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Are you the victim of a malicious co-parent?

Divorce and custody battles can get heated and bitter. However, some parents take extreme actions to get revenge on their spouse by turning their children against him or her and in some cases even physically harming the kids.

This behavior is often called "Malicious Parent Syndrome," and in some circles, Malicious Mother Syndrome even though both men and women can be guilty of it. It's not considered to be a mental disorder, but rather a type of behavior displayed by parents who seek to punish their former spouse or partner at the expense of their children.

Parents are determined to have Malicious Parent Syndrome when they display the following behavior in the absence of a mental disorder:

-- Lie to their children about the other parent.

-- Deny communication or visitation with the other parent

-- Seek to alienate their children from their other parent, sometimes using others or even the courts to help them.

Malicious Parent Syndrome can include such things as failing to tell the other parent about a child's game or performance and then telling the child that his or her parent wasn't interested in attending. Often these parents engage in this kind of alienation on a regular basis.

In some cases, the acts are more extreme and even against the law. Parents have been known to deny their children food and tell that their mom or dad was providing enough money to buy it. In a particularly heinous case in 1983, a divorced man set fire to his son, horribly disfiguring him, in what he claimed was a murder-suicide attempt.

When parents' malicious actions are illegal, they can be held criminally liable. If they breach court orders, the other parent can take legal action. There are other options, such as seeking to require supervised visits with the parent, asking for court-ordered counseling and/or modifying the custody and visitation agreement.

Too many parents whose children have become alienated from them due to the actions and words of the other parent retreat in order to avoid conflict. However, you have the right to fight for a healthy, honest relationship with your child for that child's well-being and your own.

Source: Findlaw, "What Is 'Malicious Mother Syndrome'?," accessed Jan. 13, 2017

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