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Austin TX Family Law Blog

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Divorce Filings Reveal Startling Domestic Strife for 'Affluenza Teen'

By now, many people nationwide have heard of the “affluenza teen” – a Fort Worth-area teen who obtained a shockingly light sentence after killing four people while driving drunk and underage. Citing the poor parenting skills of his mother and father, along with the irreversible effects of being spoiled his entire life, the child’s counsel somewhat successfully invoked the “affluenza” defense to help his client avoid the maximum possible adult sentence for his actions.

The perpetrator has since garnered additional nationwide scrutiny after apparently fleeing to Mexico with his mother, who is also facing charges for absconding with her child in violation of his probation. Now, after being thrust into the limelight, details of the parents’ 2006 divorce have emerged, shedding light on a little-known concept occurring with increasing frequency in divorces nationwide: adultification.

What is ‘adultification?’

When two parents go through a divorce, it is not uncommon for one or both to experience loneliness or isolation – particularly if the divorce was especially troublesome or came about unexpectedly. In some scenarios – as is alleged in this story – parents begin to treat their children as adult friends rather than vulnerable children, often asking them to fulfill inappropriate roles as the parent’s confidant and mentor. For a child enduring adultification amidst a divorce, the unsuitable changes in dynamics can create a confusing and dangerous mental health scenario for the child.

In the case of the “affluenza” teen, details of a divorce-related home study have been made public, revealing startling instances of adultification between the then nine-year old and his mother. More specifically, the psychologist detailed that “[the mother] has [the child’s] bed in her room and considers [the child] to be her protector….[the child] has a bedroom but prefers to sleep in a separate bed in his mother’s room.” The psychologist further noted that this arrangement was “very unusual and highly questionable.” The counselor further noted that the child commented he wished his parents wouldn’t “put him in the middle” – and was not surprised the child’s life had run its course the way it did.

If you are looking for help in ensuring the best possible arrangement for your children post-divorce, please do not hesitate to contact a reputable child custody attorney today!


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