On March 24, 2013, a Washington Post Editorial shed light on the ugly realities of Child Abuse in our country. According to the Washington Post, experts estimate that more than 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, with nearly 82 percent of victims being under the age of 4. The Post then goes on to disclose a possibly even more disturbing comparison when it mentions that between 2001 and 2010 15,510 children were reported to have died from child abuse and neglect. This number is 2 1/2 times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When I read the Post editorial, I stared at my computer in shock – completely hung up on these statistics. Ironically, while I was reading the editorial, the national news was playing in the background. The newscaster was discussing how careful we must be when we send our troops to war, and the tragedies that occur on the home front when a soldier doesn’t return. My son was sent to war too, but it was a different war. It was a domestic war that children are fighting every day. Healthy mothers and fathers are forced to send their children to the battle lines of a disordered/crazy/abusive “co-parent” – armed with nothing more than the hope that they will return unharmed.
I have spoken with many parents about Family Court, my beliefs when it comes to the system, and tips I learned the hard way. When I describe Child Custody as a Custody War, I am not trying to be dramatic. That is exactly what it is. If you are faced with going to court for custody of your child, with someone whom you believe to have a personality disorder, it will not just be a battle it will be a full on war. These individuals need to feel as if they win no matter what happens and they will continue the battles until the war is won to their satisfaction. The reality is – this war could very well last 18 years. It will be ugly, your child will likely suffer as a result, and the court will inevitably not put the child’s needs first – ever.
Not every custody situation needs to turn into a war. While I understand first hand how emotions can run high when it comes to your child, it is in the best interest of your child to step back and try to look at the situation with the most objective eye possible. Before entering into a war, I suggest asking yourself the most important question every parent should ask themselves in a situation like this: “Will my child’s parent physically harm my child – intentionally or by neglecting the child’s immediate needs?”
If the answer to the above question is “yes”, you need to find the most intelligent/aggressive attorney you can afford, dig your heels in, and prepare for an all out Custody War. Your child deserves to be protected and deserves the healthiest life you can possibly provide them. If the unthinkable happens to you, as it did to me, you will need to know that you did everything in your power to save your child or else you will blame yourself forever.
If, however, the honest answer is “no” then you need to think hard about what is making you uncomfortable about the other parent. The hard reality is that the world is full of terribly immoral jerks. Your child’s father or mother might just be one of them. Your child will run into a lot of jerks in his/her life and you will not be able to shield them from these deplorable people forever. Trust me when I tell you that if the other parent is a scumbag, your child will probably realize this before you need to even utter a word.
One of my readers told me about something her young daughter recently said after coming home from a visit with her father. (Note: the child is about four years old) The child wisely said, “Mama, I don’t think Daddy is a very good person. He lies a lot.” The woman was shocked (and a bit worried) as she had worked very hard to make sure her daughter never heard her speak negatively about the father. While the father would without a doubt blame parental alienation for his daughter’s statements, the reality of the situation is that this child is just perceptive. Children can spot bad sometimes sooner than adults can. Prince hated evil. He was always able to spot it and it didn’t take me having to tell him. In fact, he wouldn’t have understood me even if I had tried.
Possibly the most painful part of any Custody War is the days when you will have to send your child to someone you wouldn’t even hire to be your daycare provider. Even worse, the constant reminder that you had a child with this person and will be battling this monster for 18 years. No matter how awful it feels to constantly drag yourself into court day after day, turn most or all of your salary over to attorneys, and face legal abuse every single day – your child is the real soldier. Your child will be on the front lines of this war and you will not always be there to protect him/her.
I wish there were something I could say – some advice that I could give on how you could prepare your child with some sort of weapon for protection. The only weapons there are in this fight are the weapons of love and hope. I will never forget the last time I saw my son. As I placed him in the supervisor’s car, I kissed him on the face, hugged him tight, and told him how much I loved him. I armed him with love that day. It was all I had to give him. There are days when I am angry at myself – wishing that I could have armed him with more. In the end, however, I know that at least my son knew real love in his 15 months of life. My son knew that day how much his Mommy loved him. That is what I hold onto when I am so angry and full of rage at the outcome of my Custody War.
I had hoped and prayed that I would be able to give Prince more, but that is all I had – love and hope. I now fight every day to make sure that your children are armed with more than mine was. In order to make children safe, we need to stop making them soldiers and stop sending them to the front lines of battle. We need to change the minds of those who feel the need to send them – the courts.
Prince was a brave soldier. I am a proud Mama knowing that even after he is gone, he will fight to protect those who will stand on the front lines after him. I will fight to make sure of it.
Once again I am blown away by your courage and grace. You are such a wonderful advocate for children. I admire you so much.
The Custody Wars that go on in Family Courts are ALWAYS fought by individuals with a personality disorder or against someone with a personality disorder. Normal people avoid Court at all costs. The financial and emotional toll involved in going to Court does not affect psychopaths. They enjoy it. The central motivation of the psychopath is to dominate and control.
The reality is that 50% of all couples getting divorced even engage an attorney. Of the 50% of Couples that do engage an attorney, only half ever go to Court. Most are able to resolve all their differences without involving a Judge. Less than 5% of Couples getting divorced will fight over the actual visitation and continue to engage in legal conflict. These statistics correlate extremely closely to the prevalence of severe psychopathology. Yet the most common diagnosis in these cases is Borderline Personality Disorder.
The Courts and even the psychological professionals appointed by the Court refuse to acknowledge that these cases are all about the abuser trying to Control or the abused trying to escape the Control.
In my opinion, until Psychopathy can be identified objectively through the use of fMRI and other brain scans, the Courts will never do anything to hold them accountable or protect children.
It’s the fault of the family court debacle in this country that all we mothers can do is give our children love and hope and then leave them at the mercy of our abusers. I am one of the lucky (or supremely blessed) ones. I got out with my kids and the abuser is so self absorbed and lazy that he spends only minimal amount of time with them. I ache with grief for the many women who did not and do not fare as well as I did. God help them please.
You are a great writer! When one writes with passion one cannot go wrong! I salute our “Little Troops!” Rest in Peace Prince and all the little ones who have left in the same manner!
My heart goes out to you…along with a HUGE shout out for your grace, courage and resiliency … your angel is proud!
Just a comment about your stating that you have to parent with a psychopath till the child is 18. I so wish that were true! My children are 28, 26, 23 and 15 and the ex is still in the picture – using them to get at me. After all these years, he can’t quit. It’s about power and control and the age of majority has no bearing to them. I’m afraid it won’t stop till he passes away. : (
Grace and peace to you…
I have a 4 yr old with a Sociopath. I am in court a lot…but if that’s what I have to do, so be it. I came to the realization years ago that it will NOT be over until the ex-spath is dead…no question. Even if he went back to jail, he would harass me from there and try to force me to give him visitation…and he’d probably succeed.
He is 47 now and looks terrible. I’m sure his health has deteriorated since he was with me and it wasn’t that great then. I have NEVER wished ill on anyone that I know..until him. I hope his poor lifestyle catches up with him, I hope he crosses the wrong person and they take matters into their own hands, I hope that ‘something’ happens to rid us of him and to give my son the ‘normal’ life he deserves. But until that happens, I will do as you have done and give my son all the love and hope I can to hopefully keep him in the light and away from the evil that is my ex.
I found your blog when Daddy Doing Work posted about you on your son’s 3rd birthday. I have been slowly reading through the blog.
My parents separated the weekend closest to my first birthday – my mother and I moved into her parents’ basement. We continued living there for over 10 years. I do not once remember hearing my mother speak ill of my father, and when a family member recently found a video tape of my third birthday party, I was astonished – not only did my mother never speak ill of my father to my ears (in my memory) but she even got mad (without yelling) at people who were speaking ill of him when I was in the other room open gits because she did not want me to overhear.
Over the years, I made up my own opinion of my father. Once I made it clear my opinion of him, my mother let me in on info that supported my conclusion – he did not care a whit for either of us. Up until my 18th birthday though, she continued to encourage me to try to have a relationship with him; even to the point of making me call him on his birthday – Valentines day, and take his call on my birthday (when he remembered).
Today I am approaching 23. I have not spoken to him for more that 30 minutes total in the past 5 years. I have no delusions about this ever becoming a real relationship, I would not trust him if he tried.
The truth is kids know; when one parent bashes another, it just tells the kid that the parent doing the bashing is a bad person; when they see a parent go against the rules that another parent has set, they know that there is no respect (even if they don’t yet really know what respect is they know something is not right); and s many other ways.
Even when my father let me have candy and other junk food for dinner, stories say that I would tell him I needed one vegetable before I was allowed my sweet. I knew that my mom made rules for a reason, and I could not figure out why he didn’t follow them; I decided he was a trouble maker like the kids at school who always were getting in trouble. Not who I liked spending time with at school, so why would I want to spend my weekends with one?
I would guess that for most grade-school and older children (maybe until teen years, might change then), they know who is the better parent. Unfortunately, Prince was not old enough to voice his opinion, and Luc’s other son seems to have no other option.