Difficult custody issues arise when you separate or divorce from a parent with borderline personality disorder (BPD). The condition presents challenges for both the relationship between the coparents and how well the BPD sufferer is able to be a competent parent. Key to a successful custody arrangement is to build in safety provisions to try to minimize tears and conflict.
Conflict is Common When a BPD Parent Divorces
Due to the stress of separation or divorce and a child custody battle, your spouse with BPD may have difficulty executing good judgment and behaving logically.
BPD is a serious mental health condition. It's important therefore to not make assumptions about your ex-spouse's capabilities. There should be professional psychology practitioners who may be able to make a diagnosis.
While parents with BPD are often good at disguising strange beliefs and behaviors, a psychological report could be the basis of the judgment of the court in the custody battle.
Raising Child When a Parent has BPD is Challenging
A BPD suffering ex-spouse should confront the problem head on. Or the healthy ex-partner should encourage the spouse to seek medical help. It's not something that could just be shelved away in a cupboard especially when parenting chores are a constant reality every day.
Every parent who takes this role seriously knows how raising children could break anyone's patience. You may routinely go through a range of emotions ranging from love to anger to disbelief. A parent with BPD can't handle this natural rollercoaster of emotions well and is inclined to break down along the way.
You may want to try parallel parenting to minimize the potential for co-parent conflict. Unfortunately, however, you normally need to stay involved with the other parent to ensure adequate care.
Kids Need Protection
Do what you can to ensure no harm is inflicted on the child or children. This is important if you have a BPD partner whom you are still living with, or occasionally have scenarios wherein both of you are present (but you're already separated or divorced).
You should follow the normal rules of successful co-parenting. While these a fine, you also need extra strategies to prevent child harm.
Avoid conflict or arguments in front of your offspring or within earshot. This is to ensure that they hear no negative words being thrown about which will make them discriminate with their affection towards the BPD stricken parent. Violence should also be avoided in the household when the children are around, even if this requires would you walking away or seeking outside help.
Seek Legal Help with BPD Expertise
It could be that the status of your relationship with your BPD partner is that you already live separate lives. But the BPD partner has been making decisions which you believe are not in the best interest of the kids.
You should try to seek legal assistance from attorneys knowledgeable with BPD custody battles. It’s a difficult condition to manage and experience can be of great help to ensure you get appropriate legal and relationship counseling.
Know the Traits of a BPD Sufferer
For one thing, BPD sufferers usually have a problem with excessive fear of abandonment. They may go to extreme lengths to preserve control over the relationship even if it is not healthy anymore.
People with BPD also go from loving a partner intensely and, then, by the end of the day, hate that person equally as much. This is for reasons that are sometimes illogical.
Such displays of inconsistent affection can easily inflict on the children signs of insecure and disorganized attachment. They could think that the seesaw of hotness and coldness of emotions in a relationship within a reasonable period of time is normal. They could also hand this down too on their personal relationships later on.
When negotiating within the context of a custody battle, give short periods of time each week only for the children to spend with the BPD parent. This could even be supervised short time, either with you around or with another responsible adult.
This is important because the BPD parent could exert attempts to turn the kids against you and make false accusations. They also likely desire their kids' custody. When you or somebody else is around, such efforts are far less apt to succeed.
Any Misbehavior or Custody Violations Strengthen Your Case
Some negative incidents may have made you decide that the BPD parent shouldn't have contact with the kids anymore. You have this noble desire for them to get together, but distasteful incidents have made you conclude that it’s for the best. Child safety is a legislated priority in custody disputes in essentially every jurisdiction.
Try to document or record incidents that will stand in court. If, for example, those documents are records of mental health incidents or the BPD parent's run in with the law, this will make your custody battle in court stronger in your favor.
Clare McLeod is a research psychologist. She has a Master of Professional Psychology degree from Monash University.