What is Parental Manipulation?
In a divorce, sometimes one of the parents may try and use their children as pawns in the ongoing custody battle. They may attempt to inflict emotional distress on the other party by attempting to destroy that parent’s relationship with their child. This can not only be harmful to the targeted parent but also psychologically damaging to the children that are caught in the crosshairs. The manipulative parent may be worried that the child might prefer the other parent or become more like that parent unless they do something to get the child back on their side. The manipulator will try to alienate the target from the child, seeing themselves rescuing the child from the other party. Parental alienation and other forms of manipulation can escalate an already high conflict divorce.
Signs of Parental Manipulation
It is important to protect yourself and your children if you fear parental manipulation is at play. Signs of a manipulative parent can include the following:
- Causing the child to believe that they will only be loved by complying with the parent.
- Interfering with parenting time, especially by offering competing choices that would make the child do something other than visit the alienated parent.
- Being distraught that the child is spending time with the targeted parent.
- Constantly trying to align the child against the other parent.
- Making up or distorting facts about the other parent, especially with regards to the divorce.
- The child knows more than they should about the divorce or your relationship with the manipulative parent.
- Using the child as a spy.
- Using the child as a messenger.
- Threats of self harm if the other parent or the child do not give into the manipulator’s demands.
Solutions to Parental Manipulation
There are several ways to prevent a parent from using children as a weapon in a custody battle. Either parent can ask that the court appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) that becomes an attorney representing the child’s best interest, thus providing a buffer between them and the manipulative parent. Another potential solution is parallel parenting, where the divorced parents disengage from each other and only have limited interaction. Contact Himelman & Himelman today if you are concerned about parental manipulation and are looking for the advice of an experienced attorney.