Bullying in Child Custody and Divorce
Updated: Jan 6
We hear words like control and manipulation and harassment, but we at Foxtrot see it for what it is…Bullying. And we’re not just talking about your lunch money here, we’re talking about the Other Side hitting where it hurts the most…your kids.
Bullying in Child Custody can take many forms, and standing up to it is so important not only for your kids but for your own health, physically and mentally. The hard part is that standing up to bullying quite often makes things worse before it makes things better. The good part is that you NEVER have to deal with Bullying in Child Custody alone.
What are some signs of Bullying in Child Custody?
Physical signs are the most obvious. If the Other Side strikes or puts their hands on you in any non-consensual way, this is not only bullying but a crime and a threat to you and your child’s safety that you need to report to the police immediately. Threats of violence, especially over time, can cause even more damage because the fear and stress that a victim of such bullying has to deal with every day, all the while trying to effectively Co-Parent a child.
More subtle signs of bullying exist. Are you physically uncomfortable in the Other Side’s presence? Humans are blessed with more intuition than we give ourselves credit for. Do what you can to get out of that situation asap and take some quiet time, or better yet, meet with a mental health professional to see where that might be coming from. (We, at Foxtrot, implement strategies that (a) minimize the interaction, especially in person, with the Other Side and (b) help Co-Parents and Caring Relatives be as safe and effective as possible when in-person interaction becomes necessary).
Other signs of bullying are all over the internet and can apply just as easily to Child Custody situations as anything else, for example, you can visit https://www.wikihow.com/Know-if-You%27re-Being-Bullied for some more signs and tips.
Things may Get Worse Before They Get Better.
The example or metaphor of a bully taking a victim’s lunch money is a helpful one. It demonstrates the fundamental choice a Committed Parent or Caring Relative has when dealing with a Bully in Child Custody.
The first option is to continue to tolerate the bullying and simply give the Bully your lunch money every day to “buy the peace.”
The second option is to not give up the lunch money. This may escalate the Bullying tactics and lead to a wedgie or worse, but by taking the right steps and working with the right team, is the better long-term option than a life of daily fear and abuse.
Is the Other Side taking your lunch money in your Child Custody case or situation? Have well-meaning but uninformed friends, relatives or others convinced that you just have to “put up with it”?
Lastly, is it worth the fight to make the decision that this victimhood is not who you are and what you want for your children? It gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better. It never will otherwise.
Bullying in Child Custody is not Gender-Specific
Stereotypical Bullying might look like a father bullying a child’s mother and involve violence or threats of violence. That situation is, of course, unacceptable on every level. However, in Child Custody, it’s just as possible for a man to be a victim of Bullying as a woman for several reasons. First, traditionally and in part due to the demographics of family court Judges, mothers in Child Custody typically have more leverage and control to start out. Furthermore, men may (a) feel embarrassed to report or discuss violence, threats of violence or other harassment, (b) feel like the system is stacked against them (it’s not as bad as some think) and or (c) various other traditional gender role conceptions like working outside the home, tending to a child’s healthcare, education or involvement in sports or other extracurricular activities.
More concrete examples of Co-Parent Bullying include disrespectful posts on social media, or worse, false or grossly exaggerated (and confidential) reports to DHR on a parent. Obviously, these are non-gender specific.
If any of this sounds familiar to you or someone you know, we hope and pray that you or that person can get the help they need, whether from Foxtrot Family Law or otherwise. Not all Bullying issues in Child Custody are legal ones, but we routinely refer our clients to points of contact and other professionals who are in the right position to prevent further bullying.