of parenting is child abuse!
Family Justice Review Committee believes in a number of basic principles
when it comes to the issue of interference of parenting. Some of
these principles are:
parents who interfere with a child's parenting time with another
parent are indeed perpetrating a form of emotional abuse and
that interference in a parent-child bond may not only produce
lifelong alienation from a loving parent, but lifelong psychiatric
disturbance in the child. A parent who interferes with access
is bringing about a disruption of a psychological bond that could,
in the vast majority of cases, prove of great value to the child,
regardless of the relationship between the parents.
who interfere with access are failing to act in the best interests
of their own child and are in fact failing in their duties as
the courts must give serious consideration to interference of
parenting when deciding the custodial status of the parent.
parents who intentionally interfere with their child parenting time with
the other parent pose special difficulties not only for the children and
the families involved, but also for the courts. Interference of access
is one of the most commonly reported abuses of children by their parent
with interference being carried out in the vast majority of times by the
parent who has sole custodial status.
of parenting can be so stressful and emotionally charged that some
parents have been known to murder a parent who was denying access to the
children. Most professionals refer to the condition where children
become alienated from their parents as Parental Alienation Syndrome.
and Stott (1992) consider Parental Alienation Syndrome to be an example
of what they refer to as "the psychologically battered child"
and describe it specifically, by name, as one form of child battering.
Rogers (1992) identifies five types of psychological maltreatment:
rejecting, terrorizing, ignoring, isolating, and corrupting, and then
describes how each of these types may be seen in the Parental Alienation
Syndrome. The courts would do well for the child to consider the parent
denying access as a serious parental deficit when weighing the pros and
cons of which parent may be best suited for custody.. Any form of
emotional abuse must given serious consideration when weighing all of
the factors considered relevant in determining the "best interest
of the child" (Link to "Best
interests of child")
is crucial that the courts take all necessary steps to ensure that the
bond between the child and one parent is protected from the
actions of the other parent who abuses the child through interference of
If any parents have any
doubts about the long term effect of interference of access on children
and how this ultimately backfires on the parents in later years should
read this tragic letter from one girl to her mother shortly after she
turned 18 years of age. This girl's mother denied access to
this girl's father when she was only 4 years of age. Link
to letter yet the girl still remembered. In this case
the mother tried to move the children away to a northern Ontario
community so that their father could not see them.
standard visitation guidelines are imposed, the interfering parent
will choose not to comply. They will often not show up at
neutral sites or continuously be late.
interfering parent will intentionally arrange other activities for
the children when it is time for the children to be with the other
parent and then tell the other parent that the children don't want
to come over to visit.
the child at frequent intervals to interfere with the other parent's
interfering parent will choose babysitters or daycare providers that
are friend who side with the interfering parent. Often the
other parent is not even allowed any input to the selection of a
the police are called to assist in a visitation transfer, they will
be told that the nonresidential parent got the dates mixed up and is
"out of turn"; if the court order is date and time
specific, the child will be elsewhere or will have been manipulated
to "act out" in such a way that the police officer is
unwilling to intervene.
interfering parent may do whatever is necessary to prevent the other
parents from visiting their child at school. The interfering
parent may tell the principal that the non-custodial parent has no
school visitation rights; the teacher may be told that the visiting
parent is likely to kidnap the child; the guidance counselor may be
told there are legal papers restricting access to the child. In
extreme cases, the interfering parent may transfer the child to
interfering parent may become a school volunteer for the purpose of
policing the child's classroom and making the other parent
uncomfortable with coming to the school.
non-custodial parent's access to the child's extracurricular
activities also may be a target. For example, if the non-custodial
parent attempts to watch the child play on the Little League
baseball team, the custodial parent may use the same
"tricks" he or she used at school. As a result, the coach
may be afraid to give the non-custodial parent a copy of the team
schedule and/or other parents may avoid the visiting parent as
though he or she has the plague.
each of the examples above, the interfering parent gets just what he or
she is after, usually the feeling of power and a sense of revenge
against the other parent. Outsiders often prefer not to get
involved, so no one with authority is monitoring the situation. As a
consequence, the child and the non-custodial parent lose a precious part
of their life together. For the child the damage is life-long.
What can be done to
stop interference of parenting
Just like children learn
by teaching them consequences, parents who interfere with a child's
parenting time with the other parent must be taught that there are
consequences for emotionally abusing their child through interference of
parenting. The court must be effective in ensuring that consequences are
administered. Parents who learn that violating a Court Order does
not have any consequences will only be encouraged to violate again.
In one case in Oshawa,
Ontario, a vindictive custodial mother was found in contempt of a court
Order 60 times for violating the children's parenting time with the
father, yet, when the judge passed sentence, he ordered the mother to
pay a $1 (one dollar) fine. Needless, to say, that as soon as the
mother walked out from the courtroom, she continued to prevent the
children from seeing their father and to this day the children are
unable to see their father. Yet the father was ordered to pay the
mother $600 per month in child support while the court did nothing to
help the children maintain their relationship with their father.
The legal process eventually bankrupted the father and after the father
ran out of money, the Ontario Government took away his drivers license.
He was then forced onto poverty and onto welfare.
stop the needless abuse of children, the Courts must:
a first step, to ensure fairness and to ensure in its orders that
BOTH parents are treated equally. This is the most powerful and
effective way for the court to gain respect for its orders..
parenting and shared responsibilities in raising the child must be
given top consideration. When both parents know that they have
a legally recognized status in their child's life, then both parents
will focus on maintaining their status by being the best parent they
can rather than trying to get the other parent out of the child's
life and risk having their parenting status removed by the court.
BOTH parents the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to parent
the child before making any final custody Order. When both
parents know they will have the opportunity to demonstrate their
parenting abilities their will be less incentive to make false
allegations during the early stages of separation.
factors considered relevant to the "best interest of the
child" must be considered each and every time that matters
affecting custody are reviewed. Special considerations must be
made to the parent that demonstrates the willingness and disposition
to promote a relationship with the other parent and to consistently
act in the best interests of the child.
severe cases, where parents flaunt the law, and continue to abuse
their child by interference of access, then imprisonment must be
considered as an option.
In summary, the courts
can be effective tool in eliminating child abuse caused by interference
of access, providing they exercise their power in an appropriate and
WHAT MAKES AN EFFECTIVE
of the points that an effective Court order will include
clearly specified hierarchy of penalties for the custodial parent
based on the nature of the offenses committed: The court order
should provide clear-cut provisions for how a situation is to be
handled if a parent violates the terms of the order. The penalties
should be clearly outlined in a step-by-step manner and administered
court must be willing to carry out those penalties as necessary to
ensure that the parents respect the Order of the Court.
Orders must clearly specify the dates, rimes, and conditions of
visitation exactly. The court cannot leave it up to the custodial
parent to carry out the visitation. It must direct all the parties
around the custodial parent to comply, not only one of the parents.
All loopholes typically found in most traditional court Orders must
be closed up.
in situations where one of the parent has been late in exchanging a
child, that make up times be allotted to the other parent including
a penalty. In this way, the interfering parent learns that
there is nothing to gain by attempting to interfere with the child's
access to the other parent.
that a third party to monitor the family and act as a mediator
and/or conflict resolution person. This will help ensure that the
parents mind their manners until such time as they have learned new
skills to cope with a co-parenting arrangement and cooler emotions
of an individual to monitor and supervise the parents until such
time as the parents have developed new skills as parents and have
addressed their hostile emotions. The monitor should be
someone who is agreeable to both parties or someone in whom the
court has confidence.
authorization for parents to have the rights to any and all records
and information from the school and to permit both parents free
access to the child during school hours.
authorization for both parents to deal with all personnel involved
in any activity involving the child to provide whatever rightful
access is due the non-custodial parent: The court order should state
clearly that any individual representing any organization that
involves the child, be it educational, financial, medical,
professional, recreational, religious, or otherwise, is instructed
to provide both parents full and open access to any and all
activities, information, schedules, and any other pertinent items or
knowledge relevant to their involvement with the child.
clause to reserve the right of the parents, upon mutual consent to
make minor changes to the contents of the court order so that it can
be flexible to meet changing needs.
higher conflict situations it is suggested that a precisely defined
neutral location for visitation transfers be chosen.
Ideally, the chosen site should be in a neutral setting where
conflict is less likely to occur and when there is no strategic
advantage for the interfering parent. Examples include the lobby of
a police station, a church leader's office, the main entrance to a
shopping center, the home of a mutually agreeable third party such
as a family coordinators, or an access center.
clause to reserve the right of the court to modify the contents of
the court order at any time and the right to enforce it in any
manner deemed necessary. This clause provides the court full
discretion for the implementation, modification, and enforcement of
the court order.
non interference clause that clearly state that any individual
involved in any activity with the child to not engage in any
behavior that would cause interference with the relationship
between the child and either of the parents. The court order
should state clearly that this directive applies to any
individual involved with the child in any capacity (such as group
functions, instructional activities, professional activities, recreational
events, team sports, etc.), including but not limited to friends,
relatives, neighbors, professionals, and other acquaintances.
time parents who interfere with access, do so without those around them
knowing what they are doing. Parents will sometimes deny access
and then tell neighbours that the other parent did not show up.
Interfering parents, in general, know that interference in access is
wrong and will attempt to continue to do so providing that they feel
that they can do it without others around them knowing the truth.
If a parent knows that their friends and neighbours will find out about
what they are doing, in most cases they will cease their behaviour.
some cases, the court may direct the violating parent to make his or
her problem with visitation interference a public event: the
court might make the violating parent's "recovery"
public as well. Thus, one might consider having the violating
to the children and victimized parent in the courtroom and promise to
not interfere again;
a letter of apology to other involved individuals, such as school personnel,
team sports coaches, and the like; or sign a statement
affirming commitment to the contents of the court order and requesting
anyone who reads it to abide by it.