Court Communication, Less is More



 


If you are frustrated with the Family Court System, it’s easy to get yourself all worked up at the mere mention of having to communicate with your Court Authority. Nothing evokes fear more than arriving home to find the following message from your Parenting Consultant on your answering machine.

 

“Hi. This is Patty Problemmaker. I need to discuss something with you. Give me a call as soon as you can, this is a time sensitive matter.”

 

That message should be pretty innocuous. If you were to hear a message like that from a coworker, friend, or even a relative, you wouldn’t give it much thought. You certainly wouldn’t panic. For some reason though, anything from a Parenting Consultant or other Court Authority is like a whack in the head with a baseball bat.

 

What’s worse, the court authorities tend to leave messages just before they leave for the day or even the weekend, leaving you to freak out and wonder what is going on! This can mess with your mind so badly that by the time you do get a hold of them you are a ticking time bomb, ready to go off the minute the phone rings. By that time, you’ve already worked out in your head that no matter the issue the Parenting Consultant wants to discuss, the answer is “NO! Hell, NO!! A thousand times NO!!! Drop dead and take that a-hole ex with you!”

 

What you need to keep in mind is that in court, less is more. Anytime you are communicating with a court authority, you should stop while you’re ahead. When suffering through a long, drawn out court battle, one starts to feel under attack and what happens then is that you get very defensive. When someone is defensive, they can be seen as guilty. This is why you might get the “bad parent” label. You may start to feel that you have to justify everything you do. If that happens, you will talk too much or just long enough to say the wrong thing. Suppose that the Parenting Consultant is calling because you ex wants to have the kids next weekend, but it is your scheduled weekend. Here is a typical exchange:

 

Patty Problemmaker: Thank you for calling me back. The reason I called is because the children’s father would like to have the children next weekend. He has a special event planned.

 

You: No way. The kids already told me that their dad and that bitch he is sleeping with want to have my kids to have a family photo taken! Over my dead body! He can just forget it. I hate that asshole and his bitch. I am also sick and tired of him doing all these things to upset me. He does it on purpose! He has always treated me like shit, even when we ere married! No. He is not getting the kids. Period!!!

 

Patty Problemmaker: I don’t know what his plans are, except that he says Saturday is a special day for him and he’d like to have the kids with him. I didn’t hear you mention that you are doing anything special with the kids, did you?

 

You: No, I didn’t. I don’t have to. It is my weekend with the kids and he is not getting them.

 

Patty Problemmaker: Actually, I will be the one who decides that. I haven’t heard you say anything about the kids, only that you are unhappy about the father having a relationship. I will get back to you with my decision.

 

Now here is where someone gets labeled, “The bad guy.” That someone is you. Just because you are thinking these things doesn’t mean you have to verbalize them to the Court Authority. In the event where your ex had plans for which he wanted the children in attendance, and you don’t have any particular plans for the weekend, the decision may go against you anyway. It would be a logical decision for a Parenting Consultant to allow the parent who has plans have the children over the parent who doesn’t have plans. That doesn’t mean that it is a personal decision against you. It may just be what makes sense in the Parenting Consultant’s mind. If the above exchange took place and the PC decided against you, however, it may actually be against you and your unreasonable view of the other parent’s role.

 

Here is how it would have gone much better, by keeping your response business like and simple:

 

Patty Problemmaker: Thank you for calling me back. The reason I called is because the children’s father would like to have the children next weekend. He has a special event planned.

 

You: It is my weekend with the kids and we always have a fun weekend planned. I wouldn’t want the kids to be disappointed if we have to change that. Is there some reason that he couldn’t plan this for his next weekend?

 

Patty Problemmaker: I hadn’t thought about that, let me call him back and I’ll get back to you.

 

See how that is more helpful? You just clarified whose scheduled weekend it is, asserted your parental rights and now the other parent will have to explain why they are trying to schedule things on your weekend. Many times parents can wait until their scheduled weekend, but for some reason they decide things have to be on a whim. Sometimes it’s because they like to create a dispute TO MAKE YOU UPSET. When you stop jumping into the game, they will stop doing it, but if you ALWAYS let them push your buttons, they will do it more. Why? Because it’s fun for them to make you feel bad and it helps them gain power if you get labeled the “bad guy”.

 

I cannot stress this enough. You have to learn to stay calm and business like so that you don’t get pulled into the game. If you do this enough times, eventually the Parenting Consultant will have set in their mind that your ex seems to always try to manipulate your weekend with the kids. At some point they will start putting the other parent on the spot from the get go and not even call you before questioning the other parent about the likelihood of them scheduling the event on their own weekend.

 

So many times the target of a manipulating parent will try to make the Court Authority see that they are under attack and the ex does these things just to upset them. I urge caution here. When you start talking, screaming or yelling hysterically, the person you are talking to shuts down. They will not hear what you are saying. When you get hysterical and angry, you will not communicate what really is going on enough to be heard, but if you stay calm and business like, you stand a better chance of being heard. You also don’t want to push your Parenting Consultant into thinking badly of your ex because they will do the opposite. No one wants to be told how to think or behave. You can, however, start to let the relationship show so that the Parenting Consultant will put 2 and 2 together on their own. Don’t let yourself get labeled the “bad guy”. Sound confident in your parenting abilities, be unapologetic about your own needs as a parent and if your ex is a major game player, allow them the space to reveal themselves. Eventually they will. Usually with you running interference for them, by bringing the spotlight on you, they can do their worst and no one is watching. They are all too busy watching what YOU do. Stay out of the game.

 

This takes time and a lot of practice, but you can do it. You will have many strong feelings about your ex and you will want to talk about them. Make sure that you have friends or a support group where you can do this. A support group is a great place because you will be talking to others who have been through similar experiences and they can share tips that worked for them. Know who your friends are and who they aren’t. Your lawyer is a safe person to talk to, if you want to pay all that money for his/her time. Do make them aware of the situation with the ex in case they need to use that information in court one day, but don’t use your lawyer as a therapist. Other than that, only talk to people you can trust. The Court Authorities are not your friend and you should not trust them with your deepest, darkest feelings. It takes only one wrong thing said for them to form a bad opinion of you. Once that bad opinion is formed, it is very difficult to undo.

 

Whenever you need to talk to a Court authority, follow these tips:

 

PAUSE, you don’t have to get back to them immediately. Take time to deal with the freak out so that you don’t have a knee jerk reaction.

 

P:Pertinent-Give only pertinent information to the requester. Less is always more in this case. This is about the children so keep it about them, not your feelings, not your fears. Stick to facts and not feelings.

 

A: Assess- Assess what is being asked of you and how much of a response is warranted. Is this a blip in your life or a long term issue? If this is a schedule change that will be forgotten as soon as it’s over, don’t fight it. So the other parent is getting two hours of your weekend. It will be over before you know it. If the other parent is trying to take your weekend away, negotiate for a weekend trade.

 

U: Unapologetically– If you cannot accommodate a request, don’t be afraid to say no. Do not apologize for it. If you can calmly state a good reason to say no, do so, but don’t get hysterical about it and don’t apologize for having needs as a parent.

 

S: Simple– keep it simple stupid applies here. you don’t have to give reasons for your answer unless asked. Even then, less is more. Simple, direct, to the point.

 

E: Engage– Engage yourself as a parent. The only person who can take all of your rights away is you.

 

Life is much better without the Court Authorities in your life. They are more harmful than helpful. If there is a true safety concern for you or your children, do contact the Court Authority and let them know. Those are the things they need to know and should be utilized for. If, however, your ex pushes your buttons and makes you crazy, vent to someone else about that. There is nothing anyone can do to change it. You have to work on changing your reactions to your ex. That is really all you can do. Treat your Court Authority with respect and don’t share your emotions with them. They have a role, but the role is not to help you with your emotions. They are for deciding disputes and that is all. Utilize them for what they are there for and find another outlet for the rest. Life will be much simpler. Keep it simple for you and your kids.

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About lifesdoorsmediation

I am a mediator, Life and Divorce Coach and an Instructor of a High Conflict Divorce Program.

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