Possession May Be Nine-tenths of the Law. But Children Should Not Be Chattels.

The weakness of the legal system arises in its reliance on precedent where what happened yesterday is presumed to define what should or will happen today. Parenting should not be decided with a cookie cutter approach.


Few men stay at home and take care of the children full time while their spouse works outside the home. This means that when relationships break down it is the mother who lays claim to the children. And, it seems, the courts are there to support her by saying the child’s life should not change. So, the mother becomes the primary court sanctioned caregiver. It seems that the removal of their father from the children’s lives is not a ‘change’ worthy of the court’s consideration. This continues and becomes the ‘usual order of business’ as far as parenting is concerned. The ‘status quo’.

The scene has been set. If allowed to continue long enough the court will say that it is now too late to change and continuing the status quo gets the courts seal of approval.


Parenting should not be seen as a scarcity activity where the time your spouse spends with the children lessens the importance of your time with them. Increasingly, parenting estrangement is becoming the default mode of litigated separations where one parent’s role in providing a safe and secure environment for a child is downgraded or reduced by the other (estranging) parent whose self-worth and identity is so closely tied with control of the child, as if the child is a chattel to be possessed, that the child’s best interests are made secondary to the interests of the estranging parent. When estrangement is successful in turning a child against the other parent it is called alienation.


Expensive reports are needed to uncover what lies below. Many, unable to pay for the reports, have to be satisfied with dealing with what is at the surface, floating on the water like an oil spill, for all to see and polluting the relationship between one parent and their child.

In one case a parent was identified in a report as showing parenting behaviors that were clearly intended to sever the relationship between the child and the other parent. After a short period of shared parenting the alienating parent (alienation- systematically taking steps to exclude the other parent from the life of the child) was returned to being the primary caregiver and the other parent’s time reduced to a few hours every alternate week end. When, after a change of counsel, the court was two years later confronted with the question of ‘why the change was made’ it was not able to point to the evidence that supported that decision. Neither was the lawyer who had been successful in getting the change from shared parenting held to account. And the Mental Health professionals who sat in the Court room and silently allowed the father to be extracted from his daughter’s life held to account for their part in the problem. To add insult to injury the visits were supervised at the cost of the ‘alternate weekend parent’ and the situation (Mom poisoning the child’s mind about her father) had continued for over two years.


Another case involved a father who was allowed to be alone with his children despite being the subject of child pornography charges. No supervision was required. The father was subsequently found guilty of the charges. To add insult to injury the Court made the Mother responsible for taking the children to and from those visits.


In another case a mother who had been shown through court ordered drug testing to be addicted to cocaine was allowed to continue as primary care giver for a child. It took over three years to get that parenting plan changed and the child’s care transferred to the father’s stable and supportive home and new family. Yet it was not the court that made the decision. A prior consent order had been worded in such a way that upon mother’s failed drug test the prescribed sanction tied the courts hands and forced the change in residential care.


Justice is what people look to receive from the court. Many times the courts just put the problem on ‘ice’. The legal term is called ‘the status quo’. The colloquial term is procrastination. The best description is court supported child abuse.

The Art & Science of Dispute Resolution

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