Here’s a list of divorce parenting behaviors that every professional in family court cases is familiar with.
- The other parent is insulted in front of the child, either directly to her, or by her overhearing family discussions (or even telephone calls) about the other person.
- Financial issues, including payment or nonpayment of child support, are discussed with the child. “We can’t afford that, because your dad isn’t paying child support.”
- Telephone calls with the child are withheld or delayed, or the child is simply unavailable at call times. “She would rather read her book than get on the phone with you.”
- When the child is on the phone with the other parent, he is encouraged to get off the phone or enticed with something more fun to do, instead of being given privacy to talk.
- When the other parent asks for a change in parenting time for a very special event (a wedding, concert or big family gathering), the change is refused with no reason. “We have plans.”
- The child is asked to keep secrets from the other parent. “Don’t tell Dad I let you stay home from school today.”
- The child is not permitted to have photographs of his other family in his bedroom.
- The child is not permitted to show love or affection for his other family, especially a new girlfriend, boyfriend, fiancé or spouse of the other parent.
- The child is questioned about what goes on at the other parent’s home.
- The other parent’s name and contact information is left out of (or deliberately written down wrong in) school documents, permission forms and medical records.
- Emails from school or activities are not passed on to the other parent, even if receiving parent knows the other parent didn’t get it. “I’m sorry your dad didn’t show up for Donuts for Dads. He must not have wanted to do it.”
- The child’s phone calls with the other parent are placed on speakerphone.
- The parent who is not with the child texts her repeatedly, sometimes for hours.
- The child is taken to the doctor for shots or regular check-ups, and the other parent isn’t told within a day or two.
- The child is routinely delivered late for exchanges.
- The child routinely misses sports or extracurricular activities because one parent signed him up for the activity and the other parent doesn’t agree. So, the child shows up at only half his games and practices and performances.
- One parent misses events because the other parent didn’t tell him about something, and the parent didn’t read the school calendar or emails to find out things for herself.
- Important information in parent emails is hidden (or not there at all) within pages of criticism about parenting or something that happened in the past.
An awful lot of people just read that list and ticked off exactly what a former spouse/ other parent is doing. Very few people review that list and ask “Am I doing any of these things?”
Did you notice that with only a couple of exceptions, the child is smack in the middle of each of these conflicts? He is on the front line of knowing that his parents can’t get along and are willing to sacrifice him to do something nasty to the other.
Try to be aware of your own actions. The actions above are sometimes referred to as “restrictive gate-keeping” actions. They all show a lack of respect for the other parent’s parenting and relationship with the child. They are all evidence of a parent placing his or her own needs or feelings ahead of the child’s best interests and well-being. They are all evidence of behaviors that lead to poor outcomes for children. Parents don’t have to have fabulous post-divorce relationships, or even good opinions of the other parent, for the child to benefit. They simply must make their actions show some level of respect. Find a way to separate your opinions of the other parent from your actions, and your child will benefit.