The Dangers of Domestic Violence

“Why doesn’t she leave him?” This was the topic of a Ted Talk that I watched recently. In that talk, Laura Morgan Steiner shared her story of being abused by her first husband. The abuse not only included physical beatings but also having loaded guns held to her head as he threatened to end her life. She stated that she did not initially view herself as a “victim of domestic violence” but as someone who deeply loved a man struggling to overcome his demons from an abusive past. She thought she could help him. She finally left him after a “sadistic beating” one night and then she told everyone who would listen. In the final minutes of her talk, she lists some tips on how to help your family or friends leave.

The first thing to know is that it is incredibly dangerous to leave an abuser. The final step in the domestic violence pattern is “Kill her.” Laura Morgan Steiner stated that over seventy percent (70%) of domestic violence murders happen after the woman ended the relationship. Other outcomes include long-term stalking, denial of financial resources, and manipulation of the family court system to force the children to spend unsupervised parenting time with the man who regularly beats their mother. There are steps you can take to help your family member and friend leave an abusive relationship even in the face of danger or the prospect of unsupervised parenting time for their children.

How Can You Help the Abused?

The first step is to support her confidence in her ability to leave and to leave safely. I have recently spoken to several individuals trying to break free and the reason that they say that they lack confidence to leave is access to financial resources. Abuse is not physical but includes control over finances. If your friend has been restricted from working, understand that this was a way to control her financial freedom. In order to know that she can leave, she must be confident that she can financially support herself and her children without living on the street as he will have repeatedly told her that she could not survive without him. This fear of being worse off without him than with him is what may be preventing her from having the confidence that she can leave.

The second step is to develop a clear and safe plan for her to leave. This might not happen on your timeframe. She may need to save money, often a dollar here and five dollars there to build up enough funds to leave and not worry about the money. She will need to know how to leave safely, where she can go, what she needs to do to keep him away, and what can she do. All this planning will be scary for her. Offer to help research what is available in her area. Help her set up a secret bank account where she can deposit funds. Research what she needs to do to file a personal protection order. She may have spent years to be told what to do, what to wear, and where she can go. Breaking free and making her own decisions will frighten her. Remember, as she plans, she will need her confidence buoyed up by your loving support and not judgmental statements of contempt for her circumstances or choices.

The third step is developing a commitment to leave. Leaving is frightening. Your friend will remember everything that he said he would do if she left him or how inept she is and cannot make it on her own. She will need you to bolster her commitment to leave. Ask your friend why she wants to leave and when she wavers remind her gently of her words that she said for wanting a better life. She may have told you that if he hits her one more time. Do you know if those words were her commitment to leave or words that she said to pacify you? Unless she has begun planning to leave the relationship, you cannot be certain of her level of commitment to leave. It is not uncommon for the level of commitment to waver as she struggles with the love that she feels for him and her need for safety. This is not a black or white situation for her, your friend is seeing the relationship in shades of grey that are affected by his words and actions as well. The best thing you can do for her is to not bully her into leaving or offer ultimatums to her.

The final step in deciding to leave is the exercise of courage. This will take time for her to muster and exercise. She may test her own courage in small steps, such as developing a plan, confronting her abuser, seeking out professional help, saying something to a friend about what is happening, or saving money in secret. If each one of these steps works out for her without repercussions, then she will move forward toward leaving him. But if she fails in any exercise of courage, it could reinforce what he tells her about how weak or stupid she is. If your friend comes to you and tells you of the abuse that she has been enduring, do not judge or tell her what to do. Ask what you can do to help her. Reaffirm her worth as a person. Offer to be a safe shelter for her, if you can or research where she can go after she leaves. With nearly 20 people every minute experiencing domestic violence by an intimate partner. This equates to about 10 million women and men each year. It is bound to affect someone that you know and love. She may not have the courage to tell anyone, but she needs to know no matter what you are there for her. Since October is domestic violence awareness month, take one action to learn more about domestic violence and what you can do to help a friend in an abusive relationship.

Who owns the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects? This is a question that is asked quite often. Arguments are made that the children’s property belong to the parent who purchased the items for the child. This is often followed up with statements that the purchasing parent can prohibit those items from being taken to the other parent’s house. I have heard stories of children wearing a designated outfit on exchange days due to prohibition of taking anything from mommy’s house to daddy’s house and vice versus.

Joint Legal Custody and Children’s Property

In Michigan, when parents have agreed to or are granted joint legal custody, language is typically added to the Judgment of Divorce to define what joint legal custody means. One of the paragraphs defining joint legal custody states as follows:

That the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects shall be the property of the child and not the parties. This means that the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects may move back and forth with the child between the parties’ respective residences as the child so desires and neither party will impede this process. Furthermore, neither party may enter the residence of the other to retrieve any property belonging to the minor child.

I Bought the Children’s Property. Can I Restrict It’s Movement?

This language attempts to settle the question of who owns the child’s clothing, toys, equipment, and personal effects. There is no restriction on the child on which house property can be moved to. The child decides and neither parent should do or say anything to hinder the child from freely moving property. If you are having disagreements over the children’s property, pull out your Judgment of Divorce or custody order and see what it says. Do you find the above language in your judgment? If so, then the property belongs to the child and she can decide where to take it. If you cannot find the above language or something similar in your judgment, then contact an attorney to find out what you can do to resolve the dispute and minimize the conflicts around the child. If you need help, contact us today for a free 15-minute telephone consultation.

You made the decision to file for divorce or you just received divorce pleadings, what do you do next? While most people understand that the next decision should be to consult with an attorney, they forget the second step to take. That step is to take a vacation – from all social media accounts. Social media has become the telephone of today. We are able to share our joys, struggles, and sorrows quickly and with all of our “friends” at once. The problem is that sometimes the filter on what to share and what to keep private is lost. So, when you receive or file papers filed with a courthouse, take these following steps.

Where Are You Logged Into Social Media?

First, log off all social media accounts at your work. I have heard stories of people being fired because of the drama in their life. The last device you should be logging into your social media accounts from is the office computer. Not only can your employer download software to the computer to monitor everything you do on company time. But when you are logged into your social media accounts, the employer can review those accounts.

Second, log off all social media accounts on every device that you logged in. It is easy to just “stay logged in,” but when everything you do and say is subject to scrutiny. Do not make it easy on yourself to post something because you are frustrated or angry.

Control Your Social Media Posts!

Third, stop posting everything on social media. Many people do not realize that anything you say when you are a party to a court proceeding is admissible in court. You said or wrote it and there is no hearsay exception to keep it out of court. This means if you left your account signed in on someone else’s device and they posted to your account as you, it is admissible and you will have to prove that those words were not yours, which can be hard to do. If you posted something out of frustration, it can have a negative effect with the judge. Remember, what you post on the Internet is out there forever. If you have a new significant other, now is not the time to share it with the world.

Fourth, unfollow and block your spouse from your accounts. The fact that you received court pleadings shows that there is a breakdown in your relationship. I guarantee that their attorney will ask for screenshots of everything you post that is negative. Do not make it easy.

Fifth, do not accept any new friend requests. Your spouse or ex-spouse may have their friends or family trying to “friend” you after you remove him from your friend list. The person may have created the account with a false name and photo. If you do not know the person or recall how you know them, do not accept. If it is a long-lost friend trying to reconnect, think twice before hitting that accept button. It may be a good idea to wait a few weeks before accepting the request. If you have not talked in years, a few weeks will not make a big difference.

Finally, do not delete the accounts or anything already posted. Deleting content or the account can be viewed negatively by the court as if you destroyed evidence. Just because you deleted it does not mean that it is gone forever from the Internet. A good attorney will know which resources to pull it back up. Screenshots capture posts and preserve them even after it has been deleted. If you feel like a post may be damaging, share it with your attorney. This will give them a heads up and the attorney can start to plan what to do about it.

If you have been served with divorce papers and are worried about your social media accounts, call our office today for a free fifteen minute telephone consultation.

When you are served with a motion from your ex-spouse after the entry of Judgment of Divorce, there are five action you need to make immediately to protect yourself. If you fail to make these actions, the judge or Friend of the Court Referee will make a ruling on the motion and typically grant your ex-spouse the relief requested in the motion.

1. READ THE MOTION. You need to thoroughly read the motion including the relief that your ex-spouse is asking the judge to do. Start off by slowly reading the title of the motion. If it is long, it may indicate what your ex-spouse is wanting to do. Look for phrases such as “Modification of custody” “modification of parenting time,” “show cause,” or anything that suggest a change is being requested. Most motions that we assist clients on either request a modification to the terms of the last order entered by the court or enforcement of the provisions of the last order. Next, slowly read paragraph in the motion. These should be number and limited to one fact per paragraph. Try not to react to what is being said, as hard as that may be. Your goal is to understand what your ex-spouse is saying. Finally, does the motion and its accompanying paperwork tell you when the court will hear the motion. Be sure to note this date and time.

2. CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY. After you have thoroughly read and understand the motion that you were served with, the second action to take is to decide whether you need to consult with an attorney, or can you represent yourself in responding to this motion. If there is some evidence that you may want to present to the court, including text messages and emails, then it may be beneficial to at least request and pay for a consultation with a family law attorney. When you are deciding to consult with an attorney, it is beneficial to find one whose practice focuses on the issue that the motion is addressing. Do not be afraid to ask the reception if the attorney helps clients who have to respond to your exact motion. After you meet with the attorney, you will need to decide if you need this person by your side and advocating on your behalf or if you are comfortable doing this on your own. In order to make this decision, you may need to assess what kind of attorney your ex-spouse has hired, if you agree with what your ex-spouse is requesting, or if you have the knowledge to properly respond and present your position to the court. During your consultation, you should discuss if the attorney provides services outside of full representation, such as just drafting a response for you.

3. RESPOND TO THE MOTION. You have options in how your respond. You can respond in writing. You can show up to the motion hearing and respond orally. You can respond both in writing and showing up to the motion hearing to orally respond. Finally, you can choose to do no response. It is our recommendation to clients that chances of a better outcome can happen when the response is both in writing and at the motion hearing. If you choose to respond in writing, you will need to know the timeframe that judges like to have the response by. Many judges will read both the motion and response prior to the motion hearing. It is our position that having the judge have time in advance to under your position as the party responding to the motion is always better than waiting to the day of the hearing.

Once you have decided how to respond, drafting a proper response will be appropriate. The party filing the motion will need to show the court that he has met the grounds for filing the motion, particularly if the motion is requesting a change in custody or parenting time. Can you clearly identify what is being cited as the change in circumstances or proper cause for filing this motion? If the reason for filing the motion is insufficient, it should be clearly addressed in your response. This is where having an attorney assist you can be helpful. Be sure to respond to each paragraph and address what your ex-spouse addressed in his corresponding paragraph in his motion. After your response is drafted, file it with the court and serve a copy on your ex-spouse or his attorney.

4. ATTEND THE HEARING. Be sure to allow plenty of time to go through security at the courthouse without being late. In smaller courthouses, this may not be an issue. However, if you attend a large courthouse, such as the Sixth Circuit in Pontiac, the lines to get into the courthouse on motion day can be quite long and waits to just pass through security could be up to half hour. Leave your cell phone in your vehicle. Many courthouses do not allow cell phones, unless you are a currently licensed attorney. If there is evidence on your phone, find a way to print it or download to a device that you can take in. When you arrive at the judge’s courtroom, be sure to check in with the clerk. If there are further instructions, the clerk will inform you at that time. In the Sixth Circuit, if a motion involves issues that the Referee could assist in resolving, you will be instructed on where to let the Referee know you are ready to proceed.

5. READ BEFORE YOU SIGN. Thoroughly read any order being entered after the motion hearing before you sign it. If an agreement was reached for summertime only, be sure that it is clearly stated in the order. Many orders entered following a motion will be handwritten by an attorney, the filing party, or the Referee. Do not leave sign this Order until it clearly states what the agreement reached was or what the judge said on record. A word of caution, if the judge made a ruling that you do not agree with, refusing to sign the order will not prevent the court from entering a written order that reflects the judge’s ruling. If you contest the ruling, you may need to consult with an appellate attorney. Remember, never ignore a motion that you have received. Your lack of response can alter your rights and responsibilities. If you want to consult with an attorney on a motion you received, schedule your paid consultation today.

While divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end the co-parenting relationship that exists between mothers and fathers. Understanding that your ex-spouse will still be involved in your life when you have children together can be the hardest thing for our clients to grasp. In all other aspects, divorce is about cutting the ties to the ex-spouse. You are dividing property and debt and making one spouse responsible after the entry of the judgment. However, children are not divided by a judgment of divorce and the communication to co-parent the Divorce does not make communicating with the spouse any easier. 

In some cases, one party did not want the divorce, and may have been surprised by the filing. This party is slower to work through their feelings of the end of the relationship. Often times, the feelings bleed into the communication with the other spouse during and after the divorce proceedings. However, there are steps that you can take to keep the communication with your ex-spouse civil and open during and after the divorce proceedings. I have discussed the five most common that I see in my practice. 

First, realize that the relationship is no longer the same. Even if you still love your spouse, she no longer loves you. Keep any thoughts or feelings of love for your ex-spouse to yourself. These thoughts are not appropriate to share. However, if you think your spouse may be open to the idea of reconciliation, recognize that you had a role to play in the breakdown of the marriage. Examine what that role was and if it is possible to repair the damage done in the past to save a marriage. I have seen clients take this action and save their marriage. However, many of them required the assistance of marriage counselor to have a long-lasting impact to their relationship. 

Second, no matter what button your spouse pushes with what he says, do not react with hostility or anger. I have read many emails and text messages where it is clear that feelings of anger are still in play. One wrong word or something read out of context starts a barrage of hateful comments. Your children can read or soon will be reading. If your child found the text messages or emails, would your words demonstrate the type of person you want your children to be? If the answer is no, then sending the quick reply back is ill-advised. There is no requirement to quickly respond to every text or email from an ex-spouse. If his words set you off, have another person read the message. Do they read the same thing you have read? Listen to what they say about the message and then respond using the high road. There is no need to engage in a battle of slinging hurtful things, such as “I will take the kids from you” or “My children will never be with you again.” I have not even mentioned the use of profanity, but just do not use it.  

Third, if you cannot exchange the children without a verbal fight occurring, then agree to exchange the children at a public place halfway between homes. If your children are old enough to walk to the other parent’s home or car, allow them to walk without leaving your car. If you have to get out of the car to help get belongings together for the children, speak only to your children and say how much you love them. Remember to be polite in front of the children. If you cannot speak, just smile. 

Fourth, if your relationship and communication is almost impossible to keep civil, consider using a communication tool. There are many out there from Our Family Wizard to TwoHouses to AppClose. Some of the tools for parents to use charge an annual fee. Others, like AppClose, are free. Several will allow the addition of stepparents, attorneys, or court personnel. Most of the communication tools have additional features such a calendar for sharing schedules and appointments, expense reporting for medical reimbursements or messaging. The use of the communication tool may require a court order that both parties communicate using a particular program as the tools will only work if both parties are using the same one. 

Fifth, give the other parent time to respond. I have seen pages of texts or emails where one party inundates the other’s inbox with messages sent seconds if not minutes apart. This quick fury of messages often indicate that one party cannot wait for the other party to respond. As I read the barrage of messages that had been sent, I see the assumptions and accusations that have been made. As a third party reading the conversation outside of the heat of the moment, I can clearly see which part took the wrong action in the conversation and where it broke down. If I can see it, so will the judge or referee who has been assigned to the case. Text messages and emails sent between two parents can be used in court to prove how one parent is not following the court order. There is no way to prevent them from not being introduced and the words said in the heat of the moment can make a loving parent look controlling or selfish. If what you read makes your blood boil, B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Slow down the conversation and take five deep long breaths. Control your emotions and responses.  

Remember while a divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end a family. Divorce has changed the way your family lives and interacts. As a parent, it is your job to do what is best for your children. This may include shielding your children from the acrimony that parents have for one another.  If your ex-spouse continues to feed the hostility, contact our office for help. 

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.” Aretha Franklin sang these words in her 1967 song, “Respect.” In a custody case, respect is defined by the judge or the Friend of the Court Referee. But even they have been given guidance in how to define the words. The legislature wrote down twelve factors for determining what is in the best interests of children when a court considers custody or parenting time. One of those factors, MCL 722.23j, addresses the “willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.” 

In a nutshell, this factor evaluates how much each parent shows respect to the other parent. When the court evaluates a parent’s willingness to promote a close bond with the other parent, the court is looking at how each parent acts towards the other parent or what that parent is saying in front of the children. The court looks to prior case law where other parents behaved badly toward one another for guidance. Here are three behaviors that demonstrate to the court that a parent lacks respect for the other parent. 

The first behavior is vindictiveness. When a parent is being vindictive, it is apparent that the parent has or is showing a strong or unreasoning desire for revenge. This can be outright attempting to destroy the bond between the other parent and child. Some behaviors that might demonstrate to the court that this is occurring are scheduling activities or allowing the child to schedule activities during the other parent’s parenting time or berating the other parent in front of the child.  

The second behavior is informing the child about court proceedings. Often, when one parent is sharing details of ongoing court proceedings, it is done with the intent to place the other parent in a bad light with the child. I have heard of parents communicating to their children, “Well, Daddy is trying to take you away from me” or “Mommy does not want us to have any fun.” No matter who is sharing, it is emotionally harmful for the child to be dragged into adult proceedings.  

A third behavior is showing an uncooperative attitude toward parenting time. It can be the little things done consistently over time that demonstrates this is occurring. A parent can be late in returning the children or having them ready for parenting time. A parent can unilaterally decide that parenting time should be canceled because of weather, the child’s activities, or illness. This parent will often talk using “I know” or “my child.”  

If you are experiencing any of these types of behaviors from the other parent, the solution is not to retaliate. Instead, team up with the attorneys at Melissa Pearce & Associates to find a respectful way to address the problems. Call us today to schedule your pre-engagement meeting. 

This past Sunday was the Mother’s Day. I recall how hard Mother’s Day was when I was divorced, especially when my children were little. They did not have the resources available or the ability at times to do anything special for me for Mother’s Day. After the children started school, Mother’s Day was about the special art projects they made for me in school and to this day, I treasure each one of them. I recently had a conversation with a recently divorced mother of children under the age of four. The day was equally as hard for her and she was fighting back feeling angry at her ex-husband.

This mother was already planning to help her children do something special for their father on Father’s Day. Her frustration arose out of the fact that he did not do anything to help their children do anything special for her for Mother’s Day. What she was feeling is not unusual for many of our clients with young children. The other spouse does not consider what can be done to help the children show their gratitude to a parent. I have heard some individuals justify their actions by saying that the former spouse is no longer their spouse, so why should they do anything.

Celebrating Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is not about the spouse or former spouse and the relationship that they have with. It is about honoring our parents for their sacrifices and the hours that they devote to their children. Just because you are no longer married does not diminish the role the ex-spouse plays in your children’s lives. Ben Affleck took the time to honor Jennifer Garner on Instagram this Mother’ Day by posting “Happy Mother’s Day to the two incredible mothers who have shown me the meaning of love.”  I am not saying that you should show up at your ex-spouse’s house and make breakfast in bed or post on social media a tribute. However, take some time to see how you can support your children in how the children want to honor their parent.

The actions you take can be as simple as helping the children make a card for the other parent, coloring a flower pot and planting a simple flower for mom, purchasing something for dad that supports his favorite hobby, or buying a gift card to a restaurant so the children can take their parent out to eat. The actions should be suitable to the children’s ages and own desires. For your younger children, under the age of 5, you may have to make some suggestions on what the child can do.

When you take the time to help your children honor their other parent, you teach them how to respect other people even if they are not liked. Your children will pick up on how well their parents get along after a divorce. The time and effort you spend helping your child honor their other parent is a life lesson that only actions can teach. Your actions will speak louder than the words you say to your children. Ben Stich, a mediator and licensed social worker, says you can minimize the negative effects of divorce by going “out of the way to make sure their child honors the other parent’s birthday and Mother’s and Father’s Day.”

If your family has blended with another family after divorce, respecting the new stepparent will create the same lesson on how to treat others. It may be difficult to watch your child shop for a “new mom” or a “new dad” but showing your child how to love more than one person is invaluable. In addition, you are demonstrating to your child that changes in life do happen, and the new spouse deserves respect just as much as you do. Write a new rule for honoring your ex-spouse as you help your child show love and gratitude to the other parent on special holidays. It can change how your children view marriage and divorce as they grow into adults.

I spent eleven years a single mother and learned through the eyes of others just how strong I was at that time. Those outside observations and my reflections have shown how my inner strength as a single mother shaped my children into who they are today. From those observations that I had been told, I am able to encourage clients about to become single parents. I have listed seven of those observations to help you become a stronger single parent.

Be focused and goal oriented. Know what kind of life that you want to provide for your children and achieve them. Friends would tell me that they admired my focus and drive. Back then, I did not fully understand what they were seeing. I had visions for myself and my children. I knew where I wanted to raise my children and what beliefs I wanted to instill in them. This was my focus and I did whatever it took, including swallowing my pride, to achieve them. It was not easy, but the visions would motivate me to keep moving forward and to not allow the financial struggles or daily setbacks to halt the progress forward. Today, I watch my adult children set their own personal and family goals that are focused on building a better life for their children.

Be well-organized. Schedules and planners were my best friends as single parent. I allowed my children to follow what their passions were and that meant that I would to coordinate five different schedules. Our days were planned from the moment that we woke up to the moment we went to bed. I had established time frames for doing homework, having dinner, getting ready for bed, when to put away toys and belongings for the night, and quiet times in the house. For some of the children, the schedule helped them thrive and for others, it allowed them to know what was expected.

Be flexible. Having four children to raise on my own meant that something would not go as planned. Sometimes, the bus would be late to drop off a child from an out-of-town game. This would mean finding ways to communicate when the bus was back in town in enough time to minimize wait time in a car with siblings that were tired and needed to go to bed. Appointments would go longer than expected. Life would just happen, and I had to be willing to adjust and pivot quickly.

Be involved with your children. While my children played sports or participated in other extracurricular activities, I was always involved with them. Sometimes, I would volunteer to coach a team, which minimized the financial costs. Other times, I made a point to be at every game that I could attend and cheer for my child. There were times my children did not appreciate my sideline encouragements and requests were made that I not be so loud, but I was present in their lives. But I watched them grow and develop their own independence and confidence.

Know when to be independent and when to ask for help. I learned how to repair my car, re-caulk a tub, and many other tasks that typically live on a list for husbands. I did not allow my gender to be a reason for why I could not do something. However, I knew when something needed the right person to do the job. When my son’s baseball bat catapult went through a window, I was able to reach out to friends who knew how to replace the glass in an older wood-framed window and where to obtain the glass. I would exchange babysitting with other single mothers to be able to run errands or do my Christmas shopping.

Believer in yourself. There will be many times that doubt will creep in and try to convince you that you are ruining your children’s childhood. But if you act with their best interests in mind, they will know it. While you are one parent in a child’s life, know that it is enough. You are not perfect, and you will make mistakes. But from those mistakes, you will learn how to be a better parent. Keep a journal and document your journey. You will amaze yourself on how much you can accomplish whether out of necessity or because you want to.

Give back to others. This will be difficult on days you are exhausted or when money is tight. But find small ways to give back to others. Do not be afraid to let your children see your generosity. Let your children observe what a charitable heart looks like and why it is important to lift others up in their times of struggle.

Being a single parent is not something to be ashamed of. It is a just a stage of your life. Embrace the life lessons that you will learn and the personal growth that you will realize. If you need help finding resources in your community or a plumber, call our office for a referral to a member of our Team 100.  We are happy to recommend local professionals and technicians in the area that we know, like and trust. 

As parents, it is in our nature to protect our children from harm whether physical or emotional. But the truth is, we cannot. Throughout their lifetimes, our children will fall and skin knees. They will develop friendships that cause them emotional pain. Our children will do the very actions that we warned them that will cause harm. Children need to learn for themselves as their individual failures help them to grow. However, some failures need more from us as parents to help our children grow and recover. One of those can be teen dating violence.

As your children grow into teenagers, they will begin to date. I remember when my children started to date. At the different ages of teenage years, “date” meant different things. For the young teens, dating another person was hanging out between classes and texting when home or on the weekends. There were not many actual dates as adults envision. Older teens would begin to go out with friends to the movies. A driver’s license opened the world and risk. I remember hearing after a break-up about all the reasons why. Sometimes, our teens will not share with us those struggles of dating. However, when those struggles of dating involve teen dating violence, we need to be ready to help our teen recover. Here are five tips for you as a parent to use to help your teen.

First, do not blame the teen and remind them that the dating violence they experienced is not her fault. Dating violence, and domestic violence, involve manipulation. Manipulation often accompanies physical and emotional abuse. The other person will blame the victim for the loss of control, the temper, or “making the other person do it.” Reassure your teen that the blame lies with the one who is abusive, whether physically or emotionally. Be gentle as changing this mindset and realizing that they had no control over another will take time. Slowly, your child will rebuild her self-esteem and confidence with your support.

Second, watch out for the emotional triggers. Your teen may not share with you everything that happed in the relationship. They may be embarrassed or ashamed. Take note of the what will trigger emotional outbursts or withdrawals. Respect those emotional triggers during the healing process.

Third, expect the emotional outbursts from your teen. Emotional outbursts for teens in general are expected as they go through the hormonal changes during the teen years. But when the addition of a trauma is added, the outbursts may increase. Work with your teen to understand the root of these emotional outbursts and discuss different ways of coping. Watch your teen for developing signs of anxiety, depression, or extreme mood swings. These may indicate that your teen is struggling and needs more supportive help.

Fourth, explore the option of individual counseling with your teen. While we love our children and want to help through everything, we may not be the person our children want to share the experiences of dating violence with. Your teen may fear how you will react and may believe that if they do not share, then they are protecting you from your reactions. However, they will need someone to talk to and understand the dynamics of the relationship. A counselor can help your teen on ways to recover and how to move forward.

Fifth, be a non-judgmental support system. I know this is easier said than done. But sharing what happened may be difficult for your teen. They need to know that you will listen without going into momma bear mode. They need to know that you will not judge them for not leaving at the first sign of problems or vocalize that you knew this person was bad. Be their shoulder to cry on and the strong arms to reassure them. Let them know whenever they need to talk about what happened or how they are feeling, you are there no matter the time to listen.

If your teen experienced dating violence and is still being harassed by the other party, call our office to explore what legal options are available.

As a parent and a grandparent, I am concerned about the increasing news about teen dating violence. This was not a topic that was talked about when I was growing up or when my own children were dating. But it is a topic that a parent of a teen needs to be aware and understand what some of the warning signs may be. A search on the internet turned up a lot of articles about teen dating violence and some of those articles were drawing links between teen dating violence and the increase in school shootings. As a parent, we need to know what our children’s world is like as it is not the same world that we grew up in.

The first thing to understand about teen dating violence is what it is and how common is it. This is a growing problem in the United States and about one-third of all teens involved in a romantic violence will experience abuse of some kind. [1] As parents, we need to think beyond the first images of abuse. Abuse is more than just physical violence. It includes sexual abuse and emotional abuse, which is the hardest to detect.  In July 2011, a study conducted by Priscilla Offenhauer and Alice Buchalter on teen violence stated that emotional abuse is the most common form with 76% of teen reporting teen dating violence.[2]

Since emotional abuse is the most common form of teen dating violence, as parents, we need to understand what it is and how to recognize some warning signs. Emotional abuse is “form of controlling behavior that involves subjecting another person to behavior that causes a diminished ‘sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.’”[3] Emotional abuse includes isolation, verbal abuse, and embarrassment. It is easy a parent to discount emotional abuse as a just part of growing up or the way people get along, but the psychological effects of emotional abuse can cause as much damage as physical abuse.

There are warning signs that a parent should be able to recognize if a teen is experiencing teen dating violence. The signs include withdrawing interest from ordinary activities, unexpected or unexplained mood swings, demonstrated fear of upsetting their partner, reluctance to do any activity without their partner in fear of retribution, or self-harming or suicidal behaviors. If you recognize some of these signs or other behavior changes in your teen, then set aside to talk with them. Understand that if your teen has a strained relationship with you as a parent, your teen may not be willing to speak about the difficulties in the dating relationship. If this is the case, ask a family member or friend to speak with your teen. As a parent, you should convey to your teen that you are concerned for their safety, both physically and emotionally.

If your teen has been involved in a relationship with teen dating violence and you are not sure where to turn or how to help your teen, go to www.teendvmonth.org/resources/. If you need legal assistance, call us today for a compassionate team to help both you and your teen take control back.


[1] “Most Teens Suffer Emotional Abuse in Their Relationships”, https://www.teendvmonth.org/teens-suffer-emotional-abuse-relationships/ accessed 2/21/2019 written May 30, 2018

[2] Priscilla Offenhauer, Alice Buchalter; Teen Dating Violence: A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography  https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/235368.pdf accessed 2/21/2019

[3] Most Teens Suffer