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About relationships between parents during a separation/divorce in case of one parent is paranoiac

Updated: 4 days ago

February 20, 2017

This article is the continuation of the previous one, concerning the relations between the paranoiac parent and their children, also I shall not go back to the description and the general processes which I described about the paranoiac pathology.

It will be a question here of deepening the consequences of paranoia on the protective parent of the child, the risks incurred by the latter and the children themself, in particular, in case of disagreement on the guarding of the child.

Cases of separation/divorce: high risk

The situations of separation/divorce with a paranoiac are at high risk for the spouse, and for the child stemming from the former union, if there is a child. The spouse, especially if she is the initiator of the separation, is cataloged by the paranoiac in the category of the “persecutors”.

Let us remind that the paranoia works on a projective mode, that is the paranoiac inverts everything: he is guilty but the other one is indicated as the culprit, he is a persecutor but the other one is named as the persecutor, he is dangerous but the other spouse is designated as dangerous.

In the cases of separation/divorce, this is very obvious, especially as the paranoiac can stage erotomaniac ideas in his delusion, further to the undergone separation. According to the psychiatrist of Clérambault [1], the erotomania takes place in three phases: first of all the subject has hope of being loved, then he feels offended by the absence of any love gesture coming from the other one, and finally, a feeling of resentment results.

Therefore, the stake in the divorce and in child custody will be “vengeance” and resentment which will feed the paranoiac parent, the resentment which he will not obviously assert as from institutions, to manipulate them better, appearing as the “savior” and “perfect” parent, as a father/mother “who suffers and is a victim not able to see his child anymore whose good he only wants” in opposition of the other one “the bad parent” (in reality, the protective parent).

They are very convincing people, that give illusion and seem irreproachable in their behavior, to the point professional can forget the hits and psychological mistreatments. The protective parent lost credibility according to the procedures because she dares to denounce an apparently respectable man or woman.

In these conditions, the child becomes the stake of the delusion, and the protective parent, an obstacle that must be eliminated by all means, while manipulating to create an illusion of facade to the professionals and the institutions.

Therefore, the paranoiac parent will accuse the other parent not only of persecuting him, but of harming the child, of being a danger to the child. He will then present himself as a “savior” who alone knows what is good for the child, and who will seek to evict at all costs the protective parent, by allying with the institutions, by manipulative methods, in front of which the institutions are generally blind, manipulated by the delusional contagion that characterizes this mental illness (and that only professionals experienced in this mental pathology are usually able to identify).

The systematic harassment of the former spouse

The other parent will be seen as the persecutor, and for the paranoiac to restore some kind of psychic serenity, he will have to harass the other seen as a persecutor (including by judicial avenues) to the point of annihilating or killing her. He can harm the child, mistreat him, to the point of sexual transgressions, for the sole purpose of destroying the other parent.

The characteristic of paranoiac decompensation is indeed in taking action: blackmail to suicide, attempts of suicide, or violence on others, including by indirect ways, harassment, murder.

It is clear that in the cases of separation/divorce – and once again, the risk is amply increased if the separation is not initiated by the paranoiac parent – provoking an unbearable narcissistic wound for him, the former spouse and their child will be in danger of harassment, of diverse persecutions and espionage, but also, insults, psychic violence even physical, diverse mistreatments, knocks/ wounds, rapes and/or death. The former spouse is particularly targeted, and the child will be a means to attain the former spouse, “object of fetishism” which it will be necessary at all costs to tear away from the other one, even if it means breaking her.

You should not absolutely trust the quiet and civilized appearance that the paranoiac parent shows in front of diverse institutions in charge to evaluate the situation.

The fetishism of the child in “the struggle of life and death”

I remind the words of my previous report:

“A paranoiac parent is a real danger to his children, a danger that is increased in cases of separation, on one hand because the spouse can no longer be a “buffer” (third party), on the other hand because the separation in itself is a decompensation factor, the paranoiac cannot tolerate that the spouse is “disconnecting” from him.

In cases of separation, the children are held hostage, in a manipulative manner, and because of the projection, the paranoiac parent will accuse the other parent of “manipulation”, “parental alienation”, of being a “danger” to the child. Justice will be held hostage, and will often make the mistake of believing in a “parental conflict” when it is actually a harassment of the paranoiac parent towards the other parent, through judicial channels”.

If the paranoiac parent realizes that he is not successful in court, and the child “escapes” him, he may become very violent. He will see the child as “manipulated” by the former spouse perceived as the “persecutor”, and will give himself the mission to “save” him from “danger”.

If, however, the child has any inclination for independence from the paranoiac parent’s delusion, the paranoiac parent will reinforce retaliation, intimidation, and acting out to submit the recalcitrant once the resources of manipulation and seduction are exhausted, and in case of failure of the latter.

He will constantly denigrate the other parent in front of his child, will invent facts that have never occurred, therefore sowing doubt with the institutions, and will present himself as a victim to professionals, among whom he will seek to trigger empathy [2].

The litigious profile is the most dangerous of the paranoiac profiles, with litigious delusions, quarrelsome, constantly seeking justice to restore “his good right”.

I remind that paranoia is a “reasoning madness” that cannot be seen at first glance, contrary to the delusion of persecution of the paranoid* type in schizophrenia.

Therefore, only experienced professionals are likely not to be manipulated by the reasoning appearance of paranoiac delusion, and it is therefore essential, in case of psychiatric diagnosis of paranoia, to see the danger of this mental illness, even if it makes illusion among non-specialized professionals on this psychopathology.

The question of child custody is put on the mode of power: the one who will have custody is the one who will have “won”, the child being exploited and fetishized, without any one taking into account of his needs, in the hate that the paranoiac parent vows to the one who has inflicted the affront to leave him.

It is necessary to underline that according to clinical expertise, the majority of the paranoiacs are men. It is therefore more frequent that the paranoiac parent is a man who displays colossal means to appear as father rescuer and perfect, requiring total custody in order to evict the mother in her role referent and protector for the child.

In the case of very young children, it is not rare to see paranoiac fathers demanding alternated custody of the infant, by accusing the mother of being “fusional” with the child (a little bit normal for this age, is it not? Moreover it is the infant who needs fusion with its mother!), without any consideration of the needs of the child, considered as an object, which moreover the parent may confide to other members of the family (often to his own mother) during his custody time, rather than taking care of the child himself!

Also, these paranoiac fathers will accuse the mother of being “alienating” while it is they who are, by discrediting the psychic needs of the child.

They will invoke the well-being of the child, while not caring at all in the least breaking his benchmarks, his rhythms, his habits, his place of schooling, which make him feel secure, his history, and breaking the connection to the mother.

The word of the child is absolutely not taken into account, who is often harassed and oppressed to produce writings, or words, which are contrary to his first statements, when they accuse the paranoiac parent.

We even see institutions relaying these pressures, which questions the extent of the dysfunctions that this mental pathology generates collectively and in professional processes.

Because of the delusional conviction supporting these accusations, these paranoiacs manage to draw a lot of people into their wake: they do not doubt, and this delusional conviction seems to impose itself as “the truth”.

As for those (rare) who do not allow themselves to be manipulated, they are to be eliminated and persecuted (including professionals) by various means of harassment, intimidation and avoidance.

In a total denial of reality and otherness, paranoiac parents often demand full custody, and the eviction of the other parent in their role of parent, whom they describe as “dangerous,” without bringing the slightest evidence, and on the basis of delusional interpretations that will systematically be checked and crossed with the story of the parent stigmatized as “dangerous”, so as not to be manipulated by the only argument of the paranoiac parent.

The dangers

The dangers are essentially of two orders:

  • The inversion of guilt

The first one is that justice, and institutions in a more general way, let themselves to be dragged, due to lack of experience, of training and knowledge of this mental illness, into the delusional contagion, and invert the guilt.

So, the protective parent can find herself literally persecuted by the institutions, until seeing the custody of the child being removed from her, whereas the paranoiac parent (therefore madman) will be himself invested with the delusional mission upon which he invokes for himself, that of the “savior”. And all the precautionary measures which should be taken against the paranoiac parent are then going to be against the protective parent!

This is the fruit of the contagion of the paranoiac delusion which operates by the subtle psychic mechanisms that I have described elsewhere in diverse articles, books and conferences, and involve generally the disqualification of the protective parent for the benefit of the paranoiac parent, into the hands of whom the manipulated institutions are going to hand the child over, sometimes with full custody, and sometimes, in the most total denial of the word of the child, even of verified, diagnosed, and proven mistreatment.

This inversion of guilt is often accompanied by threat to the protective parent, who becomes annoying by talking about the madness of the paranoiac parent, and which the institutions in turn are going to persecute, being made the” executive right hand” of the paranoiac parent: threats of placement of the child, charges against “fusion” with the child, of “parental alienation” (Syndrome, it has to be reminded, that has never received any scientific qualification [3]), as a matter of fact, so many fuzzy concepts which serve in reality to support the delusion of the paranoiac parent and his feeling of persecution.

In so doing, institutions (blinded and in denial) are going to contribute to strengthen the mistreatment experienced by the child, putting him back into the hands of his aggressor… [4]

  • Phases of acting out

The paranoiac parent will skillfully manipulate institutions and professionals who are not trained specifically in this pathology and do not have the adequate decoding to identify it.

At the same time, the paranoiac parent can harass, threaten, offend, intimidate, spy, rob, exercise any type of psychological and physical violence, but also take reprisals on the protective parent and the child, out of sight of the institutions to which, I remind you, the paranoiac parent will make illusion, and this, to the point of sexually abusing the child if it is necessary to keep him silent.

In addition, he will try to disqualify professionals who “resist” him (those who have clearly identified his pathology, or at least those who ask serious questions about him), and may exercise pressure and intimidation against them. (to the point of physical threats) as well as against those who report child abuse.

In general, and in a very strange way, the professionals at the origin of the reports will hardly ever be heard, and the paranoiac parent will take care to avoid any possible contact of the concerned professionals with the child and with the other professionals in charge of the rest of the file.


In conclusion, one should absolutely not minimize the danger of the paranoiac in cases of separation/divorce and even years after (some- times 10 years, 20 years after separation, the pathology does not evolve, and on the contrary, stiffens over time), especially if a child is born of the couple, because the latter becomes the “stake” of the “war” of annihilation led by the paranoiac, for whom all blows are allowed, and who will be able to strategically manipulate professionals and institutions not specifically trained in this mental illness.

Often, the ex-spouse harassed by the paranoiac parent will literally have to flee geographically to escape the harassment.

I also remind you that many “crimes of passion” are actually crimes committed by paranoiacs who do not support the desire of the spouse to separate… Often, the paranoiac will find a way not to completely commit suicide, after organizing morbidly staged scenes, which again meets the extent of manipulation used by this psychosis to illusion.

The ex-spouse targeted by the paranoiac delusion must therefore be surrounded by great safety precautions, and certainly any relationship must be absolutely avoided, because any type of connection, even minimal, reactivates the delusion, the projection and the “fixation of objects”, and thus danger to the person exposed (and the child, experienced as “currency of exchange”).

To develop further points, I refer to the bibliography below.

February 20, 2017

Ariane BILHERAN, graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure de la rue d’Ulm, Clinical Psychologist, PhD in Psychopathology.


Some informative references on the subject




Bilheran A. 2016. Psychopathologie de la paranoïa, Paris, Armand Colin.

Bilheran A. 2016. « Repérage des personnalités perverses et paranoïaques », in Danger en protection de l’enfance, Paris, Dunod.

Bilheran A. 2013. Manipulation. La repérer, s’en protéger, Paris, Armand Colin (« Coup de cœur » de la Fnac).

Bilheran A. 2009. Harcèlement. Famille, Institution, Entreprise, Paris, Armand Colin, coll. Sociétales.

Barthélémy S., Bilheran A. 2007. Le délire, Paris, Armand Colin (traduit en coréen).

Bilheran A. 2006. Le harcèlement moral, Paris, Armand Colin (« Coup de cœur » de la Fnac 1ère rééd. 2007, 2ème rééd. 2010, 3ème rééd. 2013).


Bilheran A. 2012. « Harcèlement et suicide au travail : psychopathologie », in Bilan du Grand Forum de la Prévention du Suicide, Association Québécoise de Prévention du Suicide.

Bilheran A. 2011. « La soumission psychologique au travail. Comment un harceleur parvient à soumettre tout un groupe d’adultes pourtant bien constitués, et ce qui s’ensuit », in Revue Les Cahiers des Facteurs Psychosociaux, Catéis.

Bilheran A. 2008. « Harcèlement, système et organisation », in Les Cahiers des Facteurs Psychosociaux, août 2008.

[1] Clérambault (De), G. G. 1921. « Les délires passionnels. Érotomanie, Revendication, Jalousie », in Bulletin de la Société Clinique de Médecine Mentale février 1921.

[2] And forms of subtle parental psychic identifications through which professionals will lose their independence and the necessary critical distance, deviate from their framework, their good practices and their deontology.

[3] Read the article of Marie- Christine Gryson- Dejehansart “The Recourse of the Syndrome of Parental Alienation Soon to be Banned from Judicial Expertises”: The Ministry of Families, Childhood and Women’s Rights just announced that a future note will be published on The Department of Justice’s website to proscribe the use of the ideological concept named SAP or AP (Syndrome of Parental Alienation or Parental Alienation). For a decade, many specialists in childhood and psycho-traumatism have repeatedly denounced its dangerousness.”

[4] Cf. the collective book prefaced by Prof. Maurice Berger Danger in Child Protection. Denials and Perverse Instrumentalizations, Paris, Dunod, 2016.a

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