Remedying the visitation of an emotionally abusive parent

Posted Friday, November 27th, 2015 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Litigation Strategy, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, Visitation

A reader left a comment today on my blog, Calling bullsh*t on custodial parents who let the children decide their visitation that I found deeply upsetting. He begins:

I honestly hope you’re still reading these comments, since your original post is a few years old. I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on you and the court system. I am SICK of the courts deciding that blood=best. Did you grow up in a split home? I highly doubt it. My mother faithfully had me visit my father until high school, when I said I absolutely would no longer go. My father was not physically abusive, but the damage from his emotional abuse still lingers and I am in my 30s.

His comment already inspired the blog, It’s called vigilantism, but I wanted to write a more specific blog addressing the concern raised by his comment. Undoubtedly many children visit with emotionally abusive parents because they are court ordered to do so and many children are damaged by having to visit with these abusive parents. However, as the vigilantism blog notes:

[I]t is often hard to determine whether a child is resistant to visitation because the non-custodial parent is abusive or because the custodial parent is alienating. Sometimes it is a bit of both: the custodial parent’s alienation and the non-custodial parent’s emotional abuse build off each other and the parents lack the ability to stop the cycle.

The issue of how to handle visitation when the non-custodial parent is (allegedly) emotionally abusive is one that occurs frequently. Two common methods are highly problematic. Allowing the custodial parent to unilaterally withhold visitation is problematic for the reason the blogs mentioned above both discuss. However simply forcing the child to continually visit an emotionally abusive parent leads to the problem my reader’s comment legitimately highlights.

There is another way of addressing this problem that experience shows is highly effective: utilizing a child counselor to document and address the emotional abuse. The chosen counselor should specialize in children, be able to handle high conflict cases, and be comfortable making recommendations to and testifying in court. Because there is always a possibility that the visitation problems are being caused or exacerbated by an alienating custodial parent, this option works best when the custodial parent begins with an attitude that the counseling is intended to fix, and not merely document, the emotional abuse.

A child counselor can document the emotional abuse and attempt to work with the non-custodial parent to remedy the emotional abuse. When beginning counseling for their child, custodial parents should be aware of concerns the court may have that the counseling is possibly just further manipulation by an alienating custodial parent. To minimize this concern, the custodial parent should allow the non-custodial parent full access to the counselor–ideally the custodial parent may even allow the non-custodial parent some input into the choice of counselor.

However, the custodial parent should always inform the other parent that the child is beginning counseling, sign a release allowing the non-custodial parent to communicate with the counselor and participate in the counseling as recommended by the counselor, and begin the counseling with the goal of helping the child and non-custodial parent address the emotionally abusive behavior. By doing this, the custodial parent maximizes the possibility that the counseling will actually remedy the emotionally abusive behavior and further maximizes the likelihood that the court will find any counselor’s recommendations to be the product of an emotionally abusive non-custodial parent rather than an alienating custodial parent.

Sometimes this counseling is effective in getting a non-custodial parent to understand how his or her behavior is emotionally abusive and reducing that abuse. This enables visitation to go forward in a manner that benefits the child. More often the emotionally abusive parent refuses to participate in counseling, refuses to acknowledge the emotionally abusive behavior, or is unable to remedy that behavior. In those cases, most counselors will make recommendations to the court that the visitation be terminated or limited until the non-custodial parent is able and willing to address the abuse. I have been able to use these recommendations to file a visitation modification action seeking to limit a non-custodial parent’s visitation–sometimes, if the abuse was severe enough, on an emergency or ex-parte basis.

The remedy of sending a child to a counselor who can document and attempt to remedy the emotional abuse is vastly more productive than unilaterally withholding visitation or continuing to send a child into an abusive situation.

60 thoughts on Remedying the visitation of an emotionally abusive parent

  1. Violet says:

    This all sounds great but good luck finding a child psychologist in the Charleston area who is willing to recognize (other than off the record) parental alienation and furthermore, to testify.

    1. Helen Elliott Wheeler, LCP is willing to do counseling where there is alleged parental alienation and she is willing to testify in court.

      1. Violet says:

        Thank you for sharing this information.

    2. mj says:

      The comment made about custodial parents making child visit bio parent. My step son went to and is still under the care of a councilor that specializes with children. My husband and I got custody of him. This bio mom never went to one counseling session. The courts did not care about the neglect the boys suffered as well as the emotional abuse. There were police reports as well. They were not interested in any of it. So when he says he does not want to go see a mentally ill mother. We do not make him. If the courts would take the time to listen they would have ordered a psych eval. Then I feel she would be court mandated to get help. We had an attorney but he drained us. We represented ourselves and at least got custody so he is not with her full time. Very sad how they just want the papers they request. But do not want to see or hear about the psych eval or police reports.

      1. mary says:

        Boy you hit the nail on the head about required paperwork. My husband and I are fight the battle of our life for his 8 year old daughter. She lives with her mother and boyfriend. The mother is a career criminal for identity theft, embezzlement, theft of credit cards & by credit cards, theft of checks & by checks, etc. She is now on felony probation. The court said that doesn’t matter since it’s not violent crimes. Her live in boyfriend has spent most of his life in jail for domestic violence including the child’s mother which he beats on a regular basis. Once he beat a woman so viciously he was charged with attempted murder. None of that matters to the court because he is not a party to this case he just lives there. It has now been brought to light that the boyfriend beat up one of the older sons while he was still a minor. Also that the boyfriend had an ongoing sexual relationship with an older daughter while she was still a minor. Doesn’t matter to the court those children are not parties to this case. The boyfriend has always been unemployed because he’s unemployable due to his criminal record. The mother was just fired for embezzlement. Our prayer is she will go back to jail and the girl will be with us. As soon as the mother was fired she went to the Office of the Attorney General to get her child support raised. My husband’s income is now being reviewed for the increase. We are not prefect people but we can offer a much better home for the girl than the chaos she is in now. But the mother’s attorney is very good with paperwork and we all know that’s more important than the environment that the child is forced to endure in.

    3. Susan says:

      What if the custodial parent begins counseling for the child, but the non-custodial parent refuses further treatment, once it is established that the non-custodial parent is emotionally abusing her child?

      1. Anne says:

        Susan, this lawyer makes it all about parental alienation! The last thing we need is more people accusing us of lying, for being legit victims and having children who are being abused. Pulling the PAS card on victims is the shittiest, scummiest thing on earth that anyone can do!!! I am in the same situation as you. My family supports me trying to get help. Some guy I don’t know tried to accuse me of PAS yesterday when I told him about the situation. No. The abuse is real.

        1. Steph says:

          My ex husband sexually abuses our daughter for months l. He has a long history of mental illness including a baker act for hearing voices saying to kill our daughter. I have pics of the abuse but lo and behold I am being falsely accused of bull parental Alienation. Which by the way was coined from Richard Gardner a known pedophile.

    4. Anne says:

      The problem I have with this, is suddenly, the article makes it all about parental alienation. Bullshit. Total bullshit. Imagine being a victim of abuse, and your parent supports you, because they were abused too by the abusive parent, so you parent supports you and tries to get you help, only to be accused of parental alienation and have it all turn around on them? Sick world. Stop using PAS on abuse survivors and victims!
      Imagine you get robbed and call the cops and the cops mock you and don’t believe you? This is what it feels like to be a a true victim, accused of parental alienation.

  2. David DeVane says:

    The other problem is the cost of a top notch expert to parties that can barely afford their legal fees. Health insurance is rarely helpful in these cases. Add the cost of a good GAL and mediator and these cases are beyond reach to most litigants. As a result the children pay the price.

    1. True…but there’s a cost to having one’s child be emotionally damaged.

      1. Peter M. says:

        Mr. Forman, David brings up an unfortunate reality: the very high cost of a specialized family law attorney. I have worked with many attorneys in many fields over the years and am deeply disappointed that so many believe that the money needed to afford legal representation is simply underutilized in a bank account or stuffed under a mattress. As my second divorce attorney once told me after I relayed a subsequent family law experience to him, the “high priests of the temple” are usually unwilling to share their wisdom and give guidance without considerable gold in exchange.

        I live in Houston, Texas and contacted a local family law firm specializing in Parental Alienation cases. For the privilege of contracting them, they would fight my cause for the amount of $350-600 hourly. Now, I am a white-collar worker making a middle-class income, but there is no way I can afford to hire an professional who makes more than 12 times a hour what I do; I could work 40 hours and be able to afford only three of theirs. Couple that with being the only income for my household and I simply cannot afford the entry fee. With no savings or assets other than the mortgaged house I live in, how can I afford the needed justice?

        You may think that I am attempting to justify doing the right thing for my daughter on strictly an economic basis, but that would ignore the other avenues attempted. Children’s Protective Services does not believe that my description of the situation justifies investigation. (Of course, Parental Alienation doesn’t leave marks like a serious beating.) The State Attorney General’s office only enforces child support. Online resources, while occasionally helpful (such as your blog), usually only provide guidance for black-and-white type situations, such as the active denial of visitation by a parent. Furthermore, volunteer or other pro bono legal help is usually aimed at the truly indigent; I make too much to qualify yet not enough to afford the representation I need. Finally, even if I live in a rare county like Harris that actually operates a visitation enforcement service through its domestic relations office, the limited amount of its operating grant means decision makers will likely pass on my case because resources would be better served helping say, 10 families understand the rules and comply than trying to argue the nuances of one Parental Alienation case in court.

        I can already see that it will be up to me to cough up the thousands of dollars needed to properly litigate my complicated case; thousands that I would have to borrow to push an enforcement that, if unsuccessful, would likely double through the assignment of my ex’s defense fees. Of course my daughter’s well-being is paramount in my mind, but an enforcement won’t change the underlying orders nor her alienation against me; only a modification in custody could remove her from her mother’s toxic influence so she could detox. But if we’re talking changing custody, you know “thousands of dollars” won’t cut it for a parental alienation case; it’ll be more like TENS of thousands. Furthermore, if do nothing, my ex may very well decide to file a modification to reduce visitation for ME based on some alleged abuse, as you write in your blog. At that point I have to ask myself if I am willing to commit to a cause that could very well consume everything I have. (My ex father-in-law has met with me to urge me to agree to some compromise, lest an all-out legal battle consume both families.) What good is it to recover your child but find yourself bankrupt and possibly homeless?

        One last thought: Some people believe that complicated, emotional cases such as mine are best left to their natural paths, whether or not a court is involved. They say, just let the child go so that they may eventually find their way back to you. As much as I find it wishful thinking to simply hope for the best, it could be the least stressful option: no more fighting with my child or my ex. I don’t want to sound like a downer, but I really don’t know how to proceed.

        1. Lost Mommy says:

          Give me your contact info. I may have some things to share with you regarding your (and my) situation.

          1. Peter M. says:

            Lost Mommy, you can send me an e-mail at I have an update to my story since I wrote that comment.

          2. keren says:

            @ Lost Mommy. I hope that you read this, will you please share with me some of those things as well. Thank you.

        2. I’m in the same boat as you. My ex husband makes an astronomical amount of money compared to me. I don’t have the funds to fight for what is right. He and his wife push me around because they know I can’t afford to take them to court or hire a lawyer/advocate. He pays no child support (even though he told me he would and that we don’t need to go through the courts)gets angry at something I say or they don’t agree with and then stop communicating altogether with me. It’s such a horrible situation to be in. I want the very best for my kids but don’t know who else to turn to to get the help that I need to 1. Stand up to their high powered/paid attorney 2. Get the boy’s and I into some counseling so that they aren’t emotionally ruined for their future relationships, teach me ways that I can help them do that 3. Get them out of that situation so it doesn’t get worse. I want the very best for my kid’s but am not able to give them the very best and it’s so hard!

  3. Greg,

    I hate to agree with Violet above, but I have to. Emotionally abusive parents usually do not have the capacity to recognize their own behavior and how it causes their children emotional pain. In my experience, our local child counselors do not have the tools to handle these abusive parents, even when the parents begin to abuse the counselor. This results in the parties spinning their wheels and the children going nowhere fast.

    When confronted with this common situation, the counselors often fail to report anything for fear of “choosing sides” and if they do say anything, it is often stated in the most mealymouthed terms possible. They often claim that they are limited in their ability to help because they believe that the abusive parent could benefit from therapy but they have no ability to compel the parent to seek therapy and therefore would never make that recommendation or are too timid to do so. Finally, many flat out refuse to testify in Court and you are required to subpoena them to testify in an effort to help the children that they were hired to help in the first place. Ultimately, these counselors want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to counsel children and be paid for their services but don’t wish to have any responsibility to report to the parents or anyone else about the problems the children are facing.

    I am glad to see that Helen Wheeler is taking a stand and offering to report the facts to anyone who asks. I would love to hear other child therapists do the same. Please, ladies and gentlemen, speak up!

    1. Tony,

      I am asking some local counselors I respect if they are willing to handle these types of cases. Allison Foster in Columbia does excellent work on parental alienation and abuse issues.

  4. Mindy Schneider says:

    I would love to volunteer to help someone/anyone. Sometime you just need a 3rd party such as a mediator or a referee.
    Sometimes confused mixup people just want someone to talk to, someone to listen. I am that person.

  5. Wendy says:

    My daughter and I live in Ohio and are going through a situation of this type right now. He and I were married 15 years and he is a diagnosed narcissist. His narcissistic tendencies pop up and create an unbelievable amount of havoc, and quite regularly now that he’s moved back in with his parents. Before moving back with his parents, he had her overnight less than 7 times in a year. All of a sudden, he now expects every weekend, vacation, and whim. She no longer wants to go with him but reluctantly does if he promises she can come back when she wants (then breaks the promise and keeps her against her wishes). He’s resorted to leaving the house when I’m on my way to pick her up at the end of visitation, not allowing her to communicate with me when she asks while with him, demanding she go and stay even if she’s begging not to, and threatening me with showing with police and taking me to court for full custody if she doesn’t go whenever he demands she does (scheduled visitation or not). She is just beginning to open up fully about the weight she feels on her little shoulders. Just tonight he showed up and left her a crying mess when he began to threaten me in front of her and said he was taking her for her entire summer break regardless of what i say. She later admitted to me that if she doesn’t do, say, and give in to what he wants he will make things very difficult for her (coincidentally exactly what I experienced from him near the end of the marriage). She already sees a therapist. She’s been opening up to this therapist, but is frightened her father might find out what she’s been saying. How in the world do we handle this? I know from prior marriage counseling and psychiatric sessions with him that he doesn’t take professional suggestions to heart, and once he knows what our daughter said to her therapist, I’m afraid of the possible retribution she might face! Couple with this highly reputable sources informing me of him abusing drugs and his spitefulness rising to the level of endangerment in my eyes (just last weekend he directly defied Drs orders to have her ride a 4 wheeler 2 weeks into a 4 week recovery after a major open-bladder ureter relocation surgery <– that he never showed to the hospital for, BTW) and it's very difficult to know how to proceed but feel I must do something! I have no idea how to proceed because of the fear that the courts here will not put any weight on emotional abuse, fear retribution from him, and finally have no idea exactly what to ask for. Is it possible to at least rescind overnight custody rights so that she won't be forced to sleep there?

    1. Frustrated mom says:

      I am going through a very similar circumstance. I really do not know what to do. I have three children. The doesn’t go anymore and the middle child is 11. He has been refusing go. I wish I had an answer. My poor kids are suffering.

    2. Sally says:

      I think all you need to do, first, is not let him take her when it isn’t his court ordered visitation. Call the police every time he breaks the order. That should create a contempt motion filed against him by your attorney. Or by you, if self-representing.

      Also, call your courthouse and fund out if they have abuse advocates. Abuse advocates will help the abused persons navigate the system and act as a support network for the whole process.

    3. Mae C says:

      What does it take to have a soon-to-be ex-spouse tested for narcissism? Please help!

  6. Joannie says:

    Our situation is the custodial parent is the emotionally/psycologically abusive one. She appears to be bipolar. Physical abuse is easier to document, so she uses emotions. How can we help children involved?

  7. Virginia says:

    Fighting a case in Ohio where one parent admits to being verbally abusive to spouse, divorce in process. Spouse states abuse was towards herself and child, however is having a difficult time proving to the courts what occurred due to the nature of the abuse (always verbal/emotional). Does anyone what referrals to specialized attorneys or child psychologists to assist? I feel like I’m being taken to the bank by the court process and slowly losing any ability I have to keep my daughter safe. I’d rather go bankrupt than have her suffer further. Please help.

    1. mary says:

      I wish I could offer help. All I can offer is a shoulder and prayer. My husband and I are fight the battle of our life for his 8 year old daughter. The financial burden is crushing us. I feel your pain as my step-daughter is being emotionally abused by her mother live in boyfriend and an adult sibling. My step-daughter lives with her mother, boyfriend and adult brother. The mother is a career criminal for identity theft, embezzlement, theft of credit cards & by credit cards, theft of checks & by checks, etc. She is now on felony probation. The court said that doesn’t matter since it’s not violent crimes. Her live in boyfriend has spent most of his life in jail for domestic violence including the child’s mother which he beats on a regular basis. Once he beat a woman so viciously he was charged with attempted murder. None of that matters to the court because he is not a party to this case he just lives there. It has now been brought to light that the boyfriend beat up one of the older sons while he was still a minor. Also that the boyfriend had an ongoing sexual relationship with an older daughter while she was still a minor. Doesn’t matter to the court those children are not parties to this case. The boyfriend has always been unemployed because he’s unemployable due to his criminal record. The mother was just fired for embezzlement. Our prayer is she will go back to jail and the girl will be with us. As soon as the mother was fired she went to the Office of the Attorney General to get her child support raised. My husband’s income is now being reviewed for the increase. We are not prefect people but we can offer a much better home for the girl than the chaos she is in now. The girl’s mother was embezzling to pay her attorney now that resource is gone we are hoping we will win by default. Unfortunately that is who wins. When one party runs out of money and their attorney throws in the towel. The last one standing is victorious, broke but victorious.

  8. Welthy Silva says:

    Thank you for posting this! Thank you to the reader who spoke of his being forced to visit his emotionally abusive father and did him no good in the future!! I hope more adult voices will come out and talk of their similar experiences because unfortunately courts are not listening to children and maybe the ones who have already lived that hell can be their voice. My 12 year old is going through it now. She is very intelligent and articulate and somehow the courts and “reunification” therapist twist it to blame me. I have told Annie some good things about her father but I will not tell her it’s OK to be abused by forcing visits. And what mentally sane person would want visits if they must be court ordered? I mean I want my child to be with me because she wants to be and no other reason.

  9. Amy says:

    My oldest is 24, next 19 both have volunteered to testify or anything they can because now after two years of divorce proceedings their siblings are refusing to go more and more to their dad’s. The emotional abuse and tendency to explode has them not wanting to go and of course he says I am brainwashing them. The mediator even wrote in the papers the financials are more immediate than counseling. Financials are still going on but the emotional abuse has gotten worse.So next week I file papers to get this into a counselor and someone to represent the kids so that I am not in the middle of it.

  10. Michele says:

    My children live with me during the school year and their father in the summer. He was physically and emotionally abusive to me during our marriage. Now that we are divorced, he takes things out on the kids when he has parenting time. He has shown the children court documents and threatens by saying “if you say anything bad about me I will go to jail” or “you can’t trust your mom because everything you say to her about me she tells her lawyer. I could go to jail because of you” and other things like this. We had a custody evaluator in the beginning of our divorce and the psychologist told the kids they could trust him. Unfortunately, my ex told the children that whatever they tell the psychologist will come back to him and he (their dad) will find out everything. How do I deal with this? They get screamed at constantly, he has played recordings to the kids that I sent to the court only to prove to them that I can’t be trusted to tell their secrets to. This is all very hard to prove now that they think I’ll tell my lawyer everything. I went to court a few months ago and the judge yelled at him and said he may start taking time away if he doesn’t get his act together. But it’s just gotten worse but I’m afraid to record anything because my children don’t trust me as much anymore. It breaks my heart to see how depressed they are when I pick them up from their dads. And now they won’t talk to me as much about it. They don’t trust counselors either because of what their dad told them. I don’t know how to handle this. I love them so much and only want them to feel safe and to be happy..

  11. Connie says:

    Mr. Forman, if you or anyone has suggestions of courageous psychologists in the Yancey County, NC area dealing in this subject it would be greatly appreciated. Five years ago, after a horrible three year custody battle, our son, now 45, was granted permanent and final custody of his daughter and son, now 12 & 10. His ex-wife is an off&on opiate addict with a felony history with usage and distribution….also a long misdemeanor history of shoplifting. Oh, yes. She perjured herself in court. During and after the custody battle, when their dad had temporary custody, btw, she bombarded the children with terrible comments about their father, they witnessed things little kids should not see and were threatened regularly about not telling anyone what they was or heard on their visits with their mom. Gain full custody cost me and my husband $22,000 and our son $18,000. We are retired. They live in a very small mountainous town with very little business and our just lost his job of 11 years. He has a masters degree and needs to move to get gainful employment and wants to come live with us in Michigan if possible where there are ample opportunities in both of his two fields of business and an abundance of educational opportunities for the kids. They do not want to live with their mom who they visit every other weekend. He has offered her a liberal visitation schedule and will drop her child support. She is once again terrifying the kids on their visits about this issue and making threats. Yesterday in court, her lawyer announced that she is filing to REGAIN CUSTODY!!! Our grandson definitely wants to move and even has a plan laid out for himself for a zoo program next summer. Our granddaughter is a hot mess. Their mom, whose second husband left her last year when their twin boys were 3 mos. old after he figured her out, has her talking about how great it will be when she has a baby, too. She’s 12!!! She’s an incredible sketch artist. When they came up for two weeks in August, we were talking about colleges with art programs. Now it’s babies. We are giving our son the $3,000 needed to retain his attorney but we cannot afford to go further and he already paid $1,000 and has no more to give. He lost his job almost 4 months ago. HELP!!!

  12. Karen B. says:

    This a first of its kind post that I have seen with such a frank discussion regarding reducing parental visitation. My young son has been in counseling for four years due to his emotionally and verbally abusive father. Dad knows he is in counseling for severe anxiety issues, however holds it against my son if it’s discussed. My son who is almost 8, absolutely does not want to return to visit and dad cannot be included in counseling because of his use of it against the child. We continue counseling at our cost, and pray for the day where he is of an age where the courts can see him as able to have a say in his choice. This is not parental alienation, just a young, bright boy who is consistently put into a situation where he feels diminished.

  13. Frustrated mother says:

    I am in the middle of a custody battle. I have 4 daughters between the ages of 4-10. None of them want to have anything to do with their father. I have always complied with visitation and custody arrangements. However, the girls are so distressed at ever having to go with them because their father verbal and emotionally abuses the girls calling them foul curse words and breaking them down emotionally, as well as not caring for them when he has them in his custody. They get highly distressed every time they’re forced to go with him. They have to be physically forced into his car. The pediatrician is highly concerned at their distress and the fact that the GAL and court refuse to do anything about it. As the custodial parent, I feel helpless to stop it from going on. My daughters are being destroyed by his behavior and the court system here thinks it’s acceptable. The 3 older girls have been to a forensic psychologist for assistance because they need help coping and because our GAL thinks all of the other parent’s verbal and emotional abuse and endangerment is perfectly ok. I don’t try to alienate the other parent. He has done that all by himself. How can a judge and court system do this to 4 beautiful little girls that are being destroyed?

    1. PeterM says:

      Frustrated mother,
      I expect to be flamed for this, but as you relate your experience, I wonder if there’s something about you that you’re not sharing. I believe there are jurisdictions where bad parents are allowed by bad courts to continue bad parenting. This may indeed be your situation and if so, I’m sorry to read about it. I also believe, from my own experience, that there are good courts that are desperately trying to strike a balance between both parents, based on the facts. In other words, BOTH parents have issues that cancel out when in front of the judge. In your case, I find it a little hard to believe that ALL the other stakeholders continue to line up against you. What if you’re a part of the problem, too? You wouldn’t be the first mother (or father) to come here and post a sad but incomplete tale to bias the case against the other parent.
      My ex is a capable parent but a terrible mother. We have ongoing proceedings that are documented here and in the related blog post. Earlier this year, my ex was found in contempt for denial of visitation. I have always been involved in my daughter’s life, but in the last year and a half she’s completely turned against me. We have been in counseling for almost a year with little progress. I’m convinced that her mother continues to alienate her against me. Her testimony is filled with accusations and allegations against me, but CPS never found grounds and I was never detained or charged for them. The court found no cause to supervise my visitation, or even assign a GAL. But if you ask my ex who or what the problem is, *I’m* it, always. She’ll never confess that she’s the real problem, or even a teeny part of it. Reconciling with my daughter under these circumstances is essentially impossible without aggressive legal and therapeutic intervention. I don’t have the resources to spend ten$ of thousand$ more on lawyers. If I could hold up a magic mirror to my ex, one that would make her see and change what she’s doing to our daughter, that might be the most effective remedy.
      Frustrated mother, I’m not perfect. I’m sure your ex is similar. I have plenty of faults but none cross the line into bad parenting (unless you ask my ex). No one can accuse me of not loving my daughter and fighting to spend every moment I’m allowed with her. That said, I wonder if a look into a magic mirror wouldn’t benefit you, your kids and maybe even your ex, too. (BTW, the “magic” mirror is just the ability to objectively see all the mistakes YOU might be making.)
      – PM

      1. Frustrated mother says:

        In regards to your reply, I will say the following; 1. Their father opted not to parent the entire 10 years the kids and I lived with him. He showed up for company and put on a show then went and stopped as soon as guests left. Now that he has the girls some days, he had no idea how to care for them. So he calls them fouls curse words and smacks them. 2. I have never told my daughters what opinion to have about their father. I don’t hardly even speak of him. I keep my opinions to myself. 3. The concerns about him are so great that the pediatrician and forensic psychologist are hot lining the father for verbal and emotional abuse. Again, I never said anything about the father to my kids. Their father is the one providing all the concern by himself. 4. Jefferson County, Missouri is a “good ole boy” area. They do things the way they want to and tell everyone, including non-Jefferson County lawyers (aka St Louis lawyers) that “this is Jefferson County and that’s how we do things here”. The judge appointed a GAL momths ago because of concerns about father. The GAL is also a circuit judge at the same courthouse and doesn’t feel the need to do anything he’s been asked or court ordered to do. As for looking in the mirror, you might be a great father, and if so awesome for your kids. I would fully stand behind a father that was involved, active, and emotionally attached to their kids. This wouldn’t even be an issue. However, that’s not the situation I have and I will do everything I possibly can to do what’s BEST and SAFEST for my daughters. I will not lie and make things up. I am letting the facts speak for themselves, which is difficult when dealing with a narcissist that absolutely doesn’t treat his own daughters justly or want to admit to the world that he’s not perfect.

        1. Lisa says:

          Dear Frustrated,

          I feel your pain. It is so very hard to get people to pay attention to the things they should. Currently I’m in an exhausting and awful situation with my ex. He is a huge narcissist. He is taking me to court over contempt charges for visitation. He claims I don’t follow the orders, which I most certainly do. He ‘s just mad that I won’t let him have them at the last minute on a whim on my days. He is always late and cancels with very little notice. He seems to think he can cancel to study or other things but if the kids are sick and I cancel throws a fit. He also can’t currently take them to his house due to their severe allergies to animals. But he chose to move in with someone with animals anyway after he had been told 10 months earlier about and received dr. notes and allergy tests. It is so frustrating I could just scream. The kids have a counselor and were getting better but now its all going to crap AGAIN. This is just the tip of the horrible iceberg.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    So sad to read all these cases that are similar to my sons. He has joint custody but doesn’t get any visitation. He isn’t asking for custody just for the visitation in their mediated agreement.

    The re-unification counselor quit because the custodial parent(mom) is so uncooperative. He feels there is no progress to be made as she refuses sessions and he has such limited access to the child.

    The GAL recommends going for full custody as the custodial parent will not return his calls or allow him access to the child.

    Our lawyer says all that is left is asking for jail time for her continued contempt of court offenses OR a full blown custody case. She has been convicted of contempt but will not follow the court order for counseling.

    My son will be “letting it go” as he is out of money at this point. Best wishes to all of the suffering families out there.

  15. Roy Wells says:

    Growing up in a dysfunctional can be tough. It is even tougher when you have two dysfunctional families with stepparents. I had an evil stepmom and a parade of clowns for stepdads. I always tried to think of ways to get rid of my stepmom but I never acted on any of my plans. I found that it was therapeutic to write stories that would lampoon them. I have a new story called My Psycho Family! It is free if you have a Kindle and Amazon Prime. I hope you enjoy it.

  16. Kerry says:

    What about when the non custodial parent is best to raise the kids. But is literally blindsided but the abusive custodialparent who causes interference relentlessly

  17. Jane says:

    My ex husband has been diagnosed with bi polar, borderline personality disorder, gambling, drug and alcohol addictions. He sees the children every other weekend. Beware of trusting counselors, therapists etc. My ex-husband had our marriage counselor (who is supposedly treating him for his personality disorders) write a report defaming me in the worst way. Our first parental coordinator continually took his side despite the emotional abuse he was heaping on his children. Once she was removed, a new parental coordinator was assigned and she immediately tripled his time with the children even though I was told it was not legal for her to do so. Since that time our children complain constantly about the screaming, yelling, poking, being dragged out of bed by their feet, left in an arcade while dad gambles, etc. The result ? They are ordered reconciliation therapy with their father. I am constantly threatened by him on OFW, in person and on the phone. I have a harassment injunction and he has a contempt charge against him. I am constantly being accused of Parental Alienation. How do you let someone have more time with his children when he treats them abusively? Not all Parental Alienation accusations are true.

  18. MUSC Grad Student says:

    Dear All,

    I understand you ALL on both positions on the matter. Both positive and negative. This issue really needs to be addressed by the Courts of this State and not simply ignored as the Family Court does with so many pressing matters. What are our Clinical and Academic attorneys doing to fight to have a remedy for this situation? What we should all ask ourselves is…

    Why are so many educated people sitting back and not stepping up to the plate on a challenging issue such as this. I’m not going to spill my emotional story, as I’ve read many that are all too familiar to mine on this blog. It’s a shame that lawyers sit by with a doctorate (juris doctorate) and do nothing to change or rectify this problem in this great State, unless you pay a lot for a small chance at justice. I say this because it will take a team of incredible lawyers dedicated to this cause to wake up the slumbering Family Court judges who don’t want to deal with it.

    I love SC and I’m disheartened that not only my family, but so many others might be going through the same ordeal with absolutely NO SOLUTION for the problem… Nor is there a solution on the horizon. Wake up judges! This situation is terrible! Sometimes, I wish you were forced to send your own children/grandchildren into this alienating sort of environment and still make no change to what is occurring for those Plaintiffs/Defendants with absolutely “no power” to protect the things they hold most Dear!

    That’s all I have to say for now, until the hearing where two independent expert Forensic Psychologists take the stand to explain their opinion of our situation. I still have no hope that the Court will even care. Life is sometimes a perfect storm to ruin innocent children and leave others living a life of Hell to prevent it. Isn’t life grand? God Bless you all. Keep strong.

  19. Katherine says:

    So im going through this right now, I have custody of my two boys and their father doesn’t the courts are making visitation happen due to the fact their father is native American. But there is records that he was psychological and emotional abusive to me and the department of child services has a statement from my oldest child that he was being abused by his father. Now I had to fight teeth and nail to get my children back from Cps and their father giant being required to do anything to see them. My children can’t be enrolled in the tribe their father is. I don’t think it is right that my childrens mental and psychology health is at risk do to the fact their father is in a tribe. I don’t know what to do and I need advice on this matter and how im able to insure that my children stay safe and can heal from their father’s abuse.

  20. My husband and I have custody of his children. We have had them for 9 yrs. Ex wife has now filed for custody in AZ. Which is where original court is. We moved when he got custody and have lived in KY for 8 yrs. Can we get court moved to KY since this is children’s home state?

    1. Kieron Clark says:

      As far as I know, the state where the child has lived for the past 6 months has custody of the case.

  21. Deborah says:

    It’s the same all over the world. I live in Australia.

    I was in a toxic relationship with my now 13 year old daughters father for 14 years. He was physically and emotionally abusive to me and a bully and emotionally abusive to her. I wondered if he was bipolar or just narcissistic, he had admitted he had ‘chemical lows’ years before he finally admitted in 2014 that he had sought treatment when he was 21 but that treatment had made him suicidal. Since separation he has admitted to his psychologist (who he then had a sexual relationship with!) that he had suicidal ideologies. Prior to our separation our daughter then 9 refused to talk to him telling me as a kid it was her only power – that he could force her to do many things but that he could not force her to talk to him or love him. No explaining to her that nothing would improve whilst she took this stand helped – although she finally relented. Almost every night she would ask me why he was so awful to her and to me and why he had to live with us. We had separated for short periods on 2 occasions previously when I found him with another woman and when he assaulted me in front of her causing significant bruising and abrasions.
    When I finally decided to tell him it was over and asked him to leave I agreed to see each other with him living away to see if we could have some success that way. His behaviour was generally extremely poor during this time, he was out of control with his anger, screaming, shouting, storming out, crying. Our daughter dug her heels in and did not want to see him at all, and was upset with me for insisting this occur. It was a very difficult time. The last time he had her alone he screamed and yelled at her, told her the relationship breakdown was her fault, kept messaging me telling me she was ‘revolting’, ‘as bad as you’ and that I should come and get her – which I did. A few days later he told me he was no longer considering any form of reconciliation- of course it turned out he had met someone else (his psych).
    Our daughter had been through counselling several times following breakups and each time the counsellors expressed their concerns about the effect his behaviour was having our daughter. During separation her counsellor said she expressed her clear desire to remain away from him because of the history she had lived.
    He has blamed me relentlessly and accused me of alienating her from him. I have 2 sons from a previous marriage of 20 years who have a wonderful relationship with both their parents and their father and I ensured we put them first. This was different- very different.
    My daughter knows to keep in mind that she can change her mind at any time and that she is free to have whatever relationship with her father she chooses and that I will support that. She chooses to have no relationship with him whatsoever. She used to say he was her father but had never been her ‘dad’. In recent months she has started referring to him by his Christian name and trying to insist I do likewise.
    Despite her fathers constant accusations I will not force my daughter to see him when it is completely and utterly against her wishes. Interestingly he has made no attempts to put on an application to the court for access – yet he is a senior family lawyer (attorney) with his own medium sized firm so he knows his rights and the process inside out. He also knows deep down inside I suspect what he has done. No normal educated father pulls their 8 year olds hair, pulls her ear, locks her out of the house, tells her she is a ‘fucktard’, ‘nothing but a disappointment’, ‘an idiot’ and on it goes.
    She needs to be safe and she also needs to be heard. She knows she misses out financially big time because of not seeing him but she will not budge. She has very strong ideas and memories of what she considers her abusive childhood.
    This experience has made me realise that sometimes it is in children’s best interests that they do not have a relationship with their parents – sometimes both. Unless her father were to commit to massive change which I don’t believe he is capable of doing (and if he is a narcissist which I think highly likely he can’t admit he has a problem) then she is simply best to be away from him, heal and live a life without those sort of terrible influences. He has a 26 year old daughter who is unstable, suffers from terrible anxiety and depression, had a very up and down relationship with him and her mother and worse now works for him (not a lawyer). She shows all the worst signs of the possible effects of a father who has bi-polar.
    My beautiful strong resilient 13 year old deserves better than that – as do all human beings.
    No child should be forced into a lions den.
    Not ever

  22. Concerned Father says:

    Recomendations on Charleston child psychologist specializing in parental alienation, parent alcoholism and high conflict divorce. I am going through major parental alienation by my ex in the form of her alcoholism and covering it up through the children. She’s been documented by a PI drinking and endangering the children by allowing them to be driven by a person under the influence and by having the children lie for her to cover up her alcoholism and driving with them by her while drinking.
    She also has it to where my daughter is being restricted from answering texts and phone calls and I have proof of this in my daughter’s phone through the text messages. She does this to hide the children being left home alone and to not let me know I where they are while she is drinking with them. I am forced to do dropoffs by her at a park instead of her house just to exert over control. This obviously creates questions for the children that I wish to not have to answer. Her parental alienation exists in many forms, more than I can even list here. I have a spotless record and her actions can not be explained other than hiding her alcoholism, narcissism, possibly being bi polar and her sense of loss of her long term marriage. I am moving forward with a motion to relieve her of custody and just want my children to be healthy. I am seeking suggestions for child psychiatrists in Charleston that specialize in high conflict divorce, parental alienation and alcoholism. Please help me help my children.

  23. Charlotte says:

    Hi, I am also going through a situation where my daughter’s father wasn’t around for 9 and half years of my daughter’s life. When I was pregnant, he beat me up and put me at a fun point but I didn’t press charges. When he asked for visitation, the judge just gave it to him. He took her every other weekend and first year went not so great but not so bad. But my daughter started to fall apart after that. She started to cry everyday and begged me not to send her to her father’s house anymore and she would tell me all the things he would do to her. He would feed the rats and threaten her that she has to sleep outside or smashed the snail it tell her that I will die soon etc. Her pediatrician called child protective service for emotional abuse but apparently child protective service doesn’t deal with emotional abuse. They say d abuse I found since they never saw him do it.Now we are working with reunification therapist but it’s not working out and she is blaming me for alienating him and she said I’m so close to getting charged with contempt with judges orders. I don’t know how to help her and my daughter is saying she rather die then go to her fathers house. It seems so unfair. Any advice??? I feel so helpless.

  24. Jessy Reyes says:

    I am a father a custodial parent ..and my ex kicked me and my kid out to the street when my daughter was ..i didn’t here a word or knew if she was alive until 3.5 years later …..she got in trouble with acs for breaking her other 13 duaghters leg and allowing her to prostitute…she took me to court to get visitation with my daughter …I went thru all the supervised visits … therapy ….everything under the sun you could think of…..the problem is My daughter does know her and is terrified of her , she pees and throws up on herself …she said she was gonna kidnap her on a public visit in her ear…… Now a couple years later i do the calls on the phone …and my daughter can not stand her she …the court seem to not get it …I have moved to another state and was supposed to send her to NY with this lady on a court ordered visit…..she did give an address …because she didn’t feel like it and the court allowed this to happen… Then told my daughter she was taking out of state and have some man she knows for 4 months pick up my kid and just ride off with her ……..I DID NOT SEND HER
    It’s like no one is seeing this bs ….I will never send her there .I don’t care what court it is ….some

  25. Jessy Reyes says:


    Jessy Reyes
    Comments 1 Discussions Recommends
    Discussion on Gregory Forman, Attorney at Law 42 comments
    Remedying the visitation of an emotionally abusive parent
    Jessy Reyes
    Jessy Reyes 21 hours ago
    Detected as spam This isn’t spam »
    I am a father a custodial parent ..and my ex kicked me and my kid out to the street when my daughter was ..i didn’t here a word or knew if she was alive until 3.5 years later …..she got in trouble with acs for breaking her other 13 duaghters leg and allowing her to prostitute…she took me to court to get visitation with my daughter …I went thru all the supervised visits … therapy ….everything under the sun you could think of…..the problem is My daughter does know her and is terrified of her , she pees and throws up on herself …she said she was gonna kidnap her on a public visit in her ear…… Now a couple years later i do the calls on the phone …and my daughter can not stand her she …the court seem to not get it …I have moved to another state and was supposed to send her to NY with this lady on a court ordered visit…..she did give an address …because she didn’t feel like it and the court allowed this to happen… Then told my daughter she was taking out of state and have some man she knows for 4 months pick up my kid and just ride off with her ……..I DID NOT SEND HER
    It’s like no one is seeing this bs ….I will never send her there .I don’t care what court it is ….someone needs to see through this BS.. and then I get contempt of court … I’ve been thru countless “therapeutic visit they don’t even show face at court to talk about the child , and the mother .. I will go thru war before I let my daughter go over to that house…my daughter who’s 8 said she would kill herself or kill her mother if I let her go over there ……This Contempt of court Crap .Is just BS
    That’s the end. Find more interesting discussions »

  26. Jessy Reyes says:

    Please read my story below !

  27. Vera says:

    There is an inherent conflict in using therapists and mental health professionals to weigh in on legal questions. Therapy is designed to help people who want to be helped, and therapists are generally not experts in evaluating evidence. Legal resolutions are expensive, binding and often favor the party who can afford the fees and who is most committed to litigation. There is no guarantee that these parties are the most reasonable, and often they are in fact the most extreme. My experience is that mental health professionals who are faced with very different stories from two parents are not equipped to evaluate and correctly decide the issues, because they are neither tasked with nor trained in forensic assessment. When the legal system relies on their reports to resolve legal issues, these professionals (often well-meaning) create evidence they have no business creating. Complicating this is the fact that reports of abuse are often met with accusations of alienation. Requiring a child who reports abuse to court-ordered therapy with an offending parent to sort out the “truth” while still requiring time-share/visitation is centered in parental rights and not in the protection of children. If there is actual abuse, this practice will effectively destroy a child’s trust that anyone will help/believe her. The legal system needs training in understanding how abuse presents, how alienation presents and how trauma presents. They need training in domestic violence and power & control dynamics. Most importantly they need training to understand that those who are traumatized are understandably not forthright in the legal system, and won’t be forthright in a court-ordered therapy session that holds the question of abuse “open” for months at a time, while doing nothing to protect them. Finally, the use of the legal system as a tool of power and control in custody disputes needs to be actively addressed by the legal community. One parent can easily bankrupt another by raising specious complaints that require hundreds of thousands of dollars to resolve. Bankrupting parents by creating years-long conflicts is never in the best interests of their children.

  28. Jen. says:

    You are exactly right Anne. PAS has become the battle cry of abusive men.

    1. Brianne Ree says:

      It’s really hard to ready these feeds because people take on such an all or nothing mind frame and in my mind, diminishes most of their ability to be credible.

      Parental Alienation is real, and a lot of fathers AND mothers and most importantly their children suffer from it.

      My husband is a non-custodial parent. His ex-wife has his daughter about 70% of the time. Two years ago his ex-wife started seeing someone, attempted to move out of state but filed the paperwork in an attempt to prevent my husband from his legal right to object or have a say in what the parenting plan should be going forward. My husband tried to work with her but he got really concerned when his daughter was telling him that they were homeless and living in a tent. He went to his lawyer and found out the judge denied her motion to relocate the day she filed it. So he filed a motion to hold her in contempt since she had moved. She had to move back and regained custody but he was able to get half of his daughter’s school breaks as well as every other weekend.

      Fast forward to today, his ex wife and her fiancé are constantly telling my step daughter that her dad is a dead beat and that he doesn’t take care of her when she is here. They tell her its his fault they can’t see the fiance’s kids (that live out of state) and that he is lazy. The fiance tells my stepdaughter that she can’t draw him pictures or tell him anything. She just said this past weekend that if she continues to tell us about what goes on over there the cops will be called. He calls her lazy (she is SIX!) and that she doesn’t do well in school. Her confidence is crushed and she is constantly stressed. She cries every time she is here that she wants to live here and my husband feels so powerless to help her. We NEVER ever bash her mom but have been upset about the boyfriend in front of her.

      Its extremely hard because they go to lengths to stop my husband from getting any school information or medical information, they tell my stepdaughter to call her stepdad ‘dad’ and my husband by his first name.

      She says they fight a lot and throw things at each other and honestly we are stuck between what is true and what is not true. But this has been going on for years and every time we talk to the lawyer she just says you can’t change crazy.

      The advice we hear from well intentioned people is be careful what you give attention to and I hear that totally but imagine seeing your kid for four days out of the month and the time you see them they are seriously stressed and saying that their mom and her partner are telling her she is a liar and lazy and that her dad is no good. All he wants to do is protect her but he can’t

      Luckily she has not yet turned away from him but I know that is a fear he carries around every day.

      How can we tell if this is emotional abuse? How can we tell what is happening? We are in search for a good therapist now to help coach us as parents to live and accept this if we cannot change it.

      But it is not always the moms who are the victims.

      One important thing to note is that my husband has always seen his kid when its his time. Even when the mom is violating the parenting plan, he will drive the 6 hours to see his kid. Child support arrives on time every month. He keeps in contact with her school and takes the same 6 hour round trip for parent teacher conferences. My husband desires for his daughter to be loved and accepted by BOTH parents.

      Maybe all there is to do is just love and care for her the best way we know how while she is here because it seems there are no other options for us. And the last thing we want is to entrench his daughter further into turmoil and conflict. I guess a part of us just hopes that his ex and her boyfriend are able to find healing.

  29. Polly Martin says:

    My son’s father and I never were married. Dated only 3 months then I got pregnant had the baby. He is now 10 years old. He has visited his father inconsistently off and on over the years. Each visit has something occur that is either neglect or injuries unexplained etc. I’ve already got full physical custody and we share joint legal. Due to many incidences of injuries and neglect, some reported some not, I’ve regulated visits myself, even drop by to ensure he is given his prescribed meds etc over the years.
    My son recently told me that along time a go his dad tried getting him to walk out of Kohl’s with a pair of shoes on that he had him try on. My son didn’t do it. But long story short, we r returning to court and I mentioned this in my declaration. My son is on the honor roll etc. Would the attempt to tech him to shoplift be enough alone for the court to order supervised visits.?

  30. Jennifer says:

    This great and all but what if the emotionally abusive parent and step parent manipulates and lies when they find out that the child is going to see a counselor over her being emotionally abused? They don’t want to be found out and will do anything to cover what is going on. Whether that is turn it back on me or turn it back on my child. Accuse us of lying.

  31. Brandy Brogdon says:

    What if you have a situation where the NCP has a history of DV, and despite regular visitation with the children, accuses the CP of withholding because the CP makes plans for non-visiting weekends? The NCP degrades the CP in front of the children and the children have told their counselors such. The CP has single handedly raised the kids with very little in terms of support, financial or otherwise. The NCP sends derogatory texts, and in person becomes raging and near violent in the presence of the kids. When the NCP gets a new partner, his behavior changes dramatically-worse toward the CP but in the presence of the new partner, completely different…almost split personality. One thing I will note is that the kids are afraid of upsetting the NCP because of either anger or emotional reaction, crying and even making the kids feel like they don’t love the NCP if they ask to go home. What about the fact there is no alienation, but rather encouraging a continued relationship by the CP between the kids and the NCP, but then the CP worried because it could negatively – very negatively – impact the emotional well being of the kids, who need counseling for the impact the behavior is having…

  32. Carhy says:

    So what is someone supposed to do if one parent is receiving an attorney from legal aid the other parent cannot afford an attorney both parents cannot have legal aid because it’s a conflict of interest?
    And there is abuse going on.
    The case was unfounded by DSS only because there is a custody situation going on.

    Af the final court hearing there was a court ordered order of protection so there was proof that abuse was going on. But now during court ordered visitation the order of protection is being violated.
    We have had law enforcemen check on the situation while the child is there.
    When law enforcement ask if this certain person is there the answer is no and without a search warrant what can be done?

    The whole entire system is absolutely 100% NOT in favor of protecting children !!

    Actual handprint bruises!!
    Law enforcement and DSS have copies of these photos.
    Everything is hearsay coming from a child younger than 18.

    What happens if the child ends up severely injured?

    By then it’s too late.

    Every judge and attorney really need to take a step back from their wallet and see every situation and circumstances for what they are.
    If they would just put themselves in our shoes and feel what it’s like to have no choice but to hand over their innocent child into the hands of an abuser and everything in you as a parent is supposed to protect them.
    There are children right now this very second being tortured abused sexually manipulated all because the COURT handed them over to their abusers!!

  33. Fenny says:

    Great blog! Thank you for sharing such an informative and beneficial article. Please keep posting!

  34. Scared mom says:

    I am in my 3 rd year of divorce. My son who is almost 8 has started to complain about verbal and emotional abuse. He has also been struggling with abuse to the family dog. I left due to emotional and mental, sometimes physical abuse. His counselor from school called me yesterday very concerned about his and his sister’s well being. This has been going on for a year now. I’ve got a lawyer, started taking steps to stop this and starting to feel hopeless. You need to tell the father, he needs therapy. The last time we told him, he yelled at the school counselor and intimated her. I feel helpless, reading the article and talking to ppl what do I do. I have the counselor, teachers who are willing to go to court to testify when time being. I’m terrified to make the wrong move. What do I do!!!!!!!!! My son hates being there, he cries every time he leaves me now.

  35. Tammy Godbold says:

    All of this is so sad. So many children suffering many situations similar to my poor grandchildren! I came to this site looking for answers because we have found nothing but dead ends- same as all of you. Judges who don’t listen, don’t care! Animals have more rights than children! I just don’t understand why no one will help. I’m disappointed and completely finished with the judicial system. There is no point. No help. My grandchildren don’t trust counseling, police, judges , no one and I can’t tell them they are wrong. They have been let down by ALL of them. Their innocence is gone and so is our hope and all of our trust
    Unfortunately even God can’t save us from that bastard that is their father!

  36. JD says:

    Can you please recommend a therapist that can do family counseling with my daughter and her father – who is emotionally and mentally abusing her, extreme manipulation – who is willing to help my daughter/my ex get to the bottom of her refusal to visit with him? And will testify if needed? We are in Charlotte, NC. Thank you.

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