Child Custody Battles; a Lesson from My Child at Dave’s & Busters

“Sometimes the most poignant revelations in life can come from observing the innocence of children.” — Unknown

Custody Battle

Last night we went for dinner at Dave’s and Buster, the kids were all excited and they were going to ‘win BIG and get lots of money’. I smiled and told them to just enjoy the games and if they won prices, that was a bonus and a gift, but not to have expectations. They ran off in excitement discussing which game to play first. Upon returning they were beaming; the oldest with lots of tickets, the younger with just a few, which were actually given by the oldest. We ate our dinner and they went to get their ‘prizes’, having high expectations. They returned with each a ‘nerd stick’. I hugged both of them and told the oldest how proud I am. The biggest winner assured that both came out equally.

Depending on whose research you read, about 80-95% of custody situations get resolved at least reasonably amicable. These parents are excellent candidates for joint or shared custody and their children have great long-term outcomes.

So in about 5-20% of the cases there is high conflict. Conflict is a huge detrimental factor in the wellbeing of the child. Researchers state that parental conflict is the biggest predictor of poor outcome for children. The most powerful determinant is the level and intensity of the conflict. Joint custody is just then harmful for the child. Continued exposure to conflict as a child, whether in a marriage or during/after divorce, leads to depression, low self-esteem, self-blame, acting out, poor social skills and poor relationships as adults.

Advances in neuropsychology have shown that when exposed to conflict, our brains release stress hormones that over time can actually change brain functioning.

That’s scary.

That is what you are doing to your child.

Bill Eddy of High Conflict Institute and many other researchers along with him, have repeatedly stated that in high conflict divorces there is at least 1, more likely 2 parents with a personality disorder. When there are 2 ‘normal’ parents, the issue, while maybe heated at first, will resolve, not maintain or intensify, like with personality disordered individuals. Thank heavens my personality testing came back normal.

A parent with a personality disorder will not stop. Even if they have full/sole custody, they want more, they want omnipotent control. Having physical possession of the child is not enough. They also need the psychological possession, so they will interfere with the relationship with the other parent. The DSM V now calls that psychological child abuse.

Just Googling ‘parenting capacity’ and ‘personality disorder’ will give you a host of links with the long-term detrimental effect of a parent with a PD on children. It is well-recognized that a PD parent is too self-centered to raise children.

A parent with a personality disorder keeps all the tickets and ‘buys the biggest price’ for themselves. It is about possession. The healthy parent may have more tickets, but realizes that a child is not a possession, their love is to be shared equally. The healthy parent must fight, as not fighting will result in loss or deterioration of the relationship with the child. At the same time the healthy parent realizes that ‘winning’ custody does not mean the other parent is out of the child’s life. Contrary, the healthy parent will share, the healthy parent will assure with actions that the other parent continues to receive the love of the child.

I’m still dumbfounded the judge in our situation faulted me for my willingness to share. She called me hypocritical for providing evidence that substantiated sole custody and at the same time being willing to share. Yes, while having a parent with a PD has long-lasting effects on a child, the child still loves that parent.   Having all the tickets, or being awarded sole custody, doesn’t mean I buy the biggest price. I can still share the love of the children.

So the kids bought 2 nerd sticks for $20, just like the expense of a custody battle does not affect the love of a child for their parents. The irony was not lost on me.