Abusers of the Family Court System, You're On Notice
and to the victims of this abuse, I see you.
If you’ve ever met a victim of litigation abuse, you probably know the helpless feeling of witnessing a situation that is both painfully unjust and devastating to the lives of children.
Cornell Law School defines vexatious litigation as “legal proceedings started with malice and without good case… meant to bother, embarrass, or cause legal expenses to the defendant.”
I never knew this was a thing until I started hearing similar stories from distraught single parents, mostly mothers, whose lives were gradually being torn apart by relentless litigation and other forms of harassment. It’s astonishing to see the creativity, effort and financial resources that some people will dedicate to the destruction of another human being. More astonishing still is that the targets are generally the guardians of their own child/children. And, in many cases, those children are used as pawns… or wielded as weapons.
It’s hard to watch our own tax dollars feed a system that is often used to destroy the lives of the very people it was created to protect. But this happens. Every. Single. Day.
Abusers usually target mothers and allow their kids to become the collateral damage.
Unfortunately, post-separation legal abuse goes largely unrecognized.
From the Psychology Today article:
Guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, and judges often mistakenly identify custody disputes involving a domestic abuser as “high conflict divorces.” The term “high conflict divorce” suggests symmetrical and parallel escalation from both parties. However, in most “high conflict” divorce cases, what we are really seeing is one “party who is drawn towards, rather than away from, conflict” (Rosenfeld et al., 2019).
These cases are marked by one “high conflict litigant” who exerts power by dragging their ex into court repeatedly. In other words, an abuser creates a series of court complications to make a divorce or custody case impossible to resolve, so it continues for years. The problem is not the couple—the problem is one member of the couple and should be handled accordingly. The abuser wants the case to drag on, relishing these opportunities to continue to make the ex-partner suffer…
…Psychologically, the stress of prolonged court battles can be devastating to the protective parent and to the children.
The targets of this abuse are generally single parents, many with high needs children and limited incomes. And while you may not see broken bones or bruises, the abuse is very real. Their ex-partners are bullies that exploit the legal system, school systems, medical systems, child protective services, law enforcement, and, when they can, their own children to wreak havoc on the lives of their targets. Many deliberately malign and shame their victims destroy their reputations and credibility, and even their faith in themselves.
These mothers, and their children, often live in fear of the next visit from a police officer or child protective services…. or whatever the next retaliatory measure might be.
In many cases, teachers, doctors, therapists and even friends will distance themselves from these families in order to avoid harassment and retaliatory litigation, depriving children of much-needed support. This creates profound instability for the children, who often develop anxiety and behavioral problems of their own.
Christine Hammond’s 2016 article, How Narcissists Use the Courts to Continue Their Abuse, describes 8 common bullying tactics, including frivolous lawsuits, making false accusations, finding legal loopholes and filing senseless motions.
Onemomsbattle.com created a Post Separation Abuse Wheel that highlights other tactics.
“Counter Parenting” is one I see often.
According to One Mom’s Battle, counter parenting occurs when an ex-partner:
• Undermines the safe parent’s parenting abilities and decisions
• Denies or withholds consent/care for child’s medical or therapeutic needs
• Seeks to impose opposing values in the child to spite the safe parent
Imagine doing this to your own child to spite your ex. Imagine how it impacts a child. There are parents who spend considerable portions of their day preparing back-up plans or pondering reverse psychology methods in order to get the needs of their children met.
It shouldn’t be this way.
Mention the plights of these parents to any family law insider and they will readily acknowledge the brokenness of the system. But sadly, these predatory bullies are a steady source of income for unscrupulous litigators. Ironically, ex-partners who refuse to pay for services for their own children likely end up sending their lawyer’s kids to college.
This needs to stop.
So, while we’re exposing all the broken systems, let’s make sure this one crumbles with the rest of them. Family Law was intended to be a safe haven for children, not predators. Children deserve better. So do the parents who work hard to provide better futures for them.
Long-suffering mamas, I see you. And I’m sending you love.