Ok, it’s not meant to be funny but just so you can see for yourself what DV survivor moms are looking at/dealing with, take a look at this - from a DV survivor mom's actual Decree Granting Absolute Divorce And Awarding Child Custody: (As you read the “terms and conditions” imagine not only how they would be upheld and enforced in a DV case but how they would be complied with and maintained in an intact, non-divorcing family.) Under the heading “Protection From Parental Disputes”
- Neither Party shall engage in, nor permit or encourage any step-parent, fiancé, significant other, grandparent or other relative or other associate, to criticize, disparage, demand, insult, or otherwise “bad-mouth” the other Party, step-parent, significant other, or grandparent to the Child or in the presence or in the hearing of the Child. This prohibition shall apply even to information that is truthful and accurate.
- Neither Party shall fight (verbally or physically) – in person or by telephone – in the presence or hearing of the Child.
- Neither Party shall align or attempt to align the Child against the other Party (or other relative) nor allow or encourage anyone else (including relatives and friends) to do so.
- Neither Party shall ask the Child to pass orders or instructions or uncomplimentary messages to the other Party (orally or in writing).
- Neither Party shall ask the Child to “keep secrets from” the other Party, or ask or encourage the Child to lie to the other Party about events or persons the Child experienced during a visit with the other Party, grandparent or relative.
- Neither Party shall ask the Child to “spy on” the other Party or the Party’s lifestyle or household nor ask any detailed, “probing” questions about the other Party, or lifestyle or household of the other Party.
- Both Parents shall encourage a positive parent-child relationship between the Child and both parents, and not say or do anything (including “grimace” or put on a “long face”) to adversely affect the Child’s love for the other Party.
- Neither Party shall interfere with the parent-child relationship with the other Party, and neither Party shall conceal the Child from the other Party during the other Party’s period of responsibility.
All of the foregoing is subject to further order of the court.
I’ll stick to DV-related comments first. What cracks me up is who came up with this list of post-divorce “Dos & Don’ts” because the list mirrors so many of the tactics and behaviors that abusers engage in post-separation (and during the marriage too actually…) No bad-mouthing, grimacing, probing, spying or keeping secrets? What else is an abuser to do with his kids during his parenting time then? And no physical fighting allowed? If someone had respected this rule in the first place then there might not be a need to have it written into a divorce decree, no?
For those readers with no abuse history or DV exposure, can you imagine these terms and conditions even applying to your family? Probably not because non-violent, non-abusive parents don’t behave this way towards one another – the thoughts would not even cross their minds or if they did (in a worst-case scenario, ie: suspected cheating) the investigating spouse would feel a sense of shame about engaging in any of these behaviors – the contrast is that when abusers engage in these behaviors, they don’t feel shame but entitlement and will justify themselves if caught – no genuine remorse, regret or embarrassment.
Another question I have about this list is about enforcement: What happens if someone violates any of the terms and conditions? Is one Party actually going to call the Honolulu Police Station to report his/her ex-spouse for passing an uncomplimentary message along or for bad-mouthing the other Party? Just imagine the poor officer who’d be on the receiving end of that report! And if bad-mouthing the other parent was an actual crime, my mother would have been picked up and jailed decades ago with no chance of parole! (AND they’re still married AND I seriously think she cannot help/stop herself even if she tried/was threatened with jail time at this point – I’m dead serious, NOT joking.) That’s why simple “Parental Alienation” outside of coercive and abusive physical/psychological tactics is total BS by-the-way.
If bad-mouthing is coupled with threats, negative consequences and beatings, someone might be more inclined to buy in to the nastiness but only to avoid or stop the accompanying abuse. Bad-mouthing in and of itself in the short term may hurt children's feelings or impact their self-esteem but as they mature they'll just equate the bad-mouther as a petty loser who just "talks smack" BUT couple bad-mouthing with physical and/or psychological tactics and then the "bad-mouthing" becomes abuse that we call brainwashing, coercive control and/or Stockholm Syndrome - and guess what - those are all forms of abuse NOT the end result of abuse: alienation. As a little kid I wasn’t going to challenge or defy my mother's bad-mouthing (cause then there was abuse!) but since no one could/would make her stop, you go from tuning out to rolling eyes to walking away permanently.
Another thing to keep in mind about all this is the "fun" and manipulative side of abuse because abuse isn't always outwardly ugly all of the time - if it were, it'd be that easy to identify. As distasteful as this analogy is going to sound, a survivor is her abuser's favorite "chew toy" and how he plays with his toy is a sick game of his own creation.
A child's world is all about play and that's the abuser's level of engagement with his children. For example: giving the kids plastic knives and teaching them a "new and fun game" called "Let's Kill Mommy With a Knife" will have the kids squealing with delight as they run around the abuser's house waving their knives in the air with the abuser applauding them and smiling approvingly. How do you think that game is going to go over when it's played back at Mom's house? The kids won't understand Mom's negative reaction to the game because the abuser's reaction was so positive and if Mom reports the disturbing game, the abuser and kids will say they were "only playing" (and whose going to punish a father for playing with his children?) Take it a step further: what are the kids going to think about their mom who makes a big deal "out of nothing", ruins their fun and tries to get Dad into trouble?
The games change as the kids do so an abuser will do "supportive" things to manipulate teens by taking advantage of their rebellious nature and independence-seeking development. The type of games played will be more like "No Rules Apply Here", "Fun First, Homework Second", "Porn Is a Man's Right of Passage" and "Dress Up" will take on a whole 'nother meaning for a teenage girl when Daddy takes her shopping and tells her how beautiful she looks in provocative, age-inappropriate, mom-would-never-approve "clothing".
Getting back to the survivor mom’s divorce decree that I’m telling you about here… The funny “Protection From Parental Disputes” aside, there’s also a really scary side to the decree. Mom has a Protection Order (PO) against the abuser with indisputable documented evidence and photos to accompany the abuse allegations, but this is all evidence the judge has not seen because the divorce never went to hearing and never went to trial. The “popular thing” to do these days is settle the case outside of a formal court hearing and/or stipulate to divorce and custody terms without evidentiary proceedings. The theory is to treat divorcing cases in a “friendly” manner to model and promote long-term friendliness between the Parties. Again, this is great for non-abuse cases but in this particular case (aside from the mention of an expiring PO) there is no mention of the physical abuse and the long history of domestic terrorism that tore this family apart.
The terms of visitation for this abuse-related case will be no different than a non-abuse-related case once the PO has expired. What I’d like to know is what the heck is everyone thinking?
- Does physical separation end domestic violence? No.
- Does leaving the abuser and divorcing end domestic violence? No.
- Does the expiration date of a Protection Order or TRO officially end domestic violence? No.
- Does a PO, TRO, court orders or the law stop domestic violence? No.
How do you think Parental Parity, friendly-parent provisions, joint custody, shared parenting, co-parenting, cooperation, unsupervised visitation, open communication, equal access, mediation, settling and stipulating fare against DV situations if the law, protection and court orders can’t even stop it?
As much as I’d like it to be, DV is no laughing matter so I hope to live to see the day where DV will be taken seriously and I’ll be able to read a survivor mom’s Decree Granting Absolute Divorce And Awarding Child Custody that isn’t a joke.