There are fewer contentious and high-stress events often causing extreme behavior in its participants than custody and divorce proceedings. A trend that has come to be known as “malicious parent syndrome” has been identified based on the original theories of the psychologist, Ira Turkat. In this theory, Turkat describes patterns of behavior that are abnormal during the process of divorce. It should be said that malicious parent syndrome is not currently identifiable as a mental disorder. However, it describes a behavioral type some people adopt in court cases and some proponents of Turkat’s theory are asking for further research and studies to be conducted.
The occurrence of this syndrome has been identified as when a parent who is going through a divorce or has been divorced has a desire to punish the other parent. This can take many forms but includes causing harm to their child or children or depriving their child or children and then attributing blame with the purpose of making the other parent appear neglectful of their child or children. Both fathers and mothers can be culpable. Traditionally this has been called “malicious mother syndrome” but in this article, we will refer to its more contemporary title: “malicious parent syndrome.”
Malicious Parent Characteristics
Initially, Dt. Turkat wanted to identify a condition where one parent acts with deliberate vengeance towards the other during or following the process of divorce. He identified four major criteria:
- Attempts to punish the other parent by using their child or children to alienate the other parent and involving the court or others in actions designed to separate the parent from the child or children.
- Looks to deny the child or children communication and visitation and limit the other parent’s involvement in extra-curricular and school activities.
- Tells lies to their child or children and may repeatedly violate the law.
- There is no other mental disorder that adequately explains the above actions.
Malicious Parent Examples
After examining cases where parents became vindictive in legal and clinical cases, the idea arose to identify a mental disorder or a syndrome. In some cases, this has included false accusations, arson or deliberately sabotaging parenting time. In one case of malicious parent syndrome, the children were told by their mother they could not afford food to eat because the father had spent all their money. In a different case, a parent repeatedly told the other parent bad information regarding school activities so the other parent could not participate fully in the school life of their child. The whole purpose was to cause harm to the other parent.
Malicious Act Consequences
Many behaviors of malicious parent syndrome have possible legal, civil and criminal consequences. Some acts can clearly be identified as criminal, for example, damaging the property of the other parent or attacking them physically. Making the other parent look bad by depriving the children of money or food may be an act of child abuse violating criminal and family laws. If a malicious parent lies when they are under oath they may also be charged with perjury in some instances.
Some actions may be violations of civil law. The denial of visitation rights to a parent can result in fines as well as adjustments to visitation and custody plans. Similarly, lying about the actions of the other parent that damages their reputation and results in loss or injury can constitute defamation. Custody arrangements and parenting plans can also be impacted. When a parent has been partaking in illegal, cruel or alienating behavior, it may come under consideration as a factor would there be proceedings to adjust or gain custody.
What Are My Options For Dealing With A Malicious Parent?
These are the primary courses of action you can take should you have been a victim of malicious parent syndrome:
- Modification of support and custody agreements
- Obtaining supervised visitation
- The malicious parent seeks court-ordered counseling
Get Professional Legal Counsel for Your Paternity Issues
Obviously, parents want their children to have the best possible beginning to their lives and it can be very upsetting when you have to deal with a malicious parent. However, there are legal processes you can utilize that can provide a resolution to these issues. A Family Law Attorney can help in these dire circumstances.
The Mother Of My Child Will Not Let Me See My Child Or Children
The main thing is to stay calm even though it is very frustrating and upsetting. You can call the police if you have a court order in place stating you have visitation with your child or children at that time. The police will fill out a report making sure you have a record of what is known as “Visitation Interference.” The police will not remove the child or children from their Mother even when you have visitation time that the court ordered as these are “civil matters.” An exception may be made if there is an imminent threat of danger or harm to the child or children. Then notify your lawyer that you did not get your visitation time as the mother could be charged with custodial interference governed by ARS 13-1302.
“What Is ‘Malicious Parent Syndrome’?” Findlaw, family.findlaw.com/paternity/what-is-malicious-mother-syndrome.html.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.