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Fort Myers Florida Family Law Legal Blog

When children pretend to be sick

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2022 | Child Custody |

Child custody disputes can quickly become heated, with each parent lobbing allegations of wrongdoing against the other. This can make it hard to decipher fact from fiction, which puts your child’s safety and wellbeing at risk.

This is especially true in situations where your child is being manipulated by the other parent, as is the case with parental alienation. But not all manipulation of your child is intentional. In fact, there are some situations where the parent’s own mental illness poses a threat to the child.

Munchausen syndrome by proxy

This is the case when a parent suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy. When this mental illness is present, a parent fabricates symptoms of an illness so that it appears that the child is sick. In some instances, the parent will even take steps to create real symptoms of a false illness. The parent who suffers from this condition may go so far as to lie to medical professionals and even falsify medical records to try to convince others that the child’s illness is real.

Symptoms seen in children

If your child always seems to be sick, or if the other parent always claims that the child is sick, then you should start asking questions and investigating further. Children who are subjected to Munchausen syndrome by proxy often present the following real or falsified symptoms:

  • Failure to thrive
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Infections
  • Fevers
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Other sudden and sometimes unexplained illnesses

Symptoms seen in parents

A parent who suffers from Munchausen syndrome by proxy will typically have a keen interest in medicine and may do any of the following:

  • Provide the child with medication that is unnecessary and may be harmful to the child
  • Manipulating thermometers to try to demonstrate that the child is feverish
  • Refusing to appropriately feed the child so that the child loses which weight, which is then attributed to a medical condition
  • Fabricating or lying about test results
  • Adding blood to a child’s urine or stool to give the false perception of a serious medical condition

Again, if you see any red flags that your child’s other parent is making up a medical issue or lying about your child’s medical condition, then you need to take action. After all, Munchausen syndrome by proxy is often so severe that it constitutes child abuse.

What can you do?

The ultimate goal in many of these situations is to seek a child custody modification that limits or eliminates the other parent’s time with the child. But in order to successfully pursue one of these motions, you’re going to need evidence to support your position.

There are a number of ways that you can go about gathering that evidence. First, you can take your child to the doctor to get a fair assessment. You can also gather relevant medical records and analyze them to see if there’s any truth to the claims that the other parent has been making. You may even want to go so far as to request that the court order that the other parent undergo a mental health evaluation.

Once you’ve done all of this, you should be able to craft compelling arguments to support your position. Of course, not all child custody cases are as clean cut as you would expect, which is why it’s critical that you try to anticipate the other side’s arguments and prepare accordingly. An attorney who is experienced in handling complex child custody cases can help you do just that, so don’t hesitate to reach out for the support and advocacy that you need.

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