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Standing up to a gaslighting parent

On Behalf of | Dec 21, 2017 | Child Custody

In Oakland County, Michigan, and other areas, an ex-spouse may have been the victim of gaslighting. The term is an urban slang derived from a 1940’s movie of the same name, which depicts a jealous and devious husband that manipulates his wife into thinking she is mentally unstable. For example, he goes to the attic to dim the gaslights and then claims she is seeing things.

The term has come to mean purposefully painting someone in a bad light to him or herself and others. The attack is usually aimed at a person’s self-esteem, confidence and ability to function.

Gaslighting occurs often in a family setting and can be a problem in a post-separation context, especially when children are involved. A bitter, narcissistic or jealous ex-spouse will often attempt to turn the children against the other parent.

In one example, a mother had just finished having a positive summer with her children. Upon their return to school, the father began a deliberate attempt to make her question her own abilities as a mother. Texts were sent to her saying the children were fearful around her and didn’t wish to be with her. He then notified friends, family, caregivers and the school that the mother was unfit.

There are several steps someone can take to lessen the effect of gaslighting. First and most importantly, the attacked parent must remind him or herself of his or her own parenting skills and not be dissuaded by these attacks. Second, it is important that all exchanges between the parties are documented, including texts and voicemails.

Oakland County child custody lawyers can be helpful for someone who is experiencing gaslighting. A hearing may be needed to notify the court of the gaslighter’s tactics. It may not end the conduct, but it will affect his or her credibility with the court. Once someone’s credibility is damaged, his or her ability to make any meaningful change in parenting time is diminished.