The Hammer comes down:
Children are not sofas!
It is the right of the child to have good relationships with both parents
By Linda Hammerschmid
When parents are of the belief that they can do whatever they want with their children, I often wonder if they think their children are sofas!
No one cares what you do with your sofa, but children, well we are all watching what you do!
A question each parent should try to answer for themselves, at least once yearly, “Is my child a better person because I am his/her parent?” The corollary question then becomes, “What am I teaching my child by my behaviour?”
Three plus decades in Family Law and I still marvel at how people continue to have children together but fail to realize, or choose not to, that it is the right of the child, not theirs, to have good relationships with both parents (and grandparents), regardless of how the relations between the parents have evolved over time.
So you don’t ‘love’ him/her anymore. So he/she cheated on you, or even hit you. So all those pesky little character traits and habits, that seem ‘cute’ in the beginning, now irritate you beyond belief.
If you have to hear one more slurp, or snore, or pick-up one more carelessly discarded piece of clothing, or beer can, or pay one more exorbitant Visa bill, or listen to one more complaint about how you do something or put up with bossy in-laws, you’ll burst. Most of these ‘problems’ could have been worked out BEFORE you got together but hey, why bother? You were in love!
… down the road, more often than not, the children will wise up and turn against you for having deprived them of their other parent.
So who pays the ultimate price for not fixing all these problems? The children of course. Because after all, they are your weapons of choice. With enough time (and suggestions, be they subliminal or overt), you can turn them against their other parent. He/she will see! You’ll make them pay for all the injurious remarks and acts you have had to endure – of course you don’t seem to understand that down the road, more often than not, the children will wise up and turn against you for having deprived them of their other parent.
No, that would never happen you say. Well believe me it does. I have spent days in Courtrooms fighting over custody, access rights, choice of schools and vacation trips, (don’t get me started on about the question of child support and special expenses), grandparent visitation, University payments, etc…, but it is the custody/access battles which illustrate how treating your children like sofas can truly come back to haunt the vindictive parent. Parents don’t realize that with time often comes changes in the child’s perspective towards them.
The six year old, who clung to mom, wants, at age 12, to be with dad. Sons graduate from Moms and gravitate to their Dads as it often should be. Yes, many times this too can be due to pressure from the non custodial parent, or worse, the non custodial parent’s parents, but it can also result from the child’s burgeoning awakening that one parent lied about the other to keep control. That realization causes resentment that is eventually turned against the controlling parent. Be careful what you wish for.
Perhaps you even thought you were doing what was best for your child, but usually being deprived of a parent only serves to cause a child psychological problems, and even health problems, down the road.
And just because you no longer see eye to eye with your ‘beloved’ does not mean he/she is bad for, or to, the children. But again, you guys didn’t take the time to discuss all this before saying “I do” and before the stork came by.
‘… being deprived of a parent only serves to cause a child psychological problems, and even health problems, down the road.’
Making your child ‘hate’ the other parent is bad for them and you and can lead to feelings of extreme guilt later on.
But most importantly no one, not you, not the other parent and certainly not the Courts can ever make up the time stolen from the child and lost to the non-custodial parent. What can happen however can be so much worse than imagined. For example, I once had a client who was being denied access to his two year old son by the mother – an expert report even stated that his access to his own child should only be gradual, with overnights to only commence a year or two down the road!
Leave someone with nothing left to loose and you create a very volatile situation, as in that case where the father, seeing no way out, kidnapped his son and the mother didn’t get to see her son again for six years! That is a lot of ‘lost’ time. Was her insistence on eliminating the father’s role in their son’s life worth it? Obviously not. An extreme case perhaps, but a foreseeable one had the mother thought out what she was really trying to accomplish.
In another case, a mother who had agreed in mediation to joint custody suddenly opted for sole custody and obtained an interim order completely barring the father from any access (a father who previously saw his children on a daily basis, as did the mother). What happened? The Court awarded joint custody to both parents only because this is what the father had requested (otherwise the Judge would have granted Dad full custody!) What did Mom do? After trying appeals and false sexual abuse allegations (all of which failed), she kidnapped the youngest child. Luckily, after two months and much expense, a Court in the USA ordered the child returned to the father. But all that took ten years out of everyone’s lives.
Of course, the worst of the worst is when, as we saw in the Guy Turcotte case, children are killed by one of the battling parents.
So before embarking on a path that may ultimately lead you to a very different end than you envisioned, remember: Your children are not your sofas!
Me Linda Hammerschmid is an attorney and has been practicing Family Law since 1982. She is the Senior Partner at Hammerschmid & Associates at 1 Westmount Square, Suite 1290. She is a founding and current member, and past Secretary (28 years) of The Family Law Association of Quebec. She is a frequent guest on CBC TV/Radio, CTV and CJAD, providing commentary on Family Law.
You can also hear her regularly on the CJAD show ‘Passion’ with Dr. Laurie Betito, the last Thursday of each month. She and her dog Mac are members of Therapeutic Paws giving joy to the less fortunate. Me Hammerschmid can be reached at (514) 846-1013 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. All inquiries will be treated confidentially.