When parents don’t play fair in child custody disputes, their target is the ex-spouse. What many don’t realise, or refuse to acknowledge, is that children end up being significantly damaged in the fall-out. Their unwillingness to behave and to put their children first often backfires spectacularly and the ones most vulnerable pay the price. Child custody disputes always damage every party involved, and we recommend that you avoid them at all costs.
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Child Custody Disputes: Making False Allegations
This was the case with an Australian lawyer who sought to take her two children with her back to America, where she now has another baby with her boss who is an IT consultant. She had been forced to bring them back to Australia when the Hague Convention was invoked after the Attorney-General’s department interceded on behalf of the children’s father. The children had been snatched by the mother in 2014 when they were visiting America.
The mother complained that her ex-husband ‘brushed his teeth on the toilet, monopolised the TV remote control, was cruel to insects and kicked the pet cat.’ The Family Court has banned her from taking her children back to America after Justice Garry Watts found that the mother had “grossly exaggerated” when she told the court in Colorado she was “scared to death of her husband” and said the children were “petrified of him.” Justice Watts based his decision on the unfounded serious allegations of family violence against the husband. A magistrates court found there was no basis upon which a family violence order should be made. She had even sought an interim domestic violence order when the children were returned to Australia so that the father was unable to see his children.
“I am unable to accept anything the wife says without (evidence),” the magistrates judge said. Justice Watts, who has granted sole custody to the father, said he agreed with the magistrate. He said the woman threatened her husband in an email in May 2015: “If you still choose to fight you know what I am OK with that and I will fight back. I will not hold back”.
Justice Watts said, “I am unable to find, as the wife invites me to, that the husband is systemically cruel to animals nor that he has exposed the children to that type of behaviour.”
Child Custody Disputes: When The Court Must Intervene
An unhappy mother began to make allegations about the father, including accusing him of stalking, assault, and hacking her email when they had a falling out over which school their daughter would attend. She made repeated false reports against the father – an officer with the Australian Federal Police – to the force’s professional standards unit, along with other allegations that were proven false.
Although the couple had previously shared child custody, when their relationship became more broken the father applied for sole custody. A court-appointed independent children’s lawyer supported the father’s application for sole custody. A change in custody was also recommended by a family consultant in order to prevent long-term harm to the daughter.
Judge Neville said he had concerns about the mother’s ability to provide for the child’s psychological needs. “She has completely severed any reasonable prospect of a business-like or remotely workable parenting relationship with the father. An order for sole parental responsibility must be made in favour of the father,” the judge wrote. “In my view, the actions of the mother have decidedly led to this result. The mother seems entirely unable, and unwilling, to come to grips with, or have any relevant insight into, her conduct, and its impact on the father … and in turn the risks it poses for [her daughter].” Judge Neville dismissed much of the mother’s evidence as “dishonest”, “unreliable”, “capricious”, “inaccurate”, and “untrustworthy”. “In my view, there is little that she would not say or do to achieve her own ends, especially to thwart the father’s time with and care of the child,” said the judge.
Sole custody was granted to the father.
Both child custody disputes prove that making false allegations and fighting for the sake of it often leads to unwanted outcomes. In both cases, the mothers thought that fighting would mean they would get their children at any cost. The reality was that they ended up losing their children.
Child Custody Disputes and Parental Alienation
According to a study published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review, 13 percent of parents in the United States have been victims of parental alienation, with more than 22 million adults have been identified to be at risk to be alienated from their children, High Point University revealed. Based on the statistics collected, the prevalence of parental alienation in the United States has been quite disturbing.
So, how do experts define parental alienation? The Good Men Project has the simplest definition of this tragic phenomenon and it’s a “consistent set of behaviors that seek to drive a wedge” on a parent-and-child relationship. Parental alienation is also considered a form of child abuse that should be regarded seriously.
Despite the fact that there are cases of unintentional parental alienation, those behaviors can still have damaging consequences to the parent-and-child relationship. As a matter of fact, unintentional behavior can be multi-dimensional, meaning it can be in either verbal or behavioral in form.
Children Pay the Price
High conflict divorce and child custody disputes mean great trauma for children. Following a divorce, children are often more likely to have emotional, social, behavioural and academic problems, but this depends on how the divorce is handled by the parents. High conflict after a divorce has a very negative impact on children following their parents separation. The Family Court of Australia says, “The type of post-separation conflict that has been found to have the worst effect on children is that which occurs when parents use children to express their anger and hostility. Children who are placed in the middle of their parents’ dispute (by either parent) are more likely to be angry, stressed, depressed or anxious, and have poorer relationships with their parents than children who are not used in this way.”
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Jennifer McIntosh, a child clinical psychologist, says that the type of conflict that most damages children in this situation “typically includes significant levels of anger and distrust, verbal conflict, poor communication and cooperation over parenting, an ongoing negative attitude to the ex-partner or -spouse, lack of support for children’s relationships with their other parent, covert and overt hostility, allegations about the ex-partner’s behaviour and parenting practices, litigation and re-litigation. Frequent, intense, threatening or poorly-resolved conflict between parents poses the greatest risks to children.”
At Divorce Lawyers Brisbane, we aim to put children first when it comes to working out parenting arrangements. Please contact us today for a free, 10-minute phone consultation.