How To Celebrate Mother’s Day As A Divorced Mom

mother's day as a divorced mom 


When Mother’s Day comes in the midst of divorce proceedings, there is not enough you can do for your divorcing friend. There are treats and cards. If the children are with their father then umpteen invitations will be showered upon the almost single mother. What about the next ten Mother’s Days after divorce? Some parents have put in their parenting plans that the kids spend Mother’s or Father’s Days with the parent that is being honored. Others do a trade for the day without a legal mandate.

My first Mother’s Day happened during a contentious divorce with my husband threatening to pull out of collaborative proceedings for a battle in court. It was very unsettling, and I barely remember that holiday. We did what we usually had done and went to an elaborative Mother’s Day brunch.

My mother made sure that I had a present from each son, so had taken them out shopping earlier in the week. She gave me something nice, too. Two years later we started new traditions to make the day seem more like it belonged to us. We exorcized the ghosts of Mother’s Day past and did not do anything like we did when I was still married. We shook up our routine and had a simple meal out followed by an anticipated movie. This year we will have a celebratory latte and lunch followed by Paul Blart’s film, “Mall Cop 2.” Celebrate in a new way, whether or not you have the kids with you.

How to Celebrate Mother’s Day As a Divorced Mom:

1. Have brunch at your place and invite other women, whether or not they are mothers. Make it extra festive with some champagne or Bloody Marys.

2. Ask your children for suggestions on how to celebrate this occasion in other ways.

3. If you have family nearby, get together with them and the kids will have fun with cousins.

4. When I was little, I treated my divorced mother at a reasonable family restaurant every Mother’s Day in a more rural area. It was a beautiful drive and the cost was within my allowance. Give your kids the chance to do something nice for you.

What do You do if You’re Alone on Mother’s Day? Below are 6 Ideas:

1. Consider taking a mini trip somewhere.

2. Do something to distract you that is interesting.

3. I know two divorced women with grown children who live in distant cities who are off to France this week on a packaged tour. These lucky ones will be celebrating Mother’s Day on the Riviera. There are travel agencies that have trips for singles in wonderful locales. It is nice to have the camaraderie of a group.

4. Some folks choose to give back to others which takes the focus off themselves. Volunteering is a way to feel fulfilled, particularly if the kids are with dad and a new stepmother.

5. My mother worked on this holiday as a nurse, when I had visitation with my father. If you can work on Mother’s Day and take a day off when you’ll be with your children, perfect!

6. Some nail salons are open on Sundays, so a manicure and pedicure can be just the ticket to raise up one’s spirits. Sometimes there are free concerts or craft fairs on this day which are fun to attend.

One thing to a avoid: Giving into the temptation of dulling the ache of loneliness by self-medicating. I know of a circumstance where the father was engaged in parental alienation and the daughter did not contact her mom on Mother’s Day. This woman had an accidental fatal overdose of medications, including combining anti-depressants along with alcohol. Over-imbibing does not get rid of a problem, it merely postpones doing something about it.

Decide if you want to stay busy, or laze around on the couch reading the latest bestseller. Whatever you decide to do, high-quality chocolate will make it even better!

The post How To Celebrate Mother’s Day As A Divorced Mom appeared first on Divorced Moms.


Standard of Practice: 2007 Documentation of Court-Involved Case Management

Standards of Practice: 2007 Written Treatment Plans

I’ve opened my folder of teaching tools for teaching documentation of therapy.  It’s from 2007, long before I even knew that “parental alienation” existed.  I was in trauma world, working with kids in the foster care system. These documentation standards are from that time period.

This is a treatment plan form for the San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health.  They were the county funding agency for mental health services in the foster care system.

SB-DBH Treatment Plan Form

The actual form is on blue paper, and it extends over several paper pages, so I just transcribed it to a Word table format and condensed redundancy. 

Those three empty boxes in the middle… that’s where all the action is on this form; Objectives, Clinical Interventions, and Outcomes.  It’s in those three empty boxes that we’d write our answers to those three important questions; goals, how are you going to get there, did it work?

Objectives – Clinical Interventions – Outcome

That’s the structural backbone of a written treatment plan.

What is the goal to be achieved by therapy (Objectives)?

How are you going to achieve those goals (Clinical Interventions)?

Did you achieve those goals (Outcome)?

I’ll go into each of these areas in a moment, but before leaving the form I want to point out a couple of other important features of a written treatment plan demonstrated by this county form.

First, notice that right above the Signatures box there’s a Frequency of Care Plan Review line, with boxes for 30 Days, 3 Months, 6 Month, and 12 Months.  Those time-frames are typically considered the standard of practice review points for treatment plans.  Treatment goals should typically be for a three- to six-month range for resolution of the pathology.  Short-term goals in the four- to six-week range are helpful progress milestones toward achieving the longer 3 to 6-month solutions. 

That’s what a treatment plan does, it lays out the course for solution, and that course is reviewed regularly; we’d hope for a treatment plan with a 3 to 6-month resolution of the pathology.

Notice too, the box off to the side of the signatures that says, “Client Received a Copy of the Care Plan” with a place for the client’s initials and date.  The written treatment plan is reviewed with the client, and the client gets a copy of it.  In fact, the Department of Behavioral Health wants to make certain that the client has a copy of the written treatment plan.  This documents that we reviewed the treatment plan with the client… at 3 months, and 6 months, and 1 year; each time the client initials a new signature line with a new date.

That’s considered standard of practice in county work in the foster care system.  Written treatment plan, review it with the client, client gets a copy of the written treatment plan.

Let’s take a closer look at those three empty boxes, and see what the county Department of Behavioral Health wants.


OBJECTIVES: (Must be specific, measurable/quantifiable, attainable, realistic, time-bound.  Must be related to assessment, presenting problems/symptoms and functional impairment.  Include cultural/linguistic, co-occurring factors, if appropriate.  Include Med Support and Targeted Case Management, if appropriate)

Let me highlight a couple of things from this documentation requirement – measurable/quantifiable – time-bound.  Those features of the treatment plan are not optional, they are part of the list of required components.   Notice the instructions say “Must be” – not “Should be” – Must be… measurable and time-bound Objectives are requirements of the written treatment plan.

We must be able to measure treatment outcome, and our treatment goals must be time-bound.

Let me also highlight that the goals of treatment must be linked to the assessment information, to the presenting problem and symptoms, and to the impairment caused by the symptoms. The treatment plan describes what the problem is, and how to fix it.

Treatment plans link to the assessment data and describe a coherently organized approach to fixing the presenting problem – to solving things.

If a mental health professional cannot develop a written treatment plan for a pathology, then that mental health professional should not be working with that pathology.  Simple as that.

If I’m working with eating disorders, I must be able to develop an effective treatment plan for eating disorders.  If I am working with depression, I must be able to come up with an effective treatment plan for depression.  In professional psychology, that’s called “boundaries of competence,” that I only work with types of pathology that I know about, for which I am able to develop a written treatment plan.

If you know what you’re doing, then you have a plan for treatment. If you have a plan for treatment, write it down on a piece of paper and tell everyone what the plan is.   A written treatment plan.  A standard of professional practice – Department of Behavioral Health, San Bernardino County.

Clinical Interventions

CLINICAL INTERVENTIONS: (Must be related to objective. List clinical intervention for each group/individual service.  Includes Med Support and Targeted Case Management, if appropriate).

Tell us what you’re going to do.  This is the application of knowledge section of the treatment plan.  Objectives is being able to define goals in achievable and measurable ways, Clinical Interventions is knowing what to do about it.

Personally, I’d apply the scientifically established knowledge of professional psychology, in whatever domain of pathology I was working in, from geriatrics, to ADHD, or autism.  What’s the science say, that’s where I’ll be.  For this court-involved family conflict pathology, I apply the knowledge from attachment, and family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, and the neuro-development of the brain during childhood.  I think it’s tremendously relevant information that helps make sense of everything.

I’d recommend it; attachment, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma, and the neuro-development of the brain in childhood.

But everyone’s free to apply the knowledge they’d like.  A psychoanalytically oriented psychologist might apply Adler or Kohut, a humanistic psychologist might apply Rogers and Pearls, a CBT therapist will apply learning theory and Beck.  What knowledge is applied in this box, Clinical Interventions, is given broad latitude… but it is documented in the treatment plan.

It doesn’t matter what you do… just tell us what it is.

Because, you see, in telling us what it is your going to do to fix things, we’ll be able to tell if you know what you’re doing.  First, if you can’t tell us anything at all about how you are going to fix things (the clinical interventions), then you don’t know what you’re doing.  So that’s an easy one right there.

Then, for those therapists who do provide a description of their clinical interventions, we can look at their case formulation and applied knowledge to see what information and knowledge from professional psychology they used in their case conceptualization and treatment approach.  This will allow parents to make informed decisions regarding treatment, a requirement of informed consent to treatment.  It’s the informed part.

Don’t care what the answer is to this box, Clinical Interventions, just tell us what you plan to do.  After that, then we’ll care about what the answer is to this box.  But for right now, just tell us what you’re going to do to fix things.  Whatever you think is best.


OUTCOMES/date/initials: To be completed at the end of the Care Plan Review timeframe, 30 days, 3, 6, 12 months or more frequently as appropriate

At every outcome review point specified in the treatment plan (typically 3-month and 6-month, and by then things should be substantially solved), the treatment goals and clinical interventions to achieve those goals are reviewed.  Remember, the treatment objectives are identified in ways that are “measurable” and “time-bound” – permitting review of goal accomplishment.

In child and family therapy, clinical impact is typically targeted for four to six-weeks.  Even in autism, significant measurable impact of clinical involvement should be evident by four to six weeks.  For autism, the clinical impact in six weeks would not necessarily be directly measurable in the child’s symptoms, but the caregivers should have substantially increased knowledge and skills in how to respond to the child (changes in caregiver stress and responding skills that are measurable).  The improved responding from the caregivers then leads to the more productive longer-range progress toward the treatment goals, gains which should become directly evident in the child’s symptoms on the 3-month and 6-month reviews of the treatment goals. 

So even with autism pathology, we would expect to see measurable gains in caregiver response competence in a four to six week period of initial intervention, leading toward longer-range goal achievement.

This is true for all pathology, from autism to oppositional defiant disorder.  It’s usually reasonable to expect a positive impact from intervention on some measurable area of functioning in four to six weeks, improvements moving toward a 3- to 6-month resolution of the presenting problem.

Does treatment with some childhood pathology take longer than six months to solve?  Of course.  But for each time-period longer than six months, professional concerns about the accuracy of the case conceptualization and treatment plan increase.   Treatment should solve things.  If treatment is not solving things within three to six months, we need to closely examine the diagnostic premise and clinical approach involved.

If we treat diabetes with insulin but the patient actually has cancer and needs chemotherapy, then the sooner we re-evaluate our diagnosis based on absence of treatment progress the sooner we will be able to get the proper diagnosis of cancer and the proper treatment of chemotherapy.  If things aren’t working, it’s time to look closely at possibly changing what we’re doing.

Does that mean that longer treatment is always due to earlier misdiagnosis?  No.  It just means that with each increment of time over six months, the review scrutiny of the case conceptualization, diagnosis, and clinical interventions used to achieve a solution becomes more exacting.

Even for chronic pathologies like autism that will require years of developmentally supportive intervention, we would want to achieve a stabilization of intervention where the child is receiving the proper intervention at the proper dosage level, and measurable progress from the intervention is continuing.  Continuing measurable gains from the consistent application of developmentally supportive intervention becomes a steady state treatment plan, measurable and time-bound review, and the same in its consistency of measurable effectiveness. 

This is the desired steady-state treatment plan we want for chronic pathology, always then closely monitoring scientific advancements that can improve the treatment plan for increasingly positive outcome.

If, however, the child ceases to make gains in a time-frame of review, then a reconsideration of case conceptualization and treatment plan is indicated.  When progress is not made, we develop a new treatment plan.  This may involve altering our case conceptualization, or altering the clinical interventions applied.

The important thing is that the progress is measurable, and that the treatment plan is time-bound to periods for review and modification.

School IEP

If an additional example is needed for a written treatment plan related to commonly occurring childhood pathology, I would refer to the school IEP (Individual Education Program).  The school IEP represents a written treatment plan surrounding a variety of possible issues, some possibly medical, some possibly emotional and psychological. 

What does the school do about the presenting problem referred for an individualized educational approach; the IEP referral?  The school develops a written treatment plan, discusses this written treatment plan with the parents, obtains the parent’s approval for the written treatment plan, and then then the school implements the treatment plan as described by the written treatment plan. 

Once implemented, this written treatment plan of the IEP is reviewed on a periodic schedule to ensure measurable gains from the education-related treatment plan described by the IEP.

The school IEP is an education-related treatment plan, but many of the issues addressed by the IEP are emotional and psychological disturbances of childhood, so often the educational intervention co-occurs within the context of the psychological intervention.

A written treatment plan is everyday standard of practice in the school system.  The county of San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health mandated a written treatment plan as a requirement for funding treatment of children and families in the foster care system.  In the world I come from, a written treatment plan is common standard of professional practice.  No big deal.

What are the Objectives of treatment (measurable and time-bound), what are the Clinical Interventions to be used to achieve those Objectives, and did it work, what is the Outcome?

The standard of professional practice in clinical psychology is for written treatment plans.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857


Standard of Practice: 2007 Documentation of Court-Involved Case Management

Standard of Practice: 2007 Documentation of Court-Involved Case Management

I want to share something with you. Actual progress notes from therapy, not with this pathology of complex family conflict surrounding divorce, but from therapy with abused children in the foster care system. 

The physical and sexual abuse of these children was confirmed by the Department of Children’s Services, and they had placed these children in foster care.  For treatment, they were sent to my clinic.  I was the Clinical Director for a three-university collaboration treating the impact of childhood trauma within our foster care system.

In my role as the Clinical Director, I supervised interns and post-docs, which meant I signed off on their chart notes.  I also trained them in how to do trauma therapy with children, and how to document the therapy in their chart notes.  Over time in my training role as Clinical Director I de-identified some of the notes that came across my desk to use in the training of interns and post-docs regarding treatment, and treatment documentation.

When I left to enter private practice I apparently kept a file of these de-identified sample notes from actual cases tucked in a file cabinet in my garage.  I had forgotten I had them.  My goodness, they’re from 2007, tucked in a file folder in a file cabinet in my garage.  I now recollect thinking that these de-identified chart note samples might be useful if I ever entered another supervisory training role, as training examples of child trauma therapy and therapy documentation.

I’ve been going through and organizing the stuff in my garage.  My last round of doing this was with my books, this time is with my journal articles and folders.  I’m clearing my emotional-psychological decks for action; opening the gun ports in preparation for the upcoming ship-to-ship engagement, so to speak.  In going through stuff folder-by-folder I came across my folder of sample notes, and I started to read them.

Interesting stuff.  Not to me.  It’s just work stuff to me from 2007, long before I came to work with families of court-involved divorce.  But these notes reveal important stuff about professional standards of practice, because they are not created for this pathology of post-divorce family conflict, and they are not related to anything controversial.  They are just standard of ordinary practice from 2007.

At the time of these notes, and at the time they were archived away in my files, I had plans to die happily in complete obscurity, and having never even heard of anything called “parental alienation.”   In 2007, I had never heard the term, “parental alienation.”  This note is from trauma.  These are the actual notes for therapy with young kids in the foster care system. 

This one documenting court-involved case management is from a post-doc psychologist.  It’s a case-management note for billing her report for the guardian (probably grandparents) regarding treatment progress which will be submitted to the court.  I’ve been a court-involved clinical psychologist before, just not a divorce-involved one.  I’ve been trauma and child abuse court-involved clinical psychologist.

You know how the pathogenic parent is so concerned about the supposed “abuse” of their child?  I am exactly the psychologist that you want to send an abused child to.  I am that psychologist – except now I’m here with divorce-related pathology.  But I am an abuse and trauma clinical psychologist.  Foster care.  Early childhood, ages birth to five, up to eight…).

For all of these kids discussed in these actual chart notes, the pathology is confirmed physical or sexual child abuse, often including parental drug use, and possible prenatal exposure of the child to drugs and alcohol.  Anything that gets a child from birth to age 6 into the foster care system; that was our client population; the child and the siblings were our client, along with the (hopefully) recovering parents, the grandparent guardians providing kinship care, the foster parents with four to seven children in their care, adoptive parents adjusting to trauma in children, the social workers in child protective services, and the court.

Been there.  Here is a case management note.

Case Management with the Court

Purpose of Case Management

For the courts to make an educated decision regarding <child name>’s future , it is necessary for the court to consider the child’s mental health and functioning in her current placement.  Consultation and linkage with the client guardian’s legal counsel is meant to facilitate the continued stability and progress of the client.  The legal proceedings regarding guardianship will determine <child name>’s contact with her biological mother, which would have a direct impact on her behavioral and emotional functioning.

Summary of Case Management/Linkage Provided

In her placement with the current guardians, <child name> has made significant gains in the reduction of anxiety and aggression. This therapist wrote a progress letter at the request of the current guardians and their legal counsel to inform the guardianship proceedings.  Specifically legal counsel was interested in the progress that <child name> has made in therapy while in the care of her current guardians, dates of attendance, and wanted to know if her biological mother had participated in treatment.

Treatment Recommendations/Considerations

Recommended that if client mother resumes caregiving involvement she be required to participate in collateral therapy to prevent deterioration in reported gains.  Noted that <child name>’s progress can be attributed in large part to the current secure and stable caregiving environment.  For specific progress and treatment recommendations please refer to the document in client file.

Care Plan

Goal Objective

By 8/13/07, will reduce the severity of client’s anxious/distressed presentation upon separation from 7 times a week to four times a week as measured by parent report, will reduce client lying about significant events to 3 times per week as measured by parent report, will reduce non-compliant behavior in the home from 3 to less than 1 time per week based on parent report, client will follow caregiver direction with only two prompts 90% of the time based on parental report.


Will provide linkage and consultation with the court through the legal counsel for client’s guardian in order to support placement decisions that provide the necessary stability and security needed for client’s continuing treatment progress.

Client Will Participate By

Clinical functioning and progress will be reported to the court through the legal counsel of the client’s guardian.

That’s the note example.

Documentation Standard of Practice

I would estimate that the child described in this note by Dr. Excellent has been physically abused, mother is probably meth-addicted, the child is probably in the 5 to 6 year old age-range.  I can tell all that based on how the post-doc worded things.  I know the post-doc who wrote this, and if it was sexual abuse there would be different sentences.  The treatment goals she describes are consistent with physical abuse, and the lying is probably neglect from a meth-addicted mother (neglect leaves an imprint where the child takes whatever they want on impulse and then lies without remorse; it’s a survival symptom of neglect, particularly characteristic of meth-addicted mothers).

Notice the category headings for the note, these are standard mandated headings for a case management note for county-funded work.  We were county funded, foster-care work.  We had county mandated documentation requirements.  All of these note examples are county-level standard of practice for documentation.

This note is for billing purposes.  The post-doc is doing non-treatment activity and is billing the county under a billing code for case management.  This is her billing documentation note.  She has to justify the time spent.  This starts by identifying the child’s needs that are being addressed by the case management.

Note that she is working with the guardian’s attorney to provide information about treatment recovery to the court.  The guardian is likely the grandparent, and they are probably worried about the potential return of the child to an actively meth-addicted and physically abusive mother (the grandparent’s daughter).  The post-doc therapist is working with the grandparent to help stabilize the child’s recovery.

Childhood Trauma and Abuse

This note is from 2007.  This is the world I come from; the treatment of childhood trauma.

Forensic psychology uses the words trauma and abuse a lot, but they don’t actually ever work with trauma and abuse, just this court-involved divorce related family conflict. 

They don’t actually treat children in the foster care system who have been physically and sexually abused by parents.  I do.  Those are my clients.  I’m that guy,  that clinical psychologist, my clinic, that’s where they sent the abused kids for treatment.  To me.

I’ve worked with the courts before this current family-divorce pathology.  Only back then, I was on the foster care child abuse consultation side.  But I’m completely familiar with court-involved consultation surrounding child abuse, and in my world – this is what a case management note looks like.

Notice the treatment plan documentation.  Standard of practice on every progress note…. progress note.  That’s just on the note, there’s a whole four to six page treatment plan in another section of the chart. 

We do in-house QA on our charts every six months – no fun, Saturdays with pizza, and our charts are audited by the county – at random intervals.  Standard of practice, at CHLA, at Choc, at my clinic in 2007.

This is what I would consider a standard of practice note for case management in my world as a clinical psychologist.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.                             
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Director of Psychological Services,
CCPI; Custody Resolution Method




Child Sexual Abuse: Yes, I Am A Helicopter Mom, And For a Good Reason

Child Sexual Abuse: Yes, I Am A Helicopter Mom, And For a Good Reason

Sad Boy.jpg


I’m that “helicopter” mom playing with my son at the park. I’m making sure my sweet boy doesn’t get out of sight.

I’m the mom at the play date who stays at your house, visiting, always keeping an eye on my child. I politely decline sleepover invitations.

I dearly love this boy. He’s funny and outgoing and generally kind. You may think I’m hovering and being overprotective.

Child sexual abuse: I’m making sure your child is safe from mine.

At age five, my child started acting out sexually, in explicit ways, and he told me clearly about inappropriate, intimate sexual contact he’d had with an adult’s penis.

I reported it to the proper authorities. Nothing happened.

The adult was my husband, and we were divorcing. Instead of believing my child’s words to me, it was easier for Child Protective Services to believe his dad’s word that they just took a shower together. CPS “educated” him on not doing this again and filed a report ruling out abuse.

Since then, his dad has been seen drunk-driving our son and leaving him strapped in a hot car while buying alcohol and cigarettes (CPS again did nothing, even though it was a criminal act, so it’s happened again). Our son says his dad has served him wine and shown him porn. Our son has talked about death and has tried to cut himself and strangle me. He’s drawn scary pictures with demons and genitalia and weapons. He has fits of rage. He has odd seizures of staring into space.

This happy boy, who could read at age three, by grade three needs help for multiple learning disorders and risks failing state exams.

Our son has been suspended from school for sexualized behaviors against other children. Most concerning, he initiated sexual contact with a friend the summer after first grade, while his friend’s parent and I were in the next room. He told his friend to keep it a secret. A few months later, he told his friend he wanted to have sex again. His friend, distraught, finally told his parents about the incidents.

State law mandates a person call CPS when a person suspects abuse. When I’ve made these required calls, I’ve been wrongly accused of “parental alienation.” Some judges wrongly use this unscientific theory to take kids away from protective parents who report abuse. This is a horrendous outcome for kids: to be stripped from a loving parent and given to an abuser.

Meanwhile, no one else ever reported the sexual behavior to CPS – not his psychologists, not the school counselor, not the (former) friend’s parents. Even though we all know acting out is a huge red flag for a child being sexually abused. It’s an even bigger red flag for a seven-year-old to ask his friend to keep it a secret. It’s an enormous red flag when we all know the child made a prior outcry.

When asked about incidents, our son pretends they never happened. He flees to a fantasy world. He tells me his dad tells him to keep secrets. He sometimes drops hints. But it’s possible we may never know what happened – or is still happening – to this precious child.

It’s clear that the person I love most has been abused. It’s also clear our society does not prioritize crimes against kids, and our courts do not make child protection a priority.

If a stranger victimized my child (or committed a crime against an adult), there would be a real investigation by police, with real evidence-gathering. But an abuser is almost always someone in a child’s circle of trust. When the perp is the parent or family member, the “investigation” is largely left to over-worked, under-resourced state caseworkers who don’t have the tools or time to gather or analyze evidence or even talk to relevant people. The CPS workers instead offer services to keep kids with parents. They meet strict deadlines and usually “rule out” abuse – which then makes protecting the child in court even more difficult for the protective parent.

It’s time to declare war on child maltreatment.

Toxic stress from abuse and neglect physically damages children’s developing brains. The Adverse Childhood Experiences study conclusively proves the link between severe or chronic maltreatment and future mental health problems, addictions, chronic diseases, self-harm, crime, and violence – and the perpetuating cycle. Children with several adverse experiences have a much greater prevalence of learning and behavior problems in school. Without intervention, they can end up repeatedly cycling through jails, emergency rooms, and hospitals.

It’s time to break the cycle.

My son is doing much better, after intensive counseling and other measures, but I don’t let him alone with another child. I want him to have friends and fun and learn empathy and respect and self-control. I want him to know he’s loved. I want him to grow up to be a good, moral man and to overcome the toxic maltreatment that can overwhelm him.

I will do my best to protect your child. My heart breaks when I can’t protect mine.

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child custody

8 Tips To Help Dads Prepare For A Custody Battle

child custodyWhen it comes to child custody battles, the deck is often stacked against dads. There are numerous gender stereotypes that work against fathers in all family law matters, but they seem especially pronounced in child custody issues.

The unfortunate reality is that child custody is the practice area of divorce that tends to cause the most heated disagreements. Divorce can impact nearly every aspect of your life, but matters such as property division and spousal support pale in comparison to the relationship you have with your kids. Far too frequently, dads are relegated to a secondary parent role when custody is determined.

If you are a father facing divorce and an ensuing child custody battle, it is best to take steps so that you are prepared for what lies ahead.

Contact a child custody attorney

The single most important thing you can do to prepare for your child custody case is to hire a family law attorney who focuses on fathers’ rights.

There are a number of different factors you should consider when choosing a divorce lawyer, but first and foremost you need to make sure you find an attorney who understands the specific challenges men and fathers face in family law.

Fortunately, there are law firms out there, such as Cordell & Cordell, that are solely dedicated to providing dads the legal guidance and resources they need during the divorce process. These fathers’ rights attorneys are well-versed in the child custody statutes in your jurisdiction and equipped to navigate the treacherous minefield of custody battles you are likely to face.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Pay attention to details

If you are seeking sole custody or joint custody, it is vital that you show you are invested and engaged in your child’s life. This means knowing everything from your child’s school schedule to the names of their best friends.

As their dad, this is likely information you already know, but do not leave it to chance. A judge can tell the difference between a father who is intimately involved with his child’s life versus a dad who is a passive participant in it.

Don’t confide in your child

Divorce is such an emotionally trying time that many fathers find themselves desperate for a listening ear to vent their frustrations to. But no matter how stressful your divorce gets or how frustrated you get with your ex, do not rant and rave to your child.

Trashing your ex in front of your child can potentially lead to parental alienation, which is incredibly damaging. It can also badly hurt your child custody case. If a judge finds out that you are using your child as a therapist and turning them against their mother, they are likely to question whether you truly have their best interest in mind.

It is important not to keep things bottled up as you are going through the divorce process, but talk to a friend, a trusted family member, or a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor. Leave the kids out of it.

Stay civil

When a marriage falls apart, it is difficult to avoid having some hard feelings towards your ex. However, regardless of what you think of her, it is for the best if you two can work together to have an amicable relationship post-divorce.

After divorce, you might wish to never even see your ex again, but that is not realistic when you have children. Although you are no longer husband and wife, you are still both co-parents and you are going to need to communicate on some level as you raise your child.

Review some of the best practices for effective co-parenting and try to implement as many of them as possible. Of course, good co-parenting is somewhat dependent on cooperation from your ex, and that is out of your control. If your ex is especially disagreeable, consider utilizing a parallel parenting model of co-parenting to avoid conflict.

Keep notes

It is a good idea to start keeping a journal recording important names, dates, places, and people in the lives of your children. You should also detail any negative behaviors from your ex that could help your case, such as engaging in alienating behavior.

Make sure you list precise times and dates. Attention to detail, or lack thereof, can make or break you child custody case.

Understand your state’s child custody laws

Child custody laws can vary substantially from state to state, so one of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with the custody statutes in your jurisdiction.

Paying attention to the fine print is tedious, but it is the only way to know what you are up against before your child custody hearing. Reading up on the latest custody laws can also help you figure out a list of questions to ask your divorce lawyer as your court date nears.

Follow proper courtroom etiquette

If you hope to win child custody you have to make sure you behave appropriately in court and follow correct protocols. Talk with your attorney about what is expected on the day of your hearing. It might even be a good idea to do some roleplaying with your divorce attorney ahead of time to ensure that you understand the expectations prior to your court appearance.

You will also want to make sure you dress appropriately to make a positive impression. Typically, you will want to wear something formal that conveys that you are well put together and a responsible adult.

Monitor social media

When you are in the midst of a child custody battle, it is for the best to shut down your social media accounts across the board. There is not much upside to having those accounts open during this time.

Whatever you do, do not post any details about your case. You should be very careful about all the content that you post because it is very easy for someone to form the wrong impression without proper context. For example, you might post a picture of you and your friends having a couple drinks and the opposing party could use that photo as evidence that you are partying too much and not a responsible parent.

A temporary social media blackout is really for the best.

The post 8 Tips To Help Dads Prepare For A Custody Battle appeared first on Dads Divorce.



The Legal Argument Package: Forensic or Clinical Psychology

Things are changing. 

We are shifting from a forensic psychology non-solution to a clinical psychology solution for complex family conflict surrounding divorce.

This is not a child custody issue.  The conflict surrounding child custody is a symptom. The issue is family pathology that is creating complex attachment-related  pathology in the family; complex family conflict surrounding divorce.

This is a family pathology and treatment issue.  Conducting family therapy is the domain of clinical psychology, treating attachment pathology in the family is the domain of clinical psychology (a child rejecting a parent is an attachment-related pathology), treating the expression of parental personality disorder pathology in parenting and the family is the domain of clinical psychology, and treating the trans-generational transmission of complex trauma is the domain of clinical psychology.

This is a clinical psychology issue, diagnosing and treating family pathology; the attachment system, family systems therapy, personality disorder pathology, complex trauma.  Clinical psychology.

The DSM-5 diagnosis for pathogenic parenting that is creating significant psychopathology in the child is V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse.  Diagnosing and treating child abuse is the domain of clinical psychology.  This is not a child custody issue; it’s a child protection issue. 

The clinical psychology concern is the significant degree of psychopathology being created in the child by the pathogenic parenting of the allied narcissistic-borderline personality parent… assessing, identifying (diagnosing), and treating psychopathology is the domain of clinical psychology.

Following divorce, a spouse is using the child as a weapon of revenge and retaliation against the other spouse-and-parent in the divorce, in order to inflict severe emotional abuse and the psychological trauma of losing their child on this targeted spouse-and-parent.  This pathology is a form of domestic violence (Intimate Partner Violence; IPV), the emotional abuse of the ex-spouse using the child as a weapon of spousal revenge and retaliation for the divorce, and in the process psychologically abusing the child by creating severe pathology in the child.

The assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV; domestic violence) and child abuse is the domain of clinical psychology.

This is not a child custody issue.  The child custody conflict is a superficial symptom of much deeper clinical pathology in the family.  The issue is one of psychopathology, that’s the domain of clinical psychology.  The clinical psychology argument package represents the return of clinical psychology to court-involved consultation, court-involved assessment of pathology, and court-involved treatment of pathology.

Identification of pathology is called diagnosis.  Assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment.  Treatment solves conflict and restores the child’s healthy family context and healthy development.

We are shifting the legal argument package that is being presented to the court.   Parents and their attorneys will be asking the court for a clinical psychology assessment of family pathology, not a forensic psychology assessment for child custody.

The Forensic Package

Up until now there has been only a single option for parents and their attorneys, the forensic psychology legal argument package that frames the issue as one of custody and visitation.  That has changed.  There is now an alternative approach; a treatment focused approach from clinical psychology.

The clinical psychology legal argument package is grounded on a different set of constructs from professional psychology (Bowlby; Minuchin; Beck) than is the forensic psychology argument package (arbitrary and unknown foundations), and the clinical psychology option seeks a different remedy from the Court than the forensic psychology argument package. 

Since the focus of the forensic psychology legal argument is on child custody, the initial forensic psychology remedy moves inexorably into a “child custody evaluation” as the only means to obtain the input of professional psychology into the question of the child’s non-compliance, and potentially influenced child behavior regarding compliance, with the custody visitation orders of the court.

The task of each parent then becomes proving their position regarding the child’s rejection of a parent to the child custody evaluator, who will decide on the “evidence” presented to the custody evaluator on the relative merits of each party’s position, and will decide on the custody and visitation schedule for the family – thereby ABROGATING the duties of the judge… to hear argument and evidence, to make a determination of fact, and to render a decision regarding the custody visitation schedule.

All done by the custody evaluator – not the judge.  The judge may either then accept or reject and alter the ruling of the custody evaluator – typically without benefit from a second opinion from professional psychology regarding the family symptoms and family pathology.

Custody and visitation decision-making has essentially been assigned out of the courts and to forensic psychology, and the only approach available from forensic psychology is an invalid (no inter-rater reliability) six- to nine-month forensic child custody evaluation costing between $20,000 to $40,000. 

Each parent tries to influence the custody evaluator to their position.  The position of the allied parent (supported by the child) is that the targeted parent is “abusive” and “deserves to be rejected: by the child.  The position of the targeted parent is that the child’s attitudes and behavior is being influenced and controlled by the allied parent as a means to inflict emotional suffering on the targeted parent for the divorce (that the child is being used as a weapon of spousal revenge and retaliation for the divorce).

The custody evaluator meets with everyone to hear their “arguments” – exposing the evaluator to their influence and efforts at manipulation of the evaluator’s opinion.  This is a deeply concerning assessment process because of its vulnerability to the unconscious biases of the evaluator (called counter-transference in clinical psychology). 

Counter-transference (unconscious bias) from the psychologist ALWAYS exists, in all cases, in all contents.  The introduction of the psychologists own unconscious biases are identified as “schemas” in professional psychology.  Personal biases in the assessment of information is always present, and is entirely unconscious to the person.  This is a fact of psychology, and of all assessment processes.

In the forensic psychology process, the custody evaluator acts as the “judge” regarding the relative arguments offered by each parent, and they custody evaluator makes a determination of fact – typically whether a poorly defined construct called “parental alienation” is present and to what degree – and decides on the remedy based in the child’s custody visitation schedule with each parent.

Note: There is no pathology known as “parental alienation” in clinical psychology.  That is a new form of pathology that is entirely the construction of forensic psychology.  It does not exist.  In clinical psychology, defined knowledge exists, and the identification of pathology (called diagnosis) is based solely on the established constructs and principles of professional psychology (attachment; family systems therapy; personality disorder pathology; complex trauma).

The focus on the treatment of family pathology, on the other hand, will move this into clinical psychology and a clinical psychology assessment of pathology.

Which legal argument and remedy package to present to the court is a decision for parents and their attorneys.

The Challenge of the Forensic Psychology Argument

The focus of the forensic psychology argument for the targeted parent is to prove a pathology (“parental alienation”) to a judge in order to obtain the remedy, typically a reversal of custody from the supposedly “favored” parent to the currently rejected targeted parent. 

That is the burden, proving the family pathology of “parental alienation” to a judge at trial.  The sole means to prove “parental alienation” to a judge at trial is through a forensic psychology child custody evaluation.  A child custody evaluation costs between $20,000 to $40,000 and takes between six- to nine-months to complete.

There is no other option from the forensic psychology legal argument package.  No second opinion is available because of the expense ($20,000 to $40,000) and length of time required (six to nine-months) for a child custody evaluation.

This approach is hardly ever successful for the targeted parent.  This approach typically takes years of litigation and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, with substantial damage to both the parent-child relationship and the family’s financial foundations during and throughout the years of litigation required by the forensic psychology approach.

Successful resolution of the family conflict is exceedingly rare using the forensic psychology legal argument package, because it’s not a treatment focused approach.  Treatment is clinical psychology, and a clinical psychology assessment of pathology has not been conducted.

The forensic psychology approach typically only achieves success in the most severe cases of “parental alienation” in which the pathology of parental influence on the child is clearly evident, and then only after years of conflict and litigation have already robbed the child of a normal-range and healthy parent-child relationship with a loving and beloved parent (their mom or their dad; the targeted parent), and the loss of a normal-range childhood of healthy emotional and psychological development (bonded in loving relationships with both parents).

The forensic psychology approach offers no solution, it is destructive of families and children’s healthy emotional and psychological development, and this approach needs to change – because it offers no solution.  It is not treatment focused.  Treatment of child and family pathology is the domain of clinical psychology.

Clinical Psychology Argument

Clinical psychologists create change.  We create change in individuals (individual therapy) and we create change in families (family therapy).  Clinical child and family psychologists solve complex family conflict.  That’s what we do.   We solve complex family conflict.  It’s called family systems therapy.  Solving complex attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce requires a solution from clinical psychology.

Clinical psychology can absolutely – 100% – solve this family pathology (cross-Slide52generational coalition; emotional cutoff; narcissistic-borderline parent (“splitting”); multigenerational transmission of complex trauma). 

The solution requires the application of professional knowledge from four domains of professional psychology: the attachment system, family systems therapy, personality disorder pathology, and complex trauma.  So it is not easy to solve. But it is entirely solvable with the application of the established knowledge of professional psychology.

Attachment – family systems therapy – personality disorder pathology – complex trauma.  Established knowledge in professional psychology.  Bowlby – Minuchin – Beck – van der Kolk.

I have posted a Curriculum Knowledge Checklist to my website that identifies the books from professional psychology that contain the professional knowledge needed to solve complex family conflict surrounding divorce.

It is a complex and difficult pathology.  But it is both understandable and solvable.

Court Involvement

Solving this pathology will require a cooperative relationship between clinical psychology and the Court.  The narcissistic-borderline parent will lead this family conflict into the court system by manipulatively creating and then exploiting the child’s refusal to comply with court orders for custody and visitation.  Once the child begins refusing visitation contact with the targeted parent (with the tacit support of the allied narcissistic-borderline parent), the targeted-rejected parent must then return to court seeking enforcement of the existing court orders for custody and visitation.

That’s how the pathology of one spouse-and-parent (the allied parent who forms a cross-generational coalition with the child) drives the post-divorce family into the family court system.  The family pathology will enter the legal system because the targeted parent needs to seek enforcement of the existing court orders for custody and visitation as a consequence of the child’s (manipulated and psychologically coerced) refusal to cooperate with the court orders for custody and visitation.

Since the issue is superficially the enforcement of orders for child custody and visitation, the issue will present to the court as one of “child custody” – but it’s not about custody and visitation.  Court orders already exist.  It’s about parental pathology in the family creating attachment-related pathology in the child in order to exploit the child’s symptoms to manipulate the court’s orders for custody and visitation (using the pathology – the rejection of a parent – created in the child).

This is a family pathology issue.  That’s the domain of clinical psychology.

Victimized Child – Influenced Child

Upon entry into the legal system, the narcissistic-borderline parent will present the “victimized child” argument to the court; that the child is supposedly being “victimized” by the allegedly “abusive” parenting of the targeted parent, and the remedy sought by the allied narcissistic-borderline personality parent will be to severely limit the other parent’s time with the child ostensibly to limit the child’s contact with the supposedly “abusive parent.”

The targeted parent, on the other hand, will present the court with the “influenced child” argument surrounding the child’s refusal of contact, and the targeted parent will seek the remedy of limiting and restricting the the child’s time with the allied and “favored” in order to resolve the “influenced child” refusal of the court-ordered custody and visitation.

The judge will need to resolve between these two argument packages; “victimized child” offered by the allied and supposedly “protective” parent, and the “influenced child” argument offered by the targeted and rejected parent.  Once the judicial decision is made regarding the arguments, an appropriate remedy will then need to decided upon by the Court.

Adjusting the Argument Package

The clinical psychology argument package adjusts both the focus (treatment of family pathology rather than child custody schedules) the the framing for how the “influenced child” argument is presented to the court.

The clinical psychology argument will NOT use the construct of “parental alienation” – and indeed, the use of the construct of “parental alienation” would be considered beneath professional standards of practice in clinical psychology.  In clinical psychology, if a psychologist wants to apply a “new form of pathology” (such as “parental alienation”) to the interpretation of symptoms, this is done only AFTER having applied the standard and established knowledge of professional psychology; the attachment system literature, constructs from family systems therapy, personality disorder pathology, complex trauma, and the DSM diagnostic system.  After.

The clinical psychology argument does NOT use the construct of “parental alienation” (because this construct is non-supported in the scientific literature of professional psychology), and is instead based entirely and solely on the solidly established constructs and principles of professional psychology (the attachment system, family systems therapy, personality disorders, complex trauma) – (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, van der Kolk, Millon, Kernberg, Perry, Haley, Bowen, Madanes, Linehan, Ainsworth…) – the standard and established knowledge of professional psychology applied to the symptom features of the pathology.

Up until now, the only option available to targeted parents and the court for obtaining  input from professional psychology surrounding complex family conflict has been through forensic psychology and a child custody evaluation regarding the structure of the child custody schedule – and NOT the resolution of the family pathology issue.

The legal argument presented to the court is changing – from a forensic psychology package to a clinical psychology legal argument package.  Parents and their attorneys are now beginning to ask for a clinical psychology assessment of family pathology; the pathology that is creating the complex family conflict that has entered the legal system.

The narcissistic-borderline parent has forced the targeted parent to return to court to seek enforcement of the existing child custody orders because the child has become severely symptomatic and non-cooperative with the established custody visitation schedule.  This is the manipulative set-up by the narcissistic-borderline spouse-and-parent to make this about custody and visitation, driving the conflict into a forensic psychology approach focused on child custody (possession of the child) rather than a clinical psychology approach of diagnosis and treatment of pathology.

That is changing.  An alternative legal argument package is available from clinical psychology for a treatment-focused assessment of the family.  The referral question for the clinical psychology assessment is:

Referral Question: Which parent is the source of pathogenic parenting creating the child’s attachment-related pathology, and what are the treatment implications?

This clinical psychology referral question can be answered by a limited-scope clinical psychology assessment, typically requiring about six sessions and costing approximately $2,500 to complete.  It is structured around two symptom documentation instruments, the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting and the Parenting Practices Rating Scale.

The relatively low cost (~ $2,500) and short time frame (six to eight weeks) for the clinical psychology assessment allows for a second opinion assessment if desired, and the use of structured symptom documentation instruments (the Diagnostic Checklist and Parenting Practices Scale) allows for easy and clear comparison of findings from a first and second opinion report from clinical psychology.

The targeted parent is still offering the “influenced child” argument to the court, but is changing how that argument is structured and presented for the court’s consideration. Instead of using the incredibly weak construct of “parental alienation” that will drive the assessment into forensic psychology, the clinical psychology argument is solidly grounded in the established knowledge of professional psychology: the attachment system, complex trauma, and family systems therapy.

Of note is that the clinical psychology argument package to the court will not be using the personality disorder information sets from professional psychology in the argument presented to the court.  The personality pathology information from professional psychology will emerge over time within the broader background understanding within the legal and mental health systems form gradually increasing familiarity with the pathology.

From the perspective of a clinical psychology family therapy solution, we do not want to emphasize the other parent’s pathology.  There are other ways.  Identifying pathology is important, because diagnosis guides treatment – but diagnosis is only important because it guides treatment.  We do not want our focus to be on diagnosis, but on treatment.  We want to pivot as quickly as we can away from identifying pathology (the diagnosis) and over to treatment.

The clinical psychology approach is solution focused; not problem driven.  How do we fix things, how do we restore healthy parent-child bonds of affection, how do we restore the child’s normal-range and healthy childhood development?  Solution focused.

What’s the pathology?  A cross-generational coalition and emotional cutoff (attachment pathology).  Minuchin’s diagram provides strong support for this argument.  It displays exactly the pathology of concern.

The Family Pathology: The child’s “triangulation” into the spousal conflict through the formation of a “cross-generational coalition” with the allied parent against the targeted parent, resulting in an “emotional cutoff” of the child’s relationship to the targeted parent (Minuchin; Haley; Bowen; Madanes; family systems therapy).

This type of family pathology is caused by “multigenerational trauma” (Bowen), also referred to as the trans-generational transmission of trauma in the attachment and complex trauma literature (Bowlby; van der Kolk).

The clinical psychology argument package presented to the court is that significant family pathology is resulting in the obstruction of court orders for custody and visitation.  The remedy sought by the targeted parent is a treatment focused, trauma-informed, clinical psychology assessment of the family pathology.

That’s quite the mouthful for the assessment description. 

Treatment Focused:  The “treatment focused” indicator shifts the focus of the assessment off of the false child custody issue over to identifying a treatment oriented solution for the complex family conflict (through a written treatment plan for the resolution of child and family pathology; identified by the assessment). 

Trauma Informed:  The indicator of “trauma-informed” ensures that proper information sets from professional psychology are applied by the assessment. 

Clinical Psychology:  The clinical psychology orientation is to move the family conflict out of forensic psychology that offers no solution and over to the clinical psychology for the identification (diagnosis) and treatment of the (“high-conflict”) pathology in the family.

The initial remedy sought is:

Initial Remedy:  A treatment-focused, trauma-informed, clinical psychology  assessment of complex family conflict surrounding divorce.

The clinical psychology referral question is:

Referral Question:  Which parent is the source of pathogenic parenting creating the child’s attachment-related pathology, and what are the treatment implications?

The focus is NOT child custody (which parent should “possess” the child following the divorce), it’s treatment.  How do we restore normal-range and healthy child development?  The targeted parent is making a treatment-focused argument to the court; that the custody violations to the court orders are a symptom of family pathology, and the targeted parent is seeking a clinical psychology assessment of the family pathology (along with the enforcement of existing court orders for custody and visitation) as the remedy.

This clinical psychology argument package effectively nullifies the “victimized child” argument offered by the narcissistic-borderline parent, since the treatment-focused, trauma-informed, clinical psychology assessment addresses the arguments from each parent and provides remedy for both.

If the child is indeed being “victimized” by the “abusive” parent (thereby justifying the child’s reluctance to be with the rejected parent) as is alleged by the allied parent and child, then a trauma-informed, treatment focused assessment from clinical psychology is just the assessment to identify this child “abuse” and “victimization” of the child by the targeted parent.

The narcissistic-borderline parent is using (exploiting) the child’s induced pathology (the child’s rejection of a mother or father) to make the issue about child custody (“possession” of the child following divorce; who’s the “better parent” that “deserves” possession of the child). 

The targeted parent is using the child’s pathology created by the other parent to make the issue about the diagnosis and treatment of pathology.  Since both agree on the existence of pathology, just not its causal source, a clinical psychology assessment and diagnosis, with treatment implications, is entirely warranted as the initial remedy for both arguments.  Let’s find out what’s causing the child’s attachment-related pathology following the divorce – that’s a clinical psychology issue – identifying pathology is called diagnosis.

A clinical psychology argument package will extract targeted parents from the court system and return the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of complex family conflict to clinical psychology, and it will prevent families with newly emerging divorce-related conflict from entering years of litigation in the family courts surrounding child custody, by making identification of the pathology in the family the first order from the court.  Identify (diagnose) what is causing the child’s attachment-related pathology surrounding the divorce.

Initial Orders Sought for Remedy

Custody and visitation are not the focal point, they are symptom features of the complex family conflict.  We need a treatment focused assessment from clinical psychology to determine what is going on, what the source for the complex family conflict is – using the standard and established knowledge of professional psychology (a trauma-informed assessment of complex family conflict).

A secondary remedy sought by the targeted parent is the enforcement of existing court orders for custody and visitation (and possibly sanctions on the allied parent for their responsibility in creating the breaches to the court orders).

In response to the clinical psychology argument package from the targeted parent, that carries a secondary remedy of enforcement and possible sanctions surrounding existing court orders for custody and visitation, the judge may decide to wait until the results of the clinical psychology assessment of family pathology before making a ruling on the custody orders from the court, and the judge will likely rule in favor of the targeted parent’s request for a “trauma informed, treatment focused, clinical psychology assessment of the complex family conflict.”

Second Opinion

The other party will likely argue against this clinical psychology assessment.  The rebuttal to this argument that can be offered by the attorney for the targeted parent is “second opinion”; that the opposing party is free to obtain a second opinion, a second trauma-informed clinical psychology assessment of the complex family conflict.

If someone is concerned about a diagnosis in clinical psychology, get a second opinion.  That’s how it’s done in clinical psychology (and health care generally). Get a second opinion if you’re concerned about the accuracy of diagnosis.

Child Protection Issue

That is the framing for the clinical psychology legal argument package.

The “custody” symptom (the child refusing court orders for custody and visitation) is a symptom of the family pathology.  This is not a child custody issue, this is a child pathology issue.  Is the targeted parent an “abusive” parent creating the child’s rejection, or is it the allied parent who is creating the child’s pathology through pathogenic parenting of psychological control and manipulation?

The referral question for the (“trauma-informed”) clinical psychology assessment is:

Referral Question: Which parent is the source of pathogenic parenting creating the child’s attachment-related pathology, and what are the treatment implications?

If the pathogenic parenting of the allied parent is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (attachment system suppression; diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (narcissistic personality traits; diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology (encapsulated persecutory delusion; diagnostic indicator 3), the DSM-5 diagnosis is V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed, and the considerations shift to child protection.

In all cases of child abuse, physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse, the professional standard of practice and duty to protect requires the child’s protective separation from the abusive parent.  The child’s healthy development is then recovered and restored, and once stabilized, contact with the formerly abusive parent is reestablished with sufficient safeguards to ensure that the child abuse does not resume once contact is restored.

This is true for physical child abuse, this is true for sexual child abuse, this is true for psychological child abuse.

That’s the shift that is occurring.  The legal argument package being presented to the court, both in it’s foundations (Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck) and in the remedy sought (a clinical psychology assessment; psychological child abuse diagnosis; protective separation period and treatment recovery) is shifting to a clinical psychology legal argument package of solution

The world is changing.  An attachment-based and trauma-informed model of complex family conflict surrounding divorce represents the return of clinical psychology to court-involved practice.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857



equal parenting after divorce

Why Equal Parenting Time After Divorce Should Be The Norm

equal parenting after divorce


Not every circumstance occurring in our culture should be subject to an election as if it were a constitutionally guaranteed choice; some conditions are, to the contrary, an inalienable right, such as a child’s right to each parent equally after divorce.

I had intended for my next article to be a definition of the Parental Alienation Syndrome, but that will have to be momentarily deferred. I felt the necessity to comment, instead, the shared parenting law in Arizona, and I must extend my accolades to Mike Espinoza for his indefatigable and self-divulging efforts to facilitate its passage. Being neither a politician nor a mental health professional, Mike took up the cause as a loving, dedicated, and supportive father who had become a victim of the PAS.

Why Equal Parenting Time After Divorce Should Be The Norm

When we select a partner it is generally on the basis of what my mentor, child psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin, labeled as “complementarity.” In non-professional terminology, it is how we each balance our strengths and weaknesses with those of our partner.  In other words, we tend to select a partner who compensates for our weaknesses, and they likewise do the same.

It is, therefore, logical to conclude that the most appropriate decisions affecting children are arrived at when the parents do so collaboratively, with each parent drawing on their respective strengths and abilities. Neither parent must feel that he/she surrendered to the other parent’s will because the struggle to reach an accord became too great.

In my 17 years of practice as a family therapist, I have documented a wealth of anecdotal evidence that confirms that parental collaboration almost always facilitates the child’s optimal development and achieves the desired results. The post-divorce situation most assuredly requires the same parental collaboration so that the child continues to benefit from the strengths that had been provided by the parent who becomes the nonresidential parent.

Regrettably, however, this collaboration is undermined by our adversarial approach to the resolution of child custody.  Sole custody tends to be more the norm rather than joint custody; and even in those situations when joint legal custody is awarded, the residential parent often usurps with impunity the authority of the other parent. And, of course, this selection is predicated upon having to make a choice as to who would presumably (and I emphasize presumably) be the better parent.

Despite the obvious benefit of parental collaboration to children, which the research is now supporting, shared parenting is not without its critics and controversy. For example, the Arizona Foundation for Women CEO, Jodi Ligget, qualified the applicability of the law to those parental relationships that have minimal conflict.

She further asserted that the basis for custody decisions ought to be determined by the standard of the best interests of the child. But as this author/therapist stated in her prior article, I maintain that marginalizing one parent while elevating the other cannot achieve the best interest of the child, except in those situations of substantiated serious social deviancy and/or mental illness of one of the parents.

Yet other skeptics of the law have argued that, if the parents were capable of engaging in a collaborative co-parenting relationship, they would have sought out mediation rather than litigation.

Let me respond to this criticism by drawing on the wisdom of my sociology professor, Edward Sagarin. It was 1965, and the class was debating the implementation of the recently enacted Civil Rights Act. One of my classmates offered the following analysis, “You cannot legislate morality. Therefore, the legislation will fail.” Professor Sagarin responded, “You are correct that you cannot legislate morality. But the Civil Rights Act is not about morality; it is about behavior. And behavior can most definitely be legislated and can be enforced with the appropriate consequences.”

Professor Sagarin was very wise. We must be judiciously selective, even though our government is a democracy, as to when it is appropriate to provide its citizens with a choice. The Bill of Rights, for example, which was frequently invoked by Professor Sagarin throughout Sociology 101, protects minority rights from abuse by the vote of the majority.

Equal Parenting Time After Divorce How novel!

I am advocating that there be no choice for sole custody or for primary residency. Such choices must be off the table, no option! We should deem, forthwith, that it be the child’s civil rights to an equal relationship with each parent.

When the child’s parents, who are generally quite law-abiding, rational citizens in all other aspects, engage in the destructive, adversarial behaviors that so frequently occur in divorce situations, it is only because they believe they can get away with such behaviors. And they usually do. Even the not-so-rational parent, who engages in alienating behaviors, is effective in achieving alienation because of the cavalier, indifferent, and/or self-interested professional who enables and emboldens her/him.

I am proposing, therefore that every child of divorce has the right to say, “I need and desire that the two most important people in my life continue to parent me collaboratively through shared parenting. I have a right to expect that you will subvert your animosity for each other to your love for me. Doing so will inevitably produce results which are in my best interest.”

The post Why Equal Parenting Time After Divorce Should Be The Norm appeared first on Divorced Moms.


parental alienation cause ptsd

Does Parental Alienation cause PTSD?

parental alienation cause ptsd

Does Parental Alienation cause PTSD?

Let’s start with what Parental Alienation Syndrome is. It is an aggressive form of psychological abuse whereby one parent, usually, degrades and destroys the relationship between the children and their other parent.

Though primarily occurring in high conflict divorce and custody situations, it can be seen in intact families, between parents of parents, and even worse, child protective agencies. This destruction of a once very strong bond between the children and the parent is like a living death with no closure and thus a daily reminder of someone we love and feel disconnected from.

So what is PTSD?  PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But what does that mean?  The DSM or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists it  with a diagnosis code of 309.81 and describes it as follows:

the development of characteristic symptoms following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity; or witnessing an event that involves death, injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of another person; or learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death or injury experienced by a family member or other close associate (Criterion A1). The person’s response to the event must involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror (or in children, the response must involve disorganized or agitated behavior) (Criterion A2). The characteristic symptoms resulting from the exposure to the extreme trauma include persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event (Criterion B), persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (Criterion C), and persistent symptoms of increased arousal (Criterion D). The full symptom picture must be present for more than 1 month (Criterion E), and the disturbance must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning (Criterion F.)

But what does all this mumbo jumbo mean?  It means that when a devastating event or series of events occur to an individual, it can have profound effects on their ability to cope and deal with it.  The victim becomes paranoid or scared. They have panic attacks, uncontrollable crying, inability to think clearly, anger, fear, hatred, rage, uncontrollable fight and flight responses, even reoccurring thoughts or dreams of the event.

It can lead to extreme depression, exaggerated emotional responses including irritability and anger, substance abuse, insomnia or excessive sleep, nightmares, heightened attention and reactions, inability to concentrate or finish a task. Basically, the person feels lost, confused, scared, and all alone.

PTSD is classified with three levels or types. Acute PTSD occurs within the first 3 months. Chronic PTSD continues for 3 months or more. And Delayed Onset PTSD occurs after 6 months or more have passed and then the symptoms appear.

You can actually have PTSD but not know it because you have learned how to cope with it, control it and deal with it by compartmentalizing it. In other words, you have learned various tools and tricks to put it at bay so you can focus on what needs to be dealt with and then at a later date, when you can allow yourself, you break down from the PTSD. PTSD is not just a word or phrase for a tragic event; it is literally about the signs and symptoms caused by the reaction to this traumatic event.

How does parental alienation cause PTSD?

Parental alienation is severe trauma to an important relationship between a parent and their child. It is pervasive and goes on and on day in and day out until finally, the victims either concede to the stress of the emotional abuse or fights back with all their might. Each person’s response to this trauma is different.

For the Targeted parent and the children, it becomes a roller coast of emotions, fears, devastation, and abuse.  A living death with no closure, they cannot move forward in a positive way. They are traumatized by the aggressive attacks from the alienator and hence the severe responses that we often see in the children and then in the targeted parent.

One might even venture a guess to say that the alienating parent is suffering from PTSD because of the loss of the marital relationship and control but is in survival mode to make sure that they are not abandoned and that they win at all costs.

Some of the many responses I have heard and seen from the trauma of PAS are:

  • Uncontrollable rage and anger,
  • Constant Fear,
  • Constant anguish,
  • Paranoia,
  • Avoidance of the aggressor,
  • Avoidance of the children,
  • Substance abuse of all kinds,
  • Inability to think rationally,
  • Inability to control their emotions,
  • Distancing themselves from everyone around them,
  • Putting up walls to protect themselves,
  • Flunking school or life,
  • Obsessive-compulsive issues,
  • Deviant behavior in the children,
  • Hypervigilance in everything they do,
  • Burying themselves in school or work,
  • Panic attacks,
  • Nightmares,
  • Over-exaggerated responses to stimuli

I could go on and on with the signs and symptoms of PAS but there is no need. From this list, you can see how the psychological abuse of PAS has the same signs and symptoms as PTSD. This proves that PAS should be considered a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by the trauma of psychological abuse. And this opens the door to an additional way of treatment for the victims of Parental Alienation.

The post Does Parental Alienation cause PTSD? appeared first on Divorced Moms.


bruce lee quote

The door of empathy…

I’m going to share something very important from clinical psychology for all the targeted parents, but I’m going to do it off the record.

The reason I want this off the record is because I do NOT want to imply in any way, shape, manner, or form that the targeted parent is doing anything to create the child’s attachment pathology.  Nope, nope, nope.

Nor do I want to give targeted parents advice on how to get the child to love them, which would only expose the child more fully to their psychological brutalization from their narcissistic/(borderline) parent – we must first protect the child before we can ask the child to reveal authenticity.  The child is doing what the child must do to survive.

There is a reason for psychological defenses. We do not take away a defense until there is no need for the defense.  Right now, coping with the pathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent requires the child to say and do things.  This is a deeply disturbing aspect of the pathology.  Deeply disturbing, and it rises to the level of a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse

This is a trauma pathogen.  Complex trauma is born in an absence of parental empathy, and it is solved through it’s antidote, the opposite, the application of abundant empathy for the child.

When we ask others to understand our pain… that’s not empathy.  When we put our pain aside and seek to understand the child’s world… that’s empathy.

But we’re afraid.

Trauma pathology is also a world of fear.  Anxiety rules in trauma, and anxiety pulls us into our self-absorption of our own experience.  Anxiety captivates us and constricts our ability to flow outward into others, into empathy.  Anxiety motivates a self-focus, how do I keep myself safe?  Anxiety stops empathy.

Empathy is available when we are in a relaxed and calm state.  For a trauma mental health team that goes in after a major mass shooting or bombing, the trauma therapists have to be calm and composed.  We’re the ones bringing the empathy to the psychological treatment of trauma.  We need to be relaxed and composed, otherwise we lose the capacity for the very empathy that heals.

It doesn’t help any of the victims of trauma if the mental health trauma team is running around flustered and overwhelmed.  In trauma, someone needs to remain grounded.

In complex family conflict surrounding divorce (“parental alienation; AB-PA), we’re dealing with a trauma pathogen, the ripple of trauma through the generations.  Complex trauma (relationship-based trauma) is born in the absence of parental empathy for the child.

The treatment of complex trauma is abundant authentic empathy for the child.

Not empathy for the pathology.  The pathology is a delusion; a false trauma reenactment narrative being imposed on the child by the unresolved childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  A false reality.

Instead, treatment is a resonant empathy for the authentic child alive beneath the pathology.  An empathy that draws forth this authentic child, because we, through our empathy, we see the authentic child – and the child sees their own self-authenticity reflected in our empathy.

What I want to share with targeted parents an important – extremely important – communication skill.  It’s the empathy skill.  It’s simple, oh so simple.  And it will be one of the hardest things you will ever do.

Because you have buttons that can be pushed that will trigger your anxieties, and you will act from your (unconscious) anxieties and fears, and our anxieties and fears stops our empathy.

“But, but, but…”  Wait, these are your anxieties.  See how early they come.  The mere mention of your buttons and anxieties and up they pop, “but, but, but…”  Wait, calm… listen.

If you develop this empathy communication, magic opens up. I’m a clinical psychologist, it’s a healing magic.  It is one of the most magnificent communication skills you can possibly use.  I use it whenever I have the opportunity as a clinical psychologist, always with wonderful results.

Are you ready? Okay, here it is.

Don’t become defensive.

Simple. Isn’t that simple? When something is said, don’t defend.

“Well, what if…”

I know.  I told you it would be one of the hardest things you will ever do.  Didn’t I tell you that?  And right out of the gate you start hitting me with “what if… and what if… and am I just supposed to accept it?…” anxiety.

So I’ll wait.  When your anxiety is exhausted, we’ll move on.  No worries.  Anxiety starts us spinning, we don’t push past it, that just creates more anxiety and spinning.

The antidote is the opposite. Anxiety is up-arousal, the opposite is down arousal.  Relax.  Allow.  Notice the anxiety, and just let it float on by.


Why don’t we defend?  It’s important for you to understand the why.  That’s really important, because it will help you.  Knowing why, you’ll catch yourself defending and go, “dang,” and then you’ll relax and self-correct (that’s a Dorcy term; my psychology term is “self-regulate” – I like hers better; no worries, just self-correct and move on).

When we defend we make the child absorb us, the child must understand us.  The empathy is flowing the wrong direction.  I don’t care what the content is, I’m talking the flow of empathy; which direction?  In severe family pathology like this, we shouldn’t put the burden of solution on the child.  That’s not what the child needs. The child needs empathy FROM us.  The child needs us to understand them.  But when we defend, we’re asking them to understand US.

See?   Does that make sense about the direction for the flow of empathy, from the parent to the child?

So to help the child, to rescue the child from the quicksand, we stand on the bank and we extend a branch of understanding – of our empathy – and say, “Here, take this empathy and hold on, I’ll pull you out.”

We don’t need the parent jumping into the quicksand with the lost and confused child, that’s not going to help.  Nor do we need the parent asking the child to understand the parent’s world, that’s like throwing the child a boulder and saying, “Here, grab hold of this rock” as they sink under its weight.

Yeah, okay, you threw them something, but not something they can use to get out of the quicksand that they’re stuck in.

We need a parent.  That other parent isn’t such a good parent.  With that parent, the child gets all twisted up and confused.  The child needs a parent to help the child get un-twisted and un-confused.  That’s you.

How do you do that?  Off the record… Don’t respond defensively.

The child says, “You’re a bad parent” and you say, “No I’m not” – ahhhh, see.  You’re defensive.  You just got defensive.

“But what am I’m supposed to do? Am I supposed to agree with the child?”

I know. That’s your anxiety again.  I told you, it’s really simple… and oh so hard.  We’ll wait while your anxiety clears.  It’ll spin you for a while, just relax, don’t fight against anxiety – that’s just adding more tense.  Anxiety goes away when we relax and accept, notice the experience, and let it go by.

Dorcy calls it spinning.  I like that term too.  I call it anxiety or self-regulation in my psychology-speak.  I think she has better terms for this stuff; self-correct, spinning. They’re good ways of describing the process.

So, have you calmed down from your anxiety and regained self-regulation?  Yuch, ugly word… Has the spinning stopped?  Okay.

So you don’t want to defend.  The child is full of the other parent’s nonsense (Dorcy calls it garbage; again, a better term).  The child does NOT need you adding your stuff by asking the child to understand you and your world.  So do we have that clearly understood?  No defending.

Anxiety all gone, ready to listen?

So then how do we respond with empathy and without defending?

Yay!  Woo hoo.  You’ve done it.  You’ve broken through to an amazing opportunity for solution… simply by asking the right question.

There’s probably half a dozen ways to respond with empathy and without defending, but you will NEVER find them or use them unless you first ask the question… unless you want to know.

Whew.  So we’re through the first important step – don’t defend, and have made it through your first round of anxiety (“but, but, but…”).  So if there’s six to eight things we can do, let me share a couple…

First, the one I use most often is, “Tell me more about that.”

Did I agree with what the child said?  No.  Did I defend?  No.  What did I do?  I cared about the child’s experience. I asked to learn more about the child.

As I learn about the child, I am bringing something valuable to the child… it’s called the “eyes-of-the-other” – the eyes-of-the-other is like the lantern that old man in the tarot cards holds, or on that Led Zeppelin album, you know that guy?  The eyes-of-the-other is like bringing that lantern into the darkness of the child’s self-experience.

Hmmm, I wonder what’s over here?  What’s this?  I’m learning about the child, and so is the child.  I’m not pushing, or going, or teaching, or doing anything at all.  I’m just following, curious.  I wonder, because I care.  What’s it like to be you?  I want to understand.

That’s empathy.

The child’s experience is all twisted up in some way.  What’s up with that?  I want to find out more.  That’s called caring and empathy for the child’s world.

From the degree of the child’s emotionality, that must be a very painful place to live in, the child.  What is the pain, and what can we do about it?  Let’s find out.

Oh, but then you know what’s going to happen if I ask the child to tell me more?  The child is going to say all this untrue and foul stuff.  I know.  That’s all the garbage from the other parent, isn’t it.  Boy oh boy, that must feel awful in the child to be holding onto all that garbage.

I bet the child needs to get that garbage out of them.  But where can it go?… to you.

Yep.  We need a parent.  The child is all full of this emotional garbage, and is all hurt and confused.  Yep, the child needs a parent to help sort this out.  And it’s not going to be the other parent, they’re the one that’s twisting up the child in the first place. It’s going to have to be you.

So then, how do we respond to this next round of assault from the child, all that garbage that’s being spewed at you and into your home?  Well, we know one thing… non-defensive.  So how do we respond non-defensively and empathically to nonsense garbage?

Well, sometimes no response is needed (another Dorcy construct that is wonderful; to disengage), and we allow the child to recognize the nonsense and self-correct.  No need to escalate the nonsense by us getting all wrapped up in it.

Sometimes, allowing the self-correct is all that’s needed.  The garbage is out, you allow the child to self-correct, “You done?” “Yeah.”  Then you move on – you take the garbage out of the kid and you dispose of it.  Don’t you hold on to it too.  No, no, no.  That’s garbage from the other parent, take it outside and get rid of it.

It was in the child.  The child gives it to you.  You take it from the child (through your empathy and caring) and now it’s out of the child.  Don’t escalate, don’t hold onto it yourself.  Allow the child to self-correct and then return to normal.

But there’s more you can do that just no-response-necessary.  But the good stuff is changing your buttons.  Once we change your buttons, well… good stuff starts to happen.  Dorcy refers to this is as changing how you show up.  Nice words for the constructs… changing how you show up, you show up differently.  Interesting.

But this is where it’s going to get hard.  It’s not really, but it’s going to seem that way until you stop making it hard.  You thought non-defensive was hard… this buttons place is where all the trauma anxiety marbles are.

So here it is… You need to not spin (not become dysregulated) in response to the trauma-triggers that the child is going to throw at you.  You’ve got buttons.  They’re not bad.  In any other situation, no worries whatsoever.  We all have our buttons.

They come from our childhood experiences.  I call them micro-traumas; totally normal.  They form us psychologically.  They form our unconscious beliefs and expectations about ourselves and others.  They’re unconscious, so we don’t know about them.  But other people can see them.  And we project them all the time.  No worries, totally normal.  The problem is…

Your ex- knows your buttons.bruce lee quote

The narcissistic and borderline personality seeks vulnerability.  Your buttons make you vulnerable. See what Bruce Lee says.  He’s right.  You know he’s right.  He’s talking about your buttons.

The other parent is implanting button-pushing pathology into your child, and sure enough, guess what happens – the child pushes your buttons and off you go, responding defensively instead of empathically.  Whenever you’re asking the child to understand you, you’re responding from the trauma-triggers, which keeps the garbage in the child.

If you’re a clinical psychologist following along, notice the structure of the pathogen in the role-reversal relationship; a child being used to meet the needs of a parent.  On the one side is the child being used by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent (the pathogen), and this then sets up the other parent to SEEK the child’s nurture (the child’s love and affection); the child meeting the parent’s needs.  On both sides, the child is being asked to meet the emotional needs of the parent.  That’s the pathogen.

Once you see that this is a trauma pathogen and it’s structure, every detail becomes crystal clear and the pathology is clearly evident.

The solution is empathy for the child.

We have to get the garbage out of the child and straighten out the twisty.  We need a parent to respond non-defensively and guide the child in the child’s self-awareness back into the child’s self-authenticity – NOT into understanding what the pathology is (the child already knows that), that just puts the child smack dab in the middle of the loyalty conflict and the child’s emotional suffering.  Don’t make the child “understand.”

Help the child find self-awareness, and through self-awareness to find self-authenticity.  We need a parent.  We need a guide.  A calm and confident guide for the child’s emotional twisty.

The other parent is not a good parent.  We need you to be a parent to the child.  I know the child is mean to you, and says untrue and hurtful things.  That’s all the garbage from the other parent, trapped in the child.

In my therapy with normal everyday sorts of family conflicts, the child will sometimes tell the parent, “You’re not listening to me” and the parent says, “Yes I am.”

I stop it right there and say, “No you’re not.”  If you had said, “Tell me more about that” you would be listening to the child and what the child just said would then actually be wrong.  You do listen to the child because you just demonstrated it.  Instead, what you said discounted what the child said as being untrue.

This is important… we dispute the child NOT with our words, but through our actions, through what we do.  The child is wrong not because of what we say, but because of what we do.

“I do, I do, I do, I say this, I say that…”  The anxiety again.  That’s the only thing that makes it difficult.  But it does and there’s no way around that.  Trauma solutions are always going to bring anxiety.  That’s just the way of it.  Once you learn anxiety release skills though, it becomes a whole lot easier to just allow and relax and stop spinning.


See, communication is not the words we say.  In the series: You don’t listen – Yes I do – that’s not listening… that’s disagreeing.  Listening is, “Tell me more about that.”  That’s listening.

You’re a bad parent — No I’m not — Yes you are, you do x and y and z that’s bad — I don’t do those things, you’re exaggerating and making things up. — No, that’s what happened, and your a bad parent. — That’s not what happened, I’m not a bad parent, I love you. — You’re a liar, that’s so fake. — That’s not fake, I do love you…

Do you hear any listening?  I don’t.

So, for communication, we need some listening.  Who shall we ask to do that first? Somebody is going to have to start listening, who’s it going to be?  Shall we ask the child to listen to the parent, or the parent to listen to the child?

Shall we ask that the child listen to the parent?  Is that where we should start?

No.  We never start with the child.  Parents are bigger, stronger, and more mature, we need an adult, we need a parent, we start with having the parent understand the child.  I don’t care what the content is, we start with the parent giving empathy to the child.

Is the child’s reality true?  No.  Do we agree with a false reality?  No.  So how do we disagree without becoming defensive?  Yay, wonderful question.  See how, as you relax your anxieties, you find really productive questions.

We solve this with empathy.  What appears to be locked by the trauma pathology, is unlocked by empathy.  We don’t have to convince the child of anything.  We lead with a lamp into their own authenticity.  Awareness brought from our honest and sincere desire to understand the child’s world from the child’s experience.

Do we agree with delusions?  No.  Do we know where they come from?  Yes.  Does the child need to know?  No.  The child simply needs to become re-anchored in reality.  So we need you in reality, not spinning in the trauma pathology of your ex- like the child is.  You’re ex- is trapped, the child is trapped.  Don’t you be trapped too.  We need someone who is grounded.

First though, we have to ask the right questions that will lead us through the right door; the door of empathy for the child.  Then we have to get over the anxiety of our own stuff.  Anxiety is the remnant stuff of trauma world, the ripple of trauma.

Next… and here’s where we arrive, we have to identify our own buttons so we can remove them, move them to a different location, disconnect their wires, whatever we have to do so that your ex- can’t find and push your buttons anymore (through the child; your ex is pushing your buttons by manipulating the child to do it).

Yes, I entirely agree, your ex- is manipulating the child in awful ways.  Bad parent.  Stop it.  And… your the one with the buttons.  It’d be helpful if you hid those or got rid of them somehow so your ex- can’t find them all the time using the kid.  That we have buttons is normal, that your ex- is manipulating the child to push those buttons… it would be helpful if we altered those buttons so your ex- can’t do that anymore.  That will free you from the trauma pathogen, and then you can free the child.

It doesn’t help the child in quicksand if you jump in too.  Then we just have two people in the quicksand.  Stand on solid ground and hold out your empathy for the child to grab on to.  Use the light from your empathy (your “eyes-of-the-other”) to help bring self-awareness into the discovery of self-authenticity.

Remember, the child is doing what the child must do to survive with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  The child didn’t choose this parent.  You chose this parent for the child.  It’s not the child’s fault the child has to cope with this parent.  The child is in a difficult position having to cope with the pathology of their parent surrounding divorce.  Empathy for the child.  We must be able to protect the child before we can ask the child to reveal their self-authenticity.

The kid’s not the kid, you know that.  That’s your ex- pushing your buttons.  Bad ex-, bad parent.  Stop it.  And… they’re your buttons.  If you can remove them, move them, or disconnect them then you can short-circuit the pathology.  Once you’re out of the loop of crazy; Yay, one’s free.  And you can then guide the child out of crazy.

Let me be clear, none of this attachment pathology surrounding divorce is being caused by the targeted parent.  The targeted parent is a target of domestic violence – emotional spousal abuse using the child as a weapon.

Furthermore, in weaponizing the child the allied parent is creating such severe psychopathology in the child that it rises to the level of a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of child psychological abuse (V995.5; p. 719).

The family pathology in complex family conflict surrounding divorce is a cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic-borderline parent who is using the child as a weapon against the other spouse-and-parent.  It is the responsibility of professional psychology to fully assess, accurately diagnose, and effectively treat this pathology

It is a trauma pathology.  The trans-generational transmission of trauma.  The ripple of trauma across the generations.

Complex trauma is created by the absence of parental empathy for the child.  It is solved by parental empathy for the child – not for the delusion – empathy for the child.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857



Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

What To Do If Your Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad


Michael and Jennifer have been amicably divorced for six years. They have three children ages 6-14. As outlined in their final decree of divorce they split custody of the children on a 60/40 basis. The children are with Jennifer 60% of the time, with Michael, 40% of the time.

Until recently this arrangement worked well for both the parents and children. Jennifer worked weekends as a Registered Nurse and felt secure knowing her children were with their father and well cared for.

Michael traveled with his job during the week and worried less about his children knowing they were safe and sound with their mother. The children benefited from the quantity and quality of time with both parents.

Problems started when their oldest child became a teenager. Craig turned 14 and became less and less interested in spending Friday through Sunday night with his father. Craig had developed new interests; he wanted to “hang-out” with his friends on the weekends instead of his father.

Given their history and closeness, Michael was confused and hurt by Craig’s lack of desire to participate in their regular visitation schedule. Out of fear of hurting his father’s feelings, Craig didn’t want to discuss the situation with his father. This left Michael to wonder if he had done something wrong or if someone else was influencing Craig and undermining his relationship with Craig.

Needless to say, Michael became upset and started demanding that Craig visit as usual. Then Jennifer became involved and this once amicably divorced couple experienced their first post-divorce conflict.

Michael thought it was Jennifer’s fault that Craig didn’t want to visit; Jennifer felt defensive and lashed out at Michael. And Craig, he just felt helpless and responsible for all the chaos but still unable to be open and honest with either parent.

If Your TeenAger Refuses Visitation With Their Dad

When Children of Divorce Become Teens

Whether you are a divorced parent or not, here is the reality of raising children, the older they become, the less interested they are in spending time with you. That’s right, the day comes when children need to test their independence, develop their autonomy and Mom and Dad are rarely part of that process.

When your child reaches those teen years, the most you will get to do is set rules and boundaries and accept that time with you is no longer a priority for them.

What Should Michael Do?

Encourage Communication: Children want to communicate, to be understood and to understand. As parents, we have that advantage. What we have to do is make sure our children learn that they are safe in communicating with us. For some reason, Craig felt responsible for his father’s feelings. This sense of responsibility kept him from communicating what he was feeling.

Michael can encourage open communication by letting his children know they are not responsible for the way he feels and that when problems arise, solutions can’t be found unless everyone is willing to share their thoughts and feelings via communication.

Be Flexible: With a growing sense of independence, teenagers can begin to resent time-dependent visitation. Michael’s scheduled parenting time will need to turn into shared parenting time with Craig’s friends and interests. Michael needs to start planning his time with his children in a way that allows Craig to also have plans of his own away from time with his father. Willingness to do this will give them both what they need. It will give Michael time with Craig and Craig time to exert his independence and “hang” with his friends.

If you find yourself in Michael’s situation my advice is to not jump to the wrong conclusion. Many parent’s fear parental alienation, or dealing with a child who has developed anger toward them. In most situations where a child suddenly no longer desires to visit, the problem may be as simple as time with Mom and Dad is no longer being a priority for them.


The post What To Do If Your Teenager Refuses Visitation With Their Dad appeared first on Divorced Moms.