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Family Court Survival Strategies
The following is a repost from 7/12/11
1. Don’t do it for the court. Do it for yourself.
If you are considering going to counseling, AA, Anger Management, Dialectic behavior Therapy or any other program, don’t do it just as a court strategy, do it for your life and your future.
You can learn ways to move on and leave your ex in the dust. Your ex can see you blissfully happy without them and wonder why you are so happy.
In any program you enter, you will get something positive out of it. Go into it with a good attitude and an idea of what you want it to help you with. Courts can send you there and may have an agenda, but you get to direct your therapy. If you want to spend the time there learning how to have healthy relationships in the future, do it. If you want to use it to help you in your work life, do it. Not everything that is a feel good thing to the court actually has to serve the court’s purpose. Put any time spent in these programs to work for you. All the court needs to know is that you go and make progress. They don’t need to know exactly what you work on there. Do it for you.
2. If possible, make orders reciprocal.
Oh, the ex always thinks they are the smartest person in the room. They will always have all kinds of ideas for what the court should make you do. Everything will be better if you are ordered to do this, that or the other, for them. They love the idea of you going to anger management, but would they still love it if you said, Ok, I will go to anger management, but Mr./Ms. Hypocrite needs to go, also, your honor. I will agree to attend Anger Management if they also agree. Judges don’t care who goes to anger management, as long as someone goes, and they seem more than happy to order BOTH parties into it. Turn it around on the ex.
Also, if the ex wants you to have to allow him to call the children on a certain day or time, agree that you will do that, provided you get the same courtesy during their parenting time.
The ex wants you to agree that you won’t date anyone while the children are in your care, well, that sounds like a good plan for the other parent, too. Then they can focus on the children, right?
Anything the ex wants you to do; they should also be willing to do.
3. Take time outs.
No, I’m not talking about your children taking a time out. You will be the one taking the time out. Carve out time that you will not deal with ANY court issues. NONE. If it is the weekend where the children will be with the other parent, you will have fun or relax or anything you want as long as it doesn’t involve talking to the other parent, a lawyer, or court authority or writing anything about your case to anyone, or doing any research on the internet. Watch movies. Go out dancing with friends, work out, do anything that makes you feel good and makes you forget about your problems. Choose not to answer the phone. If your ex sends an email, don’t read it. Save it until Monday. If the ex has the kids a certain weeknight, find something to do that night just for you. If there is a true emergency, your ex will leave a message to say so. If you want, you can tell them that you have plans and will be unavailable for the weekend (watch the stunned face) and they should only contact you in the event of an emergency, but my experience is that if you tell a hostile ex not to bother you, they will spend all weekend trying to bother you. Don’t let them.
4. Give your space a new look.
If you are still living in the marital home and everything reminds you of your ex, give it a new look. Paint your bedroom any color you want. Go wild! Change the look in every room. Rearrange the furniture. Better yet, if you can move, find a new place and make it your own! Where ever it is you live, put your personality into it. Switch rooms with one of the kids. Do something you have always wanted to do, but didn’t do when you were married. Want to turn the storage room into an exercise room? Want to make a little home office in a section of the living room? Want to get a pool table? Get different gently used furniture? Go for it. There are some good finds on www.twincitiesfreemarket.org. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. You can get some great deals at thrift stores also. Turn your home into a place that you love to come home to.
5. Let go of stuff.
If you have been fighting to hold onto material things in your divorce, let it go. Tell your ex they can have that old crappy furniture. Is it worthwhile to pay thousands of dollars on a lawyer to get an old chair? Like I mentioned above, you can get furniture through twin cities free market or at thrift stores. Don’t forget Craig’s list, too. It is shocking what some people give away! You could also use tax refunds to buy a piece here or there. Before you know it, you’ll have an overabundance of furniture! Most times, the stuff people fight to get in court just reminds them of their ex, or the battle to get it, anyway. These things are often given away after a while so why battle over stuff? Unless it is something of great value that cannot be replaced, let it go, and enjoy buying something that fits you and you alone.
6. Get a pet.
If the house seems too empty and you feel too alone when the kids spend the weekend at the other parent’s home, get a pet. Dogs are great companions and will keep you busy. They also make people feel protected from burglaries and other crimes. If you are not hom
e enough to care for a dog, try a cat. You’ll feel calm when the kitty wants to sit on your lap and be petted. If those pets are not a good match, there are birds, guinea pigs, gerbils and many more available. If you are not sure what would be a nice pet for you, visit your local Humane Society and ask them for a recommendation. Just think how you may save your pet from their loneliness and give them a home. Many times we don’t adopt the pet, the pet chooses us! A pet will give the kids something to think about other than the divorce as well.
7. Make resolutions.
Not just at New Year’s either. If you have been turning into a crazy person from all the stress, resolve to change some of your ways. Make a list of the things bad habits you have developed. For example, you never used to swear and now expletives just fly out of your mouth. Make a list of the words you want to stop using and think of words to replace those with. I know someone who, instead of saying, “Shut the F-ck up!” they will say, “Shut the front door!” Have fun with it or make it rewarding. Go to the bank and get some quarters. Each day you successfully stop yourself from uttering a swear word, put a quarter in the jar. Save up to get yourself a massage or go out to dinner and a movie with a friend. If nothing else, it will give you a real idea of how much you were swearing.
8. Stop knee jerk reacting.
If your relationship with your ex is extremely volatile, take time before reacting to them. If they send you an upsetting email, write a response up in word. Do not send a response right away. Sleep on it, then in the morning read what you wrote. If you think it is the right response, send it, but if you realize that you were very angry when you wrote it, come up with a more appropriate response. Do not email it until you feel comfortable with it and would not be ashamed if the judge ever saw it. When your ex calls, screen the calls. Caller ID is a wonderful thing. Allow your ex to leave a message so that you can hear what they want without having to talk to them yet. You should always get back to them in a decent time frame, but you don’t have to rush a response. For all they know, you are out of town and haven’t checked email. Don’t ignore their requests forever, no matter how much of a jerk they are, but always leave some time and a second look at your response before sending it. Emails are forever. Once you send it, your ex can do all kinds of things with it, so always be respectful and business like. A little time will help you stay focused. If possible, have a friend weigh in on what you have written or what you want to say to your ex. Have them be impartial and honest. If they think it’s too harsh, ask for their help in writing or practicing a response.
9. Get comfortable with a worst case scenario.
If you are going through a custody battle or you are waiting for a decision from the court authority about an issue, think about the worst case scenario of that event. For example, you could lose custody. Can you think of any positives in that case? Can you make yourself understand that it is only until the children turn 18? Nothing is the end of your world. Nothing. The court battles do not go on forever. At some point the children will be adults and they will be the ones to judge you. If you can continue to be a loving parent to them, no matter what happens with the Family Court System currently, they will know that you are a loving parent and will want much more time with you when they are free to do what they want to do. If the worst happened, what else could you focus on to fill up the time? Do you want to return to school and make more money? As odd as it sounds, there are some negatives in any situation you might face, but you have to let yourself know that none of it is forever. If you conduct yourself in a loving manner when you see the children, they will know that you love them no matter what happens and no matter what some bitter, angry person might try to tell them.
10. Trust your children
If you are being beaten down by an ex or the Family Court System, don’t get overly emotional or defensive. If you are a good parent, but court evaluators and the judge have misperceptions about you, the children will know. They are really the only ones whose opinion matters. Be a parent. Don’t try to buy their love. Don’t bad mouth the other parent. If the other parent is a louse, they will see it as they get older. Kids are much smarter than people give them credit for. Also, if someone else keeps bad mouthing you, shrug it off. Be loving and attentive to your children and they will know that you are not crazy, or angry or any of those things. If you do get angry, apologize to your children and tell them that you are not angry with them. You are frustrated with the court process and sometimes it overwhelms you. Be honest with them, but also reassure them that you love them and this all will pass one day.
About lifesdoorsmediationI am a mediator, Life and Divorce Coach and an Instructor of a High Conflict Divorce Program.
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