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What you need to know about parental gatekeeping

Parental gatekeeping is a necessary strategy to protect children from parents suffering from alcohol or drug above or committing violent or neglectful acts. In those scenarios, the other parents have the right to restrict contact.

Another more sinister definition of parental gatekeeping involves one parent with primary physical custody and the other enjoying a visitation schedule. One disagreement arises, which is normal in any post-divorce relationship. However, the custodial parent reacts by forbidding scheduled visitation or requests a new parenting plan to provide them with more time.

Even if the initial conflict is resolved and children pick up where they left off with the non-custodial parent, the pattern can continue. The custodial parent continues to chip away at the time children spend with his or her ex-spouse.

The more this occurs and the longer time is spent away from their children, the less a role a non-custodial parent has in their lives. Children soon become accustomed to not having them in their lives. More severe situations lead children to feel emotional pain that turns into resentment. At some point, the relationship goes beyond being strained and can become irreparably damaged.

Parental gatekeeping is a problem that goes beyond an abuse of power. Many states consider it child abuse that may not be physical, but emotional and equally damaging. Parents in those states who are playing this dangerous game can lose custody altogether.

Parental gatekeeping should be stopped before it starts. Even if a parent starts to engage in this behavior, that first act requires immediate action to protect the best interests of the children.

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