April 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

If you have practiced family law any amount of time, you will marvel at the ingenuity of parents and other family members in devising ways to warp, hurt, demoralize and destroy children.

Here are some of the most effective:

  1. Use the children as pawns.  Trash the non-custodial parent’s mail to the child, or hide birthday or Christmas presents.  Use denial of visitation or contact as a tool to retaliate.  Then tell the child it’s all the other parent’s fault.
  2. Use the children as spies.  Nobody makes as good a spy as an insider.  So what if it puts the children in the  middle, or makes them feel like traitors, or makes them choose sides.  As long as I get what I want, what does it matter, right?
  3. Deny the other parent access to the children.  Very effective, especially when coupled with exagerrated or false claims of physical or sexual abuse.  Utilized long enough, this tactic can completely estrange the children from the non-custodial parent.  This ploy is so effective that children who grow into adults having experienced it often enjoy years of counselling.
  4. Make the children feel guilty for loving the other parent.  This one is guaranteed to create maximum warpage.  “Who do you love the most, me or mommy?”  Some parents even punish the child for a “wrong” answer.
  5. Use the children as messengers.  Mommy and daddy won’t talk to each other like adults, so the child is given notes, medical bills, school records, and so on.  This is an effective way to put the children right in the middle, and to let them in on adult concerns.  Gives them something more to worry about, and shifts the responsibility off of the parents.
  6. Criticize the other parent to the children.  It really feels great to unload all of the hurt and anger you have toward your ex, and who is better than the children to understand exactly where you’re coming from?  It feels super to get that off your chest — right onto the children.
  7. Model vindictive and spiteful behavior.  “Do as I say, not as I do” is the motto of parents who engage in this behavior.  Only problem is, that philosophy has never worked when raising children.  But who cares?  It’s worth it to take a swipe at the old ex, right?
  8. Ignore the children’s stress and negative behavior brought on by the litigation.  Tell the children to quit that silly crying, or stop misbehaving or I’ll whip you, or “Quit acting like a baby.”  None of that sissy stuff like holding and reassuring them, asking them to share their concerns, or simply devoting some one-on-one attention.
  9. Try to “win” the children over by relaxing discipline.  Parents who want to be the child’s best friend, not an authority figure.  Guaranteed to win the child over to that parent’s “side,” and to undermine the authority of the other “mean” parent.  The fly in this ointment is that after a while the child won’t mind you no matter what.  But that’s okay as long as you’re best buds, huh?
  10. Use the children as targets to vent your own anger and frustration.  What’s wrong with lashing out at junior after a particularly frustrating conversation with your ex?  Everything.

As lawyers, you can exercise a lot of influence over your client’s behavior.  I can’t think of a more important subject about which you can influence your client than how to keep the children from being hurt in a divorce.

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You are currently reading TOP TEN WAYS TO DESTROY A CHILD IN A DIVORCE OR CUSTODY CASE at The Better Chancery Practice Blog.


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