Counteracting Tactics for Interfering With Custody and VisitationWritten by: Cameron Print This Article
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We’ve all heard horror stories about parents who are falsely accused of crimes by a vicious ex who is bent on banning the children from seeing them. False domestic violence and false sexual abuse allegations are a sure-fire way to manipulate family law judges to participate in parental alienation child abuse. But they are not the only way malicious parents interfere with the contact between kids and the unfortunate parent who is targeted for malicious mischief.
In this article, I’ll outline a few of the less obvious but still damaging ways that malicious parents, particularly those engaging in parental alienation, use to cause trouble for the other parent. All of these tactics are simple, easily spun by a masterful manipulator to look like they are somebody else’s fault, and yet wrongly interfere with contact between kids and their other parent. They generally rely upon wasting the parent’s limited time with the kids and creating aggravation to upset both the parent and kids. They are more commonly used by “custodial” parents to abuse “noncustodial” parents, but in theory the small percentage of noncustodial parents engaging in parental alienation could use similar tactics.
Some of these tactics can be defended against, others are difficult to counteract. I’ll give some suggestions for countermeasures that may be of help.
Changing Exchange Times At Last Minute
This tactic is used to disrupt the regular schedule to create chaos and conflict via wasted time and significantly increasing the chances of no contact between the kids and the target parent.
Let’s say you have a regular time to see your kids from 5pm on Friday to 5pm on Sunday. Mommy Dearest or Daddy Dearest (the malicious parent can be of either gender) will send you an email or fax at 4:55pm to tell you the schedule has changed, now you have to pick up the kids at some neighbor’s house at 6pm. That you aren’t anywhere near a computer or fax machine at 4:55pm because you’re driving to the regular exchange site is a given. You’ll show up, see the kids are not there, then wait. Maybe if you have a phone number for Dearest, you’ll give her or him a call. No answer.
What are you to do? Probably you’ll wait and wait, maybe try calling again only to get no answer. Perhaps around 5:30pm or so, you’ll give up realizing that you’ll probably not see the kids today and maybe not even the entire weekend due to Dearest’s access blocking.
When you get home at 6pm, if you’re lucky you might notice the email or fax then rush to the alternate location since there is no way to call given Dearest provided no phone number and doesn’t answer her or his own phone. When you arrive at 6:15pm, the kids won’t be there. Dearest will have taken them away and told them you don’t care about them and that’s why they won’t see you today.
If you try to point out this tactic in court, Dearest will claim you were told about this unavoidable change ahead of time and blew it off. “Obviously you don’t care about the kids!” will likely be among the epithets thrown at you. As for the inconvenient truth of the email timestamp, she or he will just fabricate or alter a printout to “prove” you were notified on a timely basis. Or perhaps she or he will print out the email in some other time zone to get the time to appear differently, to “prove” that the email sent at 4:55pm Eastern Time was really sent at 1:55pm (Pacific Time, but this won’t be mentioned and you may not even realize the trick being played on you and the court) and you should have checked your email as you had plenty of time to do so.
How do you defend yourself against this? One method that can help is to use a co-parenting communication service such as Our Family Wizard or Share Kids. Among their many communication and information sharing services for parents who are not living together but share children, they provide secure email that is saved, cannot be deleted, cannot be altered (sometimes after a short time-delay), and can be easily printed for submission into court. Your attorney can be granted access to it to verify the accuracy of what you represent, as can a parenting coordinator or minor’s counsel attorney. Additionally, records can be subpoenaed from these services via standard legal process to ensure that they are not altered by the litigating parents. Services such as these expect such requests in contrast to regular email providers that may be slow or even unresponsive to subpoena.
How do you keep your kids from starting to believe you don’t care about them? You can explain to them what happened. Avoid badmouthing Dearest, they hear enough bashing from her or him already. Stick to the facts. They will probably understand that Dearest is causing problems and that it is not your fault, or at least that you did make a solid effort to see them.
Little Johnny needs some fillings. So Dearest schedules the appointment during your weekly Tuesday afternoon three hour long visitation time. Dearest will claim the dentist didn’t have another time available. If you object, she or he will claim you don’t care enough to take your child to the dentist.
Doctor’s appointments, therapist appointments, and even many non-medical activities can be used in the same way to use up your time with the kids dealing with the fallout from problems Dearest created in the first place.
If you dare point out that the reason Johnny needs so many fillings is because Dearest doesn’t buy toothpaste and floss and never asks six year old Johnny to brush his teeth, Dearest will claim it is really because you feed him ice cream and cookies on Tuesdays and that is why his teeth are so bad. Parental alienators are often personality disordered individuals who don’t have an accurate grasp of reality and are adept at twisting and distorting words to make other people believe their version of reality.
It is common for court orders to specify that scheduling appointments and activities during the other parent’s time is prohibited. But the courts usually don’t enforce these orders. To counter such tactics, you may need to collect evidence of a series of these violations and then head to court to pursue a contempt of court action against Dearest. Even then, there is no guarantee the court will do anything to remedy the situation.
If this is a recurring problem, you may also want to discuss with your attorney the idea of the attorney notifying the medical office of when your time with the kids is and that there are court orders that the other parent is not to be making appointments during your time. Some medical offices might cooperate with this and may be more likely to do so if it is coming from an attorney than from you.
Prepping Kids to Demand Specific Activities
You don’t get Christmas with the kids this year, so you plan to celebrate on another day on which you have time with them. You’re happy you’ll have eight hours of quality time with your kids. You planned to take them to their grandparents home for lunch an hour away. But when you arrive at the supervised exchange site at 9am, the kids have other ideas.
Dearest has told them there is a really great Christmas party with Santa Claus reading stories and posing for pictures with the kids from 11am to 2pm near her home. They have a brochure about it and are all excited. If you agree, they won’t be able to see their grandparents. If you don’t, Dearest may be able to paint you negatively with the children.
As Dearest likely has been working on alienating the kids from their grandparents, the typical child’s interest in the grandparents may not be there in your children. They may genuinely be a lot more interested in the Christmas party than lunch and gifts with their grandparents whom they have been encouraged to hate by Dearest.
You’re in a catch-22. This is exactly why parents are not supposed to plan activities for the other parent’s time with the kids. If you care about your kids, you won’t do this to them and their other parent.
Further, by going to a location that Dearest knows where you may be and when, you may be at risk for having your car tires slashed, being framed for stalking or assault or some other crime, or being watched, insulted, or even attacked by some of Dearest’s many friends who simply know that you are a child abusing, drug-addicted pedophile because they have heard the distortion campaign about you.
Under such circumstances, there is little you can do other than to feel your way into making the best choice for your kids given their current mindset and to document what occurred for future use to show how Dearest interferes with your time with the kids.
If you do dare to go to a location where Dearest may know when and where you will be, be very cautious and watchful for problems. It may help to have witnesses and surveillance to protect you from false allegations and Dearest’s lying friends making up stories that they saw you do something abusive to the children. Keep in mind that Dearest and associates will be sure to portray any of your friends and family as liars who are not reliable witnesses, so it might help if they have cameras and camcorders to take some pictures and video of the activities to help show the kids were just fine.
Intentionally Communicating Wrong Times for Appointments and Activities
Even if you agreed to an appointment or activity scheduled or instigated by the other parent, the parent can still cause interference. By lying about the time of the activity, the parent can cause you to waste your time with the children, instigate disappointment, and cause doctors, therapists, and others to create written documentation that can be obtained for use in court to make it look like you are not cooperating and being responsible.
For example, the court orders the children to participate in some group counseling or seminar for kids of divorce. The problem parent signs up for this immediately, then tells you when the sessions will be on your days with the kids. But she or he tells you times that are off by an hour and even tells you there are sessions on days there are not. If you go to the location when there is no session, now you have just wasted potentially an hour or more time driving around without any reason. If you arrive late because you were lied to about the time, the organization may record your failure to get the kids there on time and even report it to the court.
If it is a party or other activity, the malicious parent may alter the invitation to change the time. When you show up too late or on the wrong day, your children will be disappointed that you didn’t get them to the party and again there is a significant waste of time.
The countermeasures to this are simple:
- Insist upon using written communications via a means that can be subpoenaed to ensure you can obtain a copy the court will accept as legitimate. This is important because malicious parents often alter documents to cause trouble and are seldom punished for doing so, whereas you may be punished by being lied to and having believed it. It is another one of the reasons communications via Our Family Wizard, Share Kids, and similar means is preferable to regular email.
- Double-check all times for appointments and activities with the party hosting them. Do this via email if at all possible.
- If you fall for a lie and your kids are upset about it, show them what written information you used to determine what to do. They will likely understand you were trying to cooperate but the malicious parent lied to you. Don’t bash the malicious parent, just state the facts. Most kids in elementary school or older should be bright enough to figure out what is going on. If there are younger siblings who are not old enough to be able to understand, the older and younger children will probably talk about it with each other unless a child is so young as to be unaware of the problem in the first place. The key is to show your kids that you didn’t intend to disappoint them without getting them upset by badmouthing the malicious parent.
Failure to Provide Necessary Clothing
Dearest brings the kids to the supervised exchange center. They are running around barefoot, so they don’t notice they don’t have their shoes. When they walk in to see you, it doesn’t take long before you realize they have no shoes on. But Dearest is gone! How are you supposed to do what you were planning when the kids don’t even have shoes?
Now you are stuck having to go shoe shopping or otherwise change your plans to go home to get shoes for the kids.
Adding further injury, Dearest has hidden the shoes (or jacket, sweater, etc.) somewhere in the exchange center and will then blame the children for hiding it and lying about it. Parents who are emotionally abusive of their children by making false accusations against the other parent and engaging in badmouthing are often so mentally ill that they do not care about the children the way a healthy parent does. They will readily falsely blame their own children for some misconduct or mistake to cause problems for you. It may not simply be an easy choice for them, it may be almost automatic behavior. They will hurt the kids any time it may hurt you.
Similar games can be played with jackets, sweaters, and other clothing items. The variations are endless, the potential for wasted time enormous. Since this can be played to be blamed on the kids, especially toddlers through early elementary school students who don’t have the ability to defend themselves against Dearest’s lies, it is doubly damaging.
Be sure to bring spare shoes and clothes to visits to help save precious time and minimize the impact on the kids. Document this interference for future use in court. Keep in mind that without several instances of it, you may look nutty to the typical poorly qualified family law judge if you bring this up as a problem.
If you think your children are being falsely blamed for Dearest’s manipulations, your kids are going to need some extra emotional support. It is likely only the tip of the iceberg to the abuses they are enduring, but they may be particularly sensitive to thinking their more loving parent may think they are lying when in fact they are not. Helping your kids understand that you are not mad at them even if they make mistakes and that you don’t like it when somebody lies about them (or you) to get them into trouble may help to reduce the damage being inflicted on the children.
Looking for More Malicious Tactics
Parental alienators and master manipulators are adept at generating new ways to harm the other parent and children. I hope that readers may be willing to share some of the interference tactics they have experienced so that we can collectively come up with ideas on how to counteract them. You are welcome to comment anonymously on this article in the event that you are concerned your comments may be used to attack you by the malicious parent, or you can email us at: [email protected]
|Child Abuse, Child Custody, Children, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Family, Parental Alienation, Psychology|