Should I give up fighting for my alienated child?
This heartbreaking question is one I see a lot in support groups.
Fighting in family court is brutal.
It’s hugely expensive, not just financially but also mentally, physically, emotionally. It can also take a tremendous toll on our relationships with those around us. If you’ve been battling in court for years, then you are very possibly tapped out and wondering whether you can go on. You will be given all sorts of conflicting advice – never give up!!! Stop this, it’s killing you and you’ll never win. And on and on. Ultimately, the only person who can decide when enough is enough is you.
My hunny spent 8 years off and on fighting in family court to be a parent to his children. It was grueling, it put our lives in a holding pattern for years because we lacked the resource to do anything else. He reached breaking point when he found out days before court that his ex wasn’t going to move to the town she said she was. We had given up our home, all ready to move to that town and have 50/50 care of the children. It was going to be almost impossible for him to win in court.
He said to me – I can’t keep doing this to the children. They were well down the path to full blown alienation at this point. We were hanging on to a relationship with them in our home, but outside our home they were bad mouthing us, telling lies etc. He knew if he kept fighting, they would be put under more pressure to reject us and it was taking a toll on them. He decided in that moment that he would accept reduced time, give their mother everything she wanted and focus on building a good life while being basically a disneyland dad. The children were 9, 8, and 6.
It took less than a year before things started to go awry. The children complained about not spending time with us, the eldest struggled hugely at school and with his mental health and we ended up back in court under urgency. That time my hunny took to step back was enough to hold him through the next round of court, where he ended up with 50/50 care.
Family court with a high conflict person is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s ok to take time out to rest and heal. It’s ok to build a life that works for you, in fact it’s not just ok, it’s essential. We need to be in our best shape for the moment the children need us to get back in the fight or for when they are old enough to want to pursue and rediscover a relationship.
Parenting doesn’t magically end when the court deems it does, or a child ages out of the agreement. Parenting is a life long journey, our adult children sometimes need us more than they did when they were children.
We need to make sure we look after ourselves well enough to hold hope, and when we get depleted, have people around us who can hold hope for us.
The best thing we can do for our alienated children is our own internal work, so that we deal with our wounds and inner pain. This means we can be the healthy, happy parent they need us to be.