Using Children to Hurt an Ex

Recently I came upon a blog post by “Jennifer” who rightfully complained that parents or separated or divorced partners will frequently use children as pawns in their covert wars with one another.  She wrote:

Some parents get blinded by their own emotions and stuff going on in their lives that they fail to see the affects, hurt and damage caused by their actions. One of such examples is a parent who use and manipulate their children to get their own way against the other parent.

In my opinion, anyone who uses innocent children in that way is a coward.

So what do you do if you find yourself in the position of having your partner or your ex use and manipulate your children to get back at you or get their own way?

Well, first and foremost be clear and acknowledge that this has nothing to do with your child (children) and that it is you that your partner or ex is really attempting to get back at or hurt in some way. Also, be clear that your son/daughter is NOT responsible for being used in this way.

Jennifer is right on about how damaging it is to abuse children in this way.  However, she makes two assumptions frequently made by individuals overly steeped in traditional psychology frameworks.  First, she assumes that the warring parties are “blinded” by their emotions (i.e. aren’t really aware of what they’re doing); and second, she holds the opinion that people do these things out of cowardice (i.e. out of fear to more openly and directly reveal their agendas).

While such assumptions can be to some extent true when dealing with neurotic parents or ex-partners, if either or both parties is character disturbed, they know full well what they’re doing, they simply don’t care enough to restrain themselves because all that matters to them is that they have their way.  Further, if character disturbance is involved, these kinds of actions aren’t the result of cowardice but rather the steely determination to have one’s way, regardless of the cost and the recognition of the fact that one of the easiest ways to thwart resistance from your partner is to cloak your self-serving agenda under the guise of serving the interest of the child.

Jennifer’s advice, however, is well stated.  Children should know that they are not responsible for the dynamics that fuel wars between their parents.  Their parents must own their own issues and not use their children as pawns in their war games.  You can view her entire post at:  http://jennifer-mcleod.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-do-you-stop-or-deal-with.html

51 thoughts on “Using Children to Hurt an Ex

  1. So what can be done when the courts will not listen, and the children continue to be caught in the middle. Father accusing siblings in the other household of abuse. The other children are beginning to resent my grandaughter. My grandaughter is being manipulated, and is only 5, and this started when she was just a baby and the father and mother split up. The accusations are always unfounded, and never proven of course, but it goes on and on and on and on. The father doesn’t care, I don’t know if he is a delusional person or just mean. Doesn’t matter. What can we do to stop this behavior by the father, which is making life hell for everyone.

  2. What can be done to give father equal rights so mother don’t use children as bargaining tools to get what they want.

    1. I watched my ex drag my 3 year old daughter by the wrist smaking her head off the wall into her apartment. My daughter was crying and screaming because she didn’t want to go. I could have talked my daughter down but wasn’t given a chance.
      I’ve spent 5 years posting different instances like this. The rumours are true. No one cares.
      The moms and dads

      Court case file 216-12 Montreal street kingston Ontario.

  3. Matthew, That’s a common challenge with many, many variables in my experience. Please take a look at/peruse through Shrink4Men.com. Dr. Tara Parmatier’s (or Dr.T’s) site deals with these issues as well as many others men commonly face regarding their child(ren) subsequent to the demise of their relationship with their mother. You’ll find a great deal of information there regarding PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and strategies for Dads who are dealing with this situation.
    Women who engage in using their children as Tools for manipulation are engaging in *abuse.* It appears they may be (undxd.) Cluster Bs (Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Antisocial) Personality Disorders or “High Conflict Personalities” who are able to manipulate the legal system (as well as PAS) to effectively ensure the fathers are no longer (or very minimally) involved in their child(ren)’s lives. A book that comes to mind immediately and which you may find useful is “Divorce Poison” (can’t recall the author, but it’s been frequently recommended) and also offers strategies for counteracting the effects of PAS.
    Good luck and best wishes-I’m sure this is heartbreaking for you and your children.

  4. Its not just mothers doing this my ex has domicile custody and he and his current wife has violatrd every custody order I’ve had and alinated my children from me and the courts won’t do anything they do whatever they want to do and all tjat happens is I spend money trying to resolve the issues and the coirts scold them and that’s all

    1. Brittany, How frustrating and sad. It seems like there is an endless parade of craziness in the legal arena. Like to actually receive justice from the courts of justice is the acceptation to the rule. maybe the book that Tundra Woman recommended to “Mathew” above could be some help to you as well. Good luck to you and please don’t give up.

    2. Sadly the courts and most court appointed experts such as custody evaluators usually make the situation worse. A great site for PA is Dr Craig Childress. Arm yourself with information it will be your best defense.

  5. Does anyone know if they’re are support groups or pro-bono lawyers in PA for moms who are secondary parents due to the child’s father who manipulated the court and received primary. I really need someone to talk to. The pain is unbearable and I’m having a hard time coping, there’ absolutely nothing wrong with me and yet I live without my son cold turkey for two weeks at a time. I even have a protection order against the father of my child and yet he lied and won. Someone give me any information to help me. I have no one and I’m desperate. I pray for better days for me and my beautiful little boy. Email me please jupiterbug88@gmail.com God bless

    1. Tia it is heart breaking. There is nothing anyone can say that will make you feel better. I wish I had the words that would. I know first hand the unbearable pain you are experiencing and the feeling of being so alone in it with no place to turn for help. At times I thought I would lose my mind the pain and my lonesomeness in it. Because unless you have lived it you can not comprehend it.
      I believe in Godand so that is where I turned.
      I spent my days in prayer sometimes screaming out to God for relief.
      It has been four years since I have seen my daughter and she has been manipulated to hate and lie about me. She is almost grown (of legal age) now. My pain has dulled and does not affect me 24/7 but every now and then the hurt is intense.
      If you are in a custody battle you must stay as serene as possible. When you are dealing with someone that would want a child to miss out on a normal range parent that loves them you need to be especially calm and serene because that person will use anything they can to hurt you. Proof is that your child was used in this way. You will need your wits about you. You need to survive this in a healthy way for your child do not forget that.

      1. Tia,

        See if you have a Women’s Resource Center close to you. They usually have a legal advocate that may be able to point you in the direction of someone that can help. I wish you the best and God Bless.

      2. This has been horrible and it breaks my heart but reading your post and so many others posts I don’t feel so lost and alone anymore. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Xoxo God bless you all. Tewai

    2. Dear Tia,

      You are talking about a father who manipulated the court, you are talking about the unbearable pain, – this all is almost familiar to me. I am a father and I am one foot in a divorce area. I don’t know you, I don’t know what person/woman/mother you are, but I think that he just stroke first – he beat you in your own game. Am I cynic? No, just basing my opinion on my own experience.

    3. Hi tia, the only advice i can give is to make sure you follow court orders regarding visitation at all time because the father will say to let the child chose who he wants to go with at the moment while being manipulated into it. Counciling is another option for you and child and with that being said maybe you can gather info from counciling to show the courts. I learned the hard way but luckily i caught pa on time.

  6. My daughter is mad at me and has now cut me out of her daughters life. I know grandparents have no rights but there has to be something I can do.

    1. Your kids like mine a fucking douchebag. The mother did the same with her now the kid doing it with the grand kids.that saying the apple did not fall far from the tree. now the grandkids are going to be as fucked up as the mother they will take there kids away from her. Can’t wait to see this pay back is a Batch

  7. i need some help i have a 8 year old daughter who’s father i have been in and out of court a lot for so many different things i have keep up the fight because i know my daughter needs me now however he has changed his tactics he is now using his son who is 11 and has had no relationship with up until recently th daughteris has made her feel vary sad and hurt because he is spending all his free time with him mind you my ex never calls nor sends a text to check on her the only time i hear from him is if he wants to yell at me or to demand to see her on his terms not in compliance with the court order anyone been threw this any advice

      1. And that is your right but i must say to side with someone just because the other person’s grammar is not up to your standards is a little ridiculous

    1. Always follow courts orders and keep a journal. He might turn around and say you didn’t want the child to see him. Speaking from experience.

    2. I am going through this right now. My ex using our 13 year old daughter afainst me is buying her gifts manipulatibg her making ger chose where to live.

  8. i need some help i have a 8 year old daughter who’s father i have been in and out of court a lot for so many different things i have keep up the fight because i know my daughter needs me now however he has changed his tactics he is now using his son who is 11 and has had no relationship with up until recently this has made her feel vary sad and hurt because he is spending all his free time with him mind you my ex never calls nor sends a text to check on her the only time i hear from him is if he wants to yell at me or to demand to see her on his terms not in compliance with the court order anyone been threw this any advice…… my email was entered incorrectly

    1. michelle,

      It is unfortunate to find oneself in such situation. But, one cannot control everything and get good partner, or children who have strong character to deal with vengeful parent who doesn’t mind using children as tool for selfish reasons.
      What you do control is your own behavior. You can be strong yourself and be role model to your kids. Since, your daughter is suffering directly and she is currently ignored by your ex, then best will be to take her to a therapist who can guide her through tough times.
      There are more blogs here that cover this topic. Browse few more, you may get some more answers.

        1. Hi michelle,

          I looked around a bit, but could not find many blogs right now.
          One I found: “Questions about Manipulators: How Do I Protect My Children?”

          I will post the direct link in next post. I think post containing links are moderated, and that moderation is sometime done too late and by that time everyone has moved on.

          If you like, you can go to sitemap and browse through the categories. There used to be a browsing option which listed all blogs by dates, but I cannot find it any longer. There are hardly 200-300 blogs, so one could have easily found the one they are looking for. Try searching using keywords.

          In case you need help to get better understanding of your situation, I will suggest you read book “In Sheep’s Clothing” first. And, then go deeper if that appealed to you.

  9. Reading these comments has helped me a lot. My ex has our son and he is 13. He has narcissistic ways and uses my son as a pawn big time. I have tried to befriend my ex, have a forgiving conversation with him, everything. But nothing works, I am his target and he will use anything and anyone he can which has always been our children.

    He did the same thing with our oldest daughter who thought the world of him. She was a daddy’s girl and she is in counseling now due to the abuse of him using her to get at me. She has suicidal thoughts and has spent 7 days in a inpatient mental hospital trying to get right.

    I only handed over custody of our son to him because my son was having severe behavioral issues in my home and it was getting to be too much for me. He was telling my son that it was okay to disrespect me and my new husband because the new husband was not his dad and he didn’t have to listen to him.

    I have told my son he is welcome back home anytime but I can’t take the abuse anymore. I guess I will have to sit these four years out until he is 18 and can make decisions on his own.

    It kills me inside to let things come to this but I’m fed up and am physically becoming ill over the whole situation. He cares nothing about my son his grades have gone from B’s and C’s when he was with me to six F’s and D’s. He refuses to let me pick him up and speak with him which is a violation of our custody agreement. I could spend MORE money and go back to court but to be honest I have no more fight in me. I’m all tapped out. Especially since I have two other girls at home that I am also responsible for.

    It helped to read other parents in the same boat as me. I felt as if I was the only one. Any advise or feedback is welcome. Thanks

    1. Trying to reason with a person with a personality disorder or a high conflict personality is not only useless, it’s counterproductive. It actually makes things worse. I have a child with a woman with Borderline personality Disorder, and like you, I’ve tried to reason, cooperate, partner and generally be agreeable, hoping that at some point she’d change. It actually brought about more of her bad behavior. This is because these people don’t process information like a normal person. because they’re always looking for ways to manipulate, they assume everybody else is as well. These damaged people use reason, cooperation and partnering to suck people into their web, so naturally, they’re suspicious of your motives when you do this. At the same time, they realize your weakness is a desire for peace. They will exploit this again and again.

      A better approach is to draw very clear boundaries. Don’t try to reason, don’t try to work with them, don’t try to get them to change. They won’t and they can’t. Instead, call them on their behavior. That is, calmly say, this behavior makes me feel manipulated. It won’t work. Then state directly what you expect. Believe it or not, this may often snap them out of manipulation. They’ll try again later, but over time, you can manage them…sort of. Eventually, it’s likely the other shoe will drop. When they realize you’re not playing their game, they may try to remove the child from your life, or be so difficult that you have no choice but to move on. (This is what happened to me.)

      Lastly, I’ll refer you to the book BIFF by Bill Eddy. (It stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm). It’s about effectively dealing with high conflict types. I don’t agree with everything he says, but 90% is solid. It certainly can’t hurt.

    2. You said…it gets just that little bit easier when u read other mothers stories. I too want to hand over custody because the emotional abuse from my ex is too much to bare

  10. It’s so sad that people do this to their children , Because my ex-wife Jennifer p Ortega from Colorado springs is doing the same thing to me and putting all over face book and trying to hurt me by using my son as a weapon and coaching my son on the phone when I’m talking to him which I know he is hurting and he misses his loving father, and now she living with a boyfriend that has ptsd from war and does drugs and carry’s a gun around my child that’s only seven years old . my ex-wife is 40 years old and hanging around children of war and the boyfriend is only 28 years old his name is Jason shibley , I do care about my son so much that it hurts , I went through the same thing with my first wife but i got full custody because my ex was unfit mother and now my second ex-wife is doing this to me again I’m hurt that she can be so mean to me by using my so as a weapon . She hurt me the worst when she came to Texas to give me the divorce papers and told me to sign them because your seven year old son doesn’t want us together anymore, No child in the world wouldn’t want their parents to divorce , My son is build on love and he’s now wondering why his father is not in the picture anymore. I would come and see him in Colorado springs but my ex-wife has already threaten me if i come around she have her boyfriend with ptsd will shoot me .
    I always love you christain lee Ortega with all my heart and soul maybe we will be together again i wont forget you you always in my heart. p.s. if anybody is reading this post get on facebook and get on Jennifer p Ortega and see for yourself the hurt that she is doing to her son and her ex-husband me.

  11. I’m an adult now and have been for nearly twenty years, and I can tell you being the subject of the one caught in the middle between adults is a real mind fudging experience no one deserves. My mother’s mother is a real basket case and has been the main mind fudge creator since my mother was conceived. Ever since she was born, my mother’s mother has made it her mission to use and abuse to get back at her daughter to satisfy her own mental illness symptoms. As an adult, my mother has had to deal with her mother like a never ending bed bug that won’t go away. She has been taken to court by her since my mother divorced my half brother’s father (her only marriage) and I was the target of the abuse by this mentally ill grandmother because I was raised in a single parent household and was an “out of wedlock” kid. I didn’t choose that raising it was just dealt to me and I don’t regret being raised in a single parent household except it was hard on my mother for having to defend her character more days and years than not. This caused both physical health problems and emotional undertaking on my mother and that was shitty to say the least. As a kid I got told time and time again by main “bed bug” minded people that I should kill myself, report fake allegations of abuse so I could I could be removed from my mother’s care and worse, told I should have been aborted by half a dozen assholes and yet still be told by another half of a dozen people that I was the most sweetest, kindest, and respectful person that they had encountered in a long time. Most of the time this happened under the age of 16 years old and over the age of 30 years old. Today, I locked in court battle over something I am not even apart of because some person thinks my mother has the word “Lawsuit” written over her forehead. I hate being caught in the middle and I am glad for one thing, that I chose not to be a human parent up to this point because my kids would have been removed from my care based on all this countless courtroom pawning and mind blowing abusive banter.

  12. This woman cheated on me and then told me to my face it was so good. She had plans to do it again and then broke up. I think she is the worst person in the world but I don’t talk to her, I don’t see her, I don’t even stay at Wal-Mart if she shows up. She is still trying to hurt me and using the kids to do it. I can’t stand how bloody childish it was she is truly a sick individual.

  13. There is are quiet a few comman threads here that i am experiencing as well…the courts don’t care, alot of manipulation on the father’s side and absolutely nothing wrong with mom who becomes a secondary parent and the undecribable numbing pain of not being with your child. I have no answers or advise…just numb.

  14. Had a similar situation with my ex-husband.
    He used our daughters as weapons against me and tried to convince them he was doing what was best for them. After they turned 18 they had nothing further to do with him. They were able to figure out what he was doing and that it had nothing to do with what was best for them but was solely based on his selfish agenda.

  15. Looking at the posts, it obvious this is not the first nor will be last. My wife has blocked all access to my daughters on Facebook, changed their mobile numbers, etc. Haven’t heard their voices…… Christmas passed, New Year passed, Birthdays, Fathers Day….. not even a single message or call. What actually does she gain? Supremacy? To be the one with the last say? When a thief steals, what does he gain….. the stolen goods. But I kept asking what does she gain? If in the future, the tables ever turned around, I could NEVER do that to my spouse. (Nothing to do with her), but I just wouldn’t deny my children having the love of their own mother. I also have realized that she expects or wants me to react but after weighing down the options, I have decided to wait it out.

    1. Harry,
      Precisely. She gains supremacy over you. Yep. The mighty one who has the last say.
      That is how many women with child custody hit out. The objective is to harass you. You are the target, plain and simple. Children simply suffer collateral damage, but she won’t care about them, the same way she probably did not care for you in marriage. Also, expect her to tell children that she is doing this for their own good to save them from evil incarnate father.

      In my opinion, your best bet is to just follow a reasonable person approach and be willing to accept whatever you can salvage. The legal system usually does not help much, except once in a while supervised visitation that over time even children may come to hate.
      Maybe you just ask for access, and accept whatever you can manage to get. If she refuses, then wait for a month and ask again. If again refused, then ask after 3 months and so on.
      And, if you do take legal route, be ready with money, time, and a long haul through unfavourable legal system.

      I did not meet my daughter for over 2 years. Then met her periodically. Now, in one of the recent visits, my wife placed obstacle. I will wait and watch. If she continues same way, I will drag her through court as long as necessary. I will invest significant money and time just to maintain contact with my daughter.

      1. Andy D
        I’m so sorry. I didn’t know she kept her from you for that long a period. Hopefully the legal system in your district hears cases expeditiously. In my district, any matters involving child custody take precedence.
        Harry, Andy D knows what he speaks of, he’s living it, and can help guide you through the turmoil of what your X is doing to you and your children.
        Hang tight and don’t give up hope, because there will come a time when your children realize what mom has done and come back to you on their own free will.

      2. I’m looking for someone to help me with my son’s mother. We was common law married before they changed the law. I’m also an x felon. She lets her parents spend more time with our son than his own parents can. She want let me see him but every other weekend. We have never been to court but when she pushes me to a breaking point. I tell her I will see you in court she takes it as a threat that I want to take him away from her. I never wanted to do that. But after she keep using our son as a way to hurt me. I feel I only have one choice to take her to court. She made the comment her family has more money than mine. I really could use some help she says no judge will give me anymore time with him then every other weekend and it might be less. She said she would take more time from me if I do take her to court.

        1. Scott,

          It appears, your wife is using your son to exercise power over you.

          As natural guardian you have equal rights over your son, and in best case it should translate to joint custody.
          One major problem with court route is the time and money. If you can afford both, then by all mean go for court. Before that you may want to use email or something to your wife asking for more suitable visitation. One thing I am quite confident about is that you will get more favourable order from court than just once in two week meeting.
          Otherwise, just try to talk to your wife to work out something better, and just be content with that. As long as you are in your son’s life, whatever little part it may be…

          One thing that you may consider: avoid threats, they don’t work in long run. If you want, you just go meet your son directly. You email to communicate with your wife to arrange meeting. Then just directly start legal case if you are not happy.

          1. Your right saying something when you are hurt doesn’t help anyone. She tells me not to be mad at her that she’s trying. She wants me to give or believe she changed or is trying. But I don’t have a second chance. She says it’s not her dad controlling her life and our son’s life. I don’t believe her. She was sick the other day. Told me our son was staying with her parents. That she felt so bad she believes she couldn’t watch him her own son. I never wanted to take him away from her. But what would she do if her parents was not able to watch him when she is sick. It makes me want to cry. She treat me is ok with her. But nothing I say or do is right. I love her and have tried keeping her from being hurt by her own blindness of what not giving us a second chance could do to our son. She had a x she gave a second chance to and he burnt her. So she feels like it will happen again. I was wrong with saying that I would take her too court for everything we had together. She hurt me when I left saying the only things was mine was the clothes I had on. We both was hurt and upset. I would rather be homeless and starving before I did that to someone I love. But that doesn’t mean I only wanted to be able to have a second chance to take her for everything she has.
            . She wants me to give her a chance to show she is doing what’s best for him. But i didn’t deserve being a father or a partner. She use our son to get me upset so she can make me look like I have been mean to her. I don’t know what to do anymore.

          2. I was also told if I go to D.H.R and put myself on child support and ask for every weekend with our son. That I want first right of refusal that I would have a goid chance of getting it. But if she saying that she want let me have any say in his life or let me go pick him up at daycare only her and her parents can. That he can stay with her parents through the week and I can’t see him but every other weekend. They said that’s what’s best for him. And they would fight against me in court if I want more time.

    2. Harry
      I work in the court system and watch child custody cases in court, have for over 35 years now.
      A couple of tips to prepare you for a court battle:

      Don’t quit asking to see the children. If you do, if will be held against you in court, that you didn’t care, you didn’t ask. That’s the way it goes down. So on a regular basis – I’d say weekly – ask to see them IN WRITING. You’ll have documented proof of her attempt to sever ties with your children.

      Keep a diary of occurrences involving discussions with the X. It will be helpful in the event you wind up in court.

      Keep sending birthday gifts, cards, letters, emails, however way you can have contact with your children. That’s another thing they like to bring up in court – do you give gifts and cards.

      She’ll try to make you look like an uncaring parent. So you can’t give up the efforts if you think you may wind up in court.

      Ask the X about doctor appointments. Tell her you want to know when your children are ill and want to be involved in their care.

      Call the schools and ask them to email to you any correspondence that goes out to the kids (to the mother), that you want to be apprised of their progress in school, their grades, their activities, their field trips, everything that the custodial parent gets you should as well.
      You may come to find out your kids are suffering emotionally and have been to the school counselor.

      All these efforts will help you in the event you end up in court, and will go against her, showing that she is alienating you from your kids.

      Keep all documents. Keep correspondence to the X in writing, emails or texts.
      Set her up to fail.

      1. Harry,

        Also, in writing, ask the X for their schedules relating to any extracurricular activities they are involved in, the team sports information, coach, practice and game schedules. If you know what they are involved in you should be able to get these yourself.
        She has no right to keep you from going to their activities, games, practice, recitals. There is no order of protection against you.

        Be ready, though. You think she’s a monster now, when pushed the two-headed demon comes out. And that will go against her.

      2. Lucy, Andy,Harry,

        Great post with so much informative and valuable information. I have a neighbor down the street who is having many of the same problems with his X wife. This man has the boys 90% of the time and still pays her full support for the boys and alimony. He is planing on taking her back to court as his boys have lived with him , sleep over since almost 2 years. I am going to offer suggestions. I also gave him Drs. books.

        There are many good men out there this is happening to. I agree to keep track of everything and document. In the end this will all get worse.

        I believe the fact that men are victims of these she devils is unreported.
        Harry, I would encourage you to keep commenting as you will obtain, above all support. AndyD is well versed in this area, Joey also has much knowledge to share. I welcome you to become part of the conversation, for information and support. In your sharing we also learn. You will also acquire a much needed support system here.

        Take care and keep posting.

  16. This doesn’t only happen to the father’s , in my case its reverse. Unless you have money, you are screwed. When a marriage ends, someone hurts badley and will usually use the kids in the process as revenge. The legal SUCKS big time and is a waste. Time yes will prevail and usual ends in the kids severly hating or having a very unloving relationship with the manipulative parent

    1. Maria
      Yes, the legal system in my district SUCKS as well. Unless you’ve got lots of $$$ or lots of loans (as in my case) you can’t fight it in court. At $250-$275/hour rates, the lawyers suck you dry real fast.
      I don’t think the old saying “kill them with kindness” helps when dealing with a CD. I don’t really think these hater parents even want their own children full time. What normal person wouldn’t want a break from their own kids, every other weekend free or whatever arrangement could be made? I know I sure would want a break here and there. What a CD will do to the other parent knows no end. You think they can’t sink deeper, but they do. It’s just amazing how hateful and spiteful they become.

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