Parental Alienation Syndrome


The article Fragmented Child: Disorganized Attachment and Dissociation by Robert T. Muller Ph.D describes how abuse can destroy a child’s sense of self, and cause them to seek refuge from a painful reality by dissociating.

The “Fragmented Child” article was very helpful to me to identify many of the symptoms I have seen in my own children; I am sharing a link to this article along with some of my own experiences to raise awareness about the effects of abuse on children. I also feel a purpose in sharing my story to illustrate the devastating impact of family court rulings that place children in the care and custody of an abusive or unfit parent – much of the harm inflicted on my children could have been prevented if the family court had protected them from abuse.

What is Dissociation?

In “Fragmented Child”, Muller describes dissociation and its cause. The “fragmented child” is one who uses dissociation as a defense mechanism to deal with a stressful, traumatic or abusive situation.

Muller says about dissociation,“As a way of coping, dissociation occurs when the brain compartmentalizes traumatic experiences to keep people from feeling too much pain, be it physical, emotional, or both. When dissociation occurs, you experience a detachment from reality, like ‘spacing out.’ Part of you just isn’t ‘there in the moment.’” Children who grow up in an abusive homes often dissociate because they can not handle the trauma, pain and/or dysfunctional environment.

Dissociation happens when there is a trauma or assault, our first instinct is to go into “fight or flight” mode. When there is no escape, the flight is taken into the mind – away from a present danger. Dissociation is a defense mechanism where a person separates from their memory something they do not want to deal with. There is a range of mild dissociation to full blown dissociative identity disorder (separating a part of yourself from memory). Amnesia may occur with dissociation because the mind is shutting out or erasing a painful reality.

Through dissociation, memory of the trauma is held within fragmented parts of the mind. The trauma causes the mind to break or split off into smaller pieces that make it easier to process what has occurred. Over time those fragments may form their own distinct parts or identities. Triggers or memories of trauma release the memories which emerge (this occurs in a variety of ways).

People who experience dissociation commonly report feeling numb, spaced out, may have amnesia, and feel disconnected. A dissociative disorder changes the way a person sees reality and impairs memory, consciousness and a person’s sense of identity.

For more info on Dissociative Disorders please visit: Dissociative disorders (by Mind for Better Mental Health(

Understanding the Dissociative Disorders by Marlene Steinberg, M.D.

Public Domain: http://absfreepic.com

The Devastating Impact – When Courts Order Children into the Custody of Abusers: What I Have Seen in my own Children

My children are victims of abuse who have been further traumatized when the family court gave sole custody to the identified abuser. My children suffer from debilitating psychological, behavioral and social problems as a result of the abuse. My children have had their childhood stolen from them.

It is distressing to realize that your children are coping with a dysfunctional home environment by dissociating, and that your efforts to protect your children are being challenged, and prevented, by the family court system. Filing protective orders or asking for a change of custody based on abuse or endangerment has resulted in reprieve, and punishment from the courts (financial sanctions, loss of visitation and/or custody, ordered into supervised visitation, gag orders, jail are all common forms courts punish protective parents). Seeking therapy and professional help for my family has resulted in me being accused of harming my children, being told I need to “co-parent” better and otherwise being told my concerns of abuse, and the supporting documentation I offer, is not credible. My legal rights have also been violated in the court process. I am told to stay silent, stop raising concerns, be a more “cooperative” parent. No parent should be asked to enable the abuse of their own children.

I have seen the following indicators of dissociation present in my own children:

1) Talking to my children, they are sometimes triggered or can not deal with a difficult emotion, their response is a blank face (emotionless) and silence. The tone of voice may sound monotone. Or their mood may not match the current situation or the prevalent emotions of the day (for example, it’s a birthday party, everyone is happy but the children are silent and withdrawn).

2) The child withdraws into their own world – retreating into distractions, video games or computer time, imagination or an intense interest that draws their attention away from the present and into an inner world. The interest dominates the child’s focus, and they have trouble staying emotionally regulated without it.

3) After a long separation from my child, I am finally able to reconnect or have some contact with the children. I am overjoyed, and emotional. The child appears detached, appears emotionless, eyes are blank, voice is flat and mood is somber or withdrawn. At times a glimmer of my child once was will appear. Maybe I will get an unexpected hug. Or my child will create a card or picture for me, showing love or affection. It is confusing to see the dramatic changes – the conflicting closeness followed by the coldness, some children reject the targeted parent entirely.

4) The child is reminded or triggered by a memory of past trauma or abuse, and they freeze or lock up. They are unable to talk or move – sometimes they blank out. Other times they are aware of what is happening around them but unable to move or interact with their environment. Amnesia often follows these events. Or the child is unable to identify how they are feeling or what they are thinking.

5) When the child is overwhelmed by memories of trauma or abuse, they have violent or intense tantrums. Often there is very little or no memory of the tantrums. They may fall asleep after the tantrum due to exhaustion. There may be physical or emotional signs of dissociation that is associated with the onset of the tantrums – regressive behavior, mood swings, a drastic change in facial expression or appearance (this is an emotional change), banging their head on the wall, etc

Other signs of dissociation in children may include: Memory loss, inability to concentrate or focus, hyperactivity, mood swings, nightmares, a flat or monotone voice, appearing weak or lethargic, anxiety, and changes in personality.

When Family Court Professionals Fail to Recognize the Impact of Abuse on Children

The judges, Guardian ad Litem, evaluator, attorney for my abusive ex and other family court professionals working with my children, etc who do not understand the effects of abuse and trauma on children, commonly assign blame to one parent for causing reported behavioral and emotional problems in a child. Other times the court will deny any problem exists with the children (this happens even when there is ample evidence and documentation) and falsely accuse the targeted parent of having some kind of mental illness that causes a parent to report abuse and seek help for this child. In this way, victims of abuse are not being protected by the family court, and are being re-victimized.

Where there is no safety for children, some have chosen to escape the abuse, pain and ugly world they live in through dissociation.

— EJ, May 2016

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Karen Woodall, a specialist working with families affected by Parental Alienation, shares insights on how alienation affects a child, and what they may be experiencing from a deeply personal level.

Through her experience, and skill, Woodall gives voice to the traumatize and wounded children who can not speak for themselves.
“The mind of the captured child would, if we could look inside it, appear not as we expect it to be, but would appear to be almost empty. This is because the doors to the unpleasantness that these children direct towards the parent they are rejecting, remain firmly closed when that parent is not around. Put simply, when they are not busy rejecting, these children do not want to think about the parent they do not see because it brings up too many painful feelings for them.”

Woodall also advocates establishing a multi-model support system to help children recover, and heal from alienation. Woodall says, “The mind of the captured child can only be freed when the power dynamic around them changes and someone is willing to intervene.”

To Learn More, Please Read: Rescuing the mind of the captured child

Karen Woodall

Those of us working in the field of parental alienation spend a lot of our time thinking about and working with, children whose minds have been captured by a parent’s emotional or psychological reactions to significant change.  As someone working regularly with children who reject or resist a relationship with a parent after separation, I spend more time than most in the company of such children.  I find them to be both fascinating as well as terrifying and somewhere in between, deeply troubled.  For these children, the task of coping with the schism in the sub and unconscious mind of the families they are torn between, can be impossible. Helping them to escape from the pressures that this brings to bear in their lives is what our work is all about.  Helping to restructure the power dynamics around the family is part of that process.

My fascination with alienated children…

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Title: “Helping Your Child Survive a Difficult Divorce” by Lynne Namka, Ed. D. (Tucson, Arizona: © 2000)
Description: “A Psychologist Who has Dealt with the Pain of Many Children Whose Parents Act Irrationally During Divorce Tells It Like It Is!”
Link: http://www.angriesout.com/kids4.htm

In the article “Helping Your Child Survive a Difficult Divorce”, psychologist and author, Lynne Namka shares insights on how the behavior of parents during or after a divorce impacts the children who are caught in the middle. Children are hurt when parents war against each other, or when one parent displays “negative behavior” towards the other during or after divorce. This article offers positive solutions to identify problematic behavior, tips on healing from divorce, and tips on how to identify your motives and behaviors so you can co-parent more effectively.

Lynne advises, “Do not let your child be a witness to your anger at his or her other parent. Belittling your child’s mother or father is a form of child abuse that can affect your child’s self esteem permanently. Your child is half of the other parent. If you criticize your ex, your child will feel ashamed of half of him or herself. You WILL hurt your child if you habitually yell at your ex, trash talk about them, if you are self righteous in explaining how wrong their point of view is or if you try to evade the legal custody arrangement.

“Helping Your Child” also explains how one parent’s efforts to exert power and control over the other parent can escalate to emotional and psychological abuse.

Seeking power and control over the parent is commonly motivated by:
· A parent’s need to control the person they are divorcing
· Anger towards the other parent
· An abuser may try to avoid their own feelings of powerlessness by exerting power and control over another person
· The need to be right, at any cost
· Avoiding responsibility for their actions in the marriage, in combination with a sense of guilt, may also cause a parent to cast blame on another parent
· Inability to let go of the past or living in the past
· Avoiding your own feelings of anger, hurt and resentment by dumping or venting them onto the ex partner

Lynn says that the maturity level of a parent affects how they deal with the divorce, and with their own emotions. A parent who is able to control their emotions is better able to co-parent, and in turn the child experiences more stability.

If you are dealing with anger towards another parent, Lynne advises seeking therapy, finding a support group or taking a divorce recovery or anger management class. She says, Make your goal to get a working relationship with the other parent of your child. If you are willing to see how your angry actions affect your child and do something about it, your child has the best chance for a happy future. The pain of the divorce can start to heal for everyone.

If your ex partner is engaging in abusive or harmful behavior, and you feel that your safety or that of your child is at risk, seek help from an experienced professional or domestic violence organization. In relationships where domestic violence is present, the most dangerous time for the victim is when leaving the perpetrator, as that is when the abuse escalates. Abusers may also use the child as a pawn to control, dominate or seek revenge against the other parent (domestic violence by proxy) or engage in alienation tactics.

“Helping Your Child” also offers a list of do’s and don’t’s for parents co-parenting after divorce, and some helpful resources, for parents to identify problematic behavior and find positive ways to change.

The article ends with a statement called “The Rights of a Child in Divorce”, which I will share here. When you talk about the “best interest” or “doing what is best” for a child the message and intent can get confused, or enmeshed with what the adult is seeking. “The Rights of a Child in a Divorce” offers both a perspective from a child while also offering a guide for parents.

The Rights of a Child in a Divorce
· To be told that my mother and father still love me and will never divorce me.
· To be told that the divorce is not my fault and not to be told about the adult problems that caused it.
· To be treated as a human being—not as another piece of property to be fought over, bargained over or threatened.
· To have decisions about me based on my best interest, rather than past wrongs, hurt feelings, or parent’s needs.
· To love both my parents without being forced to choose or feel guilty.
· To know both my parents through regular, frequent involvement in my life.
· To have the financial support of both my father and mother.
· To be spared hearing bad hurtful comments about either of my parents which have no useful purpose.
· Not to be asked to tell a lie or act as a spy or messenger.
· To be allowed to care about others without having to choose or feel guilty.

Tips for Practitioners Working with Families Experiencing Parental Alienation.

Insights on what an Alienated Child is experiencing, and how their perception of reality, and themselves, has been damaged by alienation.

When the mirrors reflect not your own self but that of the alienating parent and when the words which are spoken jar horribly with the language that the body of the alienating parent is speaking, the brain and the mind becomes used to responding to the ‘truth’ and not the lie which is heard. Of course the ‘truth’ is the lie and the lie is the truth in this world and keeping that firmly in the foreground of the mind as a practitioner is a critical element of successful practice.

Article by Karen Woodall

Karen Woodall

This week I have been working on several projects concerned with increasing parental awareness of what is happening to their children when alienation strikes.  All this alongside working with parents whose children are alienated and children who think that the parent they have rejected is quite simply horrible. I have also been working with parents who are so indignantly determined that their version of why a child no longer sees a parent is correct, that they will go to any lengths to ‘prove’ it.  The world of children’s rejection of a parent is indeed a world in which everyone is concerned about what they know. And of course,  everyone believes that what they know is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Working in the midst of this can feel a little bit like being down the rabbit hole with Alice, I half expect the mad hatter…

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A love letter from my child… I have saved every letter, poem, drawing and gift from her.

Love Letters To Our Children

The Way I Love You 

The way I love you will never end.

It will keep going on and on

The love is always on, never needs batteries

It runs on love.

I love you like Taylor Swift.

Poem by (Child’s name)

Happy Mother’s Day Mom

Thanks for cooking are meals taking us to fun places spoiling us and having us. We have some fun times together and some bad but I love you.

Mom you rock! 🙂 Love (Child’s name)

_Final-copwrite-and-disclaimer-image_Love-Letters-edited-2_edited-2

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Covert manipulation is a tactic used in corrupt family courts…

Are you involved in a family custody issue, and it seems your divorce or child custody issue got ten times worse since the litigation began? Do you feel that you aren’t being heard, perhaps your words are being twisted and used against you? Has a Guardian ad Litem, Mediator, Evaluator, Judge or other court personnel taken sides and seems biased against you, that no matter what you do or say, they always side against you? As a result of the court proceedings do you feel overwhelmed, yet unable to talk about what is happening in fear that what you say may be used against you in court, that you may lose custody or parenting time with your children? Do you feel abused, have high levels of anxiety, fear for the safety and well-being of your children?

So what is happening? Are these thoughts and feelings all in your head OR is something more going on…

Covert means secret, a hidden agenda. Manipulation is using words, gestures, behavior to provoke a reaction, get a particular response or send a message (usually a threatening message).

Covert Manipulation is using and taking advantage of people through deceptive, implied or subtle methods; the perpetrator is usually in a position of power over the victim. Covert manipulation is a direct attack against your judgement, thoughts and personal identity.The intent of covert manipulation is to gain power and control over a targeted person, and to get that person to do things they would normally object to by breaking down their will. Covert Manipulation is so underhanded that the victim may not initially detect that they are being played, and may feel they are the cause of the problems–or may even feel that they are going crazy!

According to Dr. Simon, “Covert-aggression is at the heart of most interpersonal manipulation. What the artful, subtle fighter knows is that if they can get you to doubt yourself, feel like you have to explain yourself, and question your perceptions and judgment, there’s a good chance they can get you to back down, back-off, or better still, cave-in…”

Used in family court, covert manipulation can be used to force the targeted parent to agree to a custody or legal issue they would not normally agree to (which happens under extreme duress or pressure). Covert manipulation may be used to threaten a person into silence–to back down from filing complaints against court officers, to remain silent about abuse, to stop questioning the actions of the court. Covert manipulation may be used to influence rulings. Or gain the sympathy or support of professionals and experts involved in your case so they take one side or play into the agenda of the manipulator. Covert manipulation may even be used to turn your children against you.

Common Tactics of Manipulators in Family Court Include:

#1 Turn on the Charm aka “Love Bombing”
How this works: At your first meeting with the Manipulator, they appear to be extremely pleasant, sympathetic, interested in what you have to say, encouraging you to come forward with information. They work to get you talking, and take notes on everything you say. They show fake sympathy for you and your children. They may try to impress you talking about their professional experience or background.
The Intent: To win your trust, and get you to divulge information. Sociopathic manipulators enjoy the “hunt” — preying on people to win their trust, and having the power to destroy their victims by using their trust against them.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Understand that anything you say or do to Court Personnel can be used against you. Consult with a legal professional, advocate or other professional to prepare for any meeting with a family court officer. If you don’t have a lawyer, speak with someone you trust. Prepare an outline or notes of what you plan to discuss, and possible responses to tough questions. Remain neutral, as the Manipulator may use emotion against you. Do not disparage your ex, and if you have concerns, try to get as much evidence or proof as possible to validate your concerns, reference that evidence or collateral contact in your comments. You may also consider have a witness come with you to any meeting.
Important** You are the best advocate for your family–you may also consider sharing brief information about the strengths of your family, the things you enjoy, and other positive attributes.
As human beings, we have a natural need to talk about our feelings, and the issues affecting our lives. I cannot state strongly enough– DO NOT vent, confide or seek the confidence of anyone in family court working on your case! You must remain professional at ALL times. If you need to talk, seek the counsel of someone you trust–friend, family, religious support, support group etc. Also discuss confidentiality with your counselor, and how your records are protected from family court litigation, what would be released and why etc.

#2 Lying, Manipulating or Twisting Evidence to Make You Look Unfit, Crazy, Like an Abuser or to Portray You as Being the Sole Source of ALL the Problems in the Family (Which justifies the actions later taken against you.. this is commonly done when a parent is labelled with Parental Alienation Syndrome, a Malicious Mom etc)

How this works:After the target parent has confided in the Manipulator or shared sensitive information, they will be ambushed when the Manipulator twists the information in such a way that the targeted parent did not intend. The parent becomes the target–falsely accused of being mentally ill, an unfit parent, making up abuse allegations, etc The Manipulator may used information shared to shock or silence a parent so they can be easily controlled. The trust you had in this person is totally shattered as their agenda begins to unfold and they work against you–inventing evidence, violating the law, refusing to communicate, and other actions where their sole pursuit and interest is about their own agenda, not the well-being of your child or your family.
The Intent: Manipulators fight dirty. They will break the law and ethical rules of their profession. They will lie. Accept bribes. Use political connections against you. Threaten you. Impose financial sanctions. Impose gag orders. Force you into mental health treatment you do not need.
How You Can Protect Yourself: There is nothing you alone can do to appease the corrupt Court Officer. You cannot fix things. You cannot impose justice in the Court. It does no good to play their games. It is better to detach, and focus on your goals and stay true to what you are fighting for.

#3 Provoke a Reaction, Provoke Strong Emotions then use those reactions against you
How this works: These expert manipulators use the appearance of power over you to push buttons, provoke a reaction and even use your children as pawns in an attempt to get you to lose control. If you are emotional and unguarded, you are not only vulnerable to their manipulation but unable to protect yourself (those without legal representation are especially vulnerable). Threats are common–including threats of loss of custody, threats to limit access to the children, threats to send your children into state care. Other times, the Court will not allow you to speak or allow you to present evidence.
The Intent: If the Manipulator cannot prove their false allegations against you, or is called to produce evidence, and none exists their only hope is to make you look bad so you give them the material they need. Others enjoy watching people suffer. Prejudice and bias may also shape their behaviors.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Document everything, and keep your paperwork organized so it is easy to refer to. Bring witnesses to meetings or court appearances if possible. Bring comfort items to court to help you deal with stressors. Comfort items should be routine items, not detectable, but whose significance is known to you. Examples: a photo of your children taped to a folder, essential oils dabbed on the wrists, wearing religious or spiritual jewelry, taking a deep breath as needed, saying a Bible verse or positive afir
Trust your instincts. Take the time to repair your self-confidence, and participate in activities or surround yourself with people that boost your self-esteem. These are important to developing your instincts, and developing a strong resistance–both need to protect yourself from Manipulators.

#4 Controlling How You Think and Feel
How this works: The Manipulator is hypersensitive to everything you say and do, followed by an implied threat or real harm if you do not comply or meet their expectations. Harm can take many forms– financial sanctions, loss of custody, loss of visitation with children, jail time, loss of your reputation..not to mention the emotional battering, trauma, and real injustice/violation of the law that also occurs. Abuse victims forced to interact with their abusers often suffer further abuse, some are even murdered. In turn, you become hypervigilant, anxious, self-critical and unable to think without judging yourself against their standard; your thoughts and emotions are being controlled.

Another tactic: A seemingly innocent action or word will be exaggerated or result in harsh consequences so, to protect yourself, you avoid that action, thought, behavior or others like it. Example: A parent is told their religious or cultural beliefs are evidence that they are “crazy” so that person stops participating or avoids normal activities for their religion or culture.
The Intent: To gain control. To break down your resistance. To normalize, and get you to accept the abuse and injustice perpetrated against you. To avoid responsibility, and trick you into thinking you actually did or said something wrong.
How You Can Protect Yourself: Stop blaming yourself! When you feel guilty, overwhelmed, anxious or want to blame yourself…STOP. First, take a moment to ground yourself--go for a walk, call a friend, exercise, listen to music, read a book, etc. This will move you from hypervigilant to a calmer, more rational state of mind. Then ask yourself what are you blaming yourself for–does it make sense? Are these actions a normal human being could accomplish? What were your intentions? How did the other person make you feel? Was the other person treating you fairly, with respect? Asking questions generates critical thinking, it sparks judgment. With judgment, you will be better equipped to see the manipulation, and protect yourself from it. If there is something you did, of course deal with that. But if you are blaming yourself for irrational things, totally out of control, or things based on lies–recognize the manipulation for what it is, and put the blame where it belongs–on the abuser. If you find yourself going into self protection mode, or retreating to tactics you used while in an abusive relationship, that is a huge red flag that you are being mistreated.

FOR MORE INFO:

“Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics” by ‘Psychopaths and Love’: http://psychopathsandlove.com/covert-emotional-manipulation-tactics/

“Eight Easy Ways to Spot an Emotional Manipulator” by Fiona McColl & Heartless Bitches International (heartless-bitches.com): http://www.heartless-bitches.com/rants/manipulator/eighteasyways.shtml

“Throwing You on the Defensive: The Covert Art of Coercive Manipulation” by Dr. George Simon, Jan 24, 2014:

“23 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics” by Psychopaths & Love: http://psychopathsandlove.com/covert-emotional-manipulation-tactics/

You have been awarded custody or visitation in a court order but the other parent is violating the terms of the court order. What can you do? And what should you avoid?

Please Note: The information contained in this article DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVISE but is based on informational blogs containing tips about family court orders, and also based on insight from my own personal experiences in family court. If you have a question or need help regarding a custody order or other family court issues, please seek help from a legal professional. Your local court may also offer limited legal help through a legal clinic or by offering a list of resources for legal help. Many battered women organizations also offer legal resources or help.

WHAT IS A VIOLATION OF A CUSTODY OR PARENTING TIME ORDER?
A custody or parenting time order is a legally enforceable document issued by the Court. The order requires a parent to follow certain custody and visitation arrangements, and can restrict them from certain behavior or actions. A violation is any action or behavior that defies the court order.

MINOR VIOLATIONS
As a rule, minor violations are considered unintentional, and are delays or inconveniences that can happen in the normal course of co-parenting or exchanging a child from one home to the other. Minor violations may include: being a few minutes late for an exchange, missing a visitation because a child is sick or a child forgets a weekly phone call because they are hanging out with friends and has to call you later, etc.

Sometimes, the minor violations begin to escalate to more serious violations. Or there may be a pattern of repeated minor violations that, over time, disrupt parenting time. These issues must be addressed, at some level, to avoid ongoing problems.

MAJOR VIOLATIONS
A major violation puts the child at risk of mental or physical harm. Major violations also may purposefully deprive the other parent of their visitation or having a relationship with the child. Major violations may include: physical or mental abuse, kidnapping, manipulating a child to violate the court order (refusing visits, disparaging the other parent, using a child to get revenge on the other parent, encouraging child to run away from other parent’s home, etc.)

A court will generally tolerate some minor violation—and will frown upon parents who file motions for frivolous reasons, or issues that could be resolved outside of court. The court will generally take it more serious if minor violations are ongoing, begin to escalate or show a clear pattern of obstruction. The court legally has to consider taking action against violations that cause imminent harm to a child. The court will also take action against repeated violations that cost a parent money or harm the other parent’s relationship with their child.

WHEN THERE IS A RISK OF HARM TO A CHILD
If a parent poses a risk of harm to a child, the parent can file an emergency “ex parte” motion in court, and ask the Judge to look at the circumstance that pose a risk to the child and take immediately action. If the Judge feels the situation is urgent, and meets the legal standards of an “ex parte” hearing, he can issue a temporary order to limit or deny contact between the child and the offending parent, or change the order as he sees fit. If the Judge does not feel the issue is urgent, he can schedule a hearing for a later date.

SOME EXAMPLES OF LEGAL REMEDIES FOR VIOLATIONS OF COURT ORDERS

Violating a court order could result in some serious consequences. The action a Judge can take against a parent who violates a court order varies, and depends on the Judge and how he applies the law.

If appearing in court or filing a motion, you want to be prepared with evidence, all of your allegations must be backed up with some type of proof (witness affidavits, medical reports, school reports, receipts showing expenses incurred, photographs, etc).

You may also consider other avenues for resolution other than going to court, though this is not advisable for families with a history of domestic abuse.

Actions the Judge May Take if the Court Order is Violated:
*Impose a civil penalty on the offending parent (a monetary fine)
*Order the offending parent to pay attorney’s fees or court costs to the other parent
*Restriction or loss of parenting time
*Order the offending parent into supervised visitation
*Order the offending parent into therapy, anger management, co-parenting classes or other therapeutic remedies
*Change the court order as the Judge sees fit
*Order the parties into supervised exchange, where a professional handles the transition from one home to the other
*Order make-up parenting time for the other parent
*Order the parents in alternate dispute resolution (mediation, parenting consultant, expeditor, etc)
*Criminal charges are also possible in the case the child is harmed, kidnapped or there is a more serious violation
*The offending parent may also face jail time for contempt of court or if criminal charges are filed.

(Suggestions below are based on legal articles, and my personal experiences, on possible options and what types of action or behavior to avoid. This is NOT legal advice, nor can PAK offer legal advise. This is general information only. Please consult a legal professional for specific questions or to get help for your situation.)

OPTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN A COURT ORDER IS VIOLATED:
*Keep a copy of your court order with you. You may also want a safe person to have a copy of the court order—friend, family, domestic violence advocate, religious support/leader, therapist, etc
*Have your attorney write a strong letter to the other parent on your behalf. The letter can notify the other parent they must comply with the court order or face legal consequences. It may also request a meeting to discuss the issues.
*Call the police. Even if the police cannot enforce the family court order, you can file a report and use it as documentation in court.
*If it is a major violation or the children are in risk of imminent harm, consider seeking help from a legal professional or from a legal clinic. Or, you may contact police or child protection. Your child’s safety is a number one priority!
*As an alternative to court, you may consider mediation with a professional. Before you begin, make sure you understand and come to an agreement about payment arrangements, terms of the agreement and if the session can be used in court. It is becoming more common for Family Court to require an attempt at mediation before a hearing is set in court. So make sure you follow the Court’s requirements, and document your attempts.
*If your family is involved in therapy or counseling, the counselor may be able to assist with minor disputes. Talk with your therapist to see if this is a possibility, and what the session would involve.
*If possible try to resolve the issue with your ex. DO NOT attempt this if there has been a history of abuse or if you do not feel safe! Keep the discussion focused on your child. If you are not sure about something, do not accuse, blame or judge but instead trying asking questions. Be willing to discuss alternatives, and have a few yourself. Document the discussion, and take notes.
Avoid flirting or setting personal meetings outside the court order, as this will confuse your boundaries. Avoid yelling, shouting or provoking a fight. Do not get the children in the middle to serve as messengers or mediators.
Agree on a time to talk, focus on the issue and its resolution. Bring a witness or safe person if you need. If you cannot come to an agreement, you may consider getting some additional help or establishing a time to talk at a later date.
*Document all violations of the court order. Keep your documentation and evidence organized and easily accessible. Keeping track with dates, times and witnesses is very helpful.
*Be proactive in requesting documentation (medical reports, police reports, school reports, etc). It may take a little time to sign a release then get the reports back to you. So take needed steps to get the reports right away to avoid delay or going to court unprepared.
*If you need a witness or safe person to assist you, make sure that person is calm and able to clearly communicate what they have observed in a factual and neutral way. Avoid people your ex would have a conflict with, or people mentioned in the court proceedings who are viewed negatively (their testimony could be disputed in Court). Avoid people who have a hot temper, who are unpredictable or who would fight with your ex. Avoid people with any criminal background, or history of substance abuse. You want someone who will be reliable and credible in court—a friend, family member, religious leader, co-worker or supervised visitation facilitator (some will come to your location for a fee to conduct an exchange or supervise a visit) may be helpful. This person should also have reliable transportation.
*If you need to go to Court, be ready to show documentation and evidence of the violations, and how this violation has harmed or poses a risk of harm to the child. It does help to research, and be familiar with the legal statutes.
*Consider filing a motion in Court for contempt of court to seek legal remedy for the violation. Or consider an emergency ex parte hearing. Do not file a motion for trivial or superficial complaints, the Judge may find this to be “frivolous” and can not only rule against you but punish you as well. Seek legal advise for questions or concerns.

ACTIONS/BEHAVIOR TO AVOID WHEN A COURT ORDER IS VIOLATED:

These types of actions and behavior may result in criminal charges, a harassment or protective order filed against you, and loss of custody or visitation with your child.

*Do not take revenge against the ex or their personal property (house, car, favorite possessions, etc). You could be criminally charged if you threaten or cause actual damage.
* Similarly, do not damage things your ex gave the children (gifts, toys, family pictures etc). This is extremely frightening and will ultimately hurt your relationship with your children. The court may perceive this as parental alienation or child abuse.
*Do not post negative comments or pictures about the ex or family court judge and professionals on social media or anywhere else online. When you post online, assume the judge and court officers are reading your posts, and act accordingly.
*Do not stop paying child support, if ordered. Keep payments current.
*Do not withhold visitation, as outlined in the court order. If there is a change in visitation, make sure that it is a change both parties agree to, and get the agreement in writing or save text/e-mail messages about the agreement.
*Do not file false or frivolous complaints against the ex in court, in their job, police reports, child protection reports, with their landlord, in their community, etc
*Do not vent your anger or frustration on your ex. Anything you say can be used against you in court. It is better to stay calm and professional. Keep your personal feelings to yourself. Don’t reveal more than necessary. If it helps you, have a friend or family member be present when making a tough conversation.

If you are struggling with your family court situation and feel overwhelmed, stressed out or unable to cope, you may consider getting additional support. Some helpful places for support are: counseling, support group, domestic violence support/education group, self-help group (meditation, yoga, sand therapy, grief group etc), religious support.

My sincere support and prayers goes out to all those enduring family court litigation, and those trying to rebuild their lives after divorce or separation. Remember the safety, security and happiness of your children should be a Number #1 priority. No matter how hard the battle, the children are worth it! – EJ

FOR MORE INFO:
“How to Enforce Child Custody and Visitation” by Jellygator, Hubpages: http://hubpages.com/hub/My-Ex-Wont-Return-My-Kids-Child-Custody-Problems

“How to Enforce Your Child Custody Order” by Free Advice Staff: http://family-law.freeadvice.com/family-law/child_custody/enforce-child-custody-order.htm

“Violation of a Child Custody or Visitation Order” by Kourosh Akbari, LegalMatch Writer: http://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/violation-of-a-child-custody-or-visitation-order.html

“Violations of Parenting Time Provisions in an Existing Court Order” by Thompson, Hall, Santi, Cerny and Dooley Attorneys at Law: http://thompsonhall.com/violations-of-parenting-time-provisions-in-an-existing-court-order/

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