Though all parents reading this blog surely love their children, few would consider taking their sons or daughters and fleeing the country if they ever were in a child custody dispute with the kids’ other parent. Still, parental abductions of children do happen sometimes.

The public generally only learns of these custody battles once they reach the point of one parent taking the child away, often in defiance of a court order. But an article in Social Work Helper recently pointed out that an abduction is usually just the latest chapter in an ongoing conflict between the parents — with the kids caught in the middle.

Many divorcing parents are able to make their children’s best interests their top priority when negotiating a child custody plan. Unfortunately, other divorces are nastier, and parents sometimes give into the temptation to use the custody issue as a tool to get “revenge” on their exes.

Thus, children may witness their parents shouting at each other, often at the public custody exchange location. They may put down the other parent in the child’s presence, withhold favorite toys and clothing while the child is visiting the other parent, or try to force the child to take sides.

Even if the dispute does not end in one parent abducting the children, this behavior can only be harmful to the children. Even when parents can no longer live together, they must try to find a way to co-parent. Cooperation means abiding by the terms of the custody plan, and going through proper legal channels if one parent wants an adjustment.