[Warning: graphic language in below video] Here is a very sad audio clip of an angry father going on a yelling tirade against his kids. This was one of the few times a child is able to document their own Dad’s abuse. To anyone that says emotional or mental abuse isn’t as damaging as physical child abuse, I would simply ask them to listen to this:
[Consult with a family law attorney in your state; I am not an attorney]
As an airline pilot who has gone through the family court system too many years to remember, I’m asked frequently what custody arrangements should be used from fellow divorcing airline pilots.
The answer initially depends on how far the pilot lives from his children. If the pilot lives more than an hour’s drive or so away, alternating weekend possessions don’t work. Instead, request the ability to choose two weekends per month in your decree.
If the pilot lives in the area of the children, however, then approximately 50% of the time the children should be legally allowed to be with him or her.
The problem is our irregular schedules, and getting the legal system to understand how they interfere with seeing our kids if a standard visitation template is given to us. Most judges really don’t understand the changing schedules of pilots, firefighters, police officers, doctors, etc. They’d prefer to just approve a standard visitation template to make their jobs easier. This is where you need to find an attorney who understands variable possession orders, or airline employee possession orders (each state has its own name for it).
As an airline pilot, you’re aware that there are rare flying jobs with a typical 8am to 5pm schedule that most workers have. So a standard visitation order of alternating weekends (first, third, and fifth weekends typically) or weeks will not work for the vast majority of pilots.
So this is what you need: a variable possession order based around the airline pilot parent’s schedule. The alternative is severely diminished time between you and your kids.
The best way to go about this is to hire a family law attorney who’s familiar with these types of custody arrangements. This is critical. If he or she is board certified, all the better. If you don’t hire a family lawyer, your lawyer’s lack of knowledge in this area could result in a decision by the judge that steers towards the default standard possession order.
Once you hire an attorney, help him or her draft the language in an order to best enable you to see your kids on your off days. Many attorneys don’t understand the kind of schedules we have. This is your decree and your kids, so take an active part in making sure the language doesn’t hurt your ability to see them.
The important point is this: you and your attorney should demand a decree that offers possession of your kids on all or most of your days off, up to a maximum of 15 days per month. 50/50 physical custody, or as close as possible.
Seeing both parents equally, or as close to it as possible, is clearly in the best interest of your children— a standard used by every state. Don’t expect your ex to agree to this, however. There are many, many ex’s who will try to limit your ability to be with your kids.
Typical (weak) objections by the other parent to variable possession orders:
- ‘disrupts’ the child
- ‘disrupts’ the child’s activities
- inability for other parent to plan months out
- unstable for the child
- child doesn’t want it
Some sample language for your decree, or as arguments to opposing counsel [Consult with a family law attorney in your state; I am not an attorney. Many family law attorneys will, in fact, find the below helpful]:
- We request a variable possession order based on father’s employment as an airline pilot for __________.
- The variable nature of Mr. Smith’s schedule as an airline pilot makes any set pattern or template of visitation unworkable and inappropriate
- What works for a 9-5 salaried worker does not work for an airline pilot, or most airline employees for that matter
- It is not in the children’s best interest to have restricted contact to Mr. Smith because he doesn’t have a normal 9-5 job
- It is an injustice to penalize the children because their father has a job whose schedule changes from week to week and month to month
- Because of the irregularity of Mr. Roger’s schedule, we are unable to agree with your custody proposal, which would minimize the children’s time spent with him. Surely your goal is not to harm the children, which your proposal would by allowing them to see their father only 10-30% of the time
- Our proposed schedule gives equal parenting time to each parent and ensures the father will be available to care for his children on his days off
- Mother’s plan would take away children’s much needed time with their father and punish them simply because of his profession
- The (other parent’s) proposed standard possession order is not in the best interest of the children
- Other professions where a standard visitation order don’t work: firefighters, doctors, and police officers
Other things to consider (run these by your lawyer, too):
- If you’re going to appear before a judge, create a large poster with two sample schedules that you’ve flown. Overlay with colored markers the standard visitation days allowed to show exactly how few days your children and you would get to spend together. The power of this visual can’t be understated
- Get an HR or chief pilot to testify on your behalf. Their scope is narrow: back up your assertions about the type of schedules you fly, how your seniority affects this, etc.
- If your case goes to trial, put your ex on the stand and ask them, “If not 50/50 shared custody, what are you proposing?”
- Then ask, “Is this in the best interest of the children?”
- Your strategy all surrounds what’s in the best interest of the children. Everything flows downhill from this
- If your ex opposes an airline pilot possession order, expose the fact that this effort is all about HIM or HER and NOT the children. If 50/50 visitation is not fair for both sides and the children, what exactly is?
- If your divorce decree is already signed and done, it’s not too late. Wait until you’re legally allowed to modify the custody part of the decree, then go for a modification. Ask your lawyer about this
- Don’t underestimate your ex-spouse’s ability to brainwash your children to resent or outright despite you during the days and weeks you’re absent. It’s no accident this article is on a blog dealing with parental alienation.
I have noticed that in the majority of airline pilot divorces that the ex does not go along willingly with this visitation arrangement. So be prepared to have to fight this in the family court system.
Sample airline pilot possession orders [Consult with a family law attorney in your state; I am not an attorney]:
- Sample airline possession order template
- Actual wording from a cargo airline pilot’s decree: “Plaintiff, (name), and Defendant, (name), agree that the current parenting plan should be modified as follows: 1. Defendant shall provide his work schedule as a pilot for (airline) to the plaintiff as soon as he receives it via e-mail. The work schedule shall indicate when Defendant is available for parenting time with the children, and the parties contemplate that this will be in approximately two-week segments each month. 2. During the children’s school year, Defendant shall be entitled to parenting time with children from Thursday after school until Monday morning during the weeks he is not working. 3. During the summer break from school, Defendant shall be entitled to five weeks of parenting time with the children, to be exercised as follows: two interrupted weeks during which Defendant may take the children on vacation provided he provide Plaintiff with itinerary for any such trips and Plaintiff shall have telephone access to the children throughout such periods.”
- More wording you can run by your lawyer: “The Court further finds that due to his work schedule, FATHER is currently unable to exercise predictable periods of possession occurring on the same days of each month. The Court finds that FATHER’s schedule is published by (insert airline) on (insert dates). IT IS ORDERED that within ten days of FATHER’s receipt of the work schedule for the following bid period of (insert how many days bid period is), FATHER shall provide a true and correct copy of such
schedule to MOTHER by email, hand-delivery, facsimile, or first-class mail.”
If you remember only one thing, please remember this:
You and your kids should not be penalized by your employment as an airline pilot. Fight for the common sense right to see them as much as they see their other parent.
Subjecting a child to negative statements about their own parent violates the most basic job we have as parents: to protect their heart.
When I think back on all the negative things (whether truthful or a lie) our son heard about me, what did they all have in common?
They hurt his heart.
This blog wouldn’t exist if parents out there were able to do this fundamental job of theirs. Their inability and/or refusal to protect their child from completely inappropriate hate, negativity, contempt, and denigration is a true tragedy– and millions of children suffer as a result.
You just discovered something about your ex? Ask one question: Will this information hurt or help their heart?
As no other question matters.
One of the trademark expressions of an alienating parent is the use of the terms “my son,” “my daughter,” or “my kids.”
It’s as though the other half of the child is discarded, leaving only one parent (when in the context of mentioning the other parent, of course. On its own, “my son,” for example, is appropriate). And in an alienator’s mind, that’s exactly the case. They are the “good” parent, and the other is the “bad” or unworthy parent. They would never admit to co-parenting with their ex.
You will never, ever hear an alienator– on any level– use the term “our son/daughter/kid.” As to utter those words implies an importance and biological connection to the ex.
As the non-alienating parent, you should always use the correct term of “OUR son,” “OUR daughter,” or “OUR son” when speaking in reference to the ex.
“By seeing himself as a victim, a person is able to justify just about any kind of immoral action”
Parents that try to peel a child’s love away from an ex all have something in common: they view themselves as victims in the failed marriage or relationship. A parent who is going through a divorce or just went through one can either pick up the pieces, shoulder the hurt, and move on… or they can view themselves as an aggrieved party. The former tend to keep talk about the ex to a minimum, no matter what he or she did wrong or even maliciously.
The latter, however, set the stage for hostile action against their ex which includes turning the child on him or her. Called “Parental Alienation Syndrome” by most professionals (I’ve never liked this term, as a lie that one parent is not worthy of love is abuse— not a “syndrome”).
There is a direct correlation… the more a parent sees himself or herself as a victim, the greater the possibility that he or she will go after the child’s relationship with ex. And once they do, there is often no limit to their efforts. They will falsely accuse and malign everything associated with their ex, and will manipulate the child like a puppet. In short, they have little to no boundaries. They will spill anything damning– both truths and lies– into the child’s soul. So can you blame the child, who loves this parent unconditionally, for believing the messages being heard?
Sadly, there is no short term solution to you, the alienated parent. Sitting your child down and speaking factually about yourself and what’s going on will, in fact, usually backfire (except with teenagers, but you have to be careful). Long term, instead of using words, be yourself and use your actions to allow your child to see who you are. Over the course of a few years and long summers together (especially important for noncustodial parents), all the vicious lies and stories will begin to be questioned by the child. Consciously, subconsciously, or both. But you have to be patient– this is going to take years! But once this happens, the reversal of their hardened heart towards you will begin…
High level brainwashers (parents actively campaigning to eliminate an ex from the child’s life) very frequently have a “You owe me” expectation once the child becomes an adult. How does this come about?
High level brainwashers are hyper-selfish people who are experts in playing the victimhood card. They view parenting not only as an obligation but also a favor to their child, and expect something in return down the line. This is the ultimate form of entitlement. Moreover, they view the child as an extension of themselves, not as an autonomous human being. They’re clueless to the notion of,
“One’s child is not an extension, let alone a clone, of oneself” – Dennis Prager
The brainwasher’s thought as the child nears adulthood is, “How dare you leave me and live an independent life!” Any guesses on where this next leads? It leads to the parent heaping a heavy dose of guilt onto the child. And further victimhood status:
- “You don’t love me anymore, that you would even consider moving away to New York”
- “I gave you all of this, and now you’re going to love someone else?”
- “I sacrificed the last two decades to raise you, and this is the thanks I get?”
In raising kids, these parents try to make themselves indispensable to the child, and have an entitlement mentality that eventually turns into “You owe me.” It’s completely unhealthy emotionally. Instead of turning to another adult for emotional support, this type of parent turns to the child, using him or her as an emotional confidant or spouse.
That’s the unfortunate thing about high level alienators. Their inappropriate enmeshment with their own child doesn’t cease upon the child’s entering adulthood. Rather, it kicks into new gear, centered around guilting the child for expressing and acting on his or her natural desire for independence. To these parents, this is a threat of the highest level imaginable– not being needed.
But what happens when the child, now an adult, resists such manipulation?
The alienating parent will do one of three things:
- Tell sob stories of how miserable they are (guilting the child), perpetuating their “victim” status
- Complain about the lack of respect their child is giving them (guilting the child)
- Write their child off completely (the ultimate act of guilting/vengeance)
Don’t underestimate the ability of a toxic, manipulative, brainwashing parent to wreak havoc on their adult children by playing the “You owe me” tactic.
Bonus: Adulthood is usually the time where these children become closer to the non-alienating parent, no matter how much damage was done by the brainwasher. The truth eventually comes out– always– and the brainwashing boomerang goes into effect.
There are degradations of parental alienation. The most severe type is perpetrated by High Level Brainwashers (HLBs).
These parents are ruthless in their efforts to eliminate their ex from the child’s life. They spend decades spinning tales of woe of what the ex did, labeling the ex every derogatory name imaginable, and doing everything possible to deny an ex physical access to “their” child.
Below is a list of the dominant characteristics and behaviors of HLBs:
- They dwell on the sins of the past. They simply cannot forgive any past grievances and ‘move on.’
- They are revenge-minded. They will commonly say things like, “I don’t get mad, I get even,” or “You’ll pay for this.” They have anger and aggression issues
- They are deeply unhappy people. Overall happy and positive people don’t dwell on negatives or allow past wrongs to weigh them down
- They have one or more psychological disorders. Bipolar, Munchausen by Proxy, or anxiety disorders
- They are frequently on medications like antidepressants to stabilize their negative moods
- They were abused or neglected as as children. The roots of an HLB’s bulldozing ways goes back to a dysfunctional childhood
- They are extremely selfish people. They are bad listeners, first and foremost. They are capable of completely disregarding the welfare of the child if it suits their own needs
- They view child as a possession. Ownership of and control of the child. They will micromanage the child’s life in the extreme
- They abuse the child on other levels. HLBs frequently physically and/or sexually abuse children as well. In short, they have no boundaries.
There is one final trait of the truly worst HLBs, and that’s the narcissistic parent. I didn’t include it in the list because only a sliver of the high level brainwashers are narcissistic. And these parents are the absolute worst abusers, and are true evil-doers at their core. They all lack a conscience. Read this article on the narcissistic parent.
HLBs are professionals at wrecking parent-child relationships. They are masters at turning their perceived victimhood into manipulative lies intent on destroying their own child’s love for the other parent. This mental child abuse that causes lasting scars, even when the child does one day realize the fraud and lies perpetrated onto them.
- Doesn’t inform you of upcoming school activities (especially unexpected ones)
- Expresses no enthusiasm for fun events you’re doing with the child (vacations, amusement parks, etc)
- Limits child’s cellphone and computer usage, so you’ll rarely get a call, text, or email
- Refers to you by your first name in their home (Dad becomes “David;” Mom becomes “Julie”)
- Accomplishes a post-visitation shakedown, extracting as much info as possible to find negatives
- Hands the phone directly to the child when you call, avoiding even civil conversations with you
- Pops anti-depressant pills (as many have a history of depression)
- Able to hold resentment towards young, innocent children (ie, your children from another marriage)
- Never calls you when the child is sick or taken out of school
- Teaches the child adult things to tell you, such as “I don’t feel comfortable about the duration of our summer visitation, Dad”
- Teaches the child how to despise or hate another human being
- Labels themselves the “good” parent; labels you the “bad” parent
- Tells the child false stories about their childhood
- Tells the child in vivid detail how he or she was victimized by you (while taking no blame at all for the divorce)
- Teaches the child how to lie to you (coating their little hearts with false malice and scorn)
- Diminishes your extended family’s worth
- Neglects to have the child call you for your birthday, on New Year’s Eve, or other important dates
- Refuses to help the child reach and call/email/mail cards on relatives’ birthdays on your side of the family tree
- Uses child’s cellphone as a leash
- Rarely if ever a call to you on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day on behalf of child
- Never gets the child excited about seeing you
- Reminds the child of all that he or she will be missing while with you and away from them
- Inflicts his or her unhappiness onto the child (as alienators are deeply unhappy people)
- Attempts via a lawyer to reduce visitation to that even below family court minimum standards
- Takes the child out of state without a peep, while demands precise details whenever you travel with them
- Monopolizes the child’s time for hours on the phone (if you let them)
- Views any event in the child’s life– a distant Aunt’s birthday, a friend’s birthday, etc– as more important than their time with you
- Teaches the children from their current marriage to despise you
- Informs children of alienator’s plans for them past 18 (you’ll go to college at X, and will stay here with me)
- Is jealous of anything fun and memorable you do with the child (as they view the good times as a threat)
- Gripes about things you’re doing as a parent to the child, but says nothing to you about it
- Has outbursts around the child (extremely dramatic ones)
- Lacks a filter, spilling any adult topic into the child’s head
Two extremely unfortunate but common tactics an alienating parent will use to further damage the child’s connection to the targeted parent is to:
- Teach the child to call the targeted parent by their first name
- Eliminate the targeted parent’s last name
Teach the child to call the targeted parent by his/her first name only
This is very common. The aggrieved, victimized (in his or her eyes), brainwashing parent can’t stand the thought of the targeted parent being in the child’s life. So since labels and words matter so much in a child’s world, a quick way to devalue that parent is to label them by their first name. Not “Daddy,” and not “Mommy.”
This is destructive to a child’s soul, as now they’ve stopped having a Mom or Dad to address (of course, that label will be used on the alienator’s new spouse if they have one). Since what kids label becomes their reality, over time this causes their feelings to become at minimum muted towards this “Justin” or “Christine.” Imagine calling your own mother “Christine” for years, and never muttering the words “Mommy…” do you think you’ll have the same feelings towards someone who’s not being labeled your mother?
It’s yet another way of instilling false feelings in children, and it’s abusive.
Eliminate the targeted parent’s last name
Another unfortunate effort by an alienating parent is to eliminate or modify the child’s last name. Of course, we’re talking wiping out or dropping the targeted parent’s last name.
So Elizabeth Tracey Smith, whose father’s last name is Smith, is taught to stop using Smith and substitute the mother’s maiden name, Johnson, instead.
Or John Paul Warren-Stevens, whose mother’s last name is Stevens, is taught to drop Stevens.
Some parents even teach their children that once they’re 18 that they can legally drop the targeted person’s last name.
In my case, my son’s name was modified by the judge to have two last names. When I brought a hearing before the judge showing that my son is being encouraged to not write his last name anywhere (with lots of evidence, including testimony and actual school homework and folders), unfortunately the judge (Judge Gary Coley in Waco, Texas) didn’t care about my concerns and ignored my pleas. So today my son, if his name were George Herbert Walker Bush, has an effective name of George Herbert Walker. My last name,”Bush“, has been eliminated from everything.
How to effectively respond to a de-identification campaign
De-identifying a parent is the cornerstone the parents who are brainwashing their child to get revenge at an ex. If you’re on the receiving end of these techniques, here’s what you need to remember:
1. Do not allow your child to call you by your first name. You don’t allow him or her to use profanity, do you? No difference here. It’s profane to call your own parent by his or her first name.
2. Ensure that your child is using his or her legal last name at school and at sports activities. Speak to the teachers and principal and let them know that you’re concerned that your child is not writing his or her last name correctly.
Do not go heavy on your child with the last tip, as they will just hunker down and resent you further. Use the school to enact the change… not the child.
The following is a clip from the Dennis Prager Radio Show. Dennis talks about parental alienation, and plays for his views a powerful exchange between a woman and her daughter (from the TV show Desperate Housewives).
The daughter doesn’t want to see her Dad as she’s being dropped off. However, her mother gets composed and gives an excellent example of how to talk to your child about an ex-spouse– even one she is angry at.
Dennis Prager says after the clip:
Unfortunately, tragically, sadly, it is not what a lot of Moms say to their sons or daughters if they’re angry about a divorce.”
(He does mention that fathers alienate children as well, but that he’s referring to this specific dialogue in the film)
The most gripping part of the exchange occurs after the car door closes. The daughter runs towards her Dad…
This is a testament to the power of a parent’s words to their children. If a parent expresses encouragement about seeing the other parent, children naturally follow this lead (even if there has been some badmouthing up to that point).
If every parent acted this way at exchanges, there would be a whole lot less abused children in the country.