Parties’ High Conflict Divorce Results in Emotional Neglect

Case Details

In a case involving the Department of Children and Families, the Court removed a child from her home because of the emotional strain the parties’ high conflict post judgment divorce proceedings placed on her.  The parties were divorced in 2009 and had joint custody of their daughter, with the mother having primary physical custody.  According to the Court, after their divorce, the parents fought incessantly and used the child as a means of obtaining or denying access to the other.  The child, who was fifteen years old during the proceedings, did not want to live with either parent due to their constant fighting.

At trial the child’s therapist testified that the child was chronically depressed due to the ongoing conflict between her parents.  He described the child as sad, lonely, frustrated and angry.  According to the counselor, the ongoing relationship between the mother and father prevented the child from feeling stable, coping with her own feelings or grieving the loss of family unity.

Although the therapist attempted to counsel the parents, they would not accept responsibility for the harm they inflicted on the child.  Rather, they blamed each other.  After expressing suicidal thoughts during her last visit, the child was taken to a local hospital for observation and subsequently began a period of partial hospitalization treatment.

The Court’s Decision

After hearing the testimony of several other therapists and counselors involved with the family, the Court found that the extent to which the two parents deliberately placed their child in the middle of their conflict not only defied the very essence of parenthood, but also placed the child in a position of believing that death was her only avenue of relief.

The Court further found that having created “a literal tsunami of hatred with the child in the middle of its path,” the child was torn between the natural love and affection she had for her parents and the hatred she had for the emotional scars they inflicted on her.  The Court ultimately concluded that the parents drove the child to a point where she needed sanctuary in the home of a non-relative where she could feel as though she were a priority.

By: Joseph Maya, Esq

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