Acrimonious Divorce Constitutes Child Abuse?

by JWC

Italian prosecutors in Milan feel the psychological suffering inflicted on a 12-year-old boy by a couple going through an acrimonious divorce, constitutes ill treatment of a minor and have requested they be charged. The Milan prosecutor, Marco Ghezzi, authorized the case following a report from a health visitor which indicated the child was "disturbed".

The prosecution charges that each parent tried to "discredit, devalue and undermine the other" in front of him and "project their emotions onto him, above all, anger". In addition, the prosecution states that each of the parents had "manipulated" the child in an attempt to "make him decide between them", using him as a tool in their divorce battle.

Naturally the couple blame each other for their break up and for the arguments in front of the child.

This appears to be the first case of its kind. It could have precedent-setting implications for couples separating or divorcing who try to use their child as a tool in the divorce or have bitter arguments in front of their child or children.

Apparently, in the Netherlands it is now standard practice for interim orders to be made to ensure that parents and children do not live in the same property during a divorce.

I find this case intriguing, and I am very interested in the opinion of others who visit this site. Child abuse or not child abuse? That is the question. My answer? I believe it IS a form of child abuse.

Darlene's comments to this Child Abuse Article titled "Acrimonious Divorce Constitutes Child Abuse?" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

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Comments for Acrimonious Divorce Constitutes Child Abuse?

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Nov 09, 2008
Facts aren't always taken into account...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

The facts certainly point to child abuse, but facts don't always determine the outcome. The 12-year-old child in this case is suffering from neglect. His basic needs are not being met, in particular, his emotional needs. When a child's basic needs are not being met, that child is being emotionally abused in any number of ways. In this case, I have no doubt that he's being terrorized by both his parents through their incessant arguments in front of the child. Even at 12 years of age, this child would believe that he is the cause of the parental split up, which would be further validated in his mind when the parents "manipulate" him in an attempt to "make him choose between them". The emotional turmoil going on with the child must be unbearable. (See Witnessing Spousal Violence and Impact of Witnessing Spousal Violence on this site.)

Whether or not a judge and/or jury would actually see what is happening to this boy as abuse is another matter, since any type of emotional abuse is very difficult to prove; which is why emotional abuse on its own is the least likely of the abuses to be pursued in a court of law. It will be interesting to watch this process and learn the outcome. This case not only has precedent-setting ramifications for the ruling; the case has the potential for setting a standard for a remedy.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

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