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Divorced Dad Worried about His Daughter

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From an adult in the U.S.:¬† My daughter is twelve, turning thirteen in a few weeks. She is diagnosed with severe depression and ASD. My daughter has had increasing levels of anxiety culminating into suicidal ideations over the last year. Her mother moved her to her grandmother’s house four years ago, and ever since then she has been able to come out to California to visit.

After the increases in self harm behavior I began a custody case to have my daughter move here for the majority of the year. Ever since this began, her mother has moved her back to her house on the weekends and is fighting having my daughter visit California.

The most recent issue I have is that her mother sent me a picture of my daughter in the corner of the bathroom while her mother was on the toilet. Her mother also stated that my daughter is routinely in the bathroom for toilet activities, showers, and baths.

This seems like incredibly unhealthy behavior and I am concerned that this is hindering my daughters mental health on top of what’s already going on.

My daughter also ran away this past weekend and said she wanted to come live in California. An hour or two later she called me back and told me that she has split personalities and that her personality Campbell or Alex was the one that said that to me, and that she actually wants to stay  with her mom. She also asked me not to use this incident in court against her mother. I have documented and can prove all of this.

I am worried my daughter:

1. Is having her mental health recovery hindered with unhealthy home practices while she is with her mother.

2. Is being manipulated by her mother because of this custody case.

3. My daughter’s mental health is being gravely affected by someone, not a therapist because I asked, convincing her she has split personalities this weekend.

I have considered calling child services, but the nature of the custody case makes this a sensitive issue. My concern is for my daughter and I am not trying to score points for the court. Am I overreacting by thinking that the behavior described appears to me as mental abuse.

DCS was unable to offer anyone that I could discuss this with and would only accept a report.

Divorced Dad Worried about His Daughter

Answered by on -


If there was ever a situation where divorced parents have to love their daughter more than they dislike or distrust each other, it’s this one.

I have no way of knowing if her mother is behaving inappropriately. Maybe. But it’s possible she has the girl in the bathroom with her because she is afraid to leave her alone. Rightfully so, if your daughter has been self-harming, suicidal, and running away. Your daughter’s claim that a “personality made me do it” could indicate dissociation. Or it could be a way she avoids taking responsibility for having taken a side in your conflict with her mother.

To file a custody suit put you and her mother in an adversarial position. The two of you need instead to be cooperating in finding excellent treatment for your daughter. That probably means going — together — to a family therapist to figure out how to work — together — in the best interests of your daughter. That means working — together — to get your daughter assessed and to work out what kind of treatment she needs for her depression and suicidality. It means finding a mental health provider who can help you understand your daughter’s autism and what supports she needs to be all she can be. It means working as a team as parents even though you two couldn’t sustain a marriage.

I hope you and her mother can put aside your differences for the sake of the girl. Depression is treatable. Being on the autism spectrum is not a disease. It can be managed. But your daughter does need a lot of good help and support. She doesn’t need to feel caught between her parents.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Divorced Dad Worried about His Daughter

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). Divorced Dad Worried about His Daughter. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jul 2020 (Originally: 24 Jul 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Jul 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.