Child's mother was a hamster
May 8, 2011 6:29 AM   Subscribe

Is there any legal (or otherwise) recourse if one parent is falsifying their child's background with a psychologist to make the other parent look like a villain? Could it really be causing them to misdiagnose my son? Sorry for the dreadful complicated story inside...I really tried to short-story it.

My ex has been taking my son, who currently lives with him, to psychologists for some years. He and his wife then fabricate entire stories about me to fill in my son's back story for the psychologist and tell him they have no way to reach me. My ex has full legal custody but I have rights to access medical and legal information. This has happened three times now - the first time I wrote a letter to the doctor, who informed me that first off she was no longer his psychologist, and second that she would have loved to have had my input. In light of medical and school records I sent her (from when my son lived with me) she was concerned about the validity of her evaluation. But there was nothing I could do. The next psychologist was openly hostile to me whenever I spoke to him on the phone, and the evaluation he sent me included even more fabricated details (now apparently I had been abusive). After some letter writing, he adjusted his report to remove that information, but it still ate at me.

Now my son is in some trouble, and he has had a state ordered evaluation. Once again, they did NOT contact me, though they had my number. This report is even worse - it states false information about my pregnancy, in fact, and goes on to make me out to be an incredible villain. I am just appalled. I have been obsessing on this, I can't get my head around it.

Also of note - another psychologist they had, they stopped using after she started talking to me. I tried to take my son to a psychologist when he was with me over a long visit, and involve my ex via the phone, but he refused to even speak to this doctor. My reasons for this were not to have my son rediagnosed but to get help with handling some behavior he exhibited when he was at my house.

Is there anything I can do to stop this without involving an attorney?

Am I wrong to worry my son is being misdiagnosed based on false histories and background information? Although they have had him on various medications and with various diagnoses all his life, he has only grown more oppositional, more defiant, more dishonest, over the years.

One last question - I would also like to do nothing that would make life with his dad harder for my son. He will be 18 in a year and some change, and part of me wonders if I should just wait this all out. Should I let this go? Is this a pointless battle? My son and I have a pretty good relationship, and he is somewhat close to his brothers, and constantly expresses the wish he could come back and live with us. I'd love that, but I just don't know how I can make it happen without causing huge conflict for all involved, including him.

My son and I live about 3k miles apart, but we speak on the phone 2-3 times a month (this has gone down as my son hit his later teenage years and developed an aversion to the phone). He's due to visit me over the summer, but I need to wait and see how things go with the trouble he recently got into.

If anyone has questions, my throwaway email is
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't an answer to your question per se. My father did something similar to me as a child. He didn't go to the extent of lying to psychologists (if I had seen one, I'm sure he would have). He often told me lies about my mother and lies to his future girlfriends about my mother (ie. that she was in a cult and it endangered my welfare... which was totally and ridiculously false). The reason I'm telling you this, is because I always believed my mom. Sometimes I lived in a utopic world where I wanted to believe that my dad wasn't all bad... but his actions never let that fantasy go very far. My dad ended up sealing his own fate when his spiteful actions ended up leaving me no other option but to cut him and his family out all together. Hopefully it won't come to that, but I think these types of people show their true colours. If you're always supportive and there for your son, he'll see that you're not the villain your ex has made you out to be.

Since he's almost 18... I'm not sure if there's any legal recourse... but I might look into getting some advice from a lawyer. It seems as though it could be deflamation of character, but I could be wrong. It's worth looking into. Here in Canada (I'm not sure where you're located), you can go down to a local courthouse and talk to duty counsel and get some free legal advice. I know in my town, it's during specific hours, so you could always call and find out.

Good luck!
posted by DorothySmith at 6:59 AM on May 8, 2011

The wrong that's been done is defamation, it's happened a number of times, it is unlikely your ex is going to change how he does business. Your only recourse to get him to stop making false statements would be an attorney.

As for the 'should I do it' question... given your son's age, given that at 18 he can walk out on your ex and come live with you, my inclination is that, since it's gone on this long, wait it out, nurture the relationship with your son.
posted by tomswift at 7:19 AM on May 8, 2011

(Standard IANAL disclosure. I have office experience working for a family law and divorce attorney who has 35+ years experience in that field)

Your son needs a Guardian Ad Litem (link is from the State of MN, but is general enough to give you a sense of the role) pronto. Especially if you are now being characterized as "abusive" it will be the job of the GAL to independently ascertain and report to the court their findings based on their research and interviews.

Since you likely went through a court system to obtain your divorce and set custody terms, you have an established presence there (but you do say you live 3k miles apart, so perhaps your divorce was in a different jurisdiction, but nevertheless was settled in a court of law). If you worked well with your divorce attorney, it would be easiest to go with them to file a motion to have a GAL appointed for your son. If your original attorney is not available, your local Bar Association should refer you to Family Law specialists.

Age doesn't matter, as long as your son is a minor and still under the terms of the custody agreement you reached either during divorce or afterward (many divorced couples often return to the court as their lives and situations change and update custody terms as needed).

You obviously care more about your son and his well being than whether you're being cast in a bad light. In that sense, I see you doing what is right by him and I hope if you meet with an attorney who thinks having a GAL appointed for your son is a good thing that you'll follow through and provide your son with objective assistance in his life based on his needs and concern for his welfare.
posted by kuppajava at 7:37 AM on May 8, 2011 [4 favorites]

What a horrible situation. Your son says he wants to live with you. In custody cases kids that old are asked where they would prefer to live. If he expresses the desire to live with you when he comes to visit this summer let him stay. Consult a lawyer now and find out what would happen if he does decide to stay with you.
posted by mareli at 7:45 AM on May 8, 2011

If your ex is determined to behave badly, it's going to be a mess no matter what. If you try to do something about it, it will be a mess. If you decide to wait it out, it will be a mess. It's impossible to say what you should do because you haven't fully explained the context that these evaluations are happening in and how serious the consequences could be for your son, so let me put that aside.

No matter how you handle this difficult and distressing situation with your ex, there's a clear (I think) right way to handle it with your son. It sounds like you're already doing it. As long as you make sure that he knows that he has your unconditional love and support, that he can ask you to take care of him, that you will help him if he needs help and accept him as he is for who he is, you're doing your job as his mom. It sounds like your son is having a really hard time. But everyone has some tough times in life. The most important thing is that in good times or bad, he has your support. That's what counts, and that's what he'll remember. You know him best, so you are the expert on how to make him feel loved and supported. You can also try asking him if there's anything he'd like you to do or not do.

Boils down to: be there for him and love him, and you're doing everything right. It sounds like he needs a stable source of support, and that's close to the best anyone can do for their child.
posted by prefpara at 7:49 AM on May 8, 2011

Is there anything I can do to stop this without involving an attorney?

Probably not, unless you yourself are an expert in family law in your jurisdiction. You need to speak with an attorney to find out what your options are. I wish you and your son all the best.
posted by decathecting at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Chiming in with no real technical answer, but just to empathize that I feel your pain. My live-in SO is in the same boat with his ex. And the ex is a clinical psychologist, to make matters worse. She knows how to work the system to her advantage, and her only goal in all of this is to cause pain to my SO. He has a wonderful relationship with his 3 boys, and his only recourse is to keep on doing what he is doing, because in the end, they will have a much better relationship with their dad than they do with their mother.

They see how she lies and twists the story to suit her agenda, which is unfortunate. She holds the power, and my SO has neither the funds nor the animosity to drag her through the courts to uncover the truth. And the boys know this, but are too young to legally choose where they want to live. So we wait until the youngest is 18 (about 9 more years), keep giving the unconditional love and never say bad things to them about their mother. IMO, she doesn't deserve our "high road", but ultimately, it is a means to an end.

I say this because I hope that your son will see the light of your love, and know that you have done, and will continue to do, exactly what you are doing: care.
posted by sundrop at 9:06 AM on May 8, 2011

Please don't take legal advice from the internet.

It does sound like you should have at least a chat with a lawyer to understand your options in the two jurisdictions at play here. Whether or not you decide to move forward with the legal options, you should know what they are.
posted by freshwater at 9:24 AM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

My mother lied to psychologists about me and about my father. It consistently affected both the psychological treatment of me, and eventually, my ability to function. I had not only my mother telling me this crap, but an outside authority figure who *should* have been on my side, trying to "fix" things that were all inside her head. I went to supposed authority figures for help--I didn't ha ve a choice about going to the psychologists, but once there, they were supposed to be helping, right?--and they reinforced the problems I was already facing, by believing the lies and trying to treat based on them.

The psychologists should have known better. Looking back, I don't know how they didn't. It still makes me furious, but it happened so many times that it was clearly not a single fluke.

Lying to a child's psychologist can be actively harmful for the child. I don't want to rant about how badly this screwed me up; you're (rightly) asking about your kid. Feel free to memail me if you'd like me to explain more about how terrible this can be for the kid involved.

By the way, at 16 I ran away to live with my dad. My mother sued my father to make me come back; she lost. I didn't know about the suit until afterwards, so they didn't ask me to testify. Apparently the only thing the court thought was important in that element of the suit was my age.
posted by galadriel at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just chiming in to second the idea of talking to a lawyer about appointing a Guardian Ad Litem. Best thing my parents/the courts did for me when I was the child stuck in a nasty situation similar to yours.
posted by MuChao at 12:32 PM on May 8, 2011

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