Caught in this crossfire are the innocents who do not have the emotional ability to protect themselves. Children are not weapons, but unfortunately, they can become one in a custody battle. Many breakups include strong emotions such as anger, depression, bitterness and feelings of victimhood. Financial worries leave parents sleepless at night, while a desire for a clean break with the other parent is frustrated by the existence of a child. Filled with hurt and righteous indignation (sometimes justified and sometimes not), they want their former partner to feel the pain they feel and to push them as far out of their life as possible.

Whether inadvertently or deliberately parents strike back in a number of ways. The most common weapon is the spy drone. During a custody dispute, evidence is important; crucial really. To gather evidence the angry parent willingly allows the child to be with the targeted parent, but then interrogates the child as soon as she is back in her care as to what the targeted parent said or did. Sometimes the angry parent may even send the child off with instructions as to what to look for i.e.“Let mommy know how many beers daddy is having Friday night OK?”

Another weapon is the anti-personnel mine or booby trap. Unlike the spy drone, which can be easy to spot depending on the age of the child, the booby trap is a surprise weapon that the targeted parent has no idea is coming. For example, during the targeted parent’s parenting time she receives a text from the father, “BTW, I signed up Cindy-Lou for vacation Bible school. Starts tonight.” BOOM! What does she do now? Perhaps the targeted parent would rather spend time with her child than drop her off at Bible school. If she tells the child that, can you hear her response? “Daddy said you wouldn’t want to take me. Why don’t you love me!?”

The third most common weapon is the battle fleet. There is nothing more intimidating and infuriating to a foreign power than to have a battle fleet cruising just off your nation’s shores. The presence of a fleet sends the message, “Do what we want or suffer the consequences.” It is a demonstration of power. Parents do this as well, especially when the angry parent is the one with temporary custody. They make the rules and give them to the targeted parent as an ultimatum, “follow my rules or lose parenting time with the children.” Many times the rules are not necessarily in the best interest of the children, but are the ones most accommodating to the controlling parent and are designed to inflict as much humiliation and pain on the targeted parent as possible. What parents forget or deliberately ignore is that these destructive behaviors affect the child and are like shell fragments that are carried with them for the rest of their life.

The first step for those who are unknowingly engaged in this behaviour is awareness of the problem. A friend, minister, therapist, or attorney can be the one who brings this to the parent’s attention. Don’t be afraid to speak up! The first step for those who are deliberately causing strife is to acknowledge the destructive behavior. If the loathing one parent feels for the other is so uncontrollably great that it is poisoning the child’s life, then seeking the help of a family therapist is the best second step.

Lord Justice Wall, a family law judge in England, had this to say, “Often the parties are fighting over again the battles of the relationship, and the children are both the battlefield and the ammunition.” Very true; so stop it already.

If you or someone you know is going through a difficult custody matter where they may need the assistance of our child custody attorneys, please call the Law Offices of Sean Patrick Cox P.L.L.C. at (616) 942-6404 for a free consultation.