A judge has blasted a warring mum and dad for using their four children as their 'weapons of choice' in their custody battle.
Judge Jeremy Lea said both parents were 'intelligent, well-educated and well-heeled' but that a family 'war' had broken out when their marriage fell apart.
The father, aged around 50, and the mother, in her early 40s, have four children aged between five and 12.
Judge Lea said the couple had been married for 16 years, but argued about who should have the children after they split up.
In a ruling at the family court, Jude Lea said that in their determination to fight each other the parents had failed to protect their children from emotional damage.
Shocking actions from the father included telling his 12-year-old daughter that her mother had had an affair; trying to set the mother up for drink driving; and writing a children's story that characterised his ex-wife as 'meaner than ever' and claiming it was written by his daughter.
The mother had once threatened her 12-year-old girl with being placed in foster care, and recorded conversations between the kids and their dad.
Judge Lea said anyone who had heard the evidence would be 'rightly appalled', and that the dad admitted behaviour towards the children – 'in his efforts to hurt the mother' - which was some of the 'most damagingly abusive I have encountered'.
Judge Lea said: "Put bluntly, the parents were at war following the breakdown of their relationship and the children had become the weapons of choice for the parents.
"The court heard evidence over five days ... Anyone who heard that evidence would be rightly appalled at how two intelligent, well-educated and well-heeled parents, in their determination to fight each other, have failed to protect their children from the damaging emotional consequences that can beset them as the children of separated parents."
The judge said the father was a 'deeply manipulative man' who was 'prepared to sacrifice his children's happiness and emotional well-being in order to defeat their mother'.
The case came to court after Nottinghamshire County Council started care proceedings after social workers became concerned about the children's welfare.
The court heard the couple married in 1998, but shortly afterwards the father had a relationship with a "long-standing girlfriend" and then a relationship with a 17-year-old girl.
Judge Lea said the father had told their 12-year-old daughter about her mother having an affair 'in order to turn her against her mother'.
And he had broken a court order forbidding him from discussing legal proceedings with the children 'on numerous occasions'.
Judge Lea said at one point the father had asked his wife to drive to fetch a takeaway, and insisted she take their five-year-old daughter with her, after she had been drinking lager.
He then called police to say he thought his wife was drink-driving. The woman was stopped and breathalysed but was not over the drink-drive limit.
The judge added: "He was prepared to endanger his wife and child in order to advance his case to be the primary carer of his children.
"The father seems to have been quite proud of his actions."
The judge also indicated that the father had written an 'allegorical' story about a 'Little Black Dog' and then claimed the story had been written by their 12-year-old daughter. In the story the 'mummy' character was described as 'colder and harder and meaner than ever'.
Judge Lea said the father's behaviour was 'emotional harm at its highest'.
The judge said the father had paid himself the 'compliment' of describing the story as 'brilliant' and added: "The father's intellectual arrogance has no limits", and that he had sought to 'dupe' and 'corrupt the whole process'.
Judge Lea said the mother had recorded conversations between the children and their father - then told the youngsters that she knew what they had said.
And he said she had threatened the 12-year-old girl with being 'placed in foster care'.
She had also accused her of being 'emotionally damaging' to two of the other children.
The judge said both parents had shared details of proceedings with family friends and discussed proceedings with the children.
And he said the children had witnessed domestic disputes between their parents.
The judge said: "The children have suffered emotional abuse as a result of the disputes between their parents.
"The mother and father have failed to protect their children from suffering emotional harm as a result of their actions."
He added: "The father has encouraged the children to behave in such a way as to undermine the mother's care of the children and thus promote his own case."
Social services bosses will now use the judge's 'findings of fact' about the parents' behaviour to help them make decisions about the children's futures.
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