As a caring father, you naturally want to make sure that your divorce has a minimal disruptive effect on your children. Therefore, your custody case is likely to be centered on getting the right division of living arrangements to ensure your kids are well supported by both parents. Unfortunately, your ex may not take the same attitude.
Men in Florida already have challenges related to the reputation the state’s family court system has for prioritizing mothers in custody cases. However, you may find that this is exacerbated by your former spouse’s determination to deprive you of a relationship with your children. Malicious parent syndrome has become a common problem for fathers.
Let’s take a look at what malicious parent syndrome is and how you and your attorney can respond to it.
The Definition of Malicious Parent Syndrome
So, what is malicious parent syndrome? This is a pattern of behavior that a parent exhibits when they intentionally aim to disrupt their children’s relationship with the other parent. There can be various incentives to do this. In some instances, it is to fulfill a personal emotional need to be considered the “better” parent in their children’s eyes. At others, it can be a form of “revenge” used to punish their former spouse. Some parents utilize this as a tactic in custody cases to sway the outcome in their favor.
The divorce and custody process can be a strain on everyone involved. It’s certainly not unusual for parents to harbor a sense of animosity or bitterness toward one another even for a while after the process has concluded. Children can pick up on this behavior and it can influence their opinions. However, not all such behavior is considered to be consistent with malicious parent syndrome. Rather, the key hallmark of this issue is intention. Your ex must be purposefully trying to turn your children against you in order for the term to genuinely apply.
The Forms it Can Take
Malicious parent syndrome encompasses a range of behavior. Indeed, some of the aspects you may not recognize immediately as being problematic. This is why it is so important to work with an attorney experienced in Florida family law and communicate openly about your concerns. They will be able to alert you to behavior that suggests this syndrome is in place and how to deal with it. Some of the key forms of malicious parent syndrome you should be aware of include:
SHARING NEGATIVE INFORMATION. Perhaps the most common behavior exhibited in this syndrome is directly badmouthing a former spouse. Your ex may share personal information about you or your habits that is not appropriate for your children to be a party to. This can be especially prevalent when extramarital relations have contributed to divorce. Though, it’s not unusual for a former spouse to generally voice their opinions of your actions as a husband or what they feel you do wrong as a father. Whether or not these elements are accurate is largely immaterial. Neither parent should be placing their ex in a negative light when in the company of your shared children.
LYING ABOUT BEHAVIOR OR CIRCUMSTANCES. It may be the case that your ex doesn’t stop at sharing personal information with your children. They may feel that they can harm your relationship with your children effectively by lying to them about your actions. This may be relatively mild in nature, such as inaccurately suggesting that you were inattentive to your wife and kids during your marriage. Others may be more extreme in nature, such as claiming that you have acted illegally or abusively.
REFUSING VISITATION. In some instances, you may have limited access to your kids while awaiting the outcome of your custody case. Unfortunately, your ex may utilize this to further alienate you from your children. They might even refuse your previously agreed interim custody arrangements to prevent you spending valuable time with your kids. Furthermore, they might lie to your children, claiming that the reason you aren’t maintaining agreed visitation is because you don’t want to see them. Such actions are both heartbreaking and potentially damaging to your relationship with your kids. In these instances, it is vital to work with your attorney to address lapses in visitation as soon as possible.
The Consequences of Malicious Parent Syndrome
Just as the behavior associated with malicious parent syndrome can be varied, the consequences of it can take a range of forms. Understanding these can prevent you from treating the signs your ex is acting maliciously in too casual a manner. Such consequences are potentially life-changing for everyone, but with an aggressive family law attorney experienced in representing Florida men, you can mitigate these. Nevertheless, you should be cognizant of potential consequences that include:
DISRUPTED RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILD. Perhaps the most important consequence of malicious parent syndrome is the potential for disrupting your relationship with your child. You ex’s actions are specifically designed to turn your child against you through damaging their connection with and opinions of you. This can mean that you lose the respect and trust they feel for you. If your ex’s malicious behavior is allowed to continue, it may take years to undo the damage they cause to your relationship with your kids.
AN UNFAIR CUSTODY OUTCOME. If your ex is successful in their malicious efforts, this may cause your child to express a desire to reside primarily with their mother rather than you. Indeed, if your ex uses more extreme lies, your child may say they don’t want contact with you at all. As Florida family courts take the child’s wishes into account, this may result in a skewed custody division.
MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES. It’s important to recognize that the consequences of malicious parent syndrome are not limited to the court case. The rift it can cause in your relationship with your child and the resulting unfair custody arrangements may disrupt the well-being of both you and your child. It may trigger or exacerbate mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
Responding to Malicious Parent Syndrome
Malicious parent syndrome is not something that should be allowed to develop during or beyond your custody case. While the consequences of this type of behavior can be concerning, it’s important to recognize that you’re not entirely powerless in the situation. Indeed, as this is a common feature of divorce and custody cases in Florida, there are methods to handle the situation. However, it is vital that you collaborate with an experienced family law attorney rather than go at it alone.
Your first step is to reach out to your attorney and discuss any concerns you have that your ex may be attempting to turn your children against you. It doesn’t matter if you just have a vague notion of this happening, you should voice your suspicions. Your attorney can then help you to formulate a forward plan of action.
This may include processes to gather information and evidence to support your position. A list of dates, times, and other details in which your ex has acted maliciously can be a good start. Witness statements from friends, family, and community members regarding your former spouse’s actions can also be helpful. Text messages or emails refusing prearranged visitation are powerful components of your case, too. Your attorney can then petition the court regarding this behavior. In more extreme instances, the court may request a professional assess your children for signs of parental alienation.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We have years of experience representing fathers in challenging custody cases involving malicious parent syndrome. Our experience and skills help to guide our clients through the challenges of the Florida family law courts and reach a fair outcome. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.