What should I do if I’m in a litigious, high-conflict custody battle?
It’s helpful if your team (attorney, therapist, etc.) is highly-skilled and experienced in the dynamics of high-conflict custody battles. If you have inexperienced or unethical (hired guns) professionals assigned to your case, they may exacerbate existing problems and even create new ones. Each case is unique and we are not attorneys.
Research any prospective professional who may enter your case. Connecting with other parents in your jurisdiction is valuable. Ask them for their recommendations and experiences.
Custody battles are adversarial. Be wise about how you conduct yourself online and in real life because the opposing party may try to dig up dirt and mischaracterize you.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation is pseudo-science and highly controversial. There is no valid scientific method for identifying parental alienation and thus, it is entirely subjective. There is no consensus whatsoever among professionals or parents about what constitutes parental alienation.
This does not mean that parents do not manipulate children to turn them against the other parents. Such behavior may be psychological or emotional abuse, but alienation is not scientifically validated and much confusion surrounds it.
Claims of alienation are commonly employed as a legal tactic by lawyers and mental health professionals alike. False accusations, submitted with no evidence, lead to the falsely-accused parents being scrutinized and alienated from their children—partially or totally—by way of court proceedings and so-called interventions.
Attorneys and psychologists blur the line between opinion and legal fact when they assert alienation. Its usage in court is a weakness in our adversarial justice system.
There may be reasons for a child pulling away from a parent that do not involve alienation, including:
- A parent and child may have a strained relationship due to how the parent treats this child.
- Older children prefer to spend more time with their friends than parents.
- A child may be adjusting to divorce, going between two homes, different parenting styles, etc.
More information and research here.
What if I’m dissatisfied with my attorney?
You can remove your attorney, and your attorney can withdraw from your case. Removing a lawyer may be beneficial, especially if the attorney is mishandling your case. Try to interview and retain a new attorney prior to letting your current one go. Find an attorney whom you trust to be by your side, and one that is a good fit for you and your case. Realize that new attorneys need to familiarize themselves with cases, and charge to do so.
What can I do if I’ve been falsely diagnosed?
A false or flawed evaluation produced to favor one parent and disfavor the other can be challenging to overcome, not to mention stressful. Each case is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for damage control.
It’s important for you to document all evidence which refutes the findings and opinions in the report. Review it meticulously and make notes on the discrepancies and flaws. If you have an ethical, objective therapist that refutes the false/flawed report, try to get something in writing.
Your attorney may recommend a second opinion. This will cost more money as you’ll see another professional in hopes of a more reliable, accurate and objective assessment.
Can I report professional misconduct?
In most states, there are licensing agencies for attorneys and others, such as mental health professionals. You may report (submit a complaint) to the appropriate licensing board. Unfortunately, it is common for complaints to be dismissed. However, this should not deter us from reporting unethical behavior and misconduct. The more thorough and well-documented your complaint, the better. You may wish to consult your attorney to make sure it’s appropriate and won’t hurt you or your case.
I can’t afford it any longer. What do I do?
One of our goals is to address the financial hardship litigation places on parents, and the harm it causes the children. Custody battles are financially-draining, especially when there’s a large disparity between the two parents’ resources. Parents borrow money and sell homes to pay attorneys and court-ordered professionals. In highly-litigious cases, parents without representation are vulnerable to attack by opposing counsel.
You may be able to find legal aid services in your community, or seek financial relief in court. Ask attorneys and professionals if they will take a reduced fee. Some will work with you.
Another option is to go pro se. Pro se requires diligence, research and hard work because you are acting as your own attorney. Judges may or may not cut you slack. Realistically, it’s not a viable option for everyone or every case.
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