Thwarting Harm or Defying the Other Parent: Parental Gatekeeping and Custody Fights
We’ve heard lots of complaints about situations where the other parent unreasonably cuts off content between a mother and her child. It’s a practice called gatekeeping.
Not allowing phone calls, cutting visitation time short with the other parent, having the child conveniently unavailable for a scheduled Skype call or Facetime, refusing to share information about the child’s school plans and activities: these tactics are parental gatekeeping measures that intended either to shield a child from harm or simply to make things difficult for the other parent.
The Risk of Threats and Real Harm
Sometimes parental gatekeeping is grounded in reality, based on concerns about the other parent due to a history of abuse, neglect, or threats. Often referred to as “protective” gatekeeping, such actions use the ends—preserving the child safely—to justify the means. Here, gatekeeping parents basically try to remove their children from the threat of neglect or physical or emotional child abuse. Ultimately, protective gatekeepers prioritize the well-being of their child, despite any potential harm such gatekeeping can cause to the parent-child relationship, either theirs or the other parents’.
Fear of Separation, Insecurity, and Perceived Harm
In a divorce case that involves child custody, high emotion and the threat of limited access to your own child can fuel a fiery fight. Moreover, any parent’s valid concerns during the marriage can morph into full-blown fear during a divorce. When those concerns about the other parent are coupled with the fear of separation from one’s child for any amount of time, it can bring on severe feelings of insecurity. In turn, insecurity can bring on a kind of hypersensitivity to any perceived harm. Some of it will be utterly rational, based on facts. Some of it, though, will be blown out of proportion, based on exaggeration of any perceived harm. Consequently, parental gatekeeping could kick into high gear.
Hateful Vengeance and Manufactured Harm
When a spouse feels burned, and there’s a child in the middle of it all, the spurned custodial parent will likely practice “restrictive” gatekeeping to limit the non-custodial parent’s access. Rarely does this kind of parental gatekeeping come from any genuine concern for the child, but rather from anger, resentment, and hostility held toward the other parent. And more often than not, manufactured harm will take the form of false allegations, both malicious and reckless. Allegations of abuse, neglect, abduction—all false—will be the excuses given for these nasty parental gatekeeping tactics. Misguided at best, and cruel at its worst, this kind of parental gatekeeping will confuse the child. Ultimately, the child will suffer most, susceptible to influence and parental alienation.
Let Us Champion the Well-Being and Safety of Your Children
In a divorce, when there’s argument over the terms of child custody, addressing parental gatekeeping must be direct and exhaustive. Some may say that any question of child custody is a parental gatekeeping dispute. Determining what kind of parental gatekeeping is at hand in your situation will be one of the first steps in building your child custody case.
When the health and safety of your children may be at stake in an ugly divorce, you need a thorough and experienced ally to protect you, your interests, and your children. Contact the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan today for a free consultation.