Coparent Academy Podcast

#90 - Effect of Domestic Violence on the Victim Coparent

December 11, 2023
Coparent Academy Podcast
#90 - Effect of Domestic Violence on the Victim Coparent
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In episode 2 of our series on domestic violence and coparenting we discuss the impact on domestic violence on the victim coparent.

If you would like to participate in our domestic violence series as a guest, please contact us and let us know. We are interested in all perspectives and backgrounds for our conversations.

Thanks for listening!  If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please email us at podcast@coparentacademy.com.  To learn more about becoming the best coparent you can be, visit coparentacademy.com.

Speaker 1:

All right, welcome everybody. This is episode three in our Domestic Violence Co-Parenting series. Last week we talked about the Duluth Power Control Wheel. We gave some definitions, for what we mean by domestic violence is more than just physical or sexual. It is a course of control and all of the various elements that we discussed last week. This week we want to start talking about the impact of domestic violence on co-parenting, and to do that, I think it's helpful for us to have a conversation that may be a little uncomfortable for some folks, and part of that conversation is that not all allegations of domestic violence are real, and so we're going to talk about the impact of domestic violence on co-parenting from a few different angles One where there has been actual domestic violence, physical violence or sexual violence where the person was physically attacked, we'll talk about domestic violence that actually occurred. It's in the nature more of course of control, not necessarily where there's been physical violence, or maybe some combination of maybe a single instance or a slight instance of physical contact with course of control. And then we're going to talk about when there's allegations of domestic violence that either are not capable of being proven or just plain false, and what impact that has as well, and they each provide their own difficulties, don't they? Linda?

Speaker 2:

Oh yes, and it just, you know, part of me just wonders why would somebody do a false allegation? Because this is so serious and not only are you eventually harming your own case, but I think we kind of water down the seriousness of the whole issue for people who, literally, have been attacked or severely attacked, and I think that's been really controlled for a long time. You know when the courts have to spend time weaving through all the allegations.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's just so disrespectful. You know, it's kind of like when you have someone, what is that? You know, valar? You know someone pretends to be in the military to try to get the benefits of someone having been in the military. I mean it's horrific to have domestic violence occur. I think it is incredibly disrespectful and concerning in terms of the psychological health of someone who is willing to make and sustain claims of domestic violence that are false in order to gain advantage in a custody proceeding Although we see it happen all the time, not just for yeah.

Speaker 2:

I don't know if it's still happening as much as it seems like it was, you know, five to 10 years ago, where almost every single attorney representing a woman was asking for her to get a protective order.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, it still happens a lot quickly out of the gate. And also, you know, there's some other things that have happened as well. We've had the change to the statute in Oklahoma and some other states are doing similar things which doesn't create a presumption of equal parenting time, but it says that the policy of Oklahoma is that parents should have substantially equal parenting time unless there's some reason not to. And one of the reasons not to is another statute that creates a presumption that says that if it's demonstrated that there's been domestic abuse, then it's presumed that the person who committed the abuse should have nothing more than professionally supervised visitation. You have to overcome that presumption. There's also a statute that says that if it's been proven to the appropriate of an entry level that there's been domestic violence in a relationship, then the person who perpetrated the domestic violence should shall pay it's a shall in the statute substantially all of the victims, attorneys fees and costs. And so there are a few different statutes that are in play at the same time, in Oklahoma at least, that create an incentive for people with low morals and enough desperation or some combination, to make up allegations of domestic abuse, because it can be extremely effective and at very least it shifts, the shifts everything. Because you could have a case that is clearly a 50-50 case and you want to focus your resources on some of the financial issues and your client has only limited resources, and then all of a sudden you get allegations that the person was abusive to the spouse or to the children and now you're having to fight off DHS investigations, potentially criminal investigation. You may have to do a range of interviews with alleged witnesses, you may have to do some depositions. I mean there's all sorts of circumstances where that happens. I've had at least one case in the last two years where the case got entirely derailed for a period of many months because of allegations of sexual abuse that were false, right that had to be investigated and that's why they use that so much, because how do you prove it? Okay. So that's why, although Linda and I and Linda, I'm not gonna talk for you I mean I am, but then I'll let you talk better for you why Linda and I are both very serious about actual domestic abuse in all forms physical, sexual, course of control. We take it extremely seriously and we understand its impacts and we're heartbroken whenever we see children who have been subject to that. That's all true. At the same time, we have had many experiences where false claims of domestic abuse have been used as a litigation tactic, and so we're also very aware that that happens, and that's why we're making a point to talk about all of these things.

Speaker 2:

And that's why, when you said that about the statute a while ago about you know if there's been demonstrated domestic abuse, then only supervised visitation would be happening for that parent and demonstrated how.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, sometimes it's police. You know, the clear-cut cases are the police 911s called, you can hear screaming in the background. They show up and there's blood and bruises and that's the clear case. The cases where there hasn't been and I've had one of these not too long ago where there had not been physical abuse, it had been all these elements of course of control and the attorney on the other side kept making statements about there's no evidence of abuse. But it took psychological evaluations, it took cross-examination, it took depositions to tease out that there actually had been domestic violence and actually wound up with a finding of domestic violence. But it's not. It's complicated and it can be very hard and expensive to prove up a case of domestic violence when it's not. That's actual domestic violence, when it's in the nature of course of control and it's not in the nature of, you know, blood on the carpet.

Speaker 2:

And, just like in last week's podcast, we talked about how, so many times, a person who's in that situation any of these situations is afraid to leave. So they either doubt, or they get real close and back out, or, you know, they may even walk into the Divis shelter or the Divis office, or they may call in the middle of the night. I used to work at Divis. I was one of those people taking those calls and when you're explaining to them how to get to the shelter, many times I would hear it just sounds like too much of a process or I just don't know if I could make that happen this time. Or what if he finds me before the ride gets here, or you know, all of which was very practical and it's possible to say, oh, that won't happen.

Speaker 1:

Right for sure. Yeah, absolutely so. Let's start talking about how domestic violence affects co-parenting. When there's been actual domestic violence, we're not going to worry about how it was proven, but it has been. We know for a fact there's been actual domestic violence and in this context we're talking about physical violence to the person. From your perspective, linda, how does that affect the co-parenting relationship when there's been that physical violence in the past? But the court is expecting the parties to co parent now, not necessarily joint custody, but they're going to have to have some sort of interaction for co-parenting.

Speaker 2:

Well, typically what I see is if if you're talking co-parenting in terms of the child is going to the abuser's house or someplace with the abuser for some sort of visitation, it's typically supervised and or monitored at the beginning, or supervised and monitored, in which case the monitor can be the go-between person so that these two parents don't actually lay eyes on each other and are not getting close to each other. And I think that is a very practical thing. I mean putting myself in the place of someone who has been abused. Like you say, it's not up to us to decide if they really have been, but we're just assuming it has been clarified to the court in some way, then I think the supervision is a very good way to go about that. And then it's up to the supervisor and I've seen this happen in quite a few cases. Believe it or not really surprises me, but if the supervisor will put in their report things the parent may be doing, like touching a child frequently that they have been charged with sexually abusing or that's under the nose of the supervisor, or trying to touch the child, they might be doing some form of gaslighting or guilt tripping or coercive control with the child, and so it's very important to that they get a supervisor who is well trained in domestic violence, understands what it is, who has done really good intakes with the victim and if it's both a parent and a child, then with both of them to know exactly what to look out for.

Speaker 1:

Right Now. Let's assume for the moment that we're progressed a little bit. The person has maybe gotten the anger management assessment or batters intervention assessment. They've gone and jumped through the hoops. Now they're getting off of supervision. They're having standard visitation. Let's say You're not going to have that intermediary of the supervisor anymore. If you're the person, let's look at it from two ways. Let's say that you're the person who's been abused. Now you're at the point where you have the obligation to directly interact with the person who was your abuser to a co-parent on some level, without third-party intermediaries softening up that interaction. What is a healthy, sustainable way for that victim of domestic violence to go about that co-parenting relationship?

Speaker 2:

Well, and I wanted to add something else to what I previously said, because typically what you can also start with is a therapeutic visitation with a therapist who knows what they're doing around this issue as well and thereby is used to reporting to the court. If there's anything that and once again in that role, many times through the years I've seen a parent do something very inappropriately to or around the child, and even had parents that you know one of the reasons why they might not be able to be with the child at first or might have led to some form of abusive behavior, at least in the child's environment, like drugs and alcohol or a psychological break of some sort, then you definitely need the therapeutic visitation to be a part of that Right. Sorry to go backwards there on you.

Speaker 1:

No, it's okay. No, no, I'm glad you did.

Speaker 2:

And that's also giving the abusive parent more time to prove themselves. You know, sometimes these hoops seem like too much, too long to that parent, but if you have nothing to worry about, if you really have worked on yourself, I think that's one of my main issues with what the court orders sometimes is. They'll, for example, send me a therapeutic visitation to do and there may be like three or four other things that that parent's supposed to do, like you said, an assessment for for DV, an assessment for drug and alcohol, a psyche valve, some other classes to attend, and out of those five things, guess what they do first? Right, come to me and I'm like, excuse me, all the rest of that should have been done first, before I put you with your child, because if you hadn't worked on any of that, if we don't know more about that parent through all those assessments, why are we doing this? So at many times they can be done concurrently or you can just pick what you want off the menu and maybe not ever get around to doing the other four things.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and those are. Those are really good points, and part of the benefit of going through those things for a person who's actually willing to confront their history of being an abuser is that they can get some insight into their triggers. They can get an understanding of the holes that they're trying to fill in themselves emotionally by taking control of somebody else. There's lots of different ways they can learn better interventions for parenting and discipline by having the supervised visitation or having the therapeutic supervised so they can get some quick feedback on their parenting styles. So there's lots there that can make the person a better person and a better parent and a better co parent.

Speaker 2:

And then I can tell you from the child perspective children, like the courts, want to give the parent the benefit of the doubt. They want the parent to improve, get better. They really are kind of amazingly receptive to a parent saying yes, I had that problem and this is what I've done about it. Before the parent is making the child see them Right and we're going to get.

Speaker 1:

I know.

Speaker 2:

I had a problem.

Speaker 1:

And we're going to get into that more in our next episode on the effects on children. And so now moving back up to the future, when we always are question again. Well, we've had a parent who's gone through all those soups but I'm so glad you went back when, because that provided a lot of additional context for this, so you were right to do that for sure. And the parent has gone through all those soups and now is off of the supervised and monitored visitation and they're going to have more normalized visitation Without those intermediaries. From the perspective of the parent, who was the abused parents, how should they think about that? I'm sure they have a lot of anxiety and oh yeah it's fear. So what's a good way for them to approach it?

Speaker 2:

Well, there are so many different arenas where that comes into play. You know as a parent coordinator before, as a co-parenting therapist now, I can tell you it's really difficult, if at all, to have those two people in the same room. I've run back and forth between different rooms. I now can have them both on together in my virtual format. That's one of the good things about it. But sometimes even that triggers the victim and of course I've told them they can mute their crying If they're crying, they can block the video if they need to and have some options to take care of themselves in the process.

Speaker 1:

What about when they're going to have to be doing visitation transfers or having text message communications about visitation, things like that? So let me provide some context for that. So I hear you saying, in talking about the co-parenting counseling, for example, that what is helpful for them is having the ability to place some obstacles or some barriers between themselves and the abuser when they need to, to make them feel safer or more comfortable with the situation. And so I guess I suppose, when we're talking about in-person transfers and the text communication or other communication, similarly we're going to be thinking about what are some barriers or what are some tools that the victim parent can use to make themselves feel as comfortable and as safe as possible in those interactions.

Speaker 2:

Texting might be something that doesn't need to be used. Yeah, we all have somebody that when we see their name pop up on our phone in a text or like, yeah, that might be too close for comfort and emails might be more appropriate, I know either one of those can be saved, printed, et cetera. Now, so the person who demonstrated domestic violence needs to be extremely careful in what they put in writing In any way, and many are not. That's, again, surprisingly so they are not careful. They will be right put down. Try to control the victim through those two forms of written communication.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, then you're going to have to have written communication. I mean one thing that the person could do. I mean the thing about text messages is that it's got the instant quality of it which you want. I mean, if you've got your child over at your former abuser's house, you're going to be concerned about them. I imagine you would want to know if there is an issue, and the fastest way to know that's with a call or text message For the email. What I tell folks sometimes is and I personally do this with my communication too to get a brand new Google account with an email that you can use just for that communication, and I think that would be helpful in this situation as well for the victim to get an email that's just for that person, so they don't have to look at their inbox and see it every day.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

So that extra distance.

Speaker 2:

And the child. There are lots of different kinds of parameters for the child in that situation and we might need to wait and talk about those next time. But same kind of thing where most of the time it won't be up to the parent to call the other parent and tell them I know ordinarily parenting it would be. But I mean the parent who has been abused has to be extremely careful that they don't walk into a situation where maybe the former abuser would call and act like there's an emergency with the child and to get that parent to come over. Because what frequently happens there too is they will try to pull them in, whether it's when they're exchanging the child, whether the child is with them, because they know that parent will answer the phone if the child is with them.

Speaker 1:

If we have this situation where there's been the person the parent has actually been abused by the other parent, what would you tell them? This is the protocol. This is how you set up your co-parenting interactions to keep yourself safe and sane and dealing with your abuser as your co-parent Right. What's the best way to put into practice? You have some communication you have to do. You have interactions you have to do. How do you do them?

Speaker 2:

best To keep yourself safe and your child Safe and sane. Right, yeah, and first of all, hopefully the victim has gotten some really good therapy him or herself. Okay, because you're going to be triggered every time you see your co-parent in person or on a text or an email. Okay, that's just a really basic thing. That is not even something you think about until it happens, and then you're triggered. And if it's a written communication, keep it very brief. Your response yes, no. A phrase, a short sentence, just the business of what you're responding to. And then, in other words, don't get yourself pulled in, don't get a lot of time wasted in defending yourself. We really don't care about that. Don't worry about who else is reading that. If it's on our family wizard or whatever else, all the attorneys have been CC'd. Don't worry about that. Keep it very simple and to the point. If you are exchanging the child in person, we're already past the therapeutic visitation supervised visitation, monitored, etc. Really, what the court has been doing that I see being pretty successful in the Tulsa area is we have something called Quick Trip that has. It's a convenience store that has a front door and a back door or two side doors where you can have one parent parked at one of those sides and one at the other. They don't come close to each other's cars. Nobody's parked next to each other. The child walks between the parents inside the store. They're very well at store, clean, comfortable, etc. For the child.

Speaker 1:

That's great. Let me recap what I heard you say and tell me if I got this right. The first step for the abuse parent who's now moved to having on their own interaction with the abuser is to build up their own individual capacity and resiliency through individual counseling for themselves, so that they can protect themselves against the inevitable situation of being triggered by an in-person written or telephonic communication with the abuser.

Speaker 2:

Even if the abuser has stopped a lot of that stuff or all of that stuff I'm saying they've really worked on themselves too that doesn't keep the abused person from being triggered Just a little slide like there. Every community has some sort of domestic violence intervention services, at least in the United States, but I think around the world you could tap into that for free therapy and it's very good.

Speaker 1:

Right In the United States. I know that those programs that get grant money from federal sources have very stringent confidentiality requirements imposed by the federal government. You don't have to worry about them just willy-nilly giving out your information to whomever, because they are very, very serious about it and their funding depends on it. First they get that counseling to build up their own independent resiliency. Then for the written communications they follow what we say in our Co-Parent Academy for a communication protocol. Our protocol in Co-Parent Academy is one for the communication to be necessary. That's the first thing that cuts off a lot of this situation, because if it is not necessary communication, then don't have it. You're not likely to get into a bunch of difficulty in Co-Parent communication if you stick to what's necessary communication, not a lot of room for their recriminations or bringing up past stuff that isn't relevant to the current conversation. Then the other factors in our communication protocol are to have your communications be clear, complete, concise and correct. That concision, keeping it concise, fits in there as well. Then our last two pieces of our communication protocol are to have the communication be timely and to have it be considerate, to have your communication be polite. If you follow that communication protocol you can do what Linda is saying here, because that step one is necessary, then in terms of-.

Speaker 2:

On both sides of things. If he's not acting right or she whoever the abuser is is not acting right. In the written communication, boy, that is easy to prove and take back to court or take to your PC or your GAO or whoever's involved legalized with it, to prove that this person hasn't really improved Right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I tell my clients too. They're always afraid that they are going to If the opposing party in this case the abuse of X is making allegations and writing to you, people are often afraid If I don't respond to those allegations in detail then it's going to look like I'm admitting to it. What I tell my clients in that situation is give them one message that says for this message and for all communications after, I'm not responding to any allegations or threats. So don't take my lack of response as admitting it. I'm just not responding to you. If you have some real issue, then you need to go through the court process.

Speaker 2:

That's one of the things that if the abused person is getting good therapy, they'll learn how to set those boundaries on all sorts of communication from their abuser.

Speaker 1:

Right, yeah, that's great. Yeah, the boundary setting is so important. And then, in terms of the physical transfers, one of the biggest things I see, and one of the reasons why the quick trip is a great idea, is because you're able to park on the opposite sides of each other and of the building. In that case, for example, because one thing that happens is the abuser if there's still other sentencies will come over and invade the space of your vehicle, because they'll do it in the guise of getting a bag out of your car or putting a bag in your car, or putting the child in the car if it's a younger child, and it's all just a reason to invade your personal space and snoop around and get some sort of control that way as well.

Speaker 2:

So having that, the only time that doesn't really work is with a baby, and let's just say probably, if they've gone through all these different assessments and different stages of visitation, the child's going to be old enough to walk, you know.

Speaker 1:

You would hope so. Yeah, I mean, if not, my suggestion, I guess, if not, would be to get the same car seat, because they tend to have those detachable carriers from the base.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

If that were a situation with an infant, I think I would tell my client it's worth it to you to shell out some extra cash to get him or her whoever the abuser was the same car seat setup that you have, so you can just transfer the carrier and you don't have to worry about anything else. That might be the way to go.

Speaker 2:

Well, and in many of those kinds of situations, someone else, a family member typically a male family member if the victim was a female will transport the child to the middle of a quick trip.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, although that also can get itself at a joint too. So that family member has to be trained and, without any misunderstanding, any lack of clarity, they are not permitted to engage with that person, because I've seen that happen too many times.

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, but one of the other things about quick trip is, I mean, documentation is the name of the game with all these things. You know, that's the reason for the supervised visits and all those kinds of things. And so, plus their hearts, Quick Trip has had their video surveillance inside and outside subpoenaed I don't know how many hundreds of times, I'm sure.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, it's because they're a local company and they're responsive to subpoenas.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, you're right. I mean, they do a good job of cooperating with the legal community, which is which is good. Okay, so this conversation, I think, is a little bit longer than we anticipated. So I think what, what makes sense to me, if it's okay with you, linda, is maybe to stop this conversation here, because I think getting into the conversation about when there's just allegations of abuse Right, there hasn't actually been abuse it's going to take a while and it's a whole separate path.

Speaker 2:

Definitely.

Speaker 1:

So I think, if it's okay, we'll cut this one off for now and then we will come back next week and talk about the effect of domestic violence on co-parenting, when there hasn't actually been domestic violence. There's just allegations of violence that are unfounded.

Speaker 2:

Sounds like a great idea.

Speaker 1:

All right. Well, everybody, hope you have a great week and we will talk to you soon, as always, if you want to participate, if you have. I'm sure something that we said today touched a nerve somewhere. Several nerves, several nerves, yeah. So if you want to come on, if you want to send us a question, even if you don't want to talk with us, if you want to talk with us, we'd be happy to have you on. We're happy to listen to all perspectives and we're happy to be shown where we could say things or do things better. So we invite anyone to come have a conversation with us. All right, y'all have a great week.

Speaker 2:

Bye.

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Co-Parenting After Domestic Violence
Co-Parent Communication and Boundaries
Invitation for Open Conversation and Feedback