Pop culture would have you believe that summer is a carefree time for kids and the holidays are a wonderful time of the year for family. But many parents suffering from the psychological warfare campaign of a psycho ex dread the summers and holidays because it is often at these times of the year that the psycho ex creates even more conflict than usual. Whether the dreaded ex best fits the label of a psycho, an alienator, a Borderline, a Narcissist, or a sociopath, the behaviors regarding summers and holidays are usually highly disruptive and destructive to both the quality and quantity of time you have with the kids.
School Schedules Help Ensure Child Time Share Consistency
When the kids are in school, there is often consistent structure and predictability to the time you can see your kids. Picking up kids from school and dropping them off there often works very well for several reasons. First and foremost, the other parent has no business being there at those times so the loyalty conflicts and emotional and verbal abuse that go hand-in-hand with the presence of the psycho are often not so severe at school. Secondly, the kids see that school pickups and dropoffs are exactly what all their other classmates are doing, too, even the ones whose families haven’t been destroyed by divorce and child custody battles. This generally means they don’t feel as stigmatized or traumatized about exchanges done at school. Finally, the school schedule tends to be rather consistent. This means the kids know what the expect. The reduced uncertainty takes a bit of their worries away and you don’t have to renegotiate your time with the kids every week.
But when school is out, you are stuck with having to find alternate pickup and dropoff locations. With a psycho ex, you may be best off hiring a professional custody exchange service or using a police station that has extensive video surveillance  to help reduce the chances of being falsely accused or stalked.
Childcare Centers and Camps
Childcare centers can be convenient pickup and dropoff locations as they share some features with school exchanges. A childcare center is more likely to be neutral and safe than a private residence. Also only one parent needs to be there at a time regarding child pickups and drop-offs.
Sometimes the summers and holidays result in the whole schedule going up for grabs, even if the court orders are not written that way. Some psycho parents put their kids in childcare virtually all the time, even when the other parent volunteers to provide free childcare for the kids during weekdays and let the psycho ex have the weekends. Then the psycho ex sends the other parent the bill for the needless childcare, demanding the abused parent pay half or all of the childcare expenses. Some of these psycho parents are so mentally ill that they would prefer to have little time with the kids so they can stick it to the ex for childcare expenses.
But sometimes instead of a basic childcare center, the psycho parent instead seeks out camps that have schedules that will interfere with the other parent’s time with the kids. Psycho dumps the kids in all-day camps or even overnight away camps that make it more difficult for you to retrieve the kids. For instance, she or he may sign them up for a camp that buses the kids to some location an hour away or has them on the water or at an amusement park on rides where they cannot be readily retrieved when your time with them is supposed to start. So your regular midweek visit with the kids suddenly gets cut short an hour, two, or more because of this active interference.
Court Order Violations
Dumping the kids into camps that curtail your time with them is often a direct violation of court orders that state that parents are not to schedule activities for the kids during the other parent’s time without prior written agreement. But if you have a psycho ex, you know that these mentally damaged people interpret court orders to constrain your actions while believing court orders have no effect whatsoever on them.
Bizarrely, they are right about how court orders don’t apply to them from a practical standpoint for two reasons. First, it costs money, time, and energy to hold them to the orders because you will have to go to court to do it. That’s because very few jurisdictions allow the police to enforce custody and visitation orders. Many good parents abused by the courts do not have sufficient quantities of money, time, or energy to fight the court order violations of the psycho ex. Secondly, family law courts habitually let the psycho parent get away with violating court orders with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. You can spend weeks of time and thousands of dollars documenting dozens of chronic court order violations and take the psycho to court only to have a judge attack you, the responsible parent, for “wasting the court’s time” trying to get the orders to be followed. Your psycho ex may get what passes for a stern verbal lashing such as “try to be a nice mother (or father) and share your kids without fighting” and you get to pay the attorney bills for both sides despite months of the psycho blocking your access to the kids, interfering with phone calls, and scheduling activities on your time. This is the family law court’s idea of justice — victim pays, criminal is rewarded.
Pragmatically speaking, I believe that many judges do this intentionally. Pop culture says it is gender bias against fathers, but I see these abuses happening to good moms afflicted by a psycho ex, too. So I believe there is more to this abuse by the family law courts phenomenon than just gender bias against dads.
Many family law judges act as if they want to encourage conflict by rewarding a psycho parent with primary custody and failing to do anything meaningful to stop parental alienation and harassment of the psycho’s many victims. It is very likely that judges realize that a psycho parent is good for their own employment security so long as the parent continues to abuse the children and the ex. According to author and mediator William Eddy, psycho parents (he calls them “High Conflict Personalities”) drive 40% or so of the litigation in family law courts.  If they stopped acting so horribly, there would be fewer jobs for judges and their lawyer friends and the courts would risk major layoffs. So as a selfish judge sees it, the best interests of a child are served when there is maximum conflict for many years so there will be many hearings to keep the court employees and family law attorneys busy .
Many of those familiar with the abusive family law courts of the US, UK, Canada, and other nations firmly believe the courts are aligned with the abusers for what amounts to a profit motive. To drive home the point, consider how many family law sections of bar associations feature side-by-side talks from judges still in office talking about “best interests of children” and attorneys focused on new and creative ways to avoid accountability for their abusive clients while screwing over the ex with yet more abusive court hearings.
With family court reform on the back burner of politics, you can’t expect any justice or help in dealing with a psycho ex from the courts unless you are truly lucky to have gotten one of the handful of competent judges who have an iota of understanding of the pathological psychological problems of the the abusive ex.
Tips for Reducing Summer and Holiday Conflict
For those who are tormented by a psycho ex aided by an irresponsible or abusive court, what can you do to preserve some peace in the face of a psycho ex in holiday abuse mode? Here are some simple suggestions than can help reduce the conflict and the consequent damage to your kids and you.
Negotiations Are Often Just Exercises In Abuse
Psycho ex will often try to “negotiate” everything. She or he believes the special status of being themselves means they have a right to “neogtiate” (read as force down your throat, possibly at the threat of violence) anything they want regarding the kids. Often they will try to call you up on the phone to execute their latest manipulations to mess with your time with the kids.
You as a reasonable person may tend to be willing to discuss things like this. With a psycho ex, this is a mistake. These people are not reasonable by definition. Trying to negotiate child custody matters with a psycho ex is much like trying to negotiate with terrorists holding hostages. The mere act of negotiating encourages them to terrorize you more in the future, regardless of the outcome.
I’d advise you to avoid negotiating anything if there is a way you can work out an issue by following the court orders. However, even then you may find that the psycho ex cannot agree on what the court orders say and then you are back to either negotiating or going to court.
Use Email, Not Phone
Never discuss anything with a psycho ex over the phone. If you somehow get stuck on the phone with the psycho ex, record everything and end the call politely as soon as you can. Use an excuse to get off the phone, even a made up one such as “Sorry, I have to leave for an appointment” or “the doorbell is ringing, can’t talk now.”
Carry an audio recording device with you at all times and be sure it has charged batteries good enough for at least a few hours use. You are better off risking violating some pro-criminal anti-recording law than to risk being falsely accused of threatening the psycho ex’s life and not being able to prove she or he is lying.
Written Agreements Are A Must
Be sure to get any agreement in writing, at a minimum via email with mutual acknowledgements. A signed written agreement is probably even better, but you may not want to dare to be in the presence of your abuser to get it signed so email may have to suffice.
Written agreements on variations to the court orders or even just showing your interpretations of those orders are important for at least three reasons. First, the psycho ex will often show selective amnesia about what you agreed to do. She or he may suddenly “forget” your agreement when it turns out to be inconvenient and then complain you are violating the court orders. Or the psycho ex may complain that you never allow the kids to spend holidays with her or him or to see her or his family because you are unreasonable when in fact you have facilitated this many times in the past.
Sometimes they even take such lies to court. The typical psycho ex has usually been rewarded for lying in court in the past many times over and has learned that lying is good policy because in family law court, liars usually win and even when they don’t they seldom lose much. So you need proof that there was an agreement and that you were in fact acting reasonably otherwise the court is likely to side with the psycho ex. The judges all know that siding with a family court liar is more lucrative if their victims cannot prove judicial bias to a disciplinary board.
Second, you yourself may someday be able to use written evidence of your flexibility and cooperativeness in defending yourself against false allegations or to bolster a push for a more fair time share of the kids if you ever do get a competent judge for your case.
Third, you at some point might have your family visit and want to swap some times to let your kids see your extended family. If you can show that you have done the same over and over for your psycho ex, it might induce your ex to cooperate to avoid a court battle. But don’t count on it — often these psychos like court battles, crave the excitement of the courtroom, and savor the moments when the judge acts with malice and bias against you.
Don’t Involve Kids In Negotiations
It’s OK to ask the kids if there are activities they would like to do to help guide your decisions, but absolutely do not treat the kids as if they are part of the negotiations over your schedule. When kids get sucked into any kind of negotiation with their parents on either side, they are often subjected to emotional conflicts by the psycho ex to push them to take the psycho’s side of any discussion. This is not healthy for the kids. Let the kids be kids. Don’t expect them to be doing the duties of the parents, and don’t put them into situations where they may have loyalty conflicts.
Kids Can Celebrate Holidays Any Day
How much do you think it matters to a kid if he or she opens gifts on Christmas Day or a few days earlier or later? The answer is usually “not much” after you explain to the child that the exact day is not the important point of the holiday.
The same goes for many other holidays. Moms who don’t have their kids on Mother’s Day or dads who don’t have them on Father’s Day, just explain to the kids that you can celebrate any time around those days just as easily. The important point is to enjoy some mother/child or father/child time together, not that it be on the exact holiday.
Among the lessons the kids will take from this is that you can be reasonable and don’t get upset over little things like precise dates when they really don’t matter much. They may also understand better that it is relationships, not holidays, that truly matter.
Extended Family Matters
The psycho ex insists on getting Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve because her or his family is coming to town on those holidays. But the court orders say one or more of them are your time. What to do?
If your family is not going to be around for a holiday, try to let your kids have time with the ex’s extended family by negotiating a fair (day for day or approximately so) swap of time. You can easily celebrate Christmas on December 23 or 24, or a few days later for that matter. You can even get smaller kids excited about this change by mentioning they will get “two Christmases” this year.
Once you have done this, point it out to your kids that you are fine with them spending time with their other parent’s family. Part of your job as a parent is to teach your kids how to be good parents. The psycho ex is not going to do this, for they think a good parent teaches children to hate and to serve the parent. So it is up to you to teach the kids to be good parents and you should take every opportunity you can to show them what that means.
Share your custody schedule with your extended family and discuss all family visits months in advance. Try to plan them to be on your time with the kids so you do not even have to tell the psycho ex about them. Beyond avoiding the miserable experience of negotiating with an abusive liar, you also reduce the changes that the psycho ex will mess up your extended family’s visit by escalating the alienation against them or staging some emergency to interfere with the time.
If you have kids that are being used as spies by the psycho ex, you may chose to avoid telling the kids about an impending family visit until they are in your custody during the time they will be seeing their relatives. This helps them avoid being used as spies (since they can’t report what they don’t know) and the related loyalty conflict issues. You can pick them up for the visit and tell them you have a surprise (e.g., that Grandma and Grandpa are visiting) and make a guessing game out of it.
If you have more suggestions or specific examples of what can go right or wrong over summer and holiday child time share arrangements, please share your insights with other readers by leaving a comment below.