There can be many aims. Such as (in no particular order of popularity):
- gaining or saving money
- If the children “side” with a parent, that could influence the child custody award, and the more time a child spends with a parent the more that parent benefits financially either by receiving more child support from the other parent or by paying less child support to the other parent.
- spite for the other parent
- Causing the other parent emotional and psychological harm by damaging or destroying the relationship between the child and the other parent by alienating the child’s affection for and trust of the other parent
- spite for the child
- Abusing the child emotionally and psychologically out of animus or contempt for the child
- attention seeking
- Some people are drama queens (both men and women), and nothing keeps the drama not only going but going at a high level and focused on “me, me, me” like manipulating and exploiting the children.
- Some parents rely on their child or children to keep them physically, mentally, and emotionally stable and to keep them happy. Such codependent parents form an abnormal and unhealthy attachment to their children that harms parent and child alike.
- A bad parent going through a divorce will manipulate (or at least attempt to manipulate) their children to avoid being exposed as a bad parent.
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Eric Johnson’s answer to What is the aim of manipulating children in divorce cases? – Quora