Child Safety, Family Law, Divorce, Single Parenting, Custody… Protecting Children
WTDW Podcast | Episode 35: What To Do When… Child Safety. Your Children’s Issues Take Center Stage.
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What To Do When… Child Safety. Your Children’s Issues Take Center Stage.
What To Do When… Intro 00:01
Welcome to What To Do When… A podcast from real lawyers with real perspective, where we explore a variety of legal issues and scenarios. Each week we focus on a new topic and discuss what to do when and if any of these legal scenarios ever happened to you or a loved one. With over 40 years of combined legal experience, our hosts offer their unique perspectives and insights on a range of real life legal situations.
Jackie Critzer 0:28
Hi, welcome back to What To Do When… a podcast here at Critzer Cardani. I’m Jackie.
Scott Cardani 0:33
I’m Scott. Jackie, what’s on the docket for today?
Jackie Critzer 00:36
Today’s docket – What To Do When… Your Children’s Issues Take Center Stage?
Scott Cardani 00:43
Yeah, we were thinking about this the other day, this is a really important topic that comes up often, especially in custody cases or in divorces where their custody is at issue. But you know, what we’re talking about here is like, say, for instance, you’re either in a custody already, it doesn’t matter if the custody has already happened, and the separation by the court has happened, or you’re in the midst of it. But all of a sudden, you find out something about your child, maybe they were abused, somehow somewhere in your home, somebody else’s home or something like that. They start talking about something that happened in their past, they start to do things that are like cutting or self harm of any kind. Or hurting animals or something like that. And these issues start to, you start to see them. What we often see in these cases is parents panicking. Yes, because you’re in this custody thing. And he’s in your house, and maybe you started cutting in your basement, you didn’t know about it? Yes. You know, and all sudden you’re like, what to do? What do I do? And that’s a very legitimate question. Because when you’re in litigation, and things are very litigious, it’s very hard to reach out and say, Hey, this is what’s going on.
Jackie Critzer 01:55
Well, even when there’s an order in place, like you were saying, there’s done courts over, it can always be changed, right? We’re in Virginia, we know that a material change of circumstances you can get the custody change, and the parenting time changed with sufficient evidence and sufficient time passage. So it is always a worry whether the litigation is ongoing, or there’s technically a final final order. It is it’s it can be terrifying. So So what are parents to do?
Scott Cardani 02:23
You know, the first thing, you shouldn’t even worry about the custody, your focus should immediately go on your child, how can I help my child? Yeah, the worst thing people do is bury it, hide it obfuscated, make it less than it is, the best thing you can do is dig in and start to do the right thing. As you would have done if you were married or still together anything else. Don’t let that custody order dictate your behavior or the potential of litigation dictate your behavior, because in the end, it always backfires.
Jackie Critzer 02:50
When do you tell the other parents? And what do you tell them? And do you put it in writing? Or do you tell them over the phone? I mean, these are all the considerations even even if you’re focused on your child, these are all the questions that that are coming to a parent’s mind.
Scott Cardani 03:05
Absolutely. And, you know, there’s not a right answer for any of those. I mean, there’s not a perfect answer we could sit here is that you always email. That’s not always the case. What if you’re a bad emailer? Which right, you know, or a text or, you know, we’re saying we do people text, your daughter tried to kill herself today, you know, and it’s a bad idea.
Jackie Critzer 03:23
Don’t send that text message to the parent.
Scott Cardani 03:25
Exactly. So, you know, this takes clear communication. I would say, on the phone or something like that, to have the conversation. If you have a spouse or an ex spouse who’s crazy and can ever conversation, maybe say, Hey, I have something to tell you. I’m gonna record this. You know, so they know you’re recording it. Great to have to in Virginia. But you know, and you can have the conversation. Here’s something I found. I saw Jimmy in the garage yesterday, and he was mutilating a body. And it really concern me, I don’t know what’s going on there should be concerning. Should it be concerning, you know? And maybe last weekend, he was at grandpa’s near hunting, he found a dead rabbit. And he was, you know, there. I don’t think there’s a there’s right, there could be that the point is your immediate response is something’s not right here. And I need to help my son through this process, whatever is going on, and hiding it from the other spouse is not going to help. They may take you to court, they may do all these things. But when a judge looks at you and says, I don’t know what else she was supposed to do, right? When you’ve done all the right things and you put that child at center stage – I can’t guarantee anything. But most judges that we see on a regular basis are going to really take the fact that you took it on head on and you did all you could to help your child. That’s not a negative to you, even if it happened in your house and we were talking earlier. Say you’re in a relationship and your kid comes to you and says
Jackie Critzer 04:48
Your boyfriend or your girlfriend, you the parents boyfriend or girlfriend…
Scott Cardani 04:52
Did something last night to me. And it happens all the time. You know how people troll for you People have children so they can mess with their children. If you don’t believe that’s out there, come walk a mile in our shoes, we see it all the time. It’s the most disgusting and predatorial behavior, we see it all the time. So, but if that happens in your home, that doesn’t make it your fault.
Jackie Critzer 05:16
Scott Cardani 05:17
Unless you know you’re constantly picking bad people and putting your child at risk with that people have criminal records and all that stuff.
Jackie Critzer 05:23
There’s a constant rotation of people, you might want to consider your own behaviors. But if that happens, your your son or daughter comes to you and says your significant other touched me inappropriately. Whether you got smacked across the face or, or touched in a in a molestive sort of way. I might have made that word up. It’s hard to say molested. But either way, if it’s some sort of inappropriate touching, what have you, that’s a great point to bring up, Scott, then what do you do? Now let’s…
Scott Cardani 05:50
Look again, your child should become center stage at that moment. And that means maybe putting that relationship on pause no matter where that relationship is. And I see people refused to do this all the time. I’m not saying in the end, it may turn out to be something that was alleged and never happened and all those things. But if you don’t take that step of putting that relationship on pause and getting to the bottom of what happened, it will burn you every time.
Jackie Critzer 06:16
I think importantly, to Scott’s point that you you talk to the other parent. And in what Scott said was you maybe you call them and tell them you’re recording the call? Sure you can you can do that thing? That’s a great idea. You don’t have to tell them you’re recording the call. But if you want it to be admissible in court, you need to tell them that that they’re being recorded. Okay. We’ll get into that in a whole nother podcast, we’re talking about electronic recordation. Okay. So watch for that. That’s probably a good one. But even if you don’t record it, or even if you do record it, and you tell them that you’re recording it, or maybe you didn’t tell them, it is almost always a good idea to say in an email, I just want to follow up with a phone call we just had today, September 28 2022, whatever the date may be, this is what we talked about. This is what you said, this is what I said now, does it really matter in the long run? I hope not. But it’s it’s papering the process. And it’s making my job and Scott’s job when you come to us and say, Well, I did this. Now what do I do? Hey, you, you must listen to the podcast you put your child’s needs first and foremost. You took the first right step, what happened next. And that is something that we can communicate to a guardian ad litem, if there’s one involved or to get one involved, or if we need to file a motion for an emergency hearing, because it’s just that big of a deal. You’re giving us the ability in the foundation to be able to do those things.
Scott Cardani 07:38
And like we were saying, Say Jackie’s significant other did something stupid. Even if it was a spanking, even if was a smack across the face, it should never happen in the way the other party is gonna go. I’m taking a kid you can’t ever see him again, by removing that element, at least on a temporary basis, you take away that threat and everything? Well, you know, I’ve removed the problem, I’ve handled it, you know, there was a mistake made toward it, I didn’t ignore it. And you know, and a judge is gonna say, Who gave you right to change the custody order. But she had a problem, she handled that she did the best thing she could I see, so many people just bury their head in the sand, get scared, and I get it, I get the fear. But at the same time, you cannot operate in fear. And you’ve got to help this child. Even the other thing I was thinking real quickly is say, we’re back to Johnny, and he’s doing crazy things in the garage. And we’re really concerned about him. Jackie calls me I’m the other spouse, and she said I’m gonna put him in counseling. I’ve looked around on this specific issue, this guy, Ted Turner (just kidding), is a good opportunity. He’s really good at this. He’s done it for years, I want to put him in counseling. And Jackie says, no way in hell you’re putting our kids in counseling. Really?
Jackie Critzer 08:52
Well, what do you do next?
Scott Cardani 08:53
What do you do next, Jackie?
Jackie Critzer 08:55
So – unfortunately, this happens so often. And we will address the co parenting relationship and how it impacts your children in yet another podcast, please watch for co parenting and parental alienation when we very likely may have an expert come in, on the parental alienation piece that we’ve got. We’ve got a few people lined up that we’re thinking about. But, what happens in the real life situation is okay. I’ve been watching this pattern of behavior with our son, this is going this is going this is happening and the parent is telling the other parent these things are happening doing all the right things. I’m just letting you know, this is what’s happening and you get the other parent going. It’s all your fault. This is your fault. Why can’t you just do this differently. And then it’s not he’s not going to have the problems or she’s not going to have the problems anymore. And then you’ve got the parent who says I’d really like to get this kid into counseling, he needs the help or she needs the help. And then there’s the roadblock from the other parent. And if you share joint legal custody, there are many many providers who will not provide services unless both parents sign on. So what do you do What options do you have? I don’t know that there are a whole lot of options other than going back to court and telling the court that you’ve got a roadblock with the other parent, and it’s detrimental to the kid.
Scott Cardani 10:09
Yeah. And again, these are the things that, you know, if it’s serious enough, you just need to take action and suffer the consequences. And I really don’t think it judge is going to hold it against you. If it’s that serious. For instance, you know, something happened to your daughter, you immediately take the doctor, you don’t question? Sure. No, you don’t. You inform the other parent, this is what I’m doing. You don’t deny it or hide it, but you take your daughter and get her the help she needs. And I’m telling you, you know, I’ve never seen a judge, look at somebody that’s awful that you took your child to counseling without the other guy’s permission when they needed it so desperately. It’s different if she’s sad. You know, she’s having a few sad days. And you know, that might be something you want to talk about and deal with and work through it.
Jackie Critzer 10:53
And if we’re dealing with Munchausen by proxy, you know that that’s hard to prove. But we see that as well.
Scott Cardani 10:59
Munchausen by proxy?
Jackie Critzer 11:01
That’s where the the parent projects onto the child all these illnesses or mental health issues and takes them to the doctor 17 times a month. And then nothing ever really comes of it. It’s sort of the bias, confirmation bias where they’re looking for someone to confirm this…
Scott Cardani 11:18
And a lot of parents and we see it all the time where parents use it to get the money from the, from the social services to get their kids. You know, so we see a lot of stuff. But our point in this podcast and what we really wanted to make this point is when your child’s issues take center stage, you need to be there. And you need to make this the the most important person most important issue right then and there. And if that requires a pause in your relationship, obviously if you’re remarried, there may be considerations you have to make. But come talk to an attorney say if you’re confused about what to do, come talk to us, you know, or get some help from somebody else. But make start making your way forward to help that child. And it may be stumbling fumbling at first, but you’re doing what you need to do to get that child help. And you’re taking what’s secret out into the light. And that always helps everybody eventually. It may be messy for a season, but it’s always better to get that out in the light. The last thing you want to happen is a year and a half later dad finds out that the thing happened. And then he has a boatload to use against you to court. And…
Jackie Critzer 12:25
Well, let’s let’s let’s look at this, you find the kid in the garage, you know, harming an animal. Whether it’s a pet, or you know that the rabbit that got shot, different story different. Like you don’t get to make that determination. Usually you’re not the one with the PhD who can say, Oh, this I can I can analyze right? You this, this child is going to need help. But hiding the fact that this was happening from the other parent, and it eventually coming to light is only going to work against you not for you. I know there are situations too. And I do think it’s important to touch on it where you’ve got the parent who just wants to say it’s what a it’s not a big deal. Okay, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell them, you should still tell them, tell them what’s going on. If even if you think well, they’re going to say it doesn’t matter, or they don’t care, or they’re going to make it something that it isn’t it, you cannot control the response, you can control yourself. That’s it. And it is incumbent on you to take the next right step for the benefit of your child or your children. First and foremost, that is your first obligation as whether you share custody, or this is maybe on just a visitation weekend, maybe it’s just an every other weekend parenting time, you are still obligated to tell the other parent.
Scott Cardani 13:40
Yeah, and I think there is one exception that I would make to that. If you believe that other parents behavior will be violent towards the child somehow…
Jackie Critzer 13:48
Scott Cardani 13:48
Or some kind of psychologically violent towards the child, then again, come to somebody and get help and strategically figure out how we process through this. That doesn’t mean you hold on to it forever. That doesn’t mean you hide it any of those things, you have to immediately bring it to light. Sometimes you have to choose who you bring it to light to at first. Because of that situation, maybe you have a legitimate fear that dad’s anger goes zero to 100. And he may hurt the child and the in his anger. And that’s, that’s a good consideration you have to make but get help in making that don’t just determine it on your own because you’re seeing it through your eyes. And sometimes you need a little help seeing the whole picture. And, you know, sometimes we have to help people strategize that, what’s the best way and sometimes it is getting the counselor involved at the beginning and letting the counselor bring that out? You know, in a meeting where the counselor or dad can hear that information in front of a counselor, let the explosion happen there. And then maybe just maybe, you know, it might go better. And you know, again, as Jackie said, I think the real important part of this is we can’t control the other person’s response. But we can control our own and when we hide the ball or we get scared and operate out of fear, it only creates problems.
Jackie Critzer 15:06
It does indeed. So find somebody who can help you through this process. Get your kid the help that they need help your child receive the help they need. And in the process of doing all that, get the help that you need so that you can navigate this the best way possible.
Scott Cardani 15:21
Thank you all remember to like and subscribe. And if you have any ideas feel free to email us at [email protected]
Jackie Critzer 15:31
[email protected] And be watching for the parental alienation podcast as well as the When is it okay to record a phone call podcast? Both of those coming to you soon. Thanks.
Scott Cardani 15:42
What To Do When… Outro 19:37
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of What To Do When… For more episodes, be sure to subscribe to our podcast and we encourage you to check archives to listen to previous topics. Tune in next week for a new episode and some fresh perspective from Critzer Cardani.
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