Dr. Phil on Custody Battles:
The Kantaras Custody Case
Dr. Reena Sommer
I am a huge fan of Dr. Phil. He really does "tell it like it is" - but what I respect most about him is that he is a strong advocate for children. This comes across most clearly on programs dedicated to "Dr. Phil on Custody Battles".
On May 17 2005, Dr. Phil's show focused on the issue of custody battles - unfortunate situations where children are caught in the middle of their parents' divorce cross fire. Most of this "Dr. Phil on Custody Battles" show dealt with one very high profile custody case - the Kantaras Custody Case. While custody battle between Michael and Linda Kantaras shared the drama, acrimony and intensity of many custody cases, this one was a bit different - Michael, the father of the two children being faught over is a transsexual.
The issue of Michael's sexuality simply adds more fuel to the fire which is burning way out of control. The typical issues of betrayal, anger and vulnerability which underlie most contentious custody battles are magnified in this case where arguments about whether Michael can and/or should have a right to parent are being made.
The most saddening aspect of Kantaras custody case highlighted on the Dr. Phil Show is the degree to which their two children have been drawn into the dispute. It is clear that the parents' utter disdain for each other has blurred their ability to consider their children's best interests. It is heartwrenching to know that the children were exposed to the details of their parents' dispute which focused on Michael's sexuality - something that they should never have had to deal with - at least not at this point in their lives.
It is clear that Linda's self righteous belief that the children "ought to know who their father really is" was guided by her need to diminish Michael's image as a father to the children. How does this serve the children's best interests at any level? What good could come out of exposing the children to this information?
On the other hand, Michael is not blameless in this either for he has not missed opportunities to get back at Linda through the children. Sadly, the very thing Michael was criticial of Linda doing to the children - destroying his relationship with them - he was also doing but using different tactics such as not letting Linda speak to the children when they called.
This is a very difficult case because of the level of acrimony and the amount of time it has been going on. Like many custody battles that seem to go on for years and years, the issue of the children's needs become overshadowed by the parents' attempts to undermine and devalue each other in the courtroom.
Dr. Phil did an excellent job of bringing home the message to both Michael and Linda that they have each contributed to using their children to fight the battle between them. He made it clear that their children are the unfortunate victims of their terrible dispute and their very unreasonable behavior.
By the end of the segment, Dr. Phil got both Michael and Linda to agree to try mediation in an attempt to resolve their dispute. Dr. Phil will be airing a second show which will follow up on the Kantaras Custody Case.
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Dr. Reena Sommer,
children's adjustment to divorce
M.Sc. (Family Studies),
Ph.D.(Psychology & Family Studies)
Trial & Divorce Consultant
League City, Texas 77573
Dr. Reena Sommer
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