Manipulation: Child Custody & Family Law

Through my journey as stepmom and Mama Bear on Mama Bear Blended Family Support, I have incured my share of manipulation from the other parties involved in our custody battle and throughout coparenting. I’ve also whitnessed the manipulative techniques used against other stepmoms and parents in blended families. To say it’s disheartening is putting it lightly. The lengths that some will go to get what they want is absolutely astounding to say the least. That’s why we should definitely talk about it. In this post we’ll discuss manipulation within family law and court proceedings.

It’s fairly common to see parents get upset about the amount of time and quality of time spent with the other parent. Most times we chalk this up to jealousy, but other times we have to understand that during child custody cases the magnifying glass is on. In the case where there is a narcissistic parent, this will be a much bigger issue than if there was a separation between two healthy adults.

Keeping your distance and enjoying the time with your children is first and foremost. But making sure the children aren’t experiencing narcissistic back-lash is nearly impossible. During custody trials, we as parents like to think that we have the ability to change things at the other parent’s house to suit the child. We don’t. Give up the need to change things everywhere, and start focusing on how things are done in your home. Changing and accommodating is completely possible, and you should be doing everything you can, in your own home.

What your children will need more than anything is understanding and a listening ear. Practice listening without reaction, if you feel the need to react at all, it should be with compassion and empathy for your child’s situation. Remember that, even though you may not like or have respect for the individual, your child’s parent is an important part of their life.

Your Ex is not your child’s Ex

Your child may be a product of a bad relationship, even an abusive one, but their other parent has always been their other parent and there’s nothing you can do to change that – Although some of us may wish we could. Their mother or father is an important part of what makes your child your child. Good and bad, they adopt parts of both of their parents.

Although we worry about our children adopting negative attributes from their other parent, we can only teach them right from wrong. Compassion and empathy go a long way in nurturing the relationship between you and your child. Remind yourself that although your child may be subject to the horrific words and actions of the other parent, that they don’t automatically believe that these things are okay or acceptable. Part of parenting is teaching our children what is appropriate and what is not. Meet each one of these challenging situations with words of wisdom and advice instead of berating and belittling.

Encourage a loving relationship between your child and everyone in their lives. Teach your children what healthy relationships look like. Encourage boundaries and expectations, and help them identify emotions as they come along.

Children as Weapons

It’s not a secret that children are used as weapons, it’s an extremely horrific experience, especially when in child custody battles. Just like there are parents who are fighting for custody in order to better their children’s lives, there are also parents who use the family law system to benefit themselves and their self image. Seeking custody of the children simply as a means to torture the ex is quite common. And indeed, if there is any way to rip out someone’s heart – taking away custody of children is an easy way to do it. But if you care about your children at all, you wouldn’t.

In true narcissistic fashion, these individuals manipulate the court, the system, judges, lawyers, friends and family. Good parents spend thousands of dollars (we weren’t exempt, we paid over $4,000 for our last custody case) attempting to fight for their children, and often years pass by before a verdict is reached. For narcissists, it’s not about gaining custody of the children for healthy loving reasons, or even because they are able to provide more than the other parent, it’s about one thing and one thing only… winning.

In many situations, in order to ‘win’ a custody battle, parents will create issue where there is none. Suddenly provoked, many parents fire back verbally, and this very incident of standing up for yourself will be held against you. Take care by making sure that all communications are civil no matter the provokation – that’s what they want! Get someone in your corner, and make note of every interaction between you and the other party.

“Winning” a Custody Battle

Many people assume that the parent who “won” full custody was deemed the most competent by the court, however quite often this isn’t the case. We must not forget that the judicial system is a system based not on rights, but one based on money. Attorney’s cost thousands of dollars, and in order to have one represent you, you must continue to pay for each action taken. It’s so easy for this rising dollar amount to become unaffordable, especially over a long period of time.

Winning full custody has its own set of stereotypes and assumptions. Not everyone who wins full custody is a good, or “more capable” parent. More often than not, when two parents go at each other for custody of the children, it’s personal. Parents who want the best for their children want their child to have healthy loving relationships with both of their biological parents. Sometimes that’s not possible, for many reasons. But taking a child away from a parent should never be done unless there are extenuating circumstances proven in court.

Court cases can be strung out for years, until one or both parties run out of money. Custody cases can also avoid trial by attempting to come to an ‘agreement’. A set custody arrangement can be presented to the other party by an attorney which represents them, composed of exactly what the paying party wants. Although you aren’t forced to accept and sign the agreement, there are many manipulative tactics parents will use to force hand and signature.

Creating issues, and the magnifying method both represent ways in which a shark attorney or high conflict bio-parent may manipulate the system in order to get the desired outcome they want. If there is anything in your past or present which may be used, prepare for the onslaught of damage that may be coming your way. Anything in your life can be called into question during a custody battle, by someone vindictive. Mental health struggles, medical diagnosis, medications, public blogs, financial situation, living arrangements, job, and even family can be used against you.

Although this may not rest your fears, these things are a reality and must be considered when in a custody battle with someone who is out for vengeance.

What are your experiences? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

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