Copyright (c) 2002 North Dakota Law Review
North Dakota Law Review
CASE COMMENT: CHILD CUSTODY -- MODIFICATION: PARENTIFICATION OF AN OLDER SIBLING BABYSITTING A YOUNGER SIBLING
Mayo v. Mayo, 2000 ND 204, 619 N.W.2d 631
78 N. Dak. L. Rev. 785
Bonnie L. Christner
Pamela Mayo Banjac (Banjac) and William Mayo (Mayo) divorced in 1995. 1 Banjac gained primary custody of their three minor children: Garnet, Caitlin, and Nicholas. 2 Four years later, Mayo moved for a change of custody based on the alleged deterioration of Banjac's physical, mental, and financial conditions. 3
The parties agreed that Dr. Rick P. Ascano, a licensed clinical psychologist, would conduct a parental capacity psychological evaluation and testify as a neutral expert witness as to his findings regarding custody modification. 4 Dr. Ascano reported Banjac suffered from fibromyalgia 5 and migraine headaches, causing her to lie down for one hour at least once a month while Garnet, age fourteen, watched the younger children, ages eleven and six. 6 Dr. Ascano concluded that this unexpected babysitting of her younger siblings resulted in Garnet's parentification. 7
Parentification "refers to a child assuming adult responsibilities and acting as a care provider for younger siblings." 8 Parentification affects a child by forcing the child to be more responsible than is age appropriate, creating other psychological difficulties, and resulting in the child having difficulties forming bonds with peers as an adult. 9
Dr. Ascano testified as to the effects of parentification in light of the statutory best interest factors. 10 He reported that the children were equally bonded to both parents and that both parents had average parenting abilities. 11 Dr. Ascano recommended that if the court decided to change custody to Mayo, "Mayo should undergo individual ...
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