The most important thing I can tell you is empower yourself. Those who control what is within their power fair much better in family court and with parenting consultants than do those who turn their power over to someone else.
If the example that follows sounds like how you proceed in a situation, please consider coaching. I can help you learn what is your power and how to never let go of it!
Someone I know who was a stay at home mom, went through a nasty custody battle, and lost custody to an abusive ex, is still fighting this system some eight years later. She has only been allowed to have parenting time four days per month. For the last six years, she has been allowed to see her children and until recently, there were no issues where the father claimed the children were not safe with her. What happened recently to change that? She filed a lawsuit against her ex on a matter not related to the children. Her ex immediately responded with false allegations of child endangerment. Suddenly, he considers her too dangerous to see the children and is denying her parenting time. He sought a restraining order, but the judge that looked at evidence found no basis for the restraining order. The woman won that round, thankfully, because that judge followed the law. One of the problems with family court is that some judges pay no attention to the law and consider all family court matters to be “gray areas” and decide to use their discretion for their decisions, rather than to use the law, even in small part. Sad, but true. If you end up in criminal court, those judges do actually use laws to decide cases. That is why, justice does seem to be served in that area.
Anyway, on with the story. The father who was denied a restraining order is still denying the woman any access to the children. He did, however, offer to allow her to go to counseling with the children. She was willing to do that. I discussed with her how she needed to control that process. I know that those who empower themselves against these people fair much better than those who do not, therefore, in my opinion, she needed to control that process. She needed to be the one who chose the therapist. She needed to offer to agree to no weekends, as long as she could have parenting time one afternoon or evening per week to attend counseling. Now, you might say, why should she agree to less parenting time when the court order allows for four days per month? Because currently, she is allowed zero parenting time. The ex is agreeing to counseling for her and her children and that gives her an opportunity to improve her relationship with her children, without interference from her ex. The therapist should be a person who is protective of the parent child relationship when he or she is present. It does not seem like much, but it is a way of opening the door that her ex has closed right now. Yes, she can take court action, but it has never turned out well in her case. The court has never been concerned about denied parenting time, and there is no reason to think they will now. Still, she probably will take that action. The problem there is that it takes time to get to court. It can take several months. In those several months, she will be denied the children, but if she does therapy now, she will be able to keep the door to her children open a crack, instead of having it closed to her. This is important. If she were to refuse therapy and wait for court, she will be sick with worry about her children. Not knowing what is happening with your children is torture and especially overwhelming for women to deal with. When you go to court over custody or parenting time, you have to keep your wits about you. If you are going insane because of the overwhelming feelings of anger, pain and worry, you will not react well to court, and probably come across as a crazy, angry, out of control person. While I understand those strong emotions, the courts do not care about or deal with emotion, and strong emotions come across to the court as desperation. They decide some really weird things when they see desperation.
So, this mom, did not take control of the situation. She sat back and did nothing, other than plan a court motion. Her ex took her power away by choosing the therapist and discussing the issue with the former court appointed therapist and guardian ad litem. He probably would have talked to the former parenting consultant, but he could not, because she died earlier this year. Should he have talked to these people? No. They all withdrew from the case years ago. Still, they talked to him. He, and they, also talked to the new therapist, and lord knows what he was told. Now, I could go off on a tangent about the new therapist and ethics because I question whether they should have talked to anyone without signed consent of the mom, but that is another issue, for another day.
On with the story, the mom had told me who the new therapist was and I checked out the website. Immediately, I saw several red flags. First, this group touts more an interest in pleasing court authorities than they do therapy. They are willing to testify in court and also video tape therapy sessions (??????). I told the mom that it seemed as though her ex was setting her up. He wanted these people because they would testify on his behalf in court. Still, the mom was willing to try because she thought they might help her in court. When she called to do the intake, she was told that she could not have therapy. They were only authorized to allow her supervised parenting time. There is no court order that states her parenting time is to be supervised. Now she will not be seeing the children because she will not agree to that.
What happened here is that she sabotaged herself. She gave away her power. Had she controlled the situation, maybe it would not have worked, it is hard to say, but it would have been worth it for her to try. She was offered some crumbs by her ex and rather than make her own decision and choices about what to do with the offer, she took no action. That allowed her ex to control the situation. Knowing that his desire is that she never see the children, knowing that her desire is to see the children even more than she currently is allowed, who would be better to control the logistics so that she could receive the outcome she was going for? Also, how do you think this will be presented by her ex in court? This was a bad situation made much worse because the mom did not grab hold of the power she had.
In a nasty family court battle, you must look out for yourself. Do not trust the other side to do anything on your behalf. You have to go after what you want. It is like that old saying, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”