Mother used to beat children with a large wooden cook spoon (documented) , when
I demanded she stop , she did but then went into tirades , berating them verbally
for an hour or more at a time . (documented by recording one ) . She recently filed
for divorce . What chance would Father have in getting full custody ?
Thanks for writing.
I asked you for further information, and you mentioned that psychological testing
has been ordered and that you suspect your wife has borderline personality disorder.
You also described that until a couple months ago, you were doing the majority of
When I asked you the worst parenting thing you've done, you mentioned that you've
spanked the kids, but couldn't really think of anything else.
First, unless a parent is at the extreme end of abusive or neglectful parenting, nobody
(including attorneys) can predict a custody outcome. So, I poopoo your questions, but
I can give you some guidance on how to best present your position, to hopefully have
an outcome that is best for the children.
In preparing for the psychological evaluations, I suggest you do the following:
- Get familiar with borderline personality disorder, if you haven't yet. Read the book
"Stop Walking on Eggshells". There are nine criteria that a psychologist will be looking for,
and a diagnosis of BPD can be made if five of nine are present. Do NOT lie or exaggerate about
any actions made by your wife, but at the same time, if your wife exhibits any of the nine
criteria, then be sure to provide specific examples of her words/actions that will help
a psychologist make a diagnosis.
- At no time should you mention your suspicion of a particular psychological disorder,
unless you are involved in a mental health profession. Let the diagnosis come from the professional.
You CAN say things like, "Her behavior just doesn't seem normal to me, and I don't understand it."
- Make a transcript of the recording you made of your wife's rant. For the evaluator,
it doesn't have to be a certified transcript. Include an audio copy of the recording
together with the transcript. When you hand it to the psychologist/evaluator,
specify any particular pages of the transcript that are most alarming. This will help
ensure that proper attention is given to the few minutes of ranting that really stand out,
given that chances are slim that an entire hour-long recording will ever be heard.
- Make a factual based list of the most alarming behaviors and actions your wife has done.
Do not make any conclusions about abnormal/normal. Just write facts, and specify a concern (related
to the children). For example, "Four times in November 2005, wife punched holes in the drywall,
frightening both children."
- When meeting with the psychologist and discussing your wife, frame all of your concerns around
the children. No evaluator or judge cares about how awful a person is as a spouse. They want to
assess parenting abilities-- and parenting abilities alone. If you have complaints about your wife
as a spouse, share it with friends, family, or a private therapist. Keep it out of the child
- If some issues with the psychologist become a he-said-she-said between you and your wife,
tell the psychologist that you're willing to take a polygraph exam if your wife likewise takes one.
Offer to pay for your wife's. If she's lying, she's not likely to follow-through with it. Regardless,
when a person offers to take a polygraph (or refuses), it speaks volumes.
- If you are a reader (i.e., some people learn from books, others don't read much), consider getting
a book about the evaluation process. At the very least, read my short list of things about the evaluator on
my What You Must Know page. There's a certain mentality to have during this'
process in order to really help the process along. You are who you are, and that won't change, but there
are some things that you can really do to make the evaluator/psychologist's job easier to conclude what's
really going on. That's your goal-- to paint a very accurate picture and minimize confusion or uncertainty.
Those suggestions are just for the psychological assessments.
Beyond all that, you really need to build evidence that you were the primary caretaker for the vast majority
of the kids' lives. Get affadavits/declarations from objective people (e.g., teachers, neighbors, babysitters)
who all describe you as a wonderful father. If you have any credible witnesses (i.e., not your family) who
can affirm the volatility of the mother, that would be good for you to have too.
Finally, your attorney should depose the mother ASAP. If you don't have an attorney, get one ASAP and depose
the mother ASAP. If she has a personality disorder, it may come out in a deposition, which is admissible
testimony in court. Further, it locks her into her stories. If she says/admits something in deposition,
she'll have a tough time changing her story later. Depositions are excellent ways to catch manipulative liars.
They typically aren't prepped for it, and they have to answer things on the spot. Most importantly, you want
this done BEFORE the psychological testing. If she says odd, irrational things during the deposition, you
share it all with the psychologist.
Also of benefit during a deposition, your attorney can ask her about your parenting. Depositions are often
done before custody battles start getting nasty. If she expresses no significant concerns about your parenting
in deposition, she can't credibly change her story later. So, your attorney will ask her if she things you
have any drug problems, alcohol problems, violence problems, etc. If she says no, you're good. If she says
yes, your attorney will ask her to give all of the specific examples that leads her to conclude XYZ. She won't
be able to, and so her testimony falls apart.
Also, consider taking a parenting class if you have any spare time. Whether or not you think you need it,
you can raise it later if your parenting abilities are ever in question. You'll be able to announce that you
are so dedicated to being a good parent, you voluntarily spent 20 hours in a parenting course.
All of this should put you on a very good track.
This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.