But My Child(ren) Told Me…

In child custody and child visitation cases, I constantly hear “but my child(ren) told me…”. Conversation with the child(ren) about who the child(ren) want to or should live with, even if raised by the child(ren), is improper. The child(ren) should always be directed to speak to their attorney. Explain to them the court does not like the parents to discuss it with their child(ren). Tell them you care and love them, but do not want to get in trouble.

It is not uncommon for children going through their parent’s custody and visitation disputes to tell one parent one thing and the other parent something else. All that matters is what they tell their attorney, the forensic evaluator if any, their therapist if any, and the judge during in an “in camera hearing” at the end of a trial. These conversations often differ greatly from what they may or may not have told you or their other parent.

Child(ren) sometimes suffer “split loyalty syndrome” during a heated custody/visitation battle of their parents. They seek to tell each parent what they think that parent wants to hear to, not to lie to that parent, but to try to validate that parent with love. Often child(ren) tell the parent they mainly reside with what will appease that parent to not risk suffering the consequences at home. Sometimes what they tell their attorney and/or the forensic evaluator is also tempered fearing the parents will find out. Sometimes they seek to appease the parent they feel is less likely to love them unconditionally if that parent finds out what they said. This is why it matters what they say to who, and whether or not that person has enough training to try to flesh this out.

Thus, just because the child(ren) told you, and tells you over and over, does not mean it is really what they feel. And since you have no training in this area, your responses spoken and unspoken can impact the chil(ren). Even if you otherwise are a trained professional, once it is your own child(ren), you will not handle correctly. You can utilize the child(ren)therapist, guidance counselor, pediatrician, and the like to help the child(ren) explore their feelings. But you may still find what the child(ren) tells one person, may be different than the child(ren) tells another person.