Children were weapons in family war
Four children became their parents' "weapons of choice" when a marriage broke down and a "war" broke out, a family court judge has said.
Judge Jeremy Lea said both parents were "intelligent, well-educated and well-heeled".
But he said that in their determination to fight each other, they had failed to protect their children from emotional damage.
The judge criticised the couple in a written ruling following a family court hearing in Nottingham.
He said anyone who had heard the evidence would be "rightly appalled".
The judge said the man 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 did not identify the family involved.
But he said the man was aged around 50, the woman was in her early 40s, and the children were aged between five and 12.
He said the couple had been married for 16 years and argued about who should have the children following separation.
Nottinghamshire County Council started care proceedings after social workers became concerned about the children's welfare.
Social services bosses asked the judge to make "findings of fact" about the parents' behaviour to help them make decisions about the children's futures.
"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," said Judge Lea.
"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.
"Moreover, the father has admitted behaviour towards his children in his efforts to hurt the mother which has been amongst some of the most damagingly abusive that I have encountered."
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".
Judge Lea said the couple married in 1998.
He said 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.
"He was prepared to endanger his wife and child in order to advance his case to be the primary carer of his children," added the judge. "The father seems to have been quite proud of his actions."
The judge 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."
He said the father 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 children have suffered emotional abuse as a result of the disputes between their parents," said Judge Lea.
"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."