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I have talked to many people after they have lost custody of their children. They take to the internet, searching for information, searching for hope, searching for answers, and they somehow find me. As much as I wish people would find me before that point, I will take what I can get. People are not seeking help until their lives have been devastated and so I usually have to help them pick up the pieces, rather than work proactively to avoid the custody battle.
What I will tell you is that losing custody does not mean losing your children. It seems that way to many parents, but the truth is, Custody and parenting time are two different things. If you still have parenting time, you still have your children. It may not be as much time as you want, but the door to more has not been closed to you. With education and direction to get out of this awful system, you can sometimes turn things around. If you can’t turn things around with the judge, the place to work on is with your kids. When all is said and done, your kids are the ultimate judge anyway!
Custody can mean two different things; Physical custody, which is the address listing for the children, and legal custody, which is about the decision making ability for matters related to the children. When it comes to custody, my thought has always been that the legal custody is the most important issue. Joint legal is by statute, the rebuttable presumption in Minnesota. Like it or not it is. What that means is, the court starts with joint legal and one would have to have a very good argument against it in court to overcome that starting point between the parents. In other words, all things being equal for parents, before either of you has presented any pleadings, if a judge has to decide custody, they would automatically go with joint legal. Most lawyers are going to tell you that you will NEVER be awarded sole legal and they will not even want to consider trying it in your case. It is a major uphill battle, and in what is usually a “he said, she said” argument, very difficult to prove that it is the best way to go in your case. The odds of winning are not in your favor. For this reason, when I first meet with people who have “lost” custody, I ask to review their court order and in most cases, they only “lost” physical custody and the ability to use their address as the children’s home base for school or the doctor and things of that nature.
I put “lost” in quotes because I want you to understand that while it seems like you “lost” everything, you haven’t. If you still get to spend time with your children, you will be the ultimate winner when the children are grown and the court experience is a distant, but painful, memory. You may have lost the battle, but you have not lost the war. Believe me when I tell you, as someone who fought and won sole physical and legal custody, back in 2007, who then “lost” custody of my youngest child in 2012, I now have won the ultimate win. My kids know that I am the parent they can count on to be there for them and to support them and help them navigate life, and they see the other parent for whom they have always been. As a matter of fact, they see both of us for who we are and not what the family court tried to portray us to be. So let me just emphasize again who it is you should focus on when it comes to trying to prove yourself. Focus on your children.
I do understand that you now have to battle misconceptions from authorities in your children’s lives. School administration, healthcare professionals and even court authorities judge you on the fact that you “lost” custody. They easily buy the lies that have been spoon fed to them by a dishonest and vindictive parent, who by the way, will twist things to make it look like you are dishonest and vindictive one. You may not be able to overcome those perceptions, but I do help parents look at what options they have for doing so if they decide they want to put forth an effort there. Just know that none of these people will matter when the deal is finally done. Kids turn 18 and just that magically, those people are out of the game. If the game continues after that, well, that is pretty much up to you. See how you haven’t “lost”?
If you lost custody of your children, odds are that you did not lose the children because you are a bad parent. While there are some cases where a parent has successfully proven why they should have sole custody, in many cases, the parent who wins is simply the better liar.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
About lifesdoorsmediationI am a mediator, Life and Divorce Coach and an Instructor of a High Conflict Divorce Program.
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