Protecting Your Child Will Not Hurt Your Custody Case
It will not adversely affect your custody case if you make an effort to protect your child from the possible long-term emotional damage many children experience during their parents' divorce.
A sincere desire to protect your child may, however, reduce your ability to hurt the other parent. Vindictive parents - in their effort to inflict emotional pain on the other parent - often harm their children.
How best, then, to protect your child? The rules are quite simple.
Do not disparage the other parent in any way in the presence of the child.
Do not make any effort to thwart the other parent's time with the child.
Do not communicate to the child overtly or simply by your anxiety or tone of voice that the child is not free to have a loving relationship with the other parent.
Do not discuss any aspect of the court case with the child, or ask the child for a preference as to where the child wishes to live.
Do not seek to alienate the child from the other parent by subtle ploys- For example, don't tell the child secrets that the child is not to disclose to the other parent. Don't schedule the child's favorite activity during the other parent's allotted time with the child and then tell the child that but for the other parent she would be able to engage in the favorite activity.
Do not take the child to a therapist for the purpose of obtaining support for your case.
Do not - and this is most important - try to deprive the other parent of your child, even if the other parent does so in an attempt to hurt you.
If you do anything that will harm your child, it may be uncovered by your evaluator and will hurt your chances of obtaining a favorable custody award If the other parent criticizes you in the child's presence or seeks in other ways to alienate you from the child, simply continue to do what you know is right. The other's effort will fail.
If the parent under attack refuses to respond in kind, the effort to alienate a child from that parent will fail. Children are generally quite smart in these matters, and if your conduct does not justify the criticism, the child will not buy into it. (That is not to say it may not be emotionally harmful to the child) It is only when you respond by joining the fray that your conduct, as seen by the child, gives support to the criticisms of the other parent. However, the alienation may succeed if you fail to give generously of your available time to the child. A child who believes he can depend on just one parent for care and protection may side with that parent because he fears losing his only source of care - even if that parent is attempting to alienate him from the other parent.
Adapted from The Child Custody Book, How to Protect Your Children and Win Your Case, by Judge James W. Stewart. Available at online and local bookstores or directly from Impact Publishers, Inc., PO Box 601 6 , Atascadero, CA 93423-6016. Phone 1-800-246-7228.