Custody cases are a common phenomenon in the modern day courtrooms with failed marriages being a major contributing factor. The families of the involved parties are often affected by these incidences with children being the most affected. The effects can range from psychological change to changes in academic performance which is often portrayed by children affected by these disputes.
According to theattachedfamily.com, a website whose main agenda is to encourage the connection of society with its children for a more compassionate world, about 10% of custody cases which are normally unpleasant, “…become a battle between the estranged parents and the long term effects on their children’s mental wellbeing can be devastating.”
According to a research done by the Massachusetts General Hospital, about 65 percent of children who are often victims of high conflict custody cases or approximately 10 percent of all custody cases often show clinical symptoms of anxiety. This can be manifested in different ways through physical aggression, sleep disorders, depression, bedwetting, premature sexual activity and dissociation. According to the website, “Dissociation is the psychiatric term to describe there is a splitting off of a group of mental processes from the main body of consciousness, as what happens with amnesia and some forms of hysteria.” According to family court judge Elaine Gordon in Putting Children First: Minimizing Conflict in Custody Disputes, a video which she co-created, she says that “In a sense, there is neglect. Because parents who are fighting are not capable of emotionally caring for their children.”
According to Edward Teyber in Helping Children Cope with Divorce. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1992, children involved in custody cases have a higher chance of developing personality and behavioral problems as a result of living in unhappy, unloving families where the parents are continuously fighting as compared to other family situations. According to Teyber, “Without question, the single biggest problem for children of divorce is being exposed to continuing parental conflict.” It is quite important for parents to realize the suffering children experience when they are engaged in parental battles and take steps to manage their anger in a decent and responsible manner to ensure they shield their children from parental conflicts and work cooperatively in the children’s best interest. According to Teyber,“Parental cooperation, or at least the absence of overt conflict, is essential for children’s secure adjustment.”
It is often important for parents to know that children often believe that they are responsible for all major occurrences in their lives with the inclusion of parental fighting and divorce. It is necessary for modern day parents to recognize how divorce directly affects their children and take the necessary steps to ensure their children are not collateral in their conflict. This should include counselling where necessary.
“If both parents join the parental battle, children lose emotional access to both of them. There is no safe shelter from the storm. But if one parent can exercise restraint and not retaliate destructively, children lose psychological access to the other parent but still have emotional contact with the restrained parent.”