Psychological Abuse in Marriage and After Divorce

Psychological Abuse during marriage can leave a former spouse questioning their own capabilities and mental status. It is debilitating and can have long lasting effects. Psychological abuse is sometimes referred to as “gas lighting” after the 1941 thriller starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the film, Paula is a newlywed returning to the house of her murdered aunt. Her new husband manipulates her into doubting her memory, experiences and eventuality her sanity. Paula sees the gas lights flicker and hears footsteps overhead when her spouse is supposedly not home. He convinces Paula that she is going insane for his own sinister purpose.

A spouse committing gas lighting may be setting up a situation (as in the film) and telling their spouse that it is all in their head. The goal is to have someone question what is real and exert control over them. Psychological abuse is using words and actions to destroy another person without physical violence. Partners may be told that they are too sensitive, suspicious or jealous. Making a “joke” that demeans a spouse when the intention is to tear them down is abuse. It is a stream of criticisms and cruelty over a period of time.

A psychological abuser often attempts to isolate the person from their friends and family. This increases their power over the spouse and lessens the chance others will persuade them to initiate divorce. When someone feels helpless, they are less likely to leave. The target of this abuse questions their intelligence and being able to be on their own. Think about your marital situation. Have your friends fallen by the wayside? Are you out of touch with relatives? Are you doubting your talents? Are you belittled when in the presence or others?

If feeling uncomfortable and doubtful about your well-being and abilities, get some help. A family doctor can recommend a therapist. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, can help change faulty perceptions, and give a reality check. A professional can help you sort out your situation to decide which path to take.

This is an unhealthy situation for children to witness. They do not know how to help and can be caught in the middle. Parental alienation can occur when one parent is constantly putting down the other and children might question the targeted parent’s authority. If the kids think this marital situation is normal, then they run the risk of emulating it down the road in their own relationships. Please read more…–after-divorce


International Child Abduction

Abduction is taking a child out of the country without the other parent’s permission. This can be due to being uninformed about the law or as an intentional act with possibly going into hiding. It can be part of a war between two parents without the child’s best interest at heart. Depending upon one’s divorce decree, it may be that one parent only has to inform the other regarding a planned journey abroad. This is more in the case where one parent has physical custody and the other has limited contact, such as with abuse. In the UK it may be possible to take a child out of the country for under one month without permission, when the youngster primarily lives with one parent. Check with your lawyer first.

It is much easier and less traumatic to take measures in order to prevent kidnapping rather than deal with it after the fact. Look at odd behaviors of the other parent which may indicate that there is a flight risk. Have they quit their job, sold their house and seem to be cutting ties with the community? Certainly if the kids mention that the co-parent wants to move – take notice without pumping them for information.

There are precautions to take. Obtain legal counsel to ensure you are doing everything possible to prevent an abduction. Who holds the kids’ passports, you or the co-parent? If you have them in your possession, do not hand them over to the other parent without legal advice. My ex requested my sons’ passports for a trip to Mexico. The teens refused to leave the country with him, so I kept the passports. When kids are older, they may have more say in declining a jaunt abroad. If the youngsters are dual citizens, check with the other country’s embassy to see what the requirements are for obtaining a passport for a minor. The other parent may abduct the kids by getting another passport for them in the country of his or hers birth. If you both moved abroad for work and are still married, consider hanging on to the kids’ passports. This lessens the chance that your spouse may depart with the little ones if your marriage is ending.

If your ex-spouse seems like they may do a runner with the kids, attempt to get supervised visitation. One parent gave his boy a track phone with a few numbers programmed into it. This way, if in a dicey situation, the lad could make an emergency call from inside the bathroom. A surveillance company may be able to insert a GPS tracking device into the child’s clothing or possession. One may want to have risk factors assessed by an international attorney to ascertain the possibility of a parental kidnapping.

The US has a Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program (CPIAP) to notify a parent when the other one is applying to get a passport for their child. A child cannot be prevented from leaving the US unless there is a court order which prohibits this. Speak to an attorney about getting this court order in place which is essential in an emergency. Remember to tell the CPIAP if your contact information changes.

The US Department of State has an easy to use web site with a wealth of information relating to preventing child abduction, including which countries participate in The Hague Abduction Convention. The Hague Abduction Convention’s purpose is to encourage that a child is returned to their country quickly.  Please read more

Helping Adult Offspring When You Divorce

Adult offspring are sometimes an overlooked group when it comes to divorce. Support is given to youngsters with more people looking out for them, such as teachers and coaches. Although adult offspring may have encouraged unhappy parents to split – it is not okay to utilize them as sounding boards or guidance counsellors. Parents can fall into the trap of using their grown up kids as a confidant. Thirty years post-divorce, my friend’s father felt the need to spill the ugly details of the reason behind their divorce. Lena vaguely remembered something about her mum had an affair. Hearing the lurid tales about it was quite upsetting, with her dad stating that he was only telling her this “To set the record straight.” These big kids are not to be privy to divorce details even years later, when in their fifties.

Although they are adults, these individuals are still dealing with divorce issues. These sons and daughters may be losing their family home which is jarring even when living many kilometres away. This means sorting through their childhood memorabilia in the midst of angry parents divvying up personal assets. They need some space away from both parents. Having distance is helpful in processing their mixed emotions, especially if the divorce news was a jolt out of the blue.

An adult son or daughter may appear to have it altogether, but can be hurt little kids inside. Do not assume they are alright – ask if they are okay. They may be afraid to burden you with their unresolved issues, so encourage them to express their feelings to friends. Having a talk with their godparent or older family friend can be therapeutic. If they are floundering, a divorce coach can help them deal with the divorce situation.

Just as with young ones, do not criticize their other parent, or make it seem as if they have to choose sides. Do not ask them to deliver messages or put them on the spot with questions about the other parent. If you are divorcing their step-parent do not put them down. Your child has their own separate relationship with a step-parent and may desire continuing it after the divorce. They do not want to shut the door to it, by becoming your cheering squad during your divorce. I know of a few biological parents who tried to coerce their adult offspring to end step-parent relationships by insinuating it was a matter of loyalty. That does not work.

Your adult offspring may have their own youngsters who are trying to come to terms with the divorce. Reassure your grandchildren that they are not losing grandparents, but will see you separately. Please read more