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New York Daily News : Lask Defends Child Custody


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Gross Injustice, Says Custody-battle Mom

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

CELINDA Donaghy of the Bronx was tucking her baby boy into bed one night when suddenly her husband, a Yonkers firefighter, appeared with two cops and a court order.
Without any notice or hearing for her, a judge in Westchester County had awarded her husband temporary custody of the child - plus an order barring her from going near him or their 1-year-old.
Now the angry mother is going public with her case, accusing the courts and a judge of gross injustice.
"It's mind-boggling," she said yesterday. "I have no idea what's going on."
In June, Donaghy's husband, 30-year-old Douglas Donaghy, asked a Westchester judge to give him temporary custody of the boy and a protective order against his wife.
Donaghy, a former Rikers Island correction officer, alleged that his wife was mentally ill and abused drugs and alcohol - allegations she says are "completely false."
Westchester Supreme Court Justice Denis Donovan gave the firefighter the protective order and temporary custody - solely on the husband's word.
Six days later, Westchester Supreme Court Justice Mark Dillon - again with no hearing, no witnesses and no medical opinions to support the firefighter's claims - upheld Donovan's emergency orders.
Donaghy's wife has demanded a full hearing on custody, but Dillon has repeatedly postponed it; one is now slated for midJanuary.
"Every time she asks for the hearing," said her attorney, Susan Chana Lask, "the judge puts it off."
The last time Celinda Donaghy appeared in court, Dillon ordered her handcuffed and thrown in a courthouse cell - to satisfy the second arrest warrant. She was released later that day.
"I think he's unfair," she said. "I don't think he takes this matter seriously."
Alayne Katz, Douglas Donaghy's lawyer, said his wife is an abusive spouse upset over losing in court.
"It's very common for a court to order an order of protection merely based on the allegations of one side," Katz said. "Judges have to make hard decisions about which parent should care for the child."