Custody battles between parents can become a very expensive exercise for one or both of the parents. The expense is not only in monetary value, but also how traumatic it may become for children involved.
Where one parent is very angry, and wants to punish the other spouse, it may happen that the one parent is purposefully painted black to win the custody battle. It is known that we also have a very small number of unethical people in certain fraternities and when the angry parent meets up with such a person the other parent can be set up for a very costly legal battle.
Psychologists have to take care not to be trapped in such cases. If the child is referred for an assessment and only one parent takes the child for assessment without the full involvement of the other parent, you should know that the battle may start.
In cases of divorce it is important to involve both parents during assessment in order to get an objective assessment and to avoid to be trapped in the battle around custody. The professional psychologist is an expert witness and should remain within the framework of the best interest of the child.
In many cases the children are used to be set up against the one parent. Imagine the uncountable damage caused by such parenting styles.
In this practice we will always involve both parents to avoid ethical dilemmas and not to be trapped in custody battles. As expert witnesses we will strive to educate our courts more about the disorders observed in representation and devastating parenting styles in court battles. We also strive to educate parents what the best interests of their children are.
This is probably the most common problem presenting itself in high conflict divorce cases, where one or more of the children are intentionally estranged from the other parent by the residential custodian parent. One parent, usually the favoured parent (residential parent), badmouths the other parent in such a way that children adopts the view of the alienating parent (favoured parent) as if it is their own view about the alienated parent (rejected parent).
By this time a Family Advocate could already be involved in terms of determining custody. Alienating parents tend to ignore the parenting plan and prevent that the rejected parent have access to the children. This may even happen from the beginning before legal teams are involved.
Sometimes it happens unintentional where the broader family members are discussing all the bad traits (exaggerated and distorted) of the rejected/alienated parent. Issues that were not a problem during marriage, becomes now melodramatic and embroidered. When these matters are embroidered in a discussion the children will even stand closer to overhear the discussion without the parents knowing that they stand around the corner. Such an alienating parents has major anger, pain and emotional challenges around the separation/divorce and possibly wants to used the children’s alienation as a tormenting tool for the other parent. Sometimes the alienation is rational/legitimate and most of the time irrational and vindictive, based on embellished facts around the rejected parent.
Parents should rather shelter their children against the divorce battles. Children do need to experience love and care from both parents even if they are divorced in order to prevent mental health issues when grown up. Alienation is generally regarded as psychological abuse with severe consequences for children as grownups. Sometimes when alienated children are putting realities together and realise that they have rejected the other parent on false information, they will turn against the alienating parent (residing custodian parent).
When the rejected parent decides to have access to the alienated children it leads to expensive court cases, as well as therapeutic interventions. A court will usually appoint a mental health professional to intervene and to provide therapy for the children, as well as bonding therapy between the children and rejected parent. Such interventions are usually performed with a High Court order.
Alienation is very painful to the children as well as the alienated parent.
THE ROLE OF PSYCHOLOGISTS
The court appoints a psychologist in one of the following roles (not both):
Evaluator for custody, OR,
Provisioning of Psychotherapy