Winning in Family Court

When going through a lengthy court battle, it is easy to lose sight of your main goal. It is crazy making time. It can make a person feel angry all the time. It is a very painful time in your life. All you want is to win. Sometimes, you just want revenge. Well, there is only so much that one can do to win in court.

When is a win really a win? It may temporarily feel great if you have embarrassed and humiliated your ex. Maybe you got what you asked for, but was it really what you wanted or was it just because you didn’t want your ex to have it?

When I decided to file for custody, I did so after years of trying to work out some kind of winwin agreement with my kids’ dad. There was a lot of history with us and most of the power struggles really amounted to the way we had always related to each other. We just kept fighting and kept losing more and more of our parental rights to court authorities and those authorities didn’t even know our children! As the years went by, it kept blowing my mind how much time was spent dealing with issues that my ex and I had. Instead of being able to move on and be happily divorced, I lived paralyzed, wondering what the next thing to be used against me would be. At one time, I had to discuss the fact that I suffered from migraines with our court authority. Another time, I was emailing my lawyer in defense of myself after my ex had written in court documents that I spent too much time at the YMCA and that I (gasp) left the children at the kid’s stuff (child care provided by the YMCA for the patrons). Nothing I did was above scrutiny. It really was crazy time.

At one point, I realized that it truly didn’t matter what I did, I would be labeled a bad parent. In our custody evaluation, the report stated that I did not allow my children to participate in sports or other social activities. This was an out and out lie. I told my attorneythat it was a lie and that I could show him all the certificates and receipts for things my children were in, but I also told him that it didn’t really matter if I could prove the kids had been involved in extra-curricular activities because no matter what I did, it was used against me. The children hadn’t been in sports for a few years because of the time we spent at court ordered counseling and anger management and things like that. That wasn’t really how I wanted it, but that was how it was. Again, it would not have mattered anyway. My ex wanted to twist any and everything against me so that I would be labeled a bad parent. If the kids were in too many sports, the evaluator would have said that I was interfering with their school work, or time with friends, or availability for visits with their dad. When you are under attack, it doesn’t matter which way things are, it can and will be reported as a bad thing.

Well, I could go on and on about the experiences of a long drawn out custody battle, but my main point is that when I finally decided to go for sole custody, it was because I knew it would be the best thing for all of us, me, the kids and their dad. Whatever was going to end the crazy times, I was going to do and I went full speed ahead. I did win sole custody and things have turned out as I thought they would. We are no longer judged mercilessly in our every day lives. The kids have a much better relationship with their dad than they did when they had to fear every word they said to him being used against their Mom, and we have moved on to bigger and better things. A therapist once called us “logger-heads” and we fought bitterly. Now we get along fairly well. Neither of us has any plans to hang out as friends, but when we need to discuss the children it is with mutual respect and focused on the children.

Some would say my ex lost because he lost shared legal custody of the children. I would venture to say that he really won because the children now can speak freely to him and also enjoy spending time with him. We never fight over visitation anymore. It’s all very flexible and the kids have most of the say. We work together now, which anyone who knew us back then would admit shock if they saw us now.

For your situation, if you are a prisoner of the familycourt system, my advice is to know what your main objective is. Are you trying to free all of you from the chains of a lengthy court battle? Do you want to make sure that you, as parents, get to make the decisions about your children so that someone else doesn’t get to?

Set your goal and then if you are doing it for good, go full speed ahead, without doubt, without fear and without malice. Then make sure that the main points are present in your legal argument. If you need to bring up any points that show your ex in a bad light, do not make them the central point, just an aside. The focus has to always be about the kids first. They will get lost in the muck about the relationship with your ex if you don’t keep the kids on the front burner. Do not expect the judge to know what you are asking for if you are asking for everything under the sun. The judge CANNOT make your ex into someone that they are not, but he/she can decide custody, visitation, child support, etc. Make sure that you are asking for those things and not asking for your ex to be punished. That will not happen. If you persist in focusing on the fact that your ex is a bad person and needs to be punished, YOU may end up the one who is punished.

And remember, if you should lose in court, it is not always a lose. Sometimes, it all works out best for the entire family and if not, kids don’t stay kids forever. You can make your relationship with your kids whatever you want it to be if you just love them and are there for them. That is how you win, no matter the situation. The kids will be the ultimate judge!

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