Recently, on a miserable cold day, my husband and son were watching a marathon of the original “Twighlight Zone” series. For those of you who may not know, this was Rod Serling’s popular science fiction series that ran from 1959-1964. I walked into the room just as the episode “ The Bewitchin’ Pool” episode was beginning. The episode begins as the family is sitting outside by their in ground pool with the parents dropping that they are getting a divorce, and, in  angry voices, mom and dad tell the children that they have to decide who they want to live with. The fact that the children then jump into the pool and travel through a magical portal and meet a kindly old woman is not relevant to this story.

What is relevant is the next day, Monday, I came into work to a message from a client as to the interaction that had occurred with children of my client. And I realize that sadly, parents in a divorce have not evolved for the better in the 47 years that have passed since the episode aired. My client had informed be that in the midst of a rage, his spouse had told the kids that she had never liked their father, they were getting a divorce, and who do you want to live with? At that point I felt as if I was the one swimming underwater.


Just stop it. The answer is easy. The child or children want to live with both parents. They do not want to move from their house, and they want to have dinner with both parents at the table. And most of all, the kids do not want to feel that they are the ones who have to make the decision of who to live with. With all due respect to the many talented Ph D’s in child psychology that I work with regularly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.


So what to do? Keep your children out of it! If they ask, let them know that you as parents, with help from the judge, will decide what is best for them. If they have to go through a custody evaluation and meet with someone, just tell them that that person is going to ask them things about what they like, and what they do during the day, and that they do not have to choose. And make sure they know that no matter what happens, you will both love them. Judges and custody evaluators are smart; they clearly know when a child has been coached, and in addition to being unfair to the child, all that coaching is going to do is look bad on the parent who does it. If one parent is acting poorly, don’t rise to the challenge; rise above it. Maybe not now, but at the end of the road, the kids are going to know which parent was the one who acted fairly, and which one did not.

4 Responses to Custody Disputes: Keeping your kids out of the middle of the divorce

Ms. Millner,

Three recommendations perhaps you’d consider:

1. There is good reason to think that kids benefit from being involved in custody determination but NOT given choice. Canadian courts are leading this mvmt in accord with the UN Declaration on the rights of the child. Google Bala and Birnbaum’s research (or I can send).

2. Please see my 2008 (HCI) book, “Keeping KIds Out Of the Middle” as a recipe book for co-parents to do just what we know they must.

3. Please see my 2009 (Springer) book, “Developmental Psychology For Family Law Professionals” for the more detailed, case-law referenced professionals’ look at the same questions.

Best wishes and many thanks for your valuable and valued blog.


Excellent blog! I hope and pray that in our current situation that my stepson gets the help that he needs and that the judges and evaluators are “smart” and can tell when a child is being coached, brainwashed and psychologically tortured so that the decision for the best interest and protecton of my stepson is made.

This way, not only will he stand a chance at peace and a healthy upbringing, but our lives will also begin to be peaceful and enjoyable without constant vile intrusion into all of our lives that is unjustified, unpovoked and unnecessary.

I always think of Candice Delong’s words, former FBI criminal profiler who states that (not a direct quote) “women often get away with their evil destructive acts because people do not expect this behavior from a woman, yet often times women are far more capable of destruction than men when they become enraged”.

I am not stating that women are more often that not the violaters in divorces, although there is evidence to substantiate that, just to make the point that we have been remined for the past several decades about “dead beat dads” and never hear about the pain and agony caused by mothers against their own children.

What we have had to endure for the past 3 years of our lives, is the worst experience of my life, having to watch a innocent child suffer and a good man hurt and feel helpless while being financially and emotionally drained and, for what? Because he wants to have a happy and healthy relationship with his son and live in peace.

So, regardless of what your individual situation is or what type of person you are dealing with “trust and adhere” to the words in this blog “keep your children out of it”, regardless of what the other parent is doing or what their conduct is, you “stay true to who you are” and pray that also in the end “the kids are going to know which one acted fairly, and which one did not”.

Unfortunately, there is no shortage of parents acting badly. It is the number one thing I dislike most about working with children. Some listen to the above advice, (they already know what the right thing to do is anyway) and some don’t. After all my years of being a therapist and child advocate I still leave scratching my head at times. Sad.

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