Thirty seven percent of families in the United States are blended families. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. A biological parent has his hands full, but as most step-parents will tell you, their job is even more complicated.
Following a divorce, it is not uncommon for a new step-parent to become the target of unprovoked spite or anger. In many cases, the previous-spouse harbors unfounded fears that their child will look to a new step-parent as a mother or father replacement figure. This can engender resentment to what may already be an uncomfortable situation between parties. Regretfully, these issues often escalate very quickly. Such resentments place the children squarely in the middle of a bitter fight between the people they love the most and are not healthy for anyone involved. The pain of conflicting loyalties to each parent and a child’s feeling of being “caught in the middle” of such disputes exacts an enormous emotional toll on a child. When a parent is in a rage, it is not uncommon for a child to withdraw. The child’s behavior towards the non-primary parent may abruptly change. This change in behavior may have more to do with keeping the primary parent happy than it does with how they really feel about the non-primary parent or step-parent. It is essential that you make it clear to your child that you love them and will always be there for them, regardless of the emotional or less than rosy current circumstances.
It is crucial to a child’s self-esteem and emotional growth that parents avoid putting children in the middle of such disputes. This can be incredibly difficult, however, when a selfish or manipulative parent does not think twice about wrongfully placing his or her child in the middle of conflict. Children are very perceptive and as they grow older they will ultimately realize when a parent has lied to them and used them for their own emotional or financial gain. Though they may temporarily identify with the aggressors, in time they will deeply resent the parent who has manipulated them.
Regardless of the circumstances, it is critical that biological parents avoid arguments or conflicts in the presence of the children. Such conduct is conducive to parental alienation goals of the misguided previous spouse. If the child sees that you maintain a calm and collected demeanor, it gives them reason to pause and feel safe.
If a previous spouse is making statements to the child regarding issues that should only be discussed between adults, tell the child that such discussions are inappropriate and you will take them up with the other parent at another time.
It is ok to tell your child “I am sorry,” if they are upset, even if you are not the parent upsetting them. This validates that they are hurting and relieves any false guilt they may have over things that are being said and done when you are not present. It is sometimes helpful to use everyday situations to explain conflict to your child. As an example, when dealing with conflict explain that “brothers and sisters fight, but they still love each other. Families have to work through conflict in order to stay together. I would not leave you if you made a mistake, I would not want you to leave me.” Such statements reinforces that reasonable conflict is ok and assures the child that you will remain a constant force in their life regardless of the situation.
If you feel that the conflict has escalated to a point of becoming emotionally abusive and/or destructive to the child, consult a Family Law / divorce attorney. It may be in the best interest of the child that he or she be removed from the primary parent and placed with the non-primary parent so that he or she is allowed to love all parental figures, parents and step-parents alike, unconditionally.
This is a complicated question to answer depending upon the facts of each case. If you have experienced domestic violence you need to immediately do whatever is necessary to secure you and your child’s safety. Many times a victim will go to court for a protective order and ask the judge to move the abusive or violent spouse out. In this situation contact an experienced family law attorney now!
In most cases, absent of violence or risk of abuse, we would not suggest that a spouse move out of the marital residence.
Why is this? One reason is once you have vacated the residence it may be very difficult to get back in! You have no legal obligation to leave the residence if your name is on the lease or mortgage personally and exclusivity.
Our suggestion to a client might be, to remain in the residence since the person who vacates may still have financial obligations and expenses of the family residence, while paying all expenses on a new residence for themselves. Double expenses are not a desirable result during the divorce process.
The higher wage earning spouse who moves out of the marital home must expect to continue to pay most of the household expenses, including the insurance and mortgage! What about the personal property and furnishings in the residence?
If an agreement has not been made between the divorcing couple, the moving spouse will generally only be able to leave with personal belongings (clothing & jewelry) until a court rules fairly as to temporary possession.
Secure a court order ASAP to equalize property and household expenses.
The New Year is always a good time for personal changes and after another stressful Holiday Season with your kids and Ex, you have decided to make some serious changes in your child custody situation to stabilize the entire family. Mom is not helping and the children are seriously acting out. What to do? What to do?
Maybe it is time to look at changing your child custody status with the children or at least modifying the current orders. Many changes have occurred in American Family Behavior and fathers are taking a more active role in their children’s lives. The Pew Research Center has recently published some new research on today’s fathers with some important and surprising changes:
Fewer dads are the family’s sole breadwinner: dual income households are now the dominant arrangement (60%). Both mom and father must now be responsible for child raising and home chores.
Dad and mom roles are converging: fathers have taken on more housework and child care duties and moms have increased time spent at a paid job. There is definitely a more equal distribution of labor between mother and fathers in today’s world.
Fathers feel they spend more or as much time with their children as their fathers did when they were children
With the latest scientific research showing that a father’s involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period, many state legislatures and family courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as equal to the mother. Courts are also looking at the more stable parent, who may have a better income and parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing a better home life and more quality time with the child.
Another reason for changing opinions regarding fathers’ rights child custody issues has been the high divorce rates and the affect it has had on the USA population life experiences. Many adults have been raised in a divorced home with Mom as the main custodial parent. Now these adults are divorcing they want a different and better experience for their own children and their lives.
Things you want to consider as you prepare for your child custody battle are:
Who has the financial ability to best care for the child (ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
Establish a detailed viable parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?
Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child (ren) in the same school district?
Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child (ren).
Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
Is there evidence such as pictures, social networking sites, video tapes, texting, etc. that may help your case?
Avoid unnecessary compromising photos, data on social networking sites, or texting!
Just Remember the five biggest mistakes men make in a custody suits are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect child custody legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a quick child custody settlement agreement while passions are high that is later deeply regretted; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement as signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.
Think smart when contemplating Child Custody Modifications, be prepared and get an experienced legal professional to help you accomplish your goals!
Texas family law states that a court may modify a child custody order if the change is in the best interest of the child and one of the following applies:
1. The circumstances of the child or parent have materially or substantially changed since the date of the original child custody order or order to be modified.
2. The child is at least 12 years of age and will tell the court in private chambers with the judge that he/she would like a change.
3. The custodial parent has voluntarily given the child’s care and custody to another person for at least 6 months.
Material or Substantial Change
What could be acceptable as a change for the Texas family courts? Some examples could be a parent’s remarriage, a medical condition the affects a parent’s ability take care of the child, a parent’s criminal acts or convictions, a parent’s change in residence that makes visitation a hardship for the other parent, family violence, drug or alcohol related issues, absence of supervision, and other material changes concerning adequate care and supervision of the child.
Child Wants Change
The child must be at least 12years of age and maybe interviewed in the judge’s chambers. The court will consider the child’s desire but only make a change if it is in the child’s best interest.
This happens when the custodial parent has voluntarily given up custody of the child to another person for at least six months. This does not apply to a period of military deployment or duty.
After finding one of the three prerequisites, the court must still consider whether the change will be in the child’s best interest. The court will consider factors affecting the child’s physical, emotional, mental, education, social, moral or disciplinary welfare and development. The factors considered for this evaluation are:
1. Child’s emotional and physical needs.
2. Parenting ability of the conservators or potential conservators
3. Plans and outside resources available to persons seeking the modification
4. Value to the child of having a relationship with both parents
5. Visitation schedule that requires excessive traveling or prevents the child from engaging in school or social activities
6. Stability of the person’s home seeking the modification
7. The child’s desires
8. Child’s need for stability and need to limit additional litigation in child custody cases.
Modification within one year of prior court order
A parent who files a motion to modify a child custody order within one year after a prior order was entered must also submit an affidavit to the court. The affidavit must contain, along with supporting facts, at least one of the following allegations:
1. The child’s present environment may be endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.
2. The person who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primacy residence is the person seeking or consenting to the modification and the modification is in the child’s best interest.
3. The person who has the exclusive right to designate the child’s primary residence has voluntarily relinquished the primacy care and possession of the child for at least six months and the modification is in the child’
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the systematic denigration by one parent with the intent of alienating the child against the rejected parent. In most cases, the purpose of the alienation is to gain custody of the child and exclude involvement by the rejected parent. In other cases the alienator wants the rejected parent out of the way to start a new life, or the aligned parent wants more of the marital money and assets than he/she is entitled to and uses the child as a pawn. The aligned parent hates the rejected parent and the children become false weapons. These are just a few reasons Parental Alienation occurs in domestic disputes.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is common because it is an effective though devious device for gaining custody of a child. Through systematic alienation, one parent may slowly brainwash a child against the other parent. The parent involved in such alienation behavior then may gain the misplaced loyalty of the child.
In a recent survey, one in five parents stated that their primary objective during the divorce was to make the experience as unpleasant as possible for the former spouse; despite the effects such attitudes and behavior have on the children.
Parental Alienation Syndrome is a form of emotional child abuse. Parents in hostile separations may suffer depression, anger and anxiety or aggression. The expression of these feelings results in withdrawing of love and communication which may extend to the children through the alienating parent. When the mother is the alienator, it is a mechanism employed to stop the father from having contact with his children; and can be described as the mother holding the children “hostages.” The children usually are afraid of the mother, frequently identify with the aggressor, and obey her as a means of survival. The child may also be instilled with false memories of the father, coached and/or brainwashed.
Studies show that Parental Alienation is experienced equally by both sexes. Adolescents (ages 9-15) are usually more affect than younger children. Children most affected tend to be those subjected to parents’ highly conflicted divorces or custody battles. A study by Fidler and Bala (2010) show increasing incidences and increased judicial findings of parent alienation in the US. 11-15% of all divorces involving children include parental alienation issues.
If the parental alienation has been successful and has influenced the child against the target parent, the observer will see symptoms of parental alienation syndrome. Many children appear healthy until asked about the target parent.
Warning signs of a Parental Alienation Syndrome Child:
- The child is a “parrot” of the aligned parent with the same delusional, irrational beliefs and consistently sides with this parent. Denys suggestions that their hatred for rejected parent is based on views and behavior of aligned parent.
- Idealization of aligned parent and wants to constantly be in the aligned parent presence.
- The child develops serious hatred for the rejected parent and rejects a relationship with the rejected parent without any legitimate justification. The child sees nothing “good” about the rejected parent and only wants to destroy the relationship.
- The child refuses to visit or spend time with the rejected parent, frequently faking fear.
- The child’s reasons for not wanting a relationship with the rejected parent are primarily based on what the aligned parent tells the child. Accusation against rejected parent too adult-like for the child’s age.
- The child feels no guilt about his/her behavior toward the rejected parent and will not forgive past indiscretions.
- The child’s hatred extends to the rejected parent’s extended family, friends, partner, or Idealization of aligned parent aligned parent without any guilt or remorse.
- Ignores/rejects the rejected parent in the presence of the aligned parent.
- Children who live in alienated family situations are usually unable to form healthy relationship with either parent. Some of the areas of concern for children impacted by parental alienation are:
- Emotion Distress, Anxiety, Depression, and Self Hate
- Poor reality testing and unreasonable cognitive operations
- Low self-esteem or inflated self-esteem, Pseudo-maturity
- Aggression and conduct disorder
- Disregard for social norms and authority, adjustment difficulties
- Lack of remorse or guilt
Parental Alienation Syndrome is recognized by the courts but is very difficult to define and in most cases requires bringing in County Social Services, Child Protective Services, and/or other professionals. Anyone claiming Parental Alienation Syndrome should look for family therapy as a constructive way forward. Other forms of abuse are physical, sexual, and neglect which are much easier to identify.
Children having some of these symptoms need help. Please contact an attorney and discuss your options on how to help this child. Formulate a plan to move forward. Do not give up your parental rights! Your child desperately needs and is entitled to your help!