#240 – Picture This

Yesterday’s meeting with a prospective client reminded me exactly how deceiving appearances can be. In fact, given what I observed, I may never trust my eyes again.

Lately, it feels like every other person walking through my office door has a matrimonial issue; and “Bill” proved no exception. As he explained, his ex-wife has threatened to take him to court so she can strip him of all unsupervised visitation with their five-year-old son, “Justin.”

“On what basis?” I asked.

“These photos.” With that, he handed over a small stack of “4 x 6” prints for my review.

At first, I saw nothing conceivably justifying a downward modification of visitation rights. Just the opposite, the pictures on top made Bill seem father of the year. I eyeballed scenes of him and his son with Mickey and Donald at Disneyworld. There also were shots of them standing atop the Eiffel Tower, sunning themselves on a Bahaman beach, skiing down the slopes of Aspen, and lounging on a cruise ship. God knows, my parents never took me anywhere remotely so exciting.

After the cruise ship photo, Bill’s pictures grew even more “interesting.” I raised an eyebrow at a shot of the two pals bungee jumping, and I blinked in surprise at another of father and son squeezing triggers at a shooting range. Yet the print which left me flabbergasted was the last. Practically shouting at Bill, I shoved it in front of his face and exclaimed: “Are you insane?!! Not only do I understand why your wife wants to change visitation, I agree with her!! What kind of father lets his five-year-old kid run with the bulls?!!!!”

“Wait a minute!” Bill protested. “My son didn’t run with the bulls. Hell, he didn’t do any of the things in those pictures. They’re all Photoshopped!”

“Excuse me? You’re telling me all those scenes are faked? Why?”

He explained: “By the time my son’s an adult, he won’t remember much of what happened to him when he was little. So I figured I could put all these pictures together now and tell him when he’s grown up that we did all this stuff together. He’ll look at the photos and think I was the coolest dad ever.”

“I see. And your ex-wife thinks Justin actually partook of these activities?”

“Nah. She’s aware the pictures aren’t real. But she also knows my plan will work, and she hopes to punish me by having a judge forbid unsupervised visits. Can she do it?”

In the abstract, I found Bill’s issue intriguing, with the question being: though morally reprehensible, is a father’s plan to lie to his son years from now – when the boy becomes an adult – grounds to restrict visitation in the present? I intend to research the subject, and I told Bill I’ll be happy to share my findings with him … and with whichever sleazy lawyer he finds to take his case.

Photoshop makes the imaginary seem real. Moral compass sold separately.

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