A bitter divorce could leave spouses distrustful and hostile towards one another. Adults might not realize how harmful such behavior could be to themselves, much less to an impressionable child. Co-parenting missteps may involve putting children into a potentially damaging “loyalty trap,” putting the child in a terrible position. Reports about loyalty traps could also make child custody hearings far more bitter and quarrelsome.
The dangers of a loyalty trap
One or both spouses might wish to uncover information about a former or soon-to-be-former partner. One disastrous way to procure information involves asking the child to act as a “spy” and provide details the one parent seeks. Asking a child to probe for info or reveal personal information about another parent puts the young one into an awkward position. The child may become confused or feel guilt over his or her “spying,” which might harm development.
The reverse of spying involves acting as a messenger. Refusing to communicate with the other spouse and using the child to relay messages about alimony or other divorce matters may become incredibly stressful for the child. The relationship between the child and the other parent may suffer, which, sadly, might be what the one parent wants.
Issues with child custody
Both parents may have an adversarial relationship with one another, and one parent could try to make the child an ally. A troubled spouse might not want the child to have a good relationship with the other parent and try to drive wedges between the child and former spouse. Such actions may require attention during child custody hearings.
Anything that undermines a child’s psychological development may prove alarming to a family court judge. Parents who force loyalty tests or otherwise may prove unfit could lose joint custody or even visitation rights.