Victim in the System Basic Course

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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.

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The Right of First Refusal, Helpful or Hurtful?

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of
Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hadn’t really given too much thought to “the right of first refusal” until a client showed me the Liz Library article about it a few days ago.  I often recommend the Liz Library for a reference because the articles are insightful and linked to research on the topics, and my client found the article because of a post where I referenced the Liz Library.  I had not really contemplated this issue before.

My opinion on the Right of First Refusal is that one should not give it to the other parent without asking for the same right in return, and I do still believe that to be a wise move.  In your own case, you should always discuss that with your lawyer, of course, but I’d be surprised if any lawyer would not think it should be reciprocal. That is about as far as I’d ever thought about it, mainly because if a parent asks for it, a Parenting Coordinator or judge is likely to give it.  It is one of the tools in their arsenal to encourage co-parenting, and so they usually will use the tools they have.  That is my take on all things Family Court.  You would not be there if it wasn’t about co-parenting difficulties, and the Family Court loves their toolbox.

Do I think that the right of first refusal is a good thing?  No.  As with anything in double edged sword land of Family Court, it could be a good thing, but it can also be used as a weapon by the controlling, vindictive ex spouse.  Is your ex spouse trying to gain more parenting time by way of the right of first refusal?  Probably.  What else might they hope to accomplish by it?  Control, control, control, and engagement, engagement, engagement.  They either hope to ensure they are informed about everything you are involved in when you either would not or could not involve the children, or they are trying to create another reasons that you will need to contact them.  On its face, the right of first refusal makes sense.  A child should be with their parent when a parent is available to care for the child in the other parent’s absense.  In most cases, it is better to have a parent with the child before involving a third party.  Too bad we don’t look at that with legal custody, huh?  I digress.  This is why it is hard to say if it is a good or bad thing.  It is both.  What I mean by that is when it comes to a high conflict family, odds are that it is a bad thing.  It will most likely increase the conflict, and become more problematic than it is worth.  For the cooperative, low conflict divorced family, it would be a good thing.  The problem is that the right of first refusal is typically sought by high conflict parents.  A cooperative family is neither going to ask for the right of first refusal, nor will they need to have it written in a court order.  For the low conflict divorced family the right of first refusal is an automatic thing, or they trust the other parents judgement on who they will choose to leave the children with when they cannot be available and don’t fixate on such trivial things.

Any of these tools really are remedies for high conflict families and no one else.  Truth be told, no one should ever call them tools, as much as they should call them weapons.  It is just a sad fact.  There is a reason why your family cannot manage co-parenting.  There is a reason why I am not a fan of co-parenting in high conflict situations.  I understand that the circumstances that create high conflict cannot be fixed by court ordered anything, and that most court ordered things are more problematic than they are worth.  Unfortunately, when remedy is asked for by one party, court authorities have to offer you some kind of remedy .  If it were up to me, the courts would first determine if there has been a problem, for example, is the other parent leaving the children in someone’s care frequently?  The court should make that determination before they try to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist.  In other words, they should make sure there is a problem before they offer a solution.  the reality is that court authorities don’t generally think that broadly.  They should also look at the dynamics of the family from which a parent is asking for a remedy, and if the parent is using things to control or punish the other parent with, they should not deliver any more weapons to the equation.  This is why I continue to oppose the one size fits all, cookie cutter approach that is used in the Family Court System.

The courts don’t know much about High Conflict and what exactly drives it.  This is why they are ill equipped to offer remedies to it.  The court authorities continue to make the same mistakes that parents make when it comes to high conflict divorce.  I would coach the court authorities in the same way that I coach parents.  Less is more.  Court orders aren’t working?  Why add more?  A parent getting more information on the other parent increasing the conflict?  Why give them more?

What the courts should keep in mind is that they really do know some of the accusations that come out of high conflict divorces.  The accusations that come are abuse, alcoholism, drug use, mental illness.  If those accusations are coming, they may never be able to prove any of it.  That is a fact with how the Family Court operates.  They aren’t really looking for evidence of anything if you have joint custody, but what they could do with the accusations, is to know that you are likely a high conflict case and remedies don’t provide solutions in the high conflict divorce.  Instead, they provide weapons.  In the way that they would allow a cop to have a gun, but deny a psychopath a gun, the right of first refusal works great for the well intentioned good guys, but in the hands of a bad guy, the right of first refusal will be a dangerous thing.  The Family Courts need to start determining that in the high conflict family, one parent is a bad guy.  Even if they don’t want to put in the work of determining who the bad guy is, they need to acknowledge that there is one and take a less is more approach.  They should not offer remedies that can be used as a weapon.  Period.  They only need to recognize that there is at least one bad guy involved.

What is Your End Game?

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I often listen to parents who are so enmeshed in the Family Court System that they are willing to flat-out tell a potential Parenting Consultant that they want to prove the other parent is “bad”.  There are several things that astound me about this revelation.

One, my surprise at hearing them openly admit that?  This used to be a strategy, but now is just a sad fact of truth.

Two, what do they hope will happen from proving the other parent is “bad”?  None of them seem to know this, but I suspect they hope that the other parent will lose parenting time or custody.  Still, they never really “get” how the System works.  I do, and therefore, I am horrified that anyone would entertain this notion.  Yes, you could call me a hypocrite, because I did get sole custody, but I did not get sole custody by proving how “bad” my ex was.  I got sole custody by proving how the delay in decision-making, on important issues such as medical care, was detrimental to my children, AND detrimental to myself and the children’s father.  My whole family won when I won sole custody!  So it perplexes me when parents want to show how “bad” the other parent is.

Three, are their lawyers just hoping to pocket a lot of money?  As a non lawyer who knows just how biting the system is for children and families, I cannot think of any other reason a legal professional would direct their client to drop their children deeper into the system.  I would tell you, and have told some people, to run like hell in the other direction.

The problem with trying to prove the other person is bad is this: suppose you succeed?  Do you expect some miraculous event to occur?  A Parenting Consultant/Coordinator is there to help the two of you communicate and co-parent, and if you cannot make a decision about an issue regarding your child, then the PC can.  The PC cannot change custody or child support so you’d maybe, at best, get a shift in percentage of parenting time, if you successfully prove “badness”.  You still have to compel the professional to act.  For some reason people think that if you can demonstrate how bad the other parent treats you, something magical will happen to free you of that other parent forever.

The truth is that if you are trying to prove the other parent is “bad” to you, nobody really cares about that.  If you are trying to prove the other parent is “bad” to the children, bad is rather hard to define.  What you think is “bad” may not be what the court professionals think are”bad”.  If the other parent is physically abusive to the children, you may get somewhere, but you need to make sure you know what you are asking for.  It would be extremely rare for a parent to be cut out of the children’s lives completely.  I have seen cases where the parent cuts a parent out of the children’s lives completely, but the courts rarely do.

I guess what I am trying to say to you is to be careful about going down this road.  It often backfires.  If you do succeed in showing the bad side of your ex, you and the children will be made part of the (losing) effort of trying to fix the situation.  You will likely see and interact more with your “bad” ex than ever before, and so you will not be rid of them, you will have to put up with much more.

One more thing, usually, if someone is truly acting “bad”, you should have no need to show that.  The professionals on the case will see and understand it, eventually.  The unfortunate thing is that many parents trying to prove their ex is bad, come across as desperate and unstable, creating their own threat to their parenting time with the kids.

My best advice would be to stay out of court and away from court authorities as much as you can.  Don’t let them take control of your children.

Do You Recommend Your Parenting Consultant or PTE?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I created my first website, I had a page called, “Rate Your PC”.  My plan was to collect information on all Parenting Consultants in Minnesota so we could find out if there were any good ones, and keep the good ones in business while weeding out the bad ones.  At the time, my attitude about being a PC was, “Hell NO!”  I NEVER wanted to inflict that kind of damage on a family.  Period.

After working as a coach, it turned out that most of my clients came to me for help dealing with their parenting consultant and hostile co-parent.  I blogged about PCs and people would find me because of that.  After a while, I decided that I really needed to write a book because all of the questions were the same: “How do you get rid of a parenting consultant (coordinator)?” “Why won’t they do something about my ex?”  “How did I become the bad guy in all of this?”  “Can you file a complaint against a PC?”  All of these questions and more are covered in my book, “The Parenting Consultant Nightmare”

As part of my research for the book, I attending the training to be a Parenting Consultant.  Don’t think for a moment that my stomach wasn’t queasy.  It was.  I attended the Parenting Time expediter training as well, even though it was facilitated by my former PTE and PC.  I think she was much more intimidated than I was.  Because the training was pretty good, I did decide to offer these services.  It’s something I struggle with all the time.  Is it the right thing to do?  If you have any feedback on the question, I hope you’ll either comment after the post, or send in a contact form through the website.  Many clients tell me they want me to offer those services because I “get it”.  Still, if I am their coach, I cannot be their PC.  Anyway, having attended the training, and offering PC services, made me rethink that “Rate your PC” page.  Not because I felt hypocritical in collecting the data, and not because I have become “one of them”, but because I realized it was not giving me what I was looking for.

Being a friend to parents who deal with  high conflict co-parenting situations is not easy.  I can help you with many things, and I have succeeded in empowering people into making the system work better for them, but I cannot make the situation go away completely. If you have a co-parent who is always on the attack, they are going to stay on the attack, however, if you are empowered, their interest in you tends to decrease significantly.  The less reactive you are, the less they continue to try.  So I have had to rethink and shift gears as I learn more about the issue from the viewpoint of the parenting consultants or parenting coordinators, and what works for you and what doesn’t and have changed my approach somewhat.  I decided to stop collecting that data and had good reasons to stop collecting it.

One reason was that I did not get any good reviews.  If anyone has had a parenting consultant or parent coordinator on your case, that makes sense.  You would not expect to find anyone who knows how to manage these high conflict cases.  But are there really no good ones?  Typically, people are willing to take time reporting a negative, but rarely will report a positive.  I’d like to find out there are some good ones available, but it did not look like anyone would let me know that aspect.

Another reason  I quit collecting data is because people are afraid.  They are not going to turn in that information unless they know me and trust me.  Let’s face it, those of you in high conflict cases involving a PC just do not trust anyone.  You end up wondering where the information goes and who does it go to and worry that you may not stay anonymous?  My clients do learn they can trust me, and that I am not “one of them (PCs)” so through my daily work I can learn who the good and bad PCs are.  Again, no good PCs to report, but if you had someone who actually decreased the conflict, why would you be looking for a website, blog or coach to tell that story to?  Most likely, you would just go about living life, quite happily, I might add.  I still like to hold out hope that there are some out there.

Since I no longer collect information about PCs,  I want to share with you a website where you can write a review of your parenting consultant, parenting coordinator or parenting time expediter.  It has been around for a while, but the owner of the site  is not really going through those court issues anymore, from what I understand, and so I don’t think the owner does much with the site anymore.  That makes it harder to find when searching on the internet.  You can help move it up in the searches by adding reviews. The reviews are listed as a Parenting Time Expediter directory, but most PTEs also work as PCs.

For anyone who wants to write a review of their court professional, please do so on that directory site.  I think it would be an excellent resource for parents who need to choose a PC or PTE, whether the first time appointing one, or if the old one has left the case and they need to appoint someone new.  If you have anyone to report on, please do it at:

www.mnparent.org

I hope that we can raise awareness about that site so that people can come away with options for who to appoint and not to appoint.  Remember, it is important to share who the good guys are.  It’s not just about the bad guys!

More Court Import to Report

Oh, my gosh, where do I start???

There are so many things happening in Minnesota Family Courts.  Somethings I can report and some I cannot report just yet, but stay tuned.

In today’s news, here is a new blog that seems very informative for people in the throws of Family Court System.  I used to tell people that I felt as though I had been thrown in prison, even though I had committed no crime, other than to get divorced.  Anyway, here’s the blog (they picked up the Michelle MacDonald unlawful detainment, too):

<a href="http://www.familylawcourts.com/bailiffs.html
“>www.familylawcourts.com/bailiffs.html


Also, I know I keep repeating myself about Michelle MacDonald, mighty warrior, but she is.  There is a hearing on Friday in the civil rights case against Judge David Knutson in the Sandra Rucki case.  This is something to watch as it can have far reaching implications across the nation.  Families should not be in the court system for years and have their children swallowed up by it.  If you are not in it, don’t go there!  If you are in it, do everything you can to get out.  Now.  If you need help, I can share some strategies with you!  My contact info is above (on the header).

If you’d like to know more about the Rucki case and the Federal lawsuit against Judge Knutson, here are some videos to watch:

Last, but certainly not least, do not forget to watch Divorce Corp the movie, January 10, 2013-January 16, 2013.

http://www.divorcecorp.com/

Everything You Wanted to Know About Parenting Consultants/Coordinators, but were Afraid to Ask


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Ever thought you might need to get a parenting consultant or parenting coordinator appointed to your high conflict custody case?  Do you wonder what a parenting consultant or coordinator is?  What they do?  Would you like to hear from people with first hand experience in utilizing someone in the role of PC?  How much do parenting consultants charge?  Can you get rid of a parenting consultant?  Why does the parenting consultant hate me?

All this and more can be answered if you attend my web even Q & A about parenting consultants and coordinators.  If you have read my blog and considered  conflict coaching, but were a little leery of this person who also offers services as a parenting consultant, now is your chance to check me out.  At a cost of only $10, you can get a sample of what I offer to my coaching clients.  Many of my clients deal with a parenting consultant or parenting coordinator and have learned how to turn things around.  If you were to spend 3 hours coaching, you’d pay $150, which is still a great deal.  Consider how much a retainer for a lawyer might cost, or how much a day in court will cost you?  Maybe coaching can help, and save you money in the process.  But on January 11th at 10 AM, you have a chance to ask your most pressing question about parenting consultants/parenting coordinators and you can also hear questions from the other participants, too.

I have scheduled this event for 3 hours so that every participant should have time to ask a question or make a comment.  If by chance, we run out of time, I will have a way for you to ask a question behind the scenes.

I hope you’ll join me for the first Q & A about parenting consultants/parenting coordinators.  Remember, I also have a book out called, “The Parenting Consultant Nightmare” so it is fair for me to say I wrote the book.  I have utilized a parenting consultant with my own family and have trained as a pc who tries to do it better.  Let me know if this is something you’d like to see offered on going, or make suggestions for future web events from Life’s doors Mediation by sending an email to susan@lifesdoorsmediation.com.

Buy your ticket now!

Check It Out!!!


I have been waiting for a while to be able to announce this.  It is finally here!  The home site for the High Conflict Diversion Program has been revamped.  This is very exciting!  It should be much easier for people all across the USA find an instructor.  Check out the new website and sign up for a class!  Start the new year off right.  Sign up now to put a stop to the on-going co-parenting conflict.  Your kids will thank you for it!

Also, let me know if there are other nights, times or areas of the metro where you’d like to see classes offered.  We are currently working on getting new instructors trained and having classes offered through out the metro and possibly in the Duluth and Mankato areas.  If this interests you, please send me an email.  My new High Conflict Program email is s.carpenter@highconflict.net.  I cannot wait to hear from you.  Here is wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, with a new start from highconflict.net and Life’s Doors Mediation.