United States: Narcissistic Mother Chooses Husband Over Her Neglected Children

Last Updated: March 25 2013
Article by Aaron Weems

Child abuse cases are extremely difficult to deal with by the court and attorneys. Making them worse is when a parent is unable to accept the reality that a spouse - the abuser - has to be cut out of their lives if they hope to keep their children. A recent case in Berks County is such a situation. Fortunately, the Court and those acting on the behalf of the children stepped in and have given these children a chance at a better life.

In January of this year, Judge Jeffery Schmehl of Berks County wrote a strong Opinion in favor of the termination of a mother's parental rights to her children, ranging in ages from one to seven. The facts of the case are as heartbreaking as they are disturbing, but demonstrate the Court's interests in protecting the welfare of children and the application of 23 Pa.C.S.A. §2511 to involuntarily terminate a parent's rights.

Judge Schmehl's Opinion was written based on Mother's appeal of his order terminating her rights. Specifically, she sought reunification with her four children (her two older children have resided with their paternal grandmother since 2008 and were not subject to the parental termination actions). The Mother was involved in two abusive relationships with the natural Father of her children and her Husband. Neither of the men filed appeals to the Orders terminating their parental rights. Her husband was incarcerated for physically abusing their infant daughter.

Typically, parental rights will be terminated if a parent has not had contact with their child; or has failed to fulfill a parental role with their child for a period of six months or more. In the instant care, the Mother may not have technically failed to have contact with the children for six months, but as the facts demonstrate, she displayed conduct which fell within §2511(a)(2) and allowed for termination on the grounds that "the repeated and continued incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal of the parent has caused the child to be without essential parental care, control or assistance necessary for his physical or mental well being and the conditions and causes of the incapacity, abuse, neglect or refusal cannot or will not be remedied by the parent."

Mother had been treated for mental health issues for a long period of time prior to the termination hearing. After having arrived on the radar of Berks County Children in Youth Services in or around 2003, she accumulated nine (9) reports to CYS over an eight year period. The most recent report being in November 2011 when the children were placed in the care of the agency pursuant to a Voluntary Placement Agreement signed by the children's parents.

Their youngest child, 6 months at the time, had to be hospitalized for major bruising and injuries consistent with the violent shaking of the child by an adult. The authorities quickly determined Mother's husband to be the offender and he was subsequently found guilty of simple assault and endangering the welfare of the children. This same child also showed pronounced flattening of the back of her head due to having been placed in a car seat for extended periods of time. In short, these children were subject to what amounted to neglect, abuse, and a total lack of suitable living conditions including vermin infestation. Mother had numerous violations of the safety plans which had been instituted for the family by CYS while they were undergoing general protective services.

Mother's mental health problems were insufficiently addressed by her, notably, her continued contact with her husband while he was incarcerated for abusing their infant child, as well as her failure to comply with urine analysis testing. She also subjected the children to phone calls with her husband while he was incarcerated. Most disturbingly, Mother has little to no understanding of the severity of the crimes committed by her Husband against the children; that she was still trying to perpetuate a relationship with her Husband, as well as between he and the children demonstrated to the Court that Mother was unable to comprehend what was best for the children or to serve as their protector.

Mother took no responsibility for the injuries to their infant daughter, in fact, she was found to have written a letter to Father acknowledging that she did not blame him for the baby's injuries. Mother's narcissistic behavior prevented her from being able to adequately perform her parental duties and she clearly placed her needs above those of her children.

While Mother was failing in her psychological and emotional evaluations, the children were doing well in their foster placements. The children, having been given stable and healthy living environments, began to make progress and were having their physical and emotional needs met. The most detrimental element for these children was their parents. Once their parents were removed from the equation, the children began to thrive.

In issuing his termination Order, Judge Schmehl cited applicable case law and statutory authority which allows the Commonwealth to terminate the parental rights and duties of a parent if the parent is unable to or refuses to perform those duties.  It is the child's right to fulfillment of his or her potential in a permanent, healthy, safe environment with proper parenting that supersedes the parents' constitutional right to custody in the rearing of the child. Citing, In re: DJS, 737 A.2d 283, (Pa. Super 1999) and 23 Pa.CSA 2511(b).

In terminating the rights of a parent, the court must give primary consideration to the development, physical and emotional needs of the child.  In this case, CYS had, initially, two concurrent goals: return the children to the most appropriate parent; and the adoption of the children by third-parties.  Once it became clear that the most appropriate parent – Mother – was not appropriate at all, adoption of the children became the priority.

Of all the issues which are present in this case, it appears that the most damaging to Mother – and by extension the children – was her refusal to sever ties with her abusive husband.  In refusing to chose the health, safety, and welfare of her children over her relationship with a child abuser, the Court took the view that she was refusing to perform parental duties under Pennsylvania case law and statute.  Ultimately, Mother's desire to have a strong bond with her husband and her failure to improve the conditions which led to the children's placement, justified the termination of her parental rights.


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Aaron Weems
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Miles & Stockbridge
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Miles & Stockbridge
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions