There is a strategy that parental alienation lawyers may or may not tell a divorcing father. “Grab First Strategy” is arguably the most controversial and yet amazingly effective strategy to put a parent in a preferred position in terms of child custody.
Theoretically speaking, when the father and mother are divorced, their children should be under the custody of both parties until jurisdiction. The children will not enter the new guardianship until jury decision is made. However, the actual world is often not like this.
Some fathers (and mothers as well) have “friendly illusion” that as long as he remains friendly to his ex-spouse, the ex-spouse will be friendly. This illusion often creates a preparation time for the ex-spouse to act preemptively for the advantages of her/his own. For instance, a mother might take her children away from their dad directly by go live in another place, or issue temporary restraining order (TRO) to the father. So the father can’t go back to their home and can’t get close to the children.
This often create a very hard time to the father, and the emotion is very painful. A few fathers will even do harmful things when they think they have lost their children. A considerable proportion of fathers will begin drastic fight with his ex-wife. Fathers don’t understand why they didn’t get good treatment despite their good intentions. Fathers also don’t understand why their ex-wives are so unfriendly. Oftentimes, fathers would find futile in everything they do. They can only let the time pass like this a month after a month.
From the father’s point of view, it’s “I can’t see the child”. From the child’s point of view, it’s “Daddy is gone”. However, from the court’s perspective, it’s “Daddy has disappeared from the child’s everyday life”. Therefore, when judging custody, it is very likely to favor the mother because it would make the minimal change to the children’s every day life – completely ignoring the fact that status quo facilitated by a unfriendly mother’s selfish (and even illegal) action for the mother in the first place.
Ways to help fathers avoid being victimized by the “Grab First Strategy”
You might wonder, this is illegal kidnapping of children. How can the judicial system let such a thing happen? The key is that neither the law enforcement officers nor the court know what really happened in this family. Therefore, they can only judge from both parents’ alleged reports or some other legal acts that occurred.
There are ways to help a father avoid being a victim of the “Grab First Strategy”:
1. Be careful of the TROs: Please remind the fathers that they are not only good fathers. They are nice human beings who won’t even kill an insect. Some of the fathers have never entered a fight with peers during their entire childhood. However, one day, they find themselves being describe a “violent spouse” or “violent father” purposefully, and they might be issued temporary restraining order. The TRO is used to temporarily block the violent party from committing violence again. Its nature is to protect as much as possible, even with very little evidence. The protection also means isolation – blocking fathers from going back to his own house, accessing his own things, and seeing his children. As a father, it is very difficult to make sure he won’t get a fake TRO. But, there are some basic things to pay attention to. Please see our special article “How to avoid fake TROs”.
2. Try to establish multiple communication channels with children, preferably secret channels. The reason why many “Grab First Strategy” works is that the children have spoken up against their fathers. The father feels great pain to see his child being brainwashed by the mother and say: I am afraid of my father. I am always under a lot of pressure when I see him. I have bad memories about my father. I don’t want to talk to my father. In this case, the judge has no other choice but to grant the children’s wish – under the same mentality that the judicial system should try to protect the weak as much as it can. The judge might know that the child is under influence and being brainwashed but there is no other way to hear what the child really want to say. Therefore, the father’s secret channels come in handy at this time. For example, the father and his children chat via another Messenger App. Or, one of the kid’s school friend passes messages and get the reply back to the kid. As long as the father gets an evidence of the children saying they miss their Dad, he will be able to turn it around.
3. Take the “no see” time very seriously. Encourage the fathers to act. Don’t just leave it there because he feels like it’s ok not to see his child often, or because he doesn’t want to give his child pressure of meeting up with him. As time goes by, the child will soon give up and never come back to find his father. From the court’s perspective, it looks like the child is ok for no longer living with the father. So don’t just leave it there. Any day he doesn’t see his kids, as long as he’s legally allowed to see them, he has to protest loudly.
Different ages have different reactions to “Grab First Strategy”
If the father is in the early stages of his divorce, of if he has just started talking, or even he just has a thought (about divorce) in his mind, the only thing that makes the most sense is to prepare for a stable and balanced relationship between him and his spouse and his children. The best way to fight with the “Grab First Strategy” is to start his own “Grab First Strategy” in a legal and healthy way. Of course, how to do it also depends on the age of child.
At different ages, the meaning of “Grab First Strategy” might be a bit different.
1. When the child is just born to before the age of 3, the court will hardly give the father an evenly-shared custody because the child just needs much more care from the mother. Since the child is very young, it’s also very easy to grab and go. Many fathers go home to find it empty. Wife and child are long gone. When children are at this age, the father’s only chance to fight against the “Grab First Strategy” is to make himself an integral part of this home and therefore he must live in that house. For example, the mother needs to work full-time and there are no other in-laws who can help with the daycare. Another good idea is, at this age, there is a good chance that the mother wants to leave this home and restarts a whole new life while she is still age-advantageous. Thus, the father can try to persuade her towards the “outward” direction. That’s going to be the most natural and mutually-agreed win to the father in terms of child custody.
2. When the child is between the ages of 3 to 12. This age is the easiest to “Grab First Strategy”. Even if the child has realized that his father is gone, the child still has to let life go on. The child can only accept it silently. The mother will block the door, and the father will not have access to his own children. Even law enforcement cannot help him access his children before going through lengthy litigation procedures (and a lot of lawyer money). At the end, he may still not be able to visit his children because their response have been distorted by his ex-wife. The only thing he can do is to try to get the child to live in his house at the beginning, for example, because it’s closer to school, or because there is a larger bedroom, etc. So to make the child likes to live here. If it’s a foreign marriage, maybe try to legally take the children back to his own country under the agreement of the mother.
3. After the child is 13 years old to adulthood: at this time, the child is hardly influenced by “Grab First Strategy”. As long as there is no TRO between the father and the child, basically the child is free to visit him. As long as the father continue to live near the children. However, due to the loyalty problem of the child at this time, although the child is free to see the father, the child might want to show loyalty to the mother by not wanting to see the father. However, at this time, the father can use some other incentives such as visiting interesting outing places or play favorite ball games, etc.