Counteracting Tactics for Interfering With Custody and Visitation

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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.

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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.

Scheduling Appointments

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.

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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]

Further Reading

Custom Search

How and Why Psycho Parents Manipulate Kids to Resist Custody Exchanges

Depressed and Exhausted from Divorce and Child Custody Battles? You May Be Suffering From Adrenal Fatigue.

Borderline Personality Disorder and Parental Alienation Involve Similar Abusive Behaviors

Co-parenting With A Sociopath (Borderline, Narcissist, etc.)

Personality Disordered Abusers in Family Law Courts

Personality Disordered Abusers in Psychological Evaluations

Phone Call Series: Lies, Manipulation, Custodial Interference, Parental Alienation – Part 1

Phone Call Series: Lies, Manipulation, Custodial Interference, Parental Alienation – Part 2

How to File Interference With Child Custody

Custody and Visitation Interference: Alternative Remedies

Child Development Research to Make Appropriate Custody and Access Decisions for Young Children

  1. June 8th, 2011 at 21:50 | #1

    Hi I am step mum to be of 2 little ones 5yrs and 3.5, wew are on interim orders thurs for dinner 3.30 pm til 7pm Sat 8.30am til 3pm 15 mins each way pick up and drop off. This Sat we pick up kids, 3.5 is upset 5 tells us ” mummy was going to lock up house and leave 3.5 there alone” Best we could understand and we didnt question as this would have prolonged sadness. 3.5 eats full brekky and settles by about 10.30 we head off to go canoeing change thier clothes to what we have here for them polar fleece jumpers and trackies right down to socks and take thier home clothes with to change for drop off and incase they get wet (which they didnt). We drop them off on the way past and had been called by friends to aid them in car troubles an hour drive away. Mum calls and askes us to bring back blanky and jacket. the text conversation (document document) goes like this
    dad) Sorry cant we have to be else where.Will bag it and put on back of ute . Would drop off but really cant.
    mum) Please return this afternoon… it is ur responsibility to return the kids stuff as they are sent to you.3.5 needs her blanket . We have plans ourselves & they do not involve going via ur house. Thank you
    dad) Cant , that is it.I am not arguing with you.
    mum)Not my problem.You should have made sure you had all the kids stuff together before putting them in the car.
    Thats ur responsibility when u have them. We are on our way out in the opposite direction. We need her stuff here for bedtime at 7.
    mum) ps she is quite upset at the moment.
    dad) Bag is on the ute
    dad) well if you dont want her upset come and get it . We have an emergancy.Like I said sorry.
    mum)Yep… so typical… bad enough you take 3.5 out on the water without a jacket on a cold day in winter knowing she’s been on medication and fighting larygitis and croupe and once again you have an emergency when going out of ur way for ur children is required…ur child is the one that misses out like normal.Dejavue! 3.5 stuff needs to be back at my place ASAP.
    (we do some work trying to get friends to go pick up stuff and drop off at mums but no one can help this takes about an hour and we text back)
    dad)Not in town. Have called friends to take stuff to yours but they cant help.We have no ETA for you so you will need to go get 3.5 blanky.
    mum) Pathetic… and I am sure my soliciter will agree.
    We feel so bad for littlies hoping they are not involved in this argument. All I can say is I will be extra extra vigilant in making sure all thier stuff is with them. This blanky wasnt even touched or thought of during kids time with us we just thought it was for the ride to dads but it seems this blanket was given to 3.5 to keep her happy after the shock she recieved fro m mum in the morning. We have been seeing them for nearly 2 months now and have never seen this blanky!!

  2. Janette
    April 23rd, 2012 at 18:30 | #2

    Deny & Lie – In addition to the above, a tactic is to repeatedly deny the children the opportunity to participate in activities they wish to, because it is not convenient for the malicious parent to commit to driving them there, let alone waste their time watching for an hour. Terribly inconvenient. When the children ask malignant parent about the activity, malicious parent acts confused, gets angry, and says that the other parent never told them anything about it, and claim the other parent is purposely trying to make them look foolish and prevent them from being involved in their children’s lives. Of course, the solution would be for the parent to learn more and make the activity work, but when the children are young, they go for the anger/tears/upset routine and feel bad for the malicious parent, and mad at their other parent for being so mean. And nothing gets done. No activities. The malignant parent wins on both accounts (can continue to impede the development of the kids in favor of their own convenience, and can get the kids to feel bad for them and angry at the other parent. Interesting because when the malignant parent tells the twisted truth to therapists and others, it sounds very much like some of the the issues stated above! This is why it is nearly impossible for an outside party to have any real idea of who is telling the truth and who is not. So document, document, document!!! Never agree to anything over the phone, and put everything in writing.

  3. Elaine
    June 8th, 2012 at 01:39 | #3

    Wow, I have seen all of these tactics and then some. My ex was bent on getting the children, and managed to, because I was completely blindsided by all of these tactics.

    Here are a few that are not listed.

    Accuse the target parent of calling the children liars when a truth is pointed out. He did and does use this one frequently. When the children said something about not knowing what had gone on between me and my ex, I was told that I was accusing them of lying because I knew the whole truth. It’s complicated, but I hope I explained that well enough.

    Claim that the target parent is “badmouthing” him when he’s not even being mentioned at all. This is my favorite. I’m a writer, and I have written articles about abuse and narcissism in general without names and even about other people, but my ex claims that it is all badmouthing him.

    Attempting to “force” visitation” with the children while trying to block it at the same time. My ex will tell me that I cannot see the children, then if I don’t show up, he claims that I am at fault. If I do show up, I show up to an empty house.

    Telling the target parent about an event on visitation day while she is in transit to his house to pick up the children. Oh, this one made me so angry. I had set up my visitation day, and was halfway to his house, which is all the way across town, and he called and told me how the children had an opportunity to go swimming with friends that day, and he had to cancel my visit for the day.

    Refusing to comply with court orders while insisting that the target parent comply to the letter. If I’m 5 minutes late to let the children go after a visit, he gets angry and starts threatening to take me back to court. If he is half an hour or more allowing them to come with me, he feels that there should be no repercussions. He has been asked to supply proof from his insurance company of the cost of insurance, as well as being told that he must provide medical receipts within 30 days or he will be paying for all of the medical bills. Instead, he refuses to provide proof of those expenses, and takes me back to court constantly to try to get me to pay for money that he has not provided proof that I owe. He has even tried to blackmail me into paying it.

    Manipulating the courts so that you owe more than you should. I was supposed to have a 2.5 year reprieve from paying child support, but he found and exploited a typo in the divorce decree so that I had to pay an extra year and was behind before I even started. Now I have the threat of jail hanging over my head because of a typo. I am livid about it to say the least.

    Stalking you and accusing you of stalking him. Somehow, on every website I visit, either he or his wife shows up before long, which I don’t think is a coincidence. However, instead, I am the one who is being accused of stalking.

    I could go on, but at this point it’s useless ranting. Our judge doesn’t listen to a word I say, and my kids are all almost adults now anyway. I just hope they someday understand and will come back to the light.

  4. Wendy
    June 28th, 2012 at 21:49 | #4

    ARRGH, we finally got over night stays (yay) Our first Sat night with them we got one Asthma preventor and one ventolin with a spacer from mother . Excellent, we think dearest is not withholding information on the kids health care any longer. NUP next f/n visit no spacer no preventor and a verbal at pick up ” You have ventolin at home? Coz 6yr old has been a bit wheezy. Just use that if needed.” HMMM next f/n visit nothing at all . Kids seem well whilst with us every time they come but 4yr old complains they have bad coughs !!?? Bugga this . Dad calls doctor he knew they saw in his time living with the family, Yes!! still the same doctor . Doctor is astonished that we have had no true advice on the childrens health care and supplies us with scripts and advice . Lets us know these medications are to be taken every day . Thank you doctor.
    Low and behold after our visit to Doc, dearest`s communications book ( which has not shown up on the scene for any over night stays) a 6 week period) lets us know the children said they were not given thier medication as specified by her and that “these medications are routine not “as needed” and plays a large part in preventing their suseptibility to chest and bronchial infections” UMM Ma .
    We are now wondering that if we do the decent thing and let dearest know we have sorted the health care communication probelm by visiting the doctor, will she change docs and leave us high and dry when it comes to knowing the truth about the kids health?! We think we will just keep our mouths shut and hope she does not catch on we are seeing the kids doctor. I know it sounds sneaky but we think for a good great cause. Lets hope it works.

  5. June 28th, 2012 at 23:42 | #5


    Your thinking that you may want to not make a big deal and try to stick with this doctor may be correct. I think you must be sure the doctor and everybody in the office there is totally clear on what is happening and that they need to communicate with you directly regarding any treatment by emailing or faxing prescriptions and treatment plans.

    You should make copies of the communications book and if possible take the book itself to show the doctor sometime while you have the kids and the book. Make it clear that you were not informed by the mother of what is happening with the children’s medications and that you need direct communications with them if there is anything you need to do because the mother is not being responsible.


  6. Wendy
    July 1st, 2012 at 22:57 | #6

    Thanks for the advice and another opinion that the littlies mother really is not being responsible!! This medication trick dearest pulled is the worst we have seen so far because it directly affects the kids physical health . BUT this is coming from a dearest that thinks she is whollier than even a family court judgement that allows dad to call kids once a week ( because dearest was so busy she could not allow dad to call ) to her stating that you now see the kids you don`t need to call you can catch up when you have them for dinner once a week!!!!!Doesn`t matter to dearest that kids want to talk to dad !! ugh
    We did ask the doc if he could keep dad in the loop , but doc wasn`t sure what the rules are around this sort of thing” in this country” . Nice doctor though , we liked him. He referred us to the front desk to see if they would keep us in the loop but she was unsure of what to do !!! It was a new one on them that Dad had made an appointment to the point that when he did call to make apt the same lady had to check with the doc and came back to the phone saying “What was I thinking ? You are their dad!”
    We have decided that we will make an apt every month and keep up that way and some times even take kids with. We have also decided to let mother know dad is intouch with doc . If she decides to change docs we can have her on breach of court order because it is naturally assumed (before final orders are in place) in Aus that both parents are to make important decisions about the children and consult each other on that. We have one occasion in front of the judge left and I bellieve that is to establish full fornight week end access etc and the final orders set in stone YAY it will make it easy for us if she goes to town now . We just list form 18 If memeory serves and report her to the judge, bring it on maybe then she can be made accountable .
    One of dearests ongoing game is leaving live lice in kiddies hair and stating she has done treatments and if any more chemicals are put on kids heads it would be detrimental to their health!!! We have tried for weeks to sit them down and at least go through with fine tooth comb but the kids almost hysterically state “mum has done it” whilst itching and scratching the whole time , their last sleep over they could not sleep (until really late) because of itching . This last visit we reminded them of the awful time they had trying to sleep and were able to sit them down and pull out a lot of live ones . And the poor little confused kiddies were like “mum treated our hair this morning you won`t find any ” We don`t bag dearest out to them and don`t think we need to as her own actions if she does not grow with the whole situation will be what tells the tale at the end off the day . Lets hope she can rise above her twisted bitterness , although from all the reading on this subject we have done I do not believe it to be possible , I swear she could not have any more twisted tricks up her sleeve !? !

  7. Carrie
    February 12th, 2015 at 02:31 | #7

    I am the step-mother of a 9yr old and 12yr old. My husband is a truck driver so I have the kids every other weekend from 6pm friday until 6pm on Sunday. Dearest ex chooses to sign the kids up for sports without asking if it’s okay for them to go to the games on our time, not giving us game times or locations of the games until the day before I pick them up. I have done everything in my power to make sure they make it to those games with the exception of a few, even though we had to cancel our short family time together. Not to mention most of the games run all day on Saturday and are more than forty miles away. Last visit the oldest had came home from school sick and her mother (who is a nurse) allowed her to go to practice on our Friday night sick. The next morning the 12yr old was running a fever, and coughing so we decided to keep her home. Her mom got pissed and said she was going to come pick her up and take her anyway. We ended up having to call the police to have them let her know it was our decision.
    Now this week comes around and I am informed I am supposed to have the 9yr old at a game in one location and the 12yr old at a different location 55 miles apart. I let dearest ex know that I would take one and she could take the other and bring the 12yr old back to me. So instead she has the 12yr text her dad and tell him that she hates him and that If we don’t take her to her game she never wants to see him again. The ex even let the 12yr old read our texts to her.
    I don’t understand this interference. Why would it be okay to make the kids hate us.
    I have an ex husband as well with two of my own kids and I try very hard not to bad mouth their father to them. We have finally had enough. After every incident we have been reporting to the police.

  1. July 3rd, 2010 at 20:32 | #1
  2. July 3rd, 2010 at 20:32 | #2
  3. July 14th, 2010 at 16:34 | #3
  4. September 25th, 2010 at 02:55 | #4
  5. September 25th, 2010 at 03:10 | #5
  6. October 5th, 2010 at 02:27 | #6

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