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.

Now or Later

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net"
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Relationship problems suck.  They really do.  When you are married, relationship problems suck even more.  When you have children, the stakes are extremely high.

As a coach, I talk to people who are looking for help.  They may want to try communication coaching.  Sometimes, one or both partners have anger issues, and they might want to look into Anger Management.  They may even be contemplating divorce.

Divorce will scare the crap out of you.  Sometimes, it is sprung on you.  Your spouse has determined, without talking to you about it, that they want a divorce.  They have thought it over for a long time, and come to the decision.  You can’t change their mind.  It is done.

Other times, you talk together about how the relationship is not working.  This is a great time to act.  Even if you think this is not a great time because you are on the brink of divorce, it really is an opportunity.  There is something positive in the fact that you have been able to talk about this together.  That shows promise!

For parents of small children, you really need to see the opportunity in this situation.  While some couples will choose to divorce, others may find that they don’t have to.  If no one has come to the divorce decision yet, there is still time, and there is certainly a lot of wisdom in waiting to make that decision while you spend time working on your issues.

Relationship problems are a two-way street.  It is rarely about the actions of just one person in a couple.  The relationship didn’t start out sour.  If it had, why would you have gotten married?  Why would you have had a child together?  There was potential there and most likely still is.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: If I need to make some changes to improve my relationship, should I do it now, in an effort to save my marriage, or should I do it later, to work on the co-parenting relationship?  If you and your spouse have a child together, you are going to have to continue to build that relationship, aren’t you?  If you have trust or anger issues in your marriage, won’t you still have them in the co-parenting relationship, too?

When a relationship has problems, most people seem to know where their own personal weakness lies.  They often know, or are willing to learn about their faults.  If the two people are willing to make changes to improve their lives, it would be better to do it now, before more damage is done, than to have to do it later.  Just something to consider.

Divorce was a good thing for me.  I am not sure my children would agree that it was a good thing for them.  Divorce might be a good thing for you but it might be worth really making sure that you cannot salvage that relationship, especially if you have children who end up being part of that relationship forever, no matter what it becomes.

Friday Funny 5/16/2014

All of Mark Gungor’s Videos are worth the watch. Today I am sharing a few of my favorites with you. Very funny, but points worth taking! This one is for the ladies.

Video number 2 is also very funny and points worth taking for the guys!

Video number 3 is for the men and the ladies!

Saving Face

Image courtesy of Ambrose at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambrose at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After divorce, some people play the victim.  It garners them attention and sympathy from others and helps them explain, in their own mind, that they are not at fault for the divorce.

Oddly enough, even though all US states are no fault divorce states, it doesn’t seem to matter.  Fault or no fault, divorce can be deeply wounding to someone’s ego.  In order to show the world (and make themselves feel better), they have to portray a false reality that their ex is to blame.  They will accuse their ex of having an affair, being mentally ill or turn it around in some other way.  They may tell others that they initiated the divorce instead of telling the truth, that it was their ex who initiated.

Typically, these individuals fear being alone and will enter into a new relationship quickly, long before they are ready.  They have done nothing to come to terms with the divorce or take the time to heal.  They grab hold of the first person who comes along and buys their story.  It helps them show the world: Hey, I am OK.  See?  Someone loves me.  That other person had something wrong with them.  That’s all.  I am not a bad person.  See how quickly someone found me?

The new relationship develops during their grieving process about the divorce.  These quick rebound relationships can interfere with, and may even  halt that grieving process all together.  Because they met their new significant other during the grieving process, they may have shared with their new mate how terrible you are, in order to explain their misery.  The problem is that they will have to keep this story going for the duration of the relationship.  This makes things very confusing to an ex spouse who has to try to co-parent with the person who is trying to keep a storyline going.

The ex spouse will struggle to understand why their child’s parent hates them so and cannot let go of it.  If you are the ex who is constantly lied about, you may become defensive.  You may also be very hurt and feel guilty about the divorce when you have to watch your children’s parent carry on with so much anger,  while you try to take the high road, as they continue to tells lies.  You may hope that they will come to terms with the divorce so that your co-parenting relationship will improve.  Unfortunately, you cannot make things better because it really is not about you.

This is all about your ex wanting to save face.  What does it mean to save face?  To put it simply, to preserve one’s dignity.  It has to do with how one sees him or herself and how he or she thinks the world sees them.  If a person finds divorce to be a highly negative reflection on their worth as a person, and is deeply wounded that their spouse, who promised to love, honor and cherish them no longer loves them, they often cannot see divorce as anything other than  an acknowledgment  that they are unlovable,  and a failure.

As the years go by, you may be shocked at how petty your co-parent is and stunned by their refusal to sit in the same room with you for the children’s extra curricular activities, doctor appointments and even mediation to settle a dispute about the children.  Try not obsessing about changing the other parent, and do not make yourself a door mat and try to appease them in an effort to build a better relationship.  If the other parent is saving face, nothing that you do will change the situation.  It is all about keeping their secrets safe.  Avoiding you, and making you out to be the bad guy,  is the basis of their new relationship.  They will move heaven and earth to keep the story going.

If the avoiding parent starts to repair the relationship with you, their new partner may start to see all of the lies and they cannot risk being exposed.   People who live a life based on lies will never risk a second breakup.  The first one devastated them.  Because they never took pause to heal from that, another rejection would be unbearable.  Eventually, the new partner may start to see that the story they have been told does not make sense, and your ex may possibly have to face their biggest fear, but again, you cannot change them, and it is not your responsibility to save them.

So what do you tell your kids when the other parent spreads lies and acts crazy?  Tell your kids the truth.  Tell them that you would like a better relationship with their mom/dad, and it is not possible right now.  Tell them that you do not understand why the other parent acts that way, but that you love them and will always be there for them no matter what. You may also want to tell them that you feel sorry for the other parent’s pain and hope that one day they will find a way to work through it.  That is all you have to say.  Then you must commit yourself to taking the high road and doing the best job of parenting that you can.

Hostile co-parenting relationships are not helped by seeking revenge or telling the other side what they need to do to make things better.  You are the last person they will take advice from.  Sometimes the best you can do is keep your own house in order and choose a healthier relationship for yourself, and leave your ex to battle their own demons.

Positively Productive Mediation Experiences

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mediation can be an anxiety and fear producing experience.  it is rarely something people look forward to.  Many of the first conversations I have with people who are in the process of finding a mediator involve the following language, or something similar:

“Well, _________ says we have to try mediation.   It will probably be a very short meeting because we can never agree on anything.  I just don’t see him/her saying anything other than, “NO!”.  That’s all it ever is.”

Still, they are willing to set up that appointment and come in to mediate, and they are usually very surprised at the outcome.

Rarely does anyone look forward to mediation.  Usually, the parties have not spoken in quite some time, and if they have, the conversation quickly escalates into an argument.  Nobody wants to embrace conflict.  Conflict is unpleasant and something most people do their best to avoid.  The thought of sitting down in a room with this person seems unthinkable because of the history of the relationship and because you know this person all too well.  You can only think of all the mean and nasty things that other person has ever said to you, and every horrible experience you have been through with them or because of them.  Those negative thoughts are why it is easier to ignore the problem, rather than deal with the problem.  However, if you don’t deal with the problem, it will not go away.  Sometimes when that problem is dropped into the legal process, it will only grow bigger.  Legal proceedings are relationship problems on steroids.

If you can look at mediation not as a conflict, but as an opportunity to come to resolution, you can quickly see areas where you and the other person have some common ground.  A good mediator will point out areas where the two of you are in agreement from early in the process.  You need to remember that mediation is not only anxiety and fear producing for you, but also for the other person.  They are not looking forward to the experience either.

Mediation can be a very positive experience and it can change relationships for the better.  That doesn’t mean that you are going to repair the relationship.  That will sometimes happen, but more often, you can bring closure or a new direction to the relationship.  That may be a scary thought, but think of it this way, whatever the relationship is right now, if all it involves in not being on speaking terms, or escalating arguments, it is not working the way it is.  Putting an end to the conflict and changing the relationship going forward, can put you on a more positive path, even if that means you walk your path, and they walk a different path.

You can make mediation a positive experience for you, by approaching it in a positive way.  Don’t assume the worst.  Go about it with no preconceived notions.  If you come out without an agreement, you are no worse off than you were before, but remember, you may come out ahead.

Mediation is a confidential process so you can speak openly and not fear any ramifications in court later.  As a matter of fact, if the issue is taken into court, and the other party tries to tell the judge that you said, “X, Y or Z” in mediation, the judge will stop any further discussion of what was said in mediation.  Go into mediation and say what you need to say.  That alone can be quite healing for people.

Some other ways to ensure that mediation is a positive experience for you are to:

1. Make sure you are well rested.

2. Make sure that you will not be hungry.  If you schedule around lunch or dinner time, eat before the session if you can.  If not, bring a snack.  Feel free to take a break if you need to.  Mediators will usually do their best to make sure their clients basic needs are met.

3. Come prepared with your idea for resolution.  Do not think in terms of what you think the other party may or may not agree to.  You may come out very surprised.  It happens more often than not.  Ask for what you need, but also be prepared to compromise.

4. Consider what the other party is asking for.  If you need a moment to think about it, be sure to let the mediator know that.  You do not have to agree to something that you do not want to do, but sometimes a knee jerk reaction is to say no, when the reality is, it may be a workable solution.

5. Think about your life going forward, not about the past. Even if the relationship was bad, it may improve when you can agree to move forward after coming to some resolution of the issues that have you entrenched in battle.

6. Don’t think of it in terms of all or nothing.  Partial agreements can be very helpful, too.  You may be able to resolve some of your issues and that is a step in the right direction.  You would be surprised how often an agreement on a small issue starts the ball rolling on bigger issues.  Sometimes, people return to mediation after coming out of a first session with a partial agreement.  After having some time to reflect on a prior session, people realize that they can return to mediation and work out the rest of the agreement.

7. Keep your discussion positive and use I statements. Try not to place blame. How you got to where you are doesn’t have to interfere with a plan that moves you forward.

8. Consider mediation a new beginning.  Even when you do not find resolution, the conversation can help you clarify where the relationship is at.  You no longer have to wonder if you will or will not be able to have a productive conversation.  Let the experience shape how you will go forward with or without the other party.  Sometimes relationships do have to end, but it opens our lives up for new relationships going forward.  We can take what we have learned to make better choices in the future.

Mediation offers the opportunity to redefine relationships.  It also offers an opportunity to be creative when resolving conflict.  When you stay positive and are open to the possibility of what may happen, your experience will serve you well, even if you are not able to come into an agreement.

If you enter into a mediation session with a positive attitude, it will often spill over to the other side of the table.  You can have a positive, productive mediation, provided you go in with a positive attitude and are willing to sit down for an open discussion.  You may not get everything that you hope to, but in most cases you can both come out winners.

Can You Work on Coparenting by Yourself?



It takes two to co-parent, no doubt about that.  The family courts are filling a lot of people with false hope by making parents believe that watching a video, attending a parenting class, or having a parent coordinator or parenting consultant as the case manager of the parental relationship can force co-parenting to happen.  There are cases where none of those things are going to work.

I know that this line of thinking does not endear me to the family court or put me top of the list when they appoint a parenting consultant, but I have to say it anyway.  I am a realist and one who speaks the truth, whether or not that truth is popular.  Does that mean that there is no hope for the high conflict divorce parents?  No.  That is not what I am saying.  I am an eternal optimist and I believe that all things are possible.  When two people want to have a relationship, those two people will have the relationship they want, but one person cannot have a relationship.  That is what cannot be done.  In the same way you cannot make someone love you if they don’t, you will not get a cooperative co-parent if they have no interest in co-parenting with you.

Some people can and do co-parent effectively.  Those parents have had closure from the end of the relationship and have healed their hurts.  They also see a way forward without the other parent sharing their life and can separate parenting together from having a life together.

Those who cannot co-parent effectively, those referred to as high conflict families, have never had a healthy relationship.  They may not even understand what a healthy relationship is.  They have probably never experienced one themselves and have never seen one in action in their extended family. 

There are many factors that contribute to hostile co-parenting situations.  Chemical dependency may have been a part of the relationship, for one or both of the parents.  Abuse, which can take many forms, may have been part of that household in one way or another.  There may have been a prolonged custody battle, in which the lies and mud slinging stung and deeply wounded one or both parties.  As an aside, if you told horrific lies about your ex and now expect them to co-parent, SHAME ON YOU!  As I wrote about before, co-parenting requires a level of trust.  If the type of relationships I mentioned above exist for you, there is no trust, or at least not enough for someone to trust you with the children or take your word on anything.

Co-parenting means that you will be on time and return the children on time.  If you are going to have parenting time on certain days, you will move heaven and earth  to see the children those days.  You will make the children a priority and you will treat the other parent with respect.  The other parent has a life without you and their time, their interests and their home, including phone and email, must be respected.  The phone and email are not to be used to insult and threaten them in their own home.  You do not have to like what the other parent does and they don’t have to like what you do, but as co-parents, you must treat each other with respect.

If you have the misfortune of a hostile co-parenting relationship, nothing will make the other parent change their ways.  There isn’t a court order or a parenting consultant or a law in the world that is going to make them change their ways.  You already know this.  The court already knows this.  The only one who can change someone’s behavior is the person behaving that way.  Court orders won’t work.  You can tell the person until you are blue in the face that they need to change.  It won’t make it so.  The person who is behaving badly has to see their mistakes and want to change.

What can you do about it?  The only effective way to shut down someone who is trying to upset you is to work on your reaction to them.  The best revenge is to let them know that they are not going to get anything out of it and you are not going to waste time on what they do or say.  So many people fear that their children will believe lies the other parent tells them, but if you do right by your kids, they will know truth.  Kids will know who was there for them and who was standing strong for them.

You cannot force someone to co-parent with you.  Pushing the issue in court will only further alienate the other party.  If you are going to improve the relationship, give them some time and space and stop tattling on them.  If they are ever going to warm up to the idea, they need to have time to heal first.  Stop pushing them.

Focus on you and the way you parent.  Do not make excuses for the other parent when you talk to the children and do not criticize the other parent.  If the children ask why mommy or daddy won’t talk to you anymore, tell them that you hope, in time, things will get better, but you both need the space to adjust to single parenting.  Also tell them that you are always there for them and they will always be taken care of.

When you prepare yourself to be a great parent, regardless of what someone else is doing, you gain confidence and independence.  If you do not have to rely on that other parent, you will not be disappointed.  The other parent may do their part and that is great, but your saving Grace is to be able to parent with or without them.

Image courtesy of Jeron van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Success Story!?

Well, praise be to God.  After many years, and many parents trying and failing to get the news media to do a story on parenting consultants, a couple of brave Moms were able to finally shine a spotlight on the process.  Information is power and so I do call this a success story.  The journalist also interviewed Karen Irvin, a long time PC, and I suppose they had to do so in order to be fair, but that seemed to put the criticism back on the parents more than the process itself.

Personally, having experience on both sides of the process, I know that there is enough blame to go around.  Parents can become quite hostile with one another.  That is a problem.  However, there is the problem of having a process that takes money away from the families who need it and having no way to get out of that process if you find it does not help your situation or it turns out to be much more expensive than you had anticipated.

The news story says that parenting consultant contracts are for two years.  I still hear from a multitude of people that have no end date in the contract or court order.  Much of what is wrong in the system is that the system does not educate itself on the latest recommendations, nor do they require any special education for parenting consultants.  It is available, but it is not required.  As Karen Irvin said, “We’ve developed a two-day training that we think should be four days, but I don’t know that we could get people to a four day training.” I’d like to challenge that thinking because many of these same people are willing to attend a three-day divorce camp!

Parents do share some of the responsibility for how bad the relationships are because there are times the PC is used as a weapon and just the presence of the court authority overseeing your life can invite nit-picky battles that probably would not happen without the presence of a court authority and the false sense of power that provides.  But the court would be wise to put in place some on-going training requirements and also to adopt standard language for a pc order that includes a time limit either across the board or an agreed upon term determined by the parties at the time of the court order.  Plus, I want to see attorneys required to inform clients that the court cannot order a parenting consultant if a party does not agree to have one.  That does not happen very often.

I do have some things coming that I think will help the situation.  I am just not at the point where I can make my announcements yet.  Just know that some things are coming…soon.

Watch the news video and let me know what you think.  Did this new story help to raise awareness?

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/play/3898036

No Support Group 1/28/13


I have a bad cold, possibly the flu so I have decided to cancel tomorrow night’s divorce support group.  Better not to spread it around, especially to parents with children to care for.  We will plan to meet the next Monday.  Hope to see you there!  Rest up.




Image courtesy of stuart miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Update on my most recent personal experience


As you may have read previously, back in June, my ex filed for custody of my youngest son.  My son and I had had an argument over the fact that his room was a pig stye and I wanted it cleaned.  That was my only crime, demanding that my son clean his room.  I had let my guard down, expecting that my ex would not go backwards and would actually tell my son that his behavior was not acceptable anywhere and would not be acceptable at his home either, instead he filed for sole custody, told the same lies to the judge that he always had told way back when and pulled his poor, poor pitiful me act yet again.  I expected the judge to review the case and why I won sole custody, but the judge was lazy and did not want to do his job.  The judge did not allow me the opportunity to speak to my son or to allow me to set up mediation.  Mr. Judge Supreme wanted to show how powerful he was an after telling me that court orders cannot be enforced, he can uphold laws, such as law 609.26, ignoring the past physical abuse that my ex perpetrated against my son, the same child as was in the middle again, and not follow laws or court orders or even the proper procedure, and granted my ex sole custody.

As I strongly suspected, my ex was only interested in ending child support early.  Had he told me so, I could have accommodated him, but he could not admit to that.  I did know that my ex has been extremely jealous of me having my own business and being a mediator and divorce coach.  This has been driving him nuts and his attack was solely an effort to get back his money that he did not feel I deserved or needed.  You know what?  He can have it.  He is an alcoholic and it will not bother me if I see him drink himself to death with it.

You may think that this is a horror story and that I am upset about it.  I am not.  I have my son back.  I want to give you all some hope for those of you living in fear that your ex will turn your child against you.  I always tell people that the children will be the ultimate judge of you and your actions had better be in their best interests if you want to win not just the battle, but ultimately win the war.

I let my son go with his dad.  I sent him a few emails about my love for him and my expectations of what it would mean for him to be a man.  At the time he was 6 months away from turning 18.  I also let him know what truths I knew about him and explained to him that I would always be there for him, but that I would not allow anyone to treat me with disrespect or to lie to me.  Then I left him think about things and I completely left the choice of visiting me up to him.

After a period of adjustment, he did get past the fear of making his dad mad at him and started coming to stay with me with great frequency.  He learned that his dad is not there for him and he had been used.  You see, his dad got to keep his child support money but made my son pay for all of his expenses, including food, and medical supplies and medications for what is a chronic medical condition.  He would not help my son get his drivers license or any of the things one would do if they really wanted their child.  When he got sole custody, he left me listed as my son’s education coach at school and lead the school staff to believe that my son still lives at my house.  Why would anyone who wanted custody and claimed child endangerment (because I told my son to clean his room) not take over these issues for their child?  Because even in my case, the coparent’s issue is not about the child.  It is solely about control.  My son is even afraid to tell his dad that he lost his glasses because his dad is a horrible person when he is angry, even after 2 stints in anger management.

Anyway, it was a difficult period of time and since then my son has turned 18.  He is making plans to move closer to where I live.  The only reason he hasn’t done so is because he has a job out near his dad’s house.  The best part is that he now spends a great deal of time at my house, pretty much whenever he is not working.  His brother took him to get his drivers license last week when he was at our house and he passed.  Even though his physical address is his dad’s house, his dad spends very little time with him.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that you can win in the end, even if you have lost some major battles during the process.  In the end your child will know who is the one who is there for them.  The other point I am trying to make is this: you know who your ex is.  He or she may perform in front of court authorities or other professionals that are involved with your child and draw people into their pity party or manipulate them into aligning with them, but ultimately there comes a time when the kids are grown.  You will find that you were right all along.  Your ex is who they are and they can pretend all day long to be what they are not, but where it matters, for example, with their children, they cannot hide the truth.

Another bonus is that I think my son learned some important lessons as well.





Coming Soon!






As I have mentioned before, I have been very busy working on a couple of major projects.  I hope to bring help and guidance to parents who are stuck in coparenting hell and maybe bring some change to the way coparenting conflicts are handled in Minnesota.  I am ready to finally announce one of my projects is complete.  You will soon be able to purchase my first book, “The Parenting Consultant Nightmare”.

The book is in the editing stages right now, which is taking a little longer than I had hoped, but I do expect that it will be available for purchase within 2 weeks or so.  Stay tuned.

“The Parenting Consultant Nightmare” is a simple explanation of the parenting consultant process, the pitfalls, how to avoid it if you can, and if you can’t, offers some communication strategies and coping techniques.  I think maybe even a parenting consultant could gain some insight into why parents often react the way they do, but it may be too much to expect for any of them to read it.  Time will tell.

Anyway, it was hard for me not to announce it months ago, but I wanted to wait until the time was right and I think it is close enough to fruition that it is time to make the announcement!





If you would like to be notified once the Parenting Consultant Nightmare is available for purchase, contact me.  It will be available through my website, Amazon and some select retailers and will cost $19.95.