitions, alleging Mr. Renaud had physically and sexually abused the child based on diaper rash, sunburn, cuts, and bruises. Ms. Renaud also asserted there had been inappropriate touching. At the time of the trial in April-May 1997, Ms. Renaud remained in the marital home with the child, and Mr. Renaud resided with his paramour and her children. The trial court found that Ms. Renaud’s claims of abuse were unsubstantiated, and all were dismissed. A court-appointed team of psychiatric experts observed that the child interacted well with both parents, but noted the Ms. Renaud’s actions had damaged the child’s relationship with Mr. Renaud. The trial court also concluded, however, that Ms. Renaud’s purpose was not to alienate the child from Mr. Renaud and that her concerns were not wholly unreasonable, because she had repeatedly sought expert guidance before making claims. The trial court awarded Ms. Renaud sole custody, but granted Mr. Renaud extensive visitation rights. Mr. Renaud appealed and alleged a patent abuse of discretion by the trial court.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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