Sunday, August 30, 2009

What NOT to say to an Non-Custodial Mother

This is based on the non-custodial mother (NCM) being non-custodial due to a custody battle with the child’s father or other family member.  This is not for those that are removed by Child Protective Services or another agency of the sort.  The following are examples of things that you should not ever say to a protective mother who has lost her kids (or is fighting to protect them) through the court to her abuser or even worse to the abuser of the child.

So, please keep this in mind as you read what NCM’s have had others say to them, why it is the wrong thing to say.  I have collected and added direct quotes from some NCM’s that for safety reasons are not named.  Imagine how you would feel after losing your kids to an abuser if these things were said to you.

I have written this article from the perspective of a life coach not only of NCM’s, but of abuse victims and advocates as well.  I noticed that there was a common thread of victims telling me what people were saying to them; as well as advocates saying that they had said something and couldn’t understand the reaction they received.  This is intended to be a brief overview for advocates, friends and family; as well as to show NCM’s everywhere that they are NOT alone or crazy!

Your kids will come back to you.  The first thing that goes through a mothers mind when this is said to her is “What when they are 18, and no longer know where I am?”  Because until then the child can not decide (in most states) and even if they could they are basically being held hostage by an abuser.  So, NO, the kid will not just magically reappear or ‘come back’.  Do not say things that could sound patronizing or even promising to a mother who is in fear for her children, it is never taken the way you may mean it.  Along these same lines are some other similar things that moms have been told:

  • Your child will be 18 years old, in 8 years, then you can see them.  (What loving parent wants to wait that long to see their child?  Especially when that child is being abused or mistreated.)
  • The abusive father will give the child back to you as soon as they are a teenager. (Not only is this not true, but if you can admit that he is abusive then you must also admit that he should not be raising the child; and therefore rather than tell the mother to just sit around and wait, you should provide help in getting the child away from the abuser.)
  • You'll get your kids back (How do you know she will get her kids back, when will this happen, etc.  These are the things the mom thinks when this is said; so if you can’t answer those questions then don’t make the statement.)

You must not be telling me the whole story  There are mothers all over this country ( and others) that have lost or are loosing custody of their children to abusive fathers.  Non-abusive fathers do not fight to take their kids away from mothers that have done nothing wrong to the children or put them at risk in some way.  Abusers are very good at manipulation and control, they accuse their victims of the very same things they have done.  Protective mothers are emotional about their kids being in danger; as all good parents are.  Abusers can remain calm, cool and collected throughout the custody battle because they really just do not care about anyone but themselves; therefore they do not get emotional.  Rarely will they ever show their abusive side to others...only their victims get to see that.  Many victims of domestic violence are not believed for these reasons.  So one of the worst things you can do is to blame the victim by showing your disbelief in the situation in this way.  Other comments similar to this that should also be avoided are:

  • He couldn't have been all that bad, the court would NEVER give children to a child molester or an abuser  (This, sadly, is just not the case for the reasons that I described above)
  • If the mistreatment was really so bad your child would be complaining more, and be trying to get out herself.  (Many adult victims can not get out of abusive situations, what would make anyone think that a child could do any better?)
  • I don't really believe _________, this just sounds so unbelievable, it can not be true.  (No matter what that blank is filled in with, it is just cruel to say this to a mother in this type of situation.)


The following are just heartless and cruel when you think of them in this context.  How would any sane, protective parent feel if told they must let their child live with a pedophile or an abuser?  Many mothers are threatened by jail if they continue to make ‘false’ reports.  Once jailed they know there is absolutely nothing they can do to help their children. 

  • You'll get through this (How?) 
  • Just don't think about it and move on  (How does one forget about a child that is being abused and just move on?)
  • Get over it  (How?)
  • Think of your other two kids, focus on them
  • You have to forget this child, & move on with your life

Religious references Not all religious references to the situation are unwelcomed.  Offering to pray with or for a mother and her children are usually taken as they are meant; with kindness.  How please do not say the following unless you are prepared right then and there to get out the religious text I say this as all people are not Christian and therefore not everyone uses a Bible to back up the statements) where this can be found; show and explain it.  Even then the pain and heartache that the mother are going through may cloud her being receptive to turning to religion as she has done in the past for other matters.

  • God never gives you more than you can handle
  • You just have to pray harder, God will listen then
  • You must have strayed, God doesn’t let this type of thing happen to people who believe in him
  • God is testing you

Judicial References  Making statements or giving advice that are illegal are first off just bad practice, do not tell a mom to just ‘go get her kids’; without first knowing what you are talking about.  Many people in this country (and others) are very blinded to what really happens in family court rooms, until it happens to them.  Sometimes it is the money involved (in various ways), sometimes it is the fact that the abuser is manipulating the court officers; but regardless of the reason, it is happening.  Saying things like the following are counter-productive for a mother in a custody battle (or who has already lost custody) to hear and contemplate.

  • Just get the judge removed or change the venue  (Not as easy as it sounds, if you are going to say this; back it up with a plan and some help in doing so.  This can happen is some cases but not many)
  • You can't fight the system (This is basically telling the mom to forget and let it go.  Very discouraging and harmful!) 
  • Judges and Lawyers are honest, they take an oath OR What did you do to have the judge dislike you?  (Judges and Lawyers are people just like the rest of us and can be bought and paid for as well as manipulated by abusers)
  • They don't deny people their civil rights in America OR Corruption doesn't exist in America, Russia, yes, America, no (This is a very dangerous and naive assumption to make)
  • Court records don't just disappear.  Are you sure you filed them (Again, don’t blame the victim and further the abuse by helping her abuser make her think she is crazy and incompetent.  As important as her kids are; NO she didn’t forget to file anything!) 
  • The courts write up the decision, not lawyers  (Decisions are made between lawyers all the time outside the courtroom, all the Judge does is then sign whatever they say has been agreed upon.) 
  • GALs are there to protect the children  (Again, they are also people.  Yes, it is their job to protect children but they too can be manipulated by an abuser.)
  • Women say they or their children are being abused so they will win in court.  They are all false accusers  (This happens in so few cases that it isn’t worth going into.) 
  • You don't know how to pick a lawyer: if you wore more makeup when you initially meet with your lawyer, maybe they would decide to take the case.  (Totally irrelevant!)

Quotes from moms who have experienced first hand some of the things discussed above:

A co-worker looked me in the eyes and said, "Wow.  My ex-wife had to majorly fuck up for me to get custody.  What did you do to lose?"  Then, the day I lost my kids, my fiancé said:  "Set a date today.  Now that you don't have kids anymore, you have no excuse to put it off."  "You can move in immediately, and now we can live anywhere we want because you don't have your kids holding us back anymore."~~A mom, after loosing custody to an abuser.

I loved (sarcasm) when people would say - well you married him.  Or even better - why didn't you get the house?  I think the biggest is you must have done something wrong.  I love the ones who say to me now that I should just not let her go to her dads.  Like yeah okay that would be the fastest way for me to lose custody. ~~Mz P

There are so many things that could be added here!  Please leave comments on this article to help others understand!

 Written By: Mary Morgan.  I also gave permission  for this article to be posted on Obstreperous Expressions.