Dirty Divorce Tricks Series: Using Children as Weapons

In a perfect world, your children are a gift to be cared for by you and your spouse. When it comes to raising children there are no perfect parents. However, through your best efforts, it is possible to look out for the best interests of your children. That is what children need- both mom and dad trying their best to raise them. Wherever your family is now in terms of its cohesion and unity hopefully you and your spouse can agree on these points. 

When that family cohesion is at an all-time low it comes time in many cases for a divorce to be considered. Divorce used to be a four-letter word in some households. However, in recent years divorce has become much more commonplace. For many reasons, families are more comfortable with getting divorced. For that reason, you need to have a greater appreciation for what divorce brings with it for your family. Assuming that your family is beginning or is contemplating divorce then stick around today.

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan is here to provide you with a warning on a toxic, dirty trick used in many divorces. Namely, using your child as a weapon during a divorce. Not only can this trick prolong the divorce, but it is hurtful towards your child. Interested in learning more? Stick around and spend some time with the attorneys from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Divorce is tough- don’t make it tougher

This blog post is not going to tell you to follow this one simple trick to make divorce easy. No, we’re not an advertisement at the bottom of your favorite internet webpage. There are no easy solutions to a divorce. There are trade-offs. Choosing to do one thing to the exclusion of another. You choose to prepare for an important hearing with your attorney for a whole afternoon. You trade that experience for taking off work and missing your shift. Yes, you paid money to your attorney and then lost money by not working. Again, a trade-off has its pluses and minuses.

You also make a divorce easier by not causing yourself more grief than need be. Involving your children any more in the divorce process than is necessary is a recipe for making the divorce tougher than it must be. Children tend to investigate their own lives and wonder what they did to cause this divorce. Now, we as adults may look at this as being almost silly. How could a small child cause a divorce? Well, remember that children lack experience, perspective, and insight into marriage. As a result, the more you involve your child the greater the chance that your little one assumes that the divorce is his or her fault.

This begs the question- what can you and your spouse do to avoid putting your children in a position where they can be used to facilitate a dirty trick? It starts with communication. Yes, the one thing that is probably missing from your marriage is also what is needed to make the divorce peaceful. Work on your communication with your spouse early in the divorce. Be it through an attorney or directly to your co-parent. Try and communicate with him or her as best as possible. Make sure he or she is aware that you do not want your children involved in this process any more than necessary.

Dirty tricks involving children can start at the beginning of a divorce

It does not take long for some parents to involve their children in dirty tricks related to divorce. Consider this example and think about whether your spouse would be capable of something like this. You file for divorce from your spouse. In that process, you make every effort to inform your co-parent of what you are doing. The divorce was discussed with him before you filed. Once you did file you attempted to talk to him about the case. In your mind, you are doing everything right to make this as painless as possible.

However, your husband does not return that goodwill to you. He completely ignores you when it comes to having a conversation about the divorce before you file. That has always been his way of dealing with a tough subject- to avoid it altogether. Probably a sign as to why he wants to avoid this situation as much as he is. Now that you have filed for divorce, he is not returning your text messages or phone calls. This makes it difficult to have a meaningful conversation about these important issues with him. 

On top of that, when you were at work your husband picked the kids up from school one afternoon and had a conversation with them about the divorce. In many situations, this is entirely fine. However, in this situation, your husband presented a slanted, one-sided picture of the divorce. No surprise here but blamed you for the divorce and made sure the children were aware that you were the parent who filed the case. He did not reassure the kids of anything. Mainly he absolved himself of any wrongdoing and left the kids with a lot of questions.

Children and manipulation in divorce

Unfortunately, it is not out of the question that a spouse would manipulate your children in the divorce. All is fair in love and war as they say. Well, a divorce is a combination of both of those things so buckle up. It is important to understand that the higher the stakes in a divorce the more likely that manipulation of this sort will take place. Of course, you cannot constantly be around your children to prevent your spouse from doing something like this. However, there are steps you can take to minimize the threat of this type of divorce dirty trick.

First, you should make every effort to talk to your children about the divorce. Preferably this is done with your spouse. Reassure the kids that the divorce is not their fault. Talk to them about how their lives are going to be impacted. Help them understand that this is a process, and it takes time. Otherwise, be there for your children as best as you can. It is not a given that the kids take to heart what a manipulative parent tells them. However, they may listen intently and blame themselves for the divorce. 

What your spouse is attempting to do by this manipulation is to alienate them from you. This is a whole different level of divorce dirty trick that is related to the subject of your children. When you find yourself in a situation where your spouse is attempting to pit your children against you then you need to act. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help. With free-of-charge consultations six days a week, we are easy to meet with. Asking questions and receiving feedback about your specific situation is how we help you at the beginning, middle, or even end of a divorce.

Divorce dirty trick – parental alienation

From our experience representing parents across the state of Texas, parental alienation is not a well-known dirty trick, but it should be. You are undoubtedly familiar with what parental alienation looks like even if you are not familiar with the term “alienation.” To alienate someone is to make him or her feel foreign to you in some way. I can alienate you in a restaurant by smacking my food, shouting at the server, and generally causing a commotion. You would not want to sit next to me and have a meal if I acted like that in public. 

The same idea holds in the context of marriage and divorce. Your spouse sought out your children early in the divorce. He identified them to upset you. By talking to the children about the divorce without you he presented a one-sided view of the divorce. He left out all the faults that he has played in the marriage and placed all the blame for the divorce on your shoulders. What he also did was purposefully leave out context and any details that may help the kids understand the divorce better. 

What the children were left with was a situation where they did not understand the divorce or what it meant to them. By sharing information about the inner workings of your marital relationship he confused the children, as well. Kids may understand that mom and dad are married but they are children at the end of the day. The dynamics of marriage and the complex emotions that go into a marriage are foreign concepts to them. The children left that conversation confused. However, one thing that was not confusing was that they placed the blame for the divorce on your shoulders. 

Alienation in a divorce will continue to happen unless you take action

Identifying alienating behavior by your spouse is only half the battle. It’s a difficult battle considering that you are not going to be around when your spouse engages in this type of behavior. It does not make sense for him to try and manipulate the children in this way while you are around. Rather, he will wait until he is with the kids alone. Free from any sort of concern over what you would tell the kids your spouse can present the divorce and you in whatever form he wants. 

Once the divorce gets going and he has possession of the children for extended periods this type of behavior only gets worse. Imagine your spouse taking your children over to his parents’ home for dinner. Your children would be exposed to this type of manipulation not only from your spouse but possibly from his parents as well. Surround-sound manipulation is what your children must look forward to. 

Many times, children do not even understand that the manipulation is going on. They are oblivious to it while it happens. If you were to ask them about it when they get home, they may forget that it even happened. However, the damage is already done. This is a dirty trick that is nearly impossible to prevent if you do not act quickly. Fortunately, there are ways to go about preventing this dirty trick from being one that impacts your family in a long-lasting negative way. 

Taking steps to prevent parental alienation

Have a plan that is oriented towards achieving the goals that you set out for yourself in the divorce. This is easier said than done in some cases. There is so much coming at you towards the beginning of a divorce. You need access to information, but that information is hard to come by. The information you do see can’t always be trusted. It is a tough situation to find yourself in, no doubt about it. Where do you turn at a time like this?

First, working with an experienced family law attorney serves you well. Once you identify that the alienating behavior is ongoing it is time to act. First, when you file for divorce request temporary orders as a part of your filing. These temporary orders are effective for up to 28 days after your divorce is filed. The temporary orders contain prohibitions against certain conduct by you and your spouse. This is a key part of counteracting the alienating behavior.

One of the prohibitions should be against alienating behavior. Work with your attorney on how to include language in those proposed temporary orders. A judge reviews those proposed orders and decides whether to allow them or not. Requesting that no dirty trick behavior like this goes on is not unreasonable. A judge is very likely going to approve that request you make. This way you have an option to pursue if your co-parent does try to alienate your children from you.

Additional steps used to prevent dirty tricks from being used against you

A court order which states that no alienating behavior is tolerated will not stop your co-parent from acting this way. For one, your spouse is not the type of person to honor the written orders of a judge who is many miles away from him. Two, it is difficult to enforce a temporary order that prohibits alienating behavior. It is your word against your spouse’s word situation. There isn’t much physical evidence that is collected in a situation like this. 

Asking your child to come into court and testify against your co-parent is not realistic. This is a response many parents in your shoes have to this issue. Judges are not in favor of having children testify in court. This is especially true when the testimony is in favor of one parent and against the other. Therefore, do not expect that your child is going to be able to appear in court to substantiate what you are saying. 

Going the extra mile for our clients is what the Law Office of Bryan Fagan does

So how can you counteract parental alienation before it becomes a major problem for your family? We have covered how it is not easy to do. Enforcing temporary or even final orders on this point takes evidence. An enforcement case puts you in a position where you need to present specific evidence of what you are attempting to enforce. Specific dates, times, and other details about the violation of the court order are necessary.

This is not to say that attempting to enforce your court orders when it comes to parental alienation is not a good idea. However, to win on this point you need an experienced family law attorney to support you. An enforcement case is not only challenging to win in the courtroom but some steps are taken before court that involve negotiating. Sometimes simply filing the enforcement lawsuit makes it possible for you to avoid court altogether. This requires a firm hand and a plan when it comes to negotiations. 

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are skilled at being able to help you in a situation like this. The harms of parental alienation are potentially long-lasting. This is a dirty trick that is particularly hard to combat. As a result, having a plan matters here more than in other situations in family law. We help families from across Texas develop strategies to combat parental alienation. We can do the same for you. Thank you for choosing to spend part of your day with us today on our blog. Our attorneys post interesting and informative posts each day of the week and we hope you join us again tomorrow.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan    

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Interested in learning more about how your family is impacted by the material in this blog post? Contact us today.

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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