Disputes or High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

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When parents enter the Family Court System it is very confusing.  First, they want you to part ways, but at the same time keep forcing you together to “co-parent”.  They use confusing lingo and it seems like the parents do all the work, while the professionals take a lot of money for putting the hard work on you.  It is true.  They do.  A common quote from my clients is, ” I had to do all the work for my lawyer.”  Well, there is a reason for that.  The professionals do not know your children, your schedules, what matters most to you and what doesn’t,  and in particular, once you have entered post decree land, there isn’t a whole lotta law that goes on.  The law becomes the law you (or the courts if you weren’t able to agree) created for your family.  There is no law that dictates what your parenting time schedule has to be.  There really isn’t.  The time can be distributed evenly between parents or it may not be distributed evenly for any number of reasons.  Some states do a default parenting time schedule for when parents cannot create one on their own, but it is all very complicated.  Parents can choose to deviate from a schedule if they want and they are encouraged to be flexible as life evolves. Why be flexible?  Because life can change quite a bit over the span of a childhood, but the court will enforce the schedule that is in an order.

Sometimes, this confusion and lack of structure creates fear and anxiety for parents.  Some parents do not understand that the law has pretty much completed their case and they keep waiting for “it to be done”.  In other words, they want this person who hurt them so terribly to go away and never bother them again.  Unfortunately, though, that is not the way it works when you have children together.  Like it or not, you do have to talk to each other and coordinate schedules, school or medical needs, etc.  The way most parents learn to do this is to emotionally process the divorce and hurt feelings from the relationship so they can move into a new type of relationship, but some people are unable to do this.  They don’t like what has happened.  They don’t like the arrangement.  They don’t like that they have a co-parent because life would certainly be easier if you didn’t, and they don’t like that their ex never got punished for the hurtful things they said or did throughout the marriage and/or divorce process.  Is that what Family Court is there for?  Are they there to punish?

Many people who continue to push for some kind of “conviction” of their co-parent do not seem to understand that Family Court is not criminal court.  It is not a crime to get a divorce.  It can be very hurtful, but it is not a crime.  It is not a crime to want some of the stuff that was accumulated during the marriage or to want to continue to be a parent to your child after the divorce.  The fact that someone seeks a divorce, even though one parent does not think that will be good for the child, doesn’t make it a crime.  These things are the nature of relationship breakdowns and unavoidable in some marriages.  If the marriage is going to end, it is going to be end and hopefully, each spouse will learn to come to terms with that and create the life they dream about on their own or with someone new.  On top of that, when you share a child, you have to process these separate lives, while still coming in contact with the other person.  That makes it much harder to go through all of the emotions and accept the loss.  That is why your success in court depends greatly on you more than professionals.  It depends on how resilient you are.  We don’t know what you need to get to the point of acceptance.  Some professionals believe that you need time, but courts have deadlines.  They cannot just sit and wait for everyone to process their loss.  If they did, many people would continue to not process the loss and hope that their spouse will change their mind by forcing the marriage to continue forever, but there are two people in this thing.  Often, two people with very different desires for outcome.  What do you call that difference of opinion or differing needs?  It is called a dispute.

What do you do when working with two people in a dispute?  For example, let’s say that two of your friends have a dispute over some words that were said.  Suppose that the friends are Janet and Martha.  Janet told Martha something in confidence and without realizing it, Martha shared the information with another friend named James.  Her breaking confidence was not very nice, but it was not a crime.  Now, in this dispute, the words have been spoken and the action cannot be undone.  Hopefully, Martha is sorry for saying something she should not have said, but she cannot do anything other than to apologize and ask for forgiveness.  Janet can either accept her apology and work to repair the relationship or she can decide that it is time to let the friendship go.  For the two of them, that may work, but maybe since you want to remain friends with the two of them, even though their friendship has ended, and no one is upset with you about anything, each one will be able to stay friends with you individually.  The relationships are all going to change, even though you were not part of the dispute, it does affect you.  You may try t it and see how it goes and find out that there needs to be some ground rules set.  Especially if your friends are going to put you in the middle or try to win you over on one side or the other, it is going to become very uncomfortable for you and you are going to feel the ramifications of their quarrel.  As an adult person, you can walk away and say good-bye to both of them, but a child of divorce cannot do that when the dispute is between their parents.

Another thing that would not happen between the friends is this, no one would try getting the police involved or ask a court to prevent you from having a relationship with either Janet or Martha.  There was no crime committed and you have the right to have a relationship with anyone you wish.  There wouldn’t be any authority figure to come yell at Martha or order her to not be allowed to have friends again.  It was a dispute between people and no matter what anyone else thinks of it, no crime occurred, so there is nothing to be done about it.  Martha and Janet will feel the way they feel about it.  A relationship ended.  There is really no “right” outcome from what has happened.  People who care about them may want them to apologize, make up and go back to being friends, but Janet and Martha will be the ones who decide that and the way they each treat you afterward will determine how you feel about each one of them going forward.  Hopefully, they will understand that you have separate feelings and needs from them and that your desire is to remain friends with both of them separately and they will create conditions where you can do that.

For a child of divorce, they need their parents to sort this out for them.  They don’t want anyone to punish mommy or daddy because they hurt each other’s feelings or made each other sad.  If mommy and daddy can deal with their hurt feelings and put them aside to understand their child’s needs and figure out how to separately manage the child’s activities, health and wellness, that is the best thing that can happen, but when the parents refuse or keep trying to make the child choose sides or stop seeing a parent, that is when a third party neutral has to come in and try to help.  By this time, the hurts of the past are way behind the parents and they are usually already divorced.  The situation is what it is and the court orders/agreements are what they are.  Court appointed third parties are there to help everyone make it work, but if they do see a child in the middle, they will help to free the child.  There really isn’t a lot that third parties can do to help you improve the situation.  You will have to do this for yourself.  They will try to get you focused on the child to make the child’s life easier for them because children do suffer enormous consequences when they have to live through parent hostility.

Many times parents do not understand this.  They complain and complain and complain about what it is they do not like about the other parent or what the other parent has done.  They expect that if they demonstrate just how bad a person the other parent is, someone will punish that parent in some way.  That is not the nature of dispute resolution, which is what Family Court is about.  Family Court looks for solutions and moving families forward.  They want you to take your family out of court and start making decisions for yourselves.  They don’t want to parent your children for you.  They want to give you the tools to do it.

If your approach to Family Court is to try to prove fault in a no-fault system, you will lose sight of the needs of your child.  If you need help understanding dispute resolution or gaining some coping skills so that you can focus on your children more than the battle, especially if you have an ex spouse who cannot seem to grasp the nature of custody and parenting time, give us a call at 763-566-2282 or at High Conflict U, 1-800-516-2446.  We’ll do our best to help you.

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Don’t Let Them Scare You!

Young Couple Watching Scary Movie On Tv by marcolm
Image Courtesy of marcolm at freedigitalphotos.net

As a parent who navigated the Family Court System myself, it pains me to see all of the false information out in the Blogosphere and on Social Media that the uninformed have written, trying to entice you into joining their battles against Family Court and other systems that parents may encounter.  I get very upset at the thought that you might buy into the junk they are trying to sell you.

Last week, some blogger/coach was promoting an event through Facebook and because I am always looking for good folks to join me in providing solid information to parents, I decided to join the event and see what the person had to say.  The event was earlier today.  I am both glad I did join in and at the same time horrified that I wasted time on that.  The women is definitely someone I’d put in the category of misinformation-Blog-o-fears-gullible-nitwit.  I am not going to name them, their blog or their website, because you could be harmed if you pay any attention to them and I do not want to help them build an audience.  Quite frankly, I hope no one finds them at all.  Thank God only 3 people joined the big event today and I was one of them, which only leaves 2 people who could possibly be fooled.

Long story short, the blogger is another parent who believes in falsehoods and because they did, lost custody of their children.  They refuse to believe that they could be in any way flawed as a parent and so it is easier to believe in conspiracy theories than to have to self reflect.

Keep in mind that I often hear from clients about these sorts of blogs, organizations or groups, who are out there to “help” and I often have to offer reality checks and counter the nonsense that they have heard from these “helpers”.  So let’s look at the leader or founder of these types of organizations.  A common theme is that they lost custody of their child or had their child taken away “for no reason at all”.  OK.  So let’s say that is true.  They did nothing wrong.  They were just minding their own business, sitting at home and some evil entities came to the door from Family Court and removed the children from their home.  I have never heard one single case of this happening.  Not one.  So, anyway, my first question to a parent who wants to follow them is why would you follow their example?  They lost custody of their children.  Are they the role model to follow?  I think you should run like hell from them and find someone who knew how to get custody or at least keep it.  Doesn’t that sound more logical?  If any of you think that listening to the advice of a parent who lost custody is a wise idea, give me a call.  Seriously, I need it explained to me how that is ever helpful.  Call me at 763-566-2282 and let me know why I should change my thinking on it.  If I am wrong, I will admit that I am wrong and I will make corrections because I have the ability to self reflect.  I think my ability to self reflect may have been one of the keys to the positive outcome my own family experienced in our family court case.  If you think that it is logical to want to follow in the footsteps of parents who lost custody and sometimes all rights to their children, I do want to connect with you, for your children’s sake, if nothing else.

Your children are much too precious to put your faith in someone who doesn’t demonstrate an ability to succeed, no matter what it is they are trying to succeed at, and I care about parents way too much to sit idly by while they are being taught a bunch of nonsense.  It could cost a parent dearly and it could cost their children dearly.  At the very least, you should talk to people who hold an opposite view of the system so that you can weigh the difference between what was said by the system hater and those who “get” the ins and outs of the system, and decide for yourself which stance seems more logical and which path seems more likely to help you achieve your goals.  On the Family Court hating side, you have people who have all lost custody and still cannot seem to figure out the reason why and on the side who uses Family Court appropriately, you have some folks who kept or won custody of their children and they know exactly how they achieved their goals.  One side tried to cut the other parent out of their child’s life completely, mainly because of their inability to cope or manage co-parenting.  The other side was able to put their child’s needs before their own and wouldn’t dream of cutting their co-parent out of their child’s life.  This might be one hint to what equates to success in Family Court, hint, hint.  On the blog of fears side of the table, the leader of the pack has no clue what lead to them losing custody.  Do you really think they can show you the ropes if they are clueless like that?  On the successful side of Family Court encounters, parents can self reflect and not feel threatened by the other parent.  They know that both parents can win, although it is up to each one individually if that is going to happen.  Those parents are not going to try to scare you.  Their goal is to assist you and feel empowered as a parent.  I certainly hope you’ll think long and hard about the people you allow to help you through Family Court because another thing about those who “get it” is, they typically can recommend the best professionals to use, the ones who did help them.  They had professionals who understood their case, did the right thing and took the right action.  Many professionals will be willing to help you when you are able to help yourself, too.

So why do these blogs-of-fear people give out false information and try to scare you?  I have some theories.  The truth is that the nitwit people, like that blogger I listened to, are miserable.  They are miserable because they live in a land called denial and they refuse to see the truth.

Theory # 1:

Misery loves company.  Something horrible happened to them and they need you to make them feel better about it because if they are able to pull a bunch of you into it and you lose your children, too, then they are not alone in their misery.  They can use you as another example of how mean and nasty Family Court and Systems are.

I find it laughable how many disgruntled parents tell stories of Family Court professionals getting incentives for stealing their children away from them.  So, if Family Court is getting an incentive to take children away from parents, why did their ex get to keep the child?  Wouldn’t there be twice the money to take kids away from both parents?  No one wants to take your children, but parents sometimes do face harsh consequences when they continue to put their child in the middle of a nasty battle and/or make the child choose sides.

As I mentioned before, nobody is sitting around minding their own business and then Family Court comes to your door and makes you get divorced and have a custody battle.  Those are voluntary things.  I can attest that it doesn’t feel voluntary when you are not the one who filed for divorce.  Maybe your spouse filed and dragged you in kicking and screaming.  They were able to do this because you are in a legal entanglement of coupledom and they decided it was time to end the marriage they voluntarily entered into, which included certain legal entanglements.  They voluntarily entered into the marriage, but they have to seek court permission to get out of it so that those legal entanglements can be undone, like it or not.  Most people know in their heart that if a spouse wants a divorce, it doesn’t make any sense to force them to stay.  Divorce is hard.  It is sad.  It is the death of some dreams, but it may also end up being the best thing that ever happened to you and it can be a beneficial thing for children when their parents emotionally process their negative feelings about the life change, grieve the loss and build new lives full of new opportunities.

Theory #2:

They really do think they can take down Family Court.  They have an upside down view of Family Law and they really do think everything that happens there is illegal or unconstitutional.  Because they couldn’t “save their child”, they are going to save the rest of the world to make up for it.  It is very noble thinking to save the world, but when I coach parents, my advice is always to save yourself first.  Once you have succeeded in freeing your own family from a life of  nonstop Family Court action, you will have a plethora of knowledge to share, not to mention credibility.  Only when you succeed are you able to fully explain to someone else how they can succeed, as well.  To be honest, once a parent succeeds in taking control of their life in spite of a nasty ex and in the midst of court proceedings, they understand that there was a method to the madness and know that it lead to tremendous personal growth.

Theory #3:

They hate their ex more than anything else in the world.  They are consumed with hatred.  So much hatred, in fact, that they cannot see anything or anyone else.  They cannot say to themselves, “I love my child more than I hate my ex and will do anything to help my child”.

Theory #4:

They have extremely low self esteem.  They have no love for themselves and would rather go it alone, operating under false beliefs than to seek help, especially if they may have to admit that they need help or they have some problems with relationships.  In their minds, it is better to continue presenting a fake self than the real self they despise.  Deep down maybe they want to lose and create a self fulfilling prophecy?

Theory #5:

They may just be evil.  Some people want to hurt others.  Because they could not succeed, they don’t want to see anyone else succeed either.  All they want to do is destroy anyone in their path.

Whatever the reason that some people want to spread misinformation and make you afraid of Family Court, do not let them do it to you.  If you need real help, there is help for you.  Parents in Family Court need to have mentors, parents who went through the system and found solutions for their family.  Parents do not need to be terrified that they will lose their children.  It is a rare case where that happens and those parents are doing harm to their child.  They just may not be able to see it.

Divorce and co-parenting can be very difficult to navigate and if your ex spouse wants to put you through the worst experience of your life, it can seem overwhelming and unmanageable.  Look for people who help. Look for people like me and the team of mentors I am building at High Conflict U.  Do I have an ulterior motive?  Yes, I do.  I hope that you will succeed and build the life you dream about with your children and what would be even better than that is if I could convince you to positively help others through so that they can succeed as well.

Family Court can be a tool or a weapon.  That is a matter of fact.  However, you can choose not to use it as a weapon and if your ex decides to ttack you with it, there are people like me who will absolutely support you through it and help you turn the attacks back on the attacker, all while keeping your children out of the middle and living as carefree a childhood as possible.

If you need help with anything Family Court or Co-parenting related, help is just a phone call away at Life’s Doors Mediation, 763-566-2282 or High Conflict U at (800) 516-2446.

Victim in the System Basic Course

Victim in the System event banner logo

I know things have been pretty quiet on the blog lately, but I have been working hard with a new focus. My passion lies with helping parents. Believe me when I tell you that parents can make it through high conflict divorce. Parents can be of great support to their children in the midst of living a nightmare. Parents can be amazing parents, even when they are co-parenting in a high conflict or highly abusive custody situation. Sometimes, you just have to gain a little knowledge and a lot of confidence.

I am working very diligently to brand our new Divorce and Education Center, High Conflict U, and get all of our programs off and running. The latest is a basic free e-course called, “Victim in the System Basic”. Check it out and if you like it, consider signing up for our in-depth “Victim in the System Advanced” paid course. Also remember that we offer coaching services to any parent who is stuck in a high conflict nightmare. You can find out more about all the services provided at Life’s Doors Mediation and High Conflict U by visiting my website.

Take just a few minutes to go through my latest free e-course:

Victim in the System Basic Free E-Course

You can also check out the new website that is all about High Conflict U.

I Can Only Imagine Movie Trailer

I am very much looking forward to this movie.  It looks amazing!

Many of the people I’ve worked with in the last 20 years are parents who experienced a traumatic family event.  Now, their own children struggle with a similar situation.  My goal is to help everyone get through it in the best way possible, which is not always easy, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in and the mindset of the people who are involved.  Even some of the professionals have scars that they carry, scars that create their own toxic contributions to conflict or family drama.  Still, no one should ever give up hope for a better family life.

I enjoy working with parents, regardless of what they have done in the past or how difficult their situations may appear on the surface.  While many shy away from “high conflict” families, I tend to embrace them, especially when I can work one on one with them.  Why?  Why do I do it?  It can certainly be painful and stressful.  It is often hard to watch parents who are hurting their children.  Many of them do not even realize their part in the struggle, but for those who take the little seed that I plant and let it grow, the results are amazing.  For that reason, even if there might only be a handful in hundreds, I am compelled to continue working with parents.  Once someone works through pain, trauma, abuse or anger and recognizes their own piece in the relationship puzzle, their eyes are opened.  They cannot un-know what they know.  They cannot undo the past, but they can create their future.  It is a blessing to see and the effects are not just in them, but ripple to others, children, friends, neighbors, and the community.  Parents willing to self reflect out of  pain and into peace to be awesome role models for their children are the greatest parents I know and I admire them deeply!

Please go see the movie, “I Can Only Imagine”.  I can already see the greatness within, even simply from getting a couple of minutes worth of a glimpse.  Have a glimpse of faith and hope.  I pray it plants a seed in you!

Thoughts From High Conflict U

As someone who has been working for almost 20 years to help parents navigate the very choppy waters of family court, I get a fair amount of calls and emails from parents who feel overwhelmed with how off track their case has become. High conflict cases snowball into unimagineable craziness and parents desperately want […]

via Who Do You Recommend for a Parenting Coordinator or Consultant? — High Conflict U

Living Rent Free in Your Head

Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net

When you devote much of your day in fear of your ex, or thinking about what your ex is doing, you are allowing them to live rent free in your head.  It is completely understandable that if you have had many negative experiences with your ex and experienced a prolonged, bitter custody battle, you would become afraid of having to deal with them in the future.  Still, the best thing to do is to get them out of your head and out of your life as much as possible.

I do not want to make light of the situation.  I hope to help people move forward and stop giving their ex more attention than they deserve.  If you have become overwhelmed with thoughts and fears about your ex, you have to work on changing your thinking.  It is not going to happen over night, but it can be done.  You will have to work hard at it and things may get worse before they get better.  What I mean by that is the controlling, abusive, meddling ex will do their best to make you fail in your quest for freedom.  That is reason enough why you must do it.  When you start paying less and less attention to them and no longer cower in fear of them, they are going to get in your face a little more before they slither away and the fact remains, they may never slither away completely.  You see, the problem is not with you.  It is with them.

Your ex has been masterful at turning the tables on you and keeping you off balance.  Because their behavior is not normal, you may be confused about why they are behaving the way they are.  Worse, you may also be confused that in the real world, people view your ex as very nice, smart, thoughtful, etc.  They may have a new relationship that seems just peachy and you may be questioning if you really are the problem.  Trust me, you are not the problem.

Keep in mind that most people in the real world only get a glimpse of who your ex really is and when your ex wants to, he or she can really turn on the charm.  The same goes for the new relationship.  They must make their new partner see you as a crazy person.  It helps them ensure that you will never go near their new partner and that they will steer clear of you as well.  No one can talk to each other that way.  The angry ex’s secrets do not get divulged.  This keeps their new love in the dark about who they really are and it helps keep you wondering what the heck is going on…and they LOVE that.  Remember how they treated you early on and how wonderful you thought they were.  The new partner will also be charmed.

They LOVE having you fear them.  They LOVE living in your head rent free.  They do not even have to do anything because you fear them so much and try to anticipate what they will do next.  It feeds their ego to know that they are always on your mind.

So how do you go about changing things?

First things first, you have to put your fear behind you.  You may even need to get angry.  You also need to retrain your brain to stop any and all thoughts of your ex whenever they crop up.

Second, have a diversion.  If you are overwhelmed thinking about what your ex may or may not do about any given issue, have a friend or a hobby or even look for a new love interest and whenever you just cannot shake the evil ex thoughts, call on that person or take some time to work on it.  If you choose a hobby, make sure that it is something that will keep you busy.  Reading sometimes will not work because if your mind keeps wandering, you will not really be reading.  Try exercise, too, and some stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, mediation or swinging your arms back and forth for 10 minutes.  Trust me, it works.

Third, carve out “ex free” time.  When you have the luxury of your child spending time at the other parent’s house or with grandma and grandpa or their friends, carve it out.  Announce to yourself that you will not give your ex anymore time than they have already taken from you.

This can be done, trust me, I have done it.  It takes some time and some practice, but once you master retraining your brain, the less you will think about your ex or care about your ex.  It will become habit to you and you will be well on your way to a new and happier life.  One last thing, it is natural to want to put your life on hold for fear that your ex will ruin anything that makes you happy, but that is just giving them more control over your life.  You do NOT want to do that.  Write down on a piece of paper in big letters the following:

NOT ONE MORE DAY.  MY EX WILL NOT GET ONE MORE DAY OF MY LIFE.  MY EX HAS BEEN LIVING RENT FREE IN MY HEAD FOR YEARS AND TODAY IS HIS EVICTION NOTICE.  HE/SHE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF MY HEAD AND OUT OF MY THOUGHTS AND OUT OF MY LIFE STARTING RIGHT NOW.  I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED THE WAY I AM BEING TREATED.  I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.

And then go live it.  If you want to find a new love, seek them out.  Your ex may try to meddle and he/she may try to make things difficult for you in unimaginable ways, but you are stronger than he or she is.  Much stronger.  They have a sickness that they probably cannot escape, but you will choose to get healthier.  You will take steps to ensure that you never choose the same kind of psychopath as a partner again, and you won’t.  Your new love will love you and because they love you so much, they will see what your ex is doing and they will stand by you no matter what.

When you see it, you will believe it and achieve it!

Image courtesy of Nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anger and Your Child

The video below is showing how a toddler reacts to an angry person. It interrupts their focus from fun and learning and puts all of their focus on the angry person. If you watch, you will see the child just stops. The child in the video doesn’t know what to do, except he appears to be bracing himself for what may come.

Think about this child in terms of a nasty, angry co-parenting situation, caught in the middle of two angry parents. While the parents may not be angry all the time, it may be enough to refocus the child’s attention on the battle, and not school or friends or other happy experiences. This is a good reminder to keep those feelings of anger in check during your parenting time with your child, and to do your part to keep the conflict with your co-parent at a minimum. This is not to say that you should blame the other parent for their anger, or try to control their anger, because you cannot. You can only control yourself. However, your decreasing reactions may have a counter effect on the other parent. It is hard to be angry to someone who is not helping to fuel that fire.