Should I Bring My Child to Court?

Should I Bring My Child to Court?

Recently, I was shocked to see an individual bringing what looked like their nine (9) or ten year (10) old child to court; and sat them in the gallery inside the courtroom while they proceeded to go before the Judge and plead their case against that child’s other parent. Suffice to say, before she went any further other non-related counsel interjected and the child was directed out of the courtroom and looked after by another lawyer while this parent pled their case.

Bringing your child to court is a poor exercise of judgement and should never be a thought you entertain under any circumstances. This is a form of parental alienation, and it is just wrong. Research has made it very clear that exposing children to parental conflict is highly damaging and the effects may very well last right into adulthood.

Remember, your child did not choose either of you as a parent. You chose that spouse, so it is not fair to expose for child to the remnants of your failed union. A child is not your property to do as you please. You are a custodian of that child and your job is to love, nurture and protect that child.

While we are at it, here is another list of things you should never ever do:

  • ask a child to carry hostile messages to the other parent, it is just not fair;
  • ask a child to ask intrusive questions about the other parent;
  • encourage a child to lie about the other parent;
  • encourage secretive behaviour in a child such as hiding information. It’s all to well and good when you are doing it for your benefit. Imagine a scenario where your child starts to experience something negative and being secretive is something that has become second nature to them. Do not be surprised if they start hiding things from you to;
  • create a feeling in the child that not acceptable to have positive feelings for the other parent, and
  • make demeaning or disparaging comments about a parent in the presence of your child. If you must vent, see a therapist or lean on adult friends or family who provide constructive support.

As Dr. Edward Kruk rightly put it:

What children of divorce most want and need is to maintain healthy and strong relationships with both of their parents, and to be shielded from their parents’ conflicts. Some parents, however, in an effort to bolster their parental identity, create an expectation that children choose sides.

What Can I Do to Minimize the Conflict Between Me and My Spouse

It is usual in my practice to encourage parents who come into my office to send their children (wherever practicable) to counselling; and for them to get counselling themselves to help them prepare and cope better with the battle ahead.

As Emily Cook put it:

Counseling helps you and your children cope with the changing family. Family therapy from a licensed marriage and family therapist provides a safe place for you and your children to process the break-up of their family as they have known it. Many children and teenagers feel frightened, angry, and confused about a divorce, and sometimes they feel responsible for it, too. It is important to minimize the damage they’re exposed to between you and your ex-spouse, and family therapy will guide your family through healing and rebuilding. Family therapy is also helpful for you and your ex-spouse as co-parents. Children’s interests and well-being is best supported when the two of you maintain a courteous and respectful stance towards the other. When you’re not able to set aside your marital differences and put the needs of your children first, family therapy can help everyone learn new strategies to communicate and cooperate peacefully.

You can only do your part and positively encourage your spouse to put the children first. And if that fails, while you can’t change the way your spouse behaves, you can absolutely control how you react to their behavior.

Lorraine Mlambo, Family and Surrogacy Lawyer, Edmonton AB

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