Joint or shared custody with your ex after divorce can lead to unpleasant discussions and confrontations even in the best circumstances. In a highly contentious divorce, it is possible that one parent will use the children as a weapon against the other, with potentially disastrous results for the children.
One parent may try to limit or eliminate the access of the other to the children, even if there is a custody order allocating parenting time to their ex. They may do this by denying visitation or by intentionally turning the children against their other parent.
This process of undermining the relationship between one parent and their children, called parental alienation, can damage the parent-child relationship, as well as the social and emotional development of the children. Knowing the warning signs of attempts at parental alienation can help you assert your parental rights and protect your kids.
Your ex cancels or shortens your parenting time and won’t let you make it up
Being flexible with the other parent of your children is invaluable, as life has a tendency to throw unexpected curve balls. Whether your child came down with the flu or you got stuck late at work, you might not get all of the parenting time you wanted with your kids. When that happens, it is usually reasonable to ask to make up for the lost time.
If your ex consistently cancels, shortens or refuses visitation and won’t allow you to make up that time, they may be trying to damage the bond between you and the children.
Your ex has told your children inappropriate things
Marriages end for all kinds of reasons, from one spouse being too involved in their work to infidelity. Regardless of the reasons for the divorce, the children don’t need to know about the worst behavior of their parents, especially when they are young.
Whether the accusations are true or not, it is inappropriate for one parent to tell the children negative things about the other parent in the hope of damaging the parent-child relationship. If that happens, it can take some time for the children to understand what happened and readjust their relationship with the parent accused of wrongdoing.
Your ex openly threatens to cut you off from the children
It is surprisingly common for people to threaten their spouses with alienation from the children. If your ex has told you that you won’t ever see your children again or won’t be part of their lives after the divorce, do your best to documents that threats, as well as any denied visitation and indications from your children that your ex has been intentionally speaking poorly of you.
That documentation can help you when you go to court for custody proceedings, as the family courts tend to frown on a parent who intentionally alienates the children from the other parent or damages the parent-child relationship for their own spiteful reasons and not the best interest of the children.