This story is about three months old. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it hasn’t, so here’s what I hope is the final act of the sorry drama of Malenko vs. Handrahan. I first wrote about it here.
With any luck, one of the worst custody disputes ever has come to an end. On May 3rd, a judge in Portland, Maine stripped Lori Handrahan of all parental rights. Their child’s father, Igor Malenko now has sole legal and physical custody of their five-year-old daughter, Mila. That’s a victory for Mila, a victory for Igor and a victory for common sense and decency. From my vantage point, marriage to and divorce from Lori Handrahan look like hell on earth. The entire case is a perfect example of why family courts need to do more to force recalcitrant parents to behave themselves. More importantly, its a perfect example of why it’s so wrong for courts to assume that the mother is the better parent.
Fully chronicling Handrahan’s many outrages would require a book to relate, so I’ll just hit a few of the ‘high” spots and direct readers to the court’s opinion here. Truly nothing I write can convey the full horror of what Handrahan has done to her daughter, her ex-husband and the courts.
During the course of the custody dispute over Mila, one psychologist told the court that Handrahan was perhaps the most severe case of narcissism she’d ever encountered, and indeed, Handrahan looks like someone who is never wrong. Everyone is out of line but her. For example, she and Malenko, who is Macedonian, first met years ago in Europe. Soon thereafter, she began trying to convince him that he was insane. She sent him to various doctors, none of whom could find anything psychologically wrong with the man. Undaunted, Handrahan pressed for more examinations, which all agreed with the previous ones. What she seemed to really desire was that Malenko take psychotropic medication which he did for a time just to get her off his back.
Eventually, her abuse of him led Malenko to file for divorce, which immediately triggered Handrahan’s escalating claims first of child abuse, then child sexual abuse and finally child rape. Time and again Mila was subjected to physical examinations. Time and again they revealed nothing. Soon Handrahan was claiming that Malenko was drugging the child with methamphetamine, but the only evidence for that was a substance in her urine from cold medication.
Like pretty much any mother who claims a father is abusing his child, Handrahan was able to get support from strangers, including, if one such supporter can be believed, funding for her relentless legal claims from a foundation headed by Warren Buffett’s wife. Armed with that financial backing, Handrahan burned through some 12 lawyers in three years of litigation of her child custody case. That included filing multiple grievances against Malenko’s attorney, Michael Waxman, who was working largely pro-bono. Like all her other claims, Handrahan’s against Waxman were found to be baseless by the Overseers of the Maine Bar Association. Few things give a better idea of Handrahan’s personality than the written decision by the Overseers. I strongly urge you to read it. Her abuse of the legal system rivaled her abuse of Malenko in its baselessness and frank need to use any means to gain her ends.
Parenthetically, I’d like to give an huge shout out to Michael Waxman who fought and defeated multiple well-paid attorneys on multiple fronts in multiple jurisdictions. He did it virtually for free and all in the service of a fit father’s right to parent his child. I’ve yet to hear of a more staunch advocate for a father and child than Waxman. He got the bit in his teeth and didn’t let it go. He’s my Father’s Attorney of the Year.
Back to Handrahan; despite her abuse of her daughter, her ex-husband and the legal system, she still managed to get primary custody for a time. But her false claims of child abuse went on and on. Soon enough, even child welfare authorities had come to distrust her claims, and eventually the court transferred custody to Malenko. That was last February, and abruptly, Handrahan cut off all communication with Mila. She refused to visit her in person or even to call or email her.
That went on for several months. Then, on January 27th of this year, Handrahan showed up at Mila’s pre-school one morning in the rain and sleet, driving erratically. Mila was being carried into the school by Malenko’s new wife when Handrahan rushed forward and, in the presence of five witnesses, tore the little girl from the arms of her step-mother, pinned her violently against her car and refused to let her go. By that time Mila was sobbing and screaming to be released and allowed to go into the school. The police arrived, summoned by onlookers and convinced Handrahan to let Mila go inside out of the freezing rain. Child welfare authorities called Handrahan’s behavior child abuse. On her website Handrahan told her supporters it was a joyous and tender mother/child reunion.
Due to her mother’s outrageous behavior, Mila has been banned from that school. Nor is it the only one. At least one other school has refused Mila admission for the sole reason that the staff refuses to deal with her mother.
One of Handrahan’s favorite tactics is to publish her false claims about Malenko on various personal webpages. She routinely calls him a pedophile in order to recruit ever more gullible converts to her cause. Eventually the court issued an order restraining her from publishing anything else about Mila on the Internet, but Handrahan ignored the order. Among other things, she’s published not only Malenko’s name, but his physical address and social security number. That information, coupled with the usual claims of rape and sexual abuse, seem to me intended to spur vigilante action against Malenko. But worse still is the fact that Handrahan published photos of Mila’s anus and genitalia on her site, for all the world to see. That looks like child pornography to me, but she’s so far not been charged.
Since the January 27th incident, Malenko has had various motions before the court. His motions for contempt and to change custody have been set and reset four different times, all because Handrahan refused to show up in court. Finally, on April 26th, the judge decided to proceed without her.
In the judge’s order, he finds that Handrahan is “completely incapable of co-parenting the parties’ daughter Mila with [Malenko].” The judge recounts Handrahan’s relentless efforts to have Malenko declared mentally ill. He notes that her constant unsubstantiated and false claims of abuse by Malenko have resulted in Mila’s being brought to medical providers at least 20 separate times and 20 separate urine tests conducted. Her publishing of personal information on the Internet the court finds to be potentially dangerous both to Malenko and to Mila.
By the way, one of Handrahan’s many unsavory supporters turns out to be a Pennsylvania man whose chief accomplishment to date seems to be the killing of a neighborhood cat. Police in his area have their eye on him according to the police report of the January 27th incident.
The court then finds that it is in Mila’s best interest to have no contact whatsoever with her mother, Lori Handrahan. That’s to be the status quo until Handrahan receives “significant therapy and treatment to address her narcissistic personality disorder… and there must be evidence that Defendant has made significant progress toward a recovery from her illness.”
The court further finds that Handrahan is in arrears on her child support payments to the tune of a little over $7,100. She’s ordered to begin paying that along with her regular payments as well as $5,000 in attorney fees to Michael Waxman.
Now, my guess is that Handrahan will pay about as much attention to this order as she has to all the others. She’s already behind on her support payments, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her simply refuse to make any more. If that’s the case, she should find herself behind bars in the near future. If that happens, we’ll see if she begins to grasp reality better than she has to date.
Kudos to Igor Malenko for hanging in there against overwhelming odds and prevailing. He did it for his daughter who astonishingly, appears to be a healthy and happy little girl.
Let’s hope this is the end of one of the sorriest cases I’ve ever encountered. My guess is it’s not.