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7 Predictable Ways To Spot An An Abuser In Family Court, According To A Divorce & Custody Consultant

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divorce, lawyer, custody, children, abuse

Divorce can be difficult on children, especially if they do not feel safe or comfortable with one parent. However, signs of parental abuse can be subtle, as most abusers are master manipulators and know how to hide it well from others. 

One divorce and custody consultant shared some of the behaviors displayed by parents that infer child abuse and how they can be noticed by other lawyers who are making life-altering decisions by placing children with those parents. 

Here are 7 predictable ways to spot an abuser in family court. 

A certified divorce and custody consultant and family court strategist who is also a survivor of domestic violence herself, took to TikTok to reveal the top seven signs a parent may be abusing their children. 



1. They are constantly sending lengthy messages with the intent to distract from abuse. 

A parent who is attempting to cover up their abusive tendencies may tend to focus on all of the good things they provide for their children. For example, they may write a letter or message to their lawyer detailing their morning routine, describing how they get them dressed and bathed, make them breakfast, and drive them to school. 

They may be trying to convey the fact that they are a safe, stable, and reliable parent with lengthy messages where they share all of the good they do for their kids while conveniently leaving out the times when they physically and emotionally abuse them. 

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2. The story will change multiple times in their nonstop court filings. 

Similar to accused criminals who often change their story of events when they are guilty, an abusive parent’s story will change when they are attempting to get custody. When a story is untrue, they are sure to forget details that they originally provided their lawyers with. When a lie is told, it only leads to another, which leads to another. They transform into a web of lies that are impossible to keep up with. 

Every time an abusive parent lies, they may proceed with a new court filing. 

3. They victim-blame rather than take accountability. 

This is a tactic not only used by abusive parents but abusers in general. Psychologist Jennifer Joy Freyd even has a name for it: DARVO, which stands for Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender.



The abuser maintains a conscious manipulation attests that their abuse never happened in the first place, and goes after the victim for trying to hold them accountable. They then describe themselves as the victim due to the claims against them. 

For example, if a child who is a victim of their parents' abuse comes forward about the abuse, their parent may deny their child’s statements, or blame them for their own abusive behavior due to how the child may act to justify their actions. They may also then paint themselves as the real victim, baffled that their child would even say such a thing. 

People tend to listen to the adults over the children in the room, after all. 

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4. They utilize intimidation tactics themselves or through the use of attorneys. 

Parents likely know their children’s weaknesses more than anyone else and can use them as a means to intimidate them. Some intimidation tactics utilized by abusive parents include gaslighting, passive-aggressive behavior and the silent treatment. They use these behaviors against their children in order to get them to do exactly as they say, regardless if it is morally acceptable or not. 

adult yelling at a childPhoto: KieferPix / Shutterstock 

They do the same in family court, convincing lawyers through funds, recommendations and extensive paperwork claiming what a great parent they are. 

5. They do not believe in resolutions. 

Abusive parents are often unable to acknowledge their own faults, nor work toward a solution to change their behavior. Since they strongly believe that they are the ones in the right, progress and resolutions will not likely be made. 

As stated, abusers view themselves as the real victims and refuse to take accountability. Abusive parents will not try to resolve conflicts with their children. Instead, they will continue the abuse. 

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6. They punish the victim for speaking up and telling the abuser’s secrets. 

If abusive parents are attempting to get custody, they will also force their children to go along with the lies they tell the court depicting themselves as a wonderful parent. 

Since most abused children are petrified of their parents, some of them will follow their lead to avoid further abuse. 

However, there are those who believe that if they speak up, the judge will place them into a different custody setting. So they will tell them exactly what goes on at home. Abusive parents will be quick to shut down the conversation, whether it be subtle, such as squeezing their child’s hand tightly to signal them to stop talking or dragging them out of the courtroom by their arms. 

An abusive parent is aware of the powerful hold they have on their children since they are afraid of them. If they speak up, there will surely be serious consequences. 

7. They care more about ‘winning/losing’ and their ego more than they care about their kids. 

According to Psychology Today, abusers want power over their victims since they feel powerless themselves. Their feelings about themselves also contribute to their need to constantly win and boost their egos. 

Instead of worrying about their child’s well-being and wanting them to be placed in a living situation that is best for them, they are more focused on gaining custody themselves since it means they will have “won” in family court. To them, it doesn’t matter if the child or children are being put in a dangerous situation. 

man yelling at young girlPhoto: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock 

It is important to recognize signs of abuse that may not be so obvious. 

Chances are children will not be able to tell you themselves, whether it be because their parents are always present, they are unsure of what to say or they are downright terrified. 

It is our job as adult figures, especially if we are in charge of determining custody arrangements, to protect those who cannot use their voices and tell us just how unsafe and uncomfortable they really feel with their abusive parents. 

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Megan Quinn is a writer at YourTango who covers entertainment and news, self, love, and relationships.