I'm going to provide more detail than maybe is needed to narrowly answer the question, in case it's relevant, and to solicit any broader advice which the moderators will allow. If it is TMI, you can skip.

My ex- and I got divorced 7 years ago, and since then, there has been non-stop fighting over my efforts to have parenting time with our kids (all adopted), which my ex- (daughter's mom) has been opposed-to from the beginning.

The original Divorce Order included a lot of parenting time in it, the Probate Court Psych Clinic has repeatedly recommended it, the Judge continues to affirm its importance. Unfortunately for me, the Judge has been unwilling to punish Ex- for refusing my parenting time. I've asked my lawyer if it was "me" or if this was "typical." His response: "typical." So we keep going around and around. (I've spent over $80K in legal fees.)

Starting about 18 months ago, Ex- claimed that daughter doesn't want to see me, and that as 14-year-old it was "her choice." (My lawyer says, legally, "no.")

Then, Ex- obtained a restraining order against me (in District court, rather than Probate court, eg, via a different Judge) -- not for anything I had done (I hadn't seen or spoken-with daughter for the previous 6 months) but because Ex- alleged daughter was cutting herself in response to my attempts through the Court to see/communicate with her. No allegation was made that my efforts to see or communicate with daughter were inappropriate or excessive -- only that that daughter was cutting herself (with no evidence of severity nor significance, presented.)

I went back to the Probate Court, which knew our history. The Judge was pissed about the RO, but indicated that he was unable to overturn the District Judge's order.

The books I have read and the child psychologists I have spoken-with, suggest that it is possible (if not likely) that daughter is indeed alienated given the long history of conflict over this matter (text-book case of parental alienation).

So, I decided to treat Ex's assertions as credible, and to shift my focus from enforcement of the Parenting Order, to achieving of reunification.

Ex- continues to report periodically that daughter "cuts" around the time of our hearings. However when I obtain medical reports from the hospitals, after Ex- takes daughter to the ER for such an "incident", what is documented are Ex-'s description of "cutting" but an observation of nothing more serious than "abrasion" (eg scratching).

Anyway, six months ago, after another update to Probate Court Clinic's psych report, I finally got the Judge to order reunification therapy. However, Ex- is still continuing to fight -- by refusing to sign the therapist's releases, refusing to take daughter to appointments, cancelling appointments, again claiming that daughter "cuts" and refuses to go. (We were ordered to split the therapy costs, which are uninsured and expensive; I subsequently offered to pay 100% of them in an effort to get the process moving, so $$$ is not the issue.)

I am now wondering how hard to try push to get the reunification therapy going. In particular, one psychologist I spoke-with indicated that reunification therapy is unlikely to work if either (a) custodial parent objects to reunification or (b) child is > 14 years old and authentically alienated -- which makes me wonder if I should just give up on the reunification therapy and as a consequence, ever having a relationship with her again.

While I am bitter about Ex-'s bad-mouthing, restricting, preventing of my parenting time for years, there's little point in making an issue about it--my daughter and I cannot get those years back; and while I would hope that the Judge might take some action to deter other custodial parents from doing what Ex- has done, my lawyer has told me to not hold my breath.

At this point, I am wondering whether anyone has any advice or insights. I don't need consolation (as I said, my lawyer says my experience is typical in Massachusetts).

  • 10
    I think you have handled this in an outstanding manner, and have to express my admiration for your commitment. I wish I had some useful advice. I'm surprised that the ER docs have not reported the mother to CPS. I'm an ER doc, and when parents abuse the system in order to manipulate the courts (cuts to the wrist being only superficial abrasions) - which is pretty common - we get CPS involved, because this itself is a form of emotional abuse. Apr 18, 2017 at 17:04
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    I'm no legal expert, but it appears that the only way you're going to get anything done is through a lawsuit, claiming the irreparable damages caused by your wife's outright belligerence of the law and court orders. Keep fighting for your daughter - she'll notice. Document everything.
    – user24631
    Apr 19, 2017 at 0:56
  • Just to clarify, you mentioned multiple kids vaguely ("all adopted")? Does your Ex claim all of them are alienated? Do you have contact with other, older kids that might in turn have the ability to at least tell you about the well-being of your daughter?
    – skymningen
    Apr 20, 2017 at 12:32

2 Answers 2


I think therapy can work, but that if the other parent is undermining it, that makes it less likely. Therapy can be forced but like taking a horse to water -- you can't make it work. Participation and acceptance of the paths and exercises is key to helping the process be successful.

You may find that your best path is to keep trying for visits so that there is a record. When your daughter is of age, send her a letter that explains you have tried constantly over the years to see her and be in her life. (If she asks for proof -- you'll have it.) Do not ever blame her or her mother for anything -- she will draw her own conclusions. Tell her how she can reach you and update that information if it changes. Perhaps remember her birthday and Christmas with a 'love' letter -- nothing over the top -- just that you have always loved her.

As painful as this is for you, I think you might find therapy for yourself is your best option. The therapy process can be explained, you may get insight into how you should deal with it/her, and along the way get some help yourself.

Therapy is like an honest conversation with yourself -- and safe because the therapist is there to help. A trained therapist will help you to accept things you must accept and deal with things that you can change. S/he will help you to not place blame on yourself -- or to accept the things you may have done that you wish you had not done. You can learn to deal with your situation and that may hopefully give you insight into dealing with your daughter's feelings.


First, an important caveat: Of course, I don't know you at all, so this may not be relevant for your situation in the slightest, but I want to bring it up in case it is (or in case it's relevant to someone else reading this thread). I don't mean to make any assumptions about you or your family, but just to provide another perspectives on problems like the one you describe.

It's clear that your relationship with your ex is rocky, and it sounds like her relationship with your daughter may be problematic as well. You don't actually discuss your relationship with your daughter very much in your post, though. Most of what you describe are unilateral moves on your part to force a change in your relationship with your daughter. That might be a completely appropriate strategy, given your situation. But since I (and anyone else responding in this kind of medium) have only a limited glimpse into your situation, sometimes it is valuable to consider several options: It's possible that your ex is standing in the way of what would otherwise be a happy and healthy relationship between you and your daughter, but it's also possible that your relationship with your daughter has problems of its own. If so, that complicates things. If your daughter has felt manipulated by you, or has felt afraid of you (for example, if your relationship with her was ever abusive, or if she witnessed abuse between you and your ex), then stepping back and giving her space may be more important than forcing a fix via reunification therapy. I appreciate that you want to have a relationship with her, and that you regret the time you've already lost, but she may need you to back off until she's ready.

This could explain some of your ex's behavior (e.g. perhaps your daughter really is cutting, or maybe just talking about cutting but experiencing very real distress).

So all I'm suggesting is that, if you haven't already, you take time to think carefully about how you think your daughter is feeling and what she needs. If you know your history with her is troubled, own that. Step back so she can have more control in the situation, even though that may mean you don't get to see her. You can always just continue to let her know that you love her and that you want to be a part of her life whenever she's ready for you to be.

Whether or not the above perspective applies at all to your situation, I encourage you to consider individual therapy. You're dealing with some very complicated and painful issues, and it can be incredibly helpful.

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