Child custody disputes can be highly contentious, with each parent thinking that they know what’s best for their child. This oftentimes leads to fierce negotiations and even litigation. That means that if you’re in one of these situations now, then you need to be prepared to aggressively argue why your position on child custody and visitation is in your child’s best interests. This might not be so easy if you’re a non-custodial parent, though, especially when your child’s custodial parent has been using his or her position as a gatekeeper to distance your child from you.
How does gatekeeping work?
Custodial parents have a lot of power and control over their children. As such, they can usually dictate the type and frequency of contact that a non-custodial parent has with their children. For example, a mother may insist that a child is constantly sick on days when a father is supposed to have visitation, and she may refuse to make up that missed parenting time. A custodial father might refuse to keep a non-custodial mother up-to-date on a child’s medical issues, schooling, or extracurricular activities. In many instances, the custodial parent says negative things about the non-custodial parent while in front of the child, thereby shaping the way the child views the non-custodial parent.
Sometimes this type of gatekeeping is intentional in that one parent tries to cut the other parent out of the child’s life as a form of retribution. In other instances, the gatekeeping parent simply feels like he or she knows what is best for the child or that the non-custodial parent is incapable of adequately caring for the child. Regardless of the justification behind parental gatekeeping, though, it can have tremendous implications for you and your child. You need to know about these impacts, especially if you want to use the legal system as a way to protect your child and maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable child custody determination.
Why gatekeeping matters
In some instances, parental gatekeeping can be considered a form of parental alienation. Children can be manipulated to distrust or dislike their non-custodial parent, thereby creating distance between the two. This situation can then be used against the non-custodial parent in further child custody and visitation disputes.
But that’s not the only problem that can arise from parental gatekeeping. The ramifications on a child can be severe. A child might develop emotional, psychological, and even physical problems all directly linked to parental alienation and parental gatekeeping. That’s why many experts consider this type of behavior to be child abuse.
Know how to protect yourself and your child
You have certain rights as a parent. You shouldn’t let those rights be violated because your child’s other parent doesn’t like you. And you certainly shouldn’t sit idly by while your child is subjected to serious harm that could have significant long-term consequences. Instead, in these situations you should diligently work to identify and gather evidence of gatekeeping with an eye on developing compelling legal arguments that can sway a judge to rule in your favor. You might be able to do so by speaking with witnesses, gathering documentation such as medical and school records as well as social media posts and text messages, and even request that your child and your child’s custodial parent undergo a mental health examination.
It may not seem like it right now, but you have a lot of legal tools at your disposal. You simply have to know how to use them effectively. Skilled family law professionals like those at our firm stand ready to assist you in doing just that.