Custody issue and child abuse concerns after divorce_Answer

Posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 at 4:45 am.

The first thing you need to do is to try and get your children to share more with you about how they are treated, especially the specific ways they are talked to by your wife and her boyfriend and whether or not there is any physical or sexual abuse going on in that home.  Be sure to be neutral in inquiring and don’t try to push their answers in one direction or the other. This can be tricky given your love and emotional involvement with your children, but it is important that the children feel safe and are able to be as truthful as possible about what is happening.

If there is physical or sexual abuse of any of the children, this needs to be reported right away to the Department of Social Services so that an investigation can be done to evaluate the safety of your children in that home.  This investigation may result in a report, legal action, or temporary removal of the children from the home.  Further agency or court action may require the family to participate in mandatory counseling and the possible restructuring of the division of parental responsibility (custody) between the parents, though that would be a separate action through the courts. Modifying divorce orders is difficult and is unlikely to happen quickly.

Keep in mind that sometimes reports to social services agencies result in non-action or the determination by the agency that there is no cause to intervene. In these situations, it is hard to know for certain why no action was taken and you have a right to sit down and talk with the investigators or the head of the agency to express your ongoing concern and try to understand their reasoning and decision. If necessary, make another report to either police or to social services if there are further incidents of abuse disclosed to you by the children.

If your children disclose that the abuse is strictly verbal or emotional and deny that there is any physical abuse or sexual abuse going on in the home, your options are more limited. Social service agencies don’t generally get involved in or conduct investigations on these types of allegations.  You options include trying to talk with your ex-wife about what is happening in the home and discussing the children’s concerns and your concerns. Decide what form of communication would be most effective and least inflammatory and if at all possible try to determine a time to talk when she is most likely to be sober and rational.

You can certainly talk to the children about acceptable and unacceptable ways to be treated in relationships and make it clear that verbal and emotional abuse are not acceptable ways to treat anyone, especially children, in a relationship.  Reinforce your message that you love them and always want the best for them. Listen to their feelings in a caring way and try to help them figure out ways to be safe, cope and respond when situations like this occur in the other home.

It may be important to take one or more of the children for counseling if you see that they are being emotionally harmed by what is going on in the home.  Mainly, do what you can on your end, keep being attentive to their needs and feelings and do whatever is within your power legally and psychologically to ensure that your children are treated with appropriate respect and kindness.  This is probably the best you can do in this very difficult and painful situation.

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