Tag Archives: high conflict divorce

Domestic Violence by Proxy

Domestic Violence by Proxy

A Message from OMB’s President (Rebecca Davis Merritt) and Vice President (Jennifer) about Domestic Violence by Proxy:

You have probably seen OMB’s informational poster about why we advocate not using the term or “theory” of Parental Alienation. We post it once a month encouraging our readers to understand that the controlling behaviors of Cluster B parents in trying to place a wedge between the children and healthy parent is Domestic Violence by Proxy. The emotional abuse of a Cluster B is domestic Violence (DV).

When a Cluster B personality disordered individual enters the family court system they wage war upon the healthy parent. They may have been absent parents never attending school, medical or dental appointments but suddenly they attend everything, preening as the doting father or mother and may push for custody. Custody is seen as a prize. The goal is to hurt the healthy primary parent and save money via child support calculations. As part of that push they groom children to see their healthy parent as untrustworthy and self-centered (projection), with divorce or separation their fault while portraying the Cluster B parent as wounded and needing the children to shower him or her with love and affection. Children often respond to this gaslighting by siding with the abusive parent.

The Cluster B parent often blames the healthy parent for his or her own actions, claiming parental alienation (PA). If the children distrust Cluster B parent based upon a history of abusive behaviors, this estrangement is labeled as PA. The healthy parent, unfortunately, is at serious risk of losing custody  in family court. Men who physically batter their former partner are much more likely to gain custody than the healthy parent.  Courts have been taught that women claiming DV in family court are usually lying and using this false claim to secure custody. Even when DV claims are accepted, courts falsely believe DV only affects direct victim and that abusers can be good parents to their children. Once Cluster Bs have the children away from the healthy parent, they use manipulation and other forms of abuse to convince the children that their other parent never loved them and are untrustworthy.

Alina Patterson (2003) first defined Domestic Violence by Proxy or DV Proxy. DV Proxy is a pattern of behavior where a parent with a history of using domestic violence, or intimidation uses the child (as a substitute) when s/he does not have access to the former partner. Continuing the cycle of domestic violence, the cycle of Domestic Violence by Proxy starts when the victim leaves the abuser and the abuser learns the easiest way to continue to harm and control the former partner is through controlling access to the children.

Once the abuser has control of the children they are able to continue stalking, harassing and abusing the former partner even when the abuser has no direct access. DV can manifest in ways such as threats to the children if they display a close relationship with the former partner, destroying the children’s favorite possessions given by the former partner and emotional abuse. Children are often coached to make false allegations about the parent.

DV by proxy is very deliberate and planned. The abusers know what they are doing and chose their controlling, coercive, and illegal behaviors. The behaviors are usually surrounded by threats and fears and often include “battery, destruction of property, locking children in rooms to prevent them from calling parents, falsifying documents, along with other similar overt behaviors.” As the leadership council suggests, “Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.”

Unlike Gardner’s discredited PAS theory, the behaviors associated with DV by proxy are visible. Gardner stated the behaviors by the “alienating parent” were unconscious or unseen. This is one of the scarier components in Gardner’s theory because you cannot defend yourself against unseen things. Many healthy parents have found themselves trying to defend themselves against these unseen behaviors.

Family court professionals often fail to understand the presence and implications of both domestic violence and Cluster B psychopathology. Thus family court usually encourages unfettered access of the children to abusers. Family court judges and lawyers often work to punish healthy parents reporting bona fide abuse. Yet, they often seem to believe the victim stories told by abusers. Court officials often seem slow to recognize how family court itself can be abusive, particularly protracted, repeated, unnecessary court hearings used by the abuser to drain the financial and emotional resources of the healthy parent. Children may be placed with the abuser while the healthy parent is discredited through accusations of mental illness or PA. Other professionals involved including GALs, evaluators, therapists, etc. often take on responsibilities that are beyond their skill level. Antisocial and or Narcissistic personality disordered parents with good impression management skills are adept at “conning people, or gaining sympathy, and can win the trust and support of a family court professional while turning that same person against their ex-partner.”

The main goal of the abuser is s/he will end up with complete control over the children and will use this power over his former partner, “who tried to escape the power and control of the once abusive marriage.” They do not care if the children are harmed as long as their former partner is hurt and they feel they have won. It is imperative that the healthy parent and attorney understands how to use DV by proxy to counter and claims of parental alienation.

The following links may also be helpful:





One Mom’s Battle is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission at One Mom’s Battle is to increase awareness of Cluster B personality disorders (Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder) and their impact upon shared parenting and the Family Court System which includes Judges, CPS workers, Guardian ad Litems (GAL), Parenting Coordinators (PC), therapists and attorneys. Education on Cluster B disorders will allow these professionals to truly act in the best interest of the children. Please consider a donation to help with our efforts.

History of One Mom’s Battle: In 2011, One Mom’s Battle began with one mother (Tina Swithin) navigating the choppy waters of a high-conflict divorce in the Family Court System. Since then, it has turned into a grassroots movement reaching the far corners of the Earth with chapter all over the world. In 2014, One Mom’s Battle achieved non-profit status which will allow the group to take their mission to the next level. Tina’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist and The Narc Decoder: Understanding the Language of the Narcissist can be found on Amazon.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

Narcissistic Personality Disorder and Raising Healthy Children

OMB Healthy Childrenby Rebecca Davis-Merritt

Remember your journey with the Cluster B in your life: the lies, manipulation, wooing, broken promises, his/her victim status but how at first you fell in love with the charisma and apparent ability to look into your soul. You may have thought s/he was your soul mate. Now your eyes and thoughts are unclouded. You see the Cluster B in a non-distorted way but your children are caught up in the Cluster B world during their parenting time. How do you help protect your children by teaching them to recognize manipulation, to set healthy boundaries, but not badmouth their other parent (recommended reading: Divorce Poison)? You have to arm your children to make it to adulthood relatively unscathed from their love for and contact with a Cluster B parent.

Ideally your children will have an excellent therapist who understands domestic violence (the emotional abuse and extreme need for power and control of a Cluster B is DV, although not all DV agencies understand this. See the Duluth Model of DV power wheel). Many DV agencies have support groups for children that teach them to recognize pathological need for power and control and how to protect themselves from abusers. Hopefully they have a very healthy other parent in you who understands the pathology of Cluster B, resists their efforts to antagonize, bait, and agitate you, is able to “grey rock it” by not showing emotion to Cluster B, communicating only via email or Our Family Wizard, Two House, Talking Parents, etc, and who teaches the children empathy in various ways. Start by reading aloud a Bucket Book (Amazon) to children 3-9. This costs around $10 and is a powerful tool for parents and children. The child learns about bucket fillers (kind people) and bucket dippers (angry,controlling, bullies). They learn the relationship between kindness and thoughtfulness and feeling safe and happy or the relationship between meanness and feeling unsafe and unhappy. Parents can help children understand how empathy is related to people choosing to respect others’ feelings and lack of empathy is not caring and often deliberately hurting others.

Many OMB parents teach their children that empathy is important by volunteer activities serving the vulnerable or by having zip lock packs of food, water, and grooming supplies in the car to give to homeless individuals. Even TV and movies can be a teaching tool. Frozen depicts a Cluster B who is charming, wooed his way into Anna’s heart  but turns out to be a lying scoundrel. This provides a good discussion about how first impressions do not matter as much as longterm behaviors and how we always need to date someone a long time observing them in many environments and situations before giving our heart to them. It can also lead to a discussion of the qualities important in a husband/father or wife/mother. Healthy parents have to seize every teachable moment to arm their children in a protective manner. They also have to learn how to deprogram their children without bad mouthing their other parent when the children return from parenting time in demoralized, angry, or confused states.

TV and movies have many examples of when a boundary set by a person is violated by another. Help your children recognize such boundary intrusions. The first step in children learning to set boundaries is the belief they have the right to safely do so. Safely means the boundary will be acknowledged and respected, not ignored, made fun of, etc. Children need much practice with their healthy parent in understanding everyone sets boundaries but not all people have the same types of boundaries. Eventually the child will understand boundaries, realize they have the right for appropriate boundaries to be respected. At this time they can then, especially if familiar with bucket book philosophy, learn that there are people who refuse to honor other people’s boundaries. They are bucket dippers and they intentionally violate others’ boundaries because it makes them feel powerful. They like to bully and boss others. At this point children learn the difference in trustworthy and untrustworthy people. Unfortunately for children with Cluster B parents, their parent is often the latter.

It is very scary for a child to set a healthy boundary with a Cluster B parent. It might be saying, “stop talking about mom/dad that way.” Setting the boundary will likely result in punishment and a Cluster B tantrum designed to bully the child into feeling sorry for or fearing the Cluster B. Yet it is important that the child feels empowered to set healthy boundaries and to do so when motivated. Otherwise the child grows up catering to pathology and avoiding confrontation often picking their own life partner to recreate such dynamics. It is also okay for children to know what boundary they wish to set but to acknowledge it would not be safe for them to do it with their Cluster B parent. This is not avoidance but self-protection. This information needs to be shared with therapist, GAL, etc. It is up to the healthy parent to give their children the cognitive tools  to understand empathy, lack of empathy, excessive need of power and control, manipulation (tv commercials are great examples), and boundaries. If you respect your child, allow appropriate boundaries, and model empathy and kindness you are cultivating the best environment for your children to flourish, withstand a Cluster B parent without developing pathological narcissistic, manipulative features themselves. Examine yourself. Have you done enough self improvement to be the kind of parent who can provide this environment for your child? If not find your own therapist, join your own DV support group, join an OMB state chapter and participate in meetings, check out OMB’s suggested reading list and start educating yourself more intensively.


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The Lemonade Club, Tina Swithin’s private forum is now live! Seeking a place to share, connect and find help during your custody battle with a narcissist?  TLC is the answer and is now accepting applications – the group will be limited to the first 250 approved applicants.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

One Mom’s Battle Updates from Tina Swithin

One Mom’s Battle Updates from Tina Swithin

Thank_You_Beach_620by Tina Swithin

There are so many changes happening with One Mom’s Battle – this particular blog post is bittersweet as it marks the end of a journey that has been full of extreme highs and lows, happiness, sadness and finally, peace. I had no idea that starting this blog in 2011 would alter the course of my life. At the time, I was just one mom. When I started this blog, I felt incredibly alone — the blog became my confidant, my outlet and my dear friend during the darkest period of my life. There were times that I wrote things that I never published – my deepest fears and most personal thoughts were captured both publicly and privately. The One Mom’s Battle movement is gaining momentum and we are headed in a direction that exceeds anything I ever dreamt possible. For that reason, this will be my last personal blog.

One Mom’s Battle (OMB) is no longer about me. This movement is SO much bigger than me- thanks to all of you.

One Mom’s Battle recently turned into a non-profit organization with the potential to change lives, educate the masses and reach those who are feeling desperate and alone. Our main mission and driving force is to educate the Family Court System on Cluster B personality disorders so that no child experiences the heartache and abuse that my daughters endured…and that your children endure. It is my hope that no one ever feels alone in this battle and my heart swells with pride when I see the massive outreach taking place every day on the OMB Facebook page. Our Facebook pages are run by the most dedicated group of volunteers I have ever encountered. It’s a place of community and it’s a place of education.

A few weeks ago, we held our first OMB Board Meeting where I am volunteering as Board President. We’ve divided into a variety of sub-committees and we are going full steam ahead fueled by incredible amounts of passion and purpose. The Board Members are my family – strong, inspirational and driven to fight for Children’s Rights. We have an amazing board, a strong advisory committee and our Executive Director is one of the most inspirational warrior parents that I’ve ever encountered. The OMB Board of Directors is a true Dream Team. We look forward to updating you on “everything OMB” in the coming months.   Cheers to education and making changes – from my coffee cup to yours!

I sit here writing from my favorite little beach-side coffee shop in 88 degree California weather. I love coming here – it’s my secret spot where I rarely run into anyone that I know. I even have a favorite booth in the back corner where I can people-watch and reflect on past, present and future. Today I am reflecting on the many changes in my life over the past year – and the fact that the most prevalent feeling in my life is contentment. I am thankful to the Family Court System for finally “getting it.” I wish this feeling for everyone.

As I mentioned above, this will be my final personal blog. My battle is over. My case was won on the basis of emotional abuse – while this is rare, it gives me hope that others will follow in my footsteps. What is next for me?  As many of you know, I recently took a huge plunge and quit my career in Public Relations to dedicate myself to my new role as a Divorce Coach for survivors of Cluster B relationships and for those enduring high conflict custody battles. In addition, I am writing my third book and plan to facilitate annual retreats (the first one will be held November 6-8, 2015). If you’d like to follow my personal blog and stay informed on retreats or events that I am facilitating and new book releases, please visit me at www.tinaswithin.com and sign up (bottom right) for my monthly e-newsletter. To participate in my November retreat, please email me at tina@onemomsbattle.com.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you for cheering me on during my court battles. Thank you for your emails, text messages and snail mail. Thank you for believing in me when I was living on coffee, not sleeping and buried in piles of court documents. Thank you for sharing your stories and your heart with me over the past four years. Thank you for being a part of my journey.  Thank you!  – In love and deep gratitude, Tina Swithin


“Like” One Mom’s Battle on Facebook or “follow” on Twitter.

Seeking insight, encouragement and advice while divorcing a narcissist? Tina Swithin’s books, Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle” and her new book “Divorcing a Narcissist: Advice from the Battlefield” are available on Amazon or through Barnes & Noble. Learn how to set boundaries, navigate your way through the divorce and see the narcissist for who he/she really is. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal. 

Seeking a Divorce Coach to guide you through your custody battle? Visit Tina Swithin’s website or her personal Facebook page where she shares daily inspiration and gratitude.

One Mom’s Battle on Candace Smyth’s North Star Interview Series

One Mom’s Battle on Candace Smyth’s North Star Interview Series

North Star Interview SeriesI was honored to be included on Candace Smyth’s latest North Star Interview Series on the topic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the Family Court System.

Candace offers a weekly interview series with divorce-related professionals and is a great resource to align with if you are currently in the divorce process.

To hear the interview, click here.


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Click the link to purchase Tina’s new book, “Divorcing a Narcissist- One Mom’s Battle.”  You will find insight, red flag reflections and strategies on how to survive (and thrive!) while divorcing of co-parenting with a narcissist. Tired of panicking at the site of a new email from the narcissist in your inbox? Learn how to decode the emails and see them for what they are. You will learn to forgive yourself and you will begin to heal.

Request for Order: The Outcome of Yesterday’s Hearing

Request for Order: The Outcome of Yesterday’s Hearing

I usually do a pretty good job of wearing the “fearless leader” cape but it’s hanging on my bed post as I type.  I am not feeling inspirational by any stretch of the imagination so please bear with me.

We arrived at the courthouse yesterday and I saw my x’s father walking with an attorney.  I instantly knew that they had retained counsel. Again.  Sure enough, I was handed the paperwork by his new attorney upon entering the courtroom.

Our court hearings are normally held in a packed courtroom first thing in the morning but yesterday’s hearing was scheduled for the afternoon and there was only one case in front of us.  I had been served papers by my x recent but I had a feeling that he had left some items out.  He is supposed to serve me with the exact documents that he presents to the court but that never happens.  Normally I have to go to the clerk and compare what they have on file to what I am served.  It’s frustrating to say the least.

One of the papers that he conveniently left out was a letter from his Aunt.  In the letter, she stated that she was shocked and appalled when speaking to me in 2009.  My exact words (according to her declaration) were, “If x gets any custody of the children, I will destroy him”.  It is such a blatant lie and it’s so absurd that it doesn’t even deserve a response.  Anyone who knows me can verify that nothing like that has ever left my mouth.  The discouraging part is that this woman actually works as a child advocate in the court system and the letter was on her company’s letterhead.

Our case was given a great deal of time by the court and for that, I am thankful.  My x’s new attorney started off by implying that I am a litigious litigant and the Commission defended me by saying that the claim was not true.

When given the opportunity to state my case I tried to explain that I am hardly an overprotective mother.  My children enjoy sleepovers with friends, play dates and other activities on a regular basis.  There is a difference between a play date with friends and a play date with their dad—play dates with friends do not cause the anxiety and stress that see in my daughters.   Something is clearly wrong with this picture.

The positives that came from yesterday’s court date:

  • A full-parenting evaluation was finally ordered.
  • The x was instructed that the girls are to have their phones in their possessions at all times.  The Commissioner expressed what I have expressed all along: why is my x so concerned about the phone’s GPS tracking?
  • Custody exchange takes place 25 minutes from my house versus the current 45 minute drive.

The negatives that came from yesterday’s court date:

  • x’s attorney brought up overnight visits and I know what the mere mention of that will do to our daughters.  I know that is what they are going to push for.
  • The Commissioner wants my youngest daughter to see a third party psychologist to determine why she wets the bed at night and has nightmares.  She is the sweetest, most golden-hearted little girl and the thought of her having to answer questions about this breaks my heart.
  • While I am the one who has pushed so hard for the evaluation, I hate what the girls are going to have to endure over the next two months of the evaluation.  They are so young and shouldn’t have to be in this position.
  • My x’s new attorney told me that my blog was “tragic” and I replied, “Yes, it is”.  It is tragic that I have to keep a blog.  It is tragic that I have content for my blog.  It is tragic what my children have had to endure.  It’s all tragic.

By November 1st, I have to file the following:

  • My list of concerns – what I specifically want the evaluator to look into.
  • I need to propose a psychologist in the area for my daughter.
  • My income and expense declaration to determine how much the evaluation will cost.  When we did the last evaluation in 2010, the cost was $5,000.  This part terrifies me.

I am completely drained.  I feel beat up and discouraged.  I question why I feel so discouraged when in all honesty; I got what I asked for.  I think that I am disappointed that there are actually people who would represent my x husband.  Maybe I am naïve and maybe it’s the exact reason that I could never practice law.  I couldn’t fathom looking at all of the evidence against my x and saying, “I’ll take that case!  I’ll help put children back in this man’s care”.  I personally couldn’t do it for all of the money in the world.  It makes me sad that there are people who place money and winning as a higher priority than the safety and well-being of children.

The anxiety of placing the girls’ best interest in the hands of an evaluator weighs on me.  I am hoping and praying that the evaluator will see through him.  That he will see the lies, the manipulations and that he will truly act in the best interest of our daughters.  I need to brace myself for the coaching the x will receive on steps to take, how to pump up the doting dad act, etc.  It is frustrating that I can see through it yet others can’t – or they don’t take the time.

I am going to wrap this pity party up and practice what I preach: focus on the positive and think of all of the things that I have to be thankful for.  Thank you for being in my court and for believing in me.  It means a lot and I appreciate each and every one of you.

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