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Life’s Doors Mediation is partnered with Discover Your Piece. We are working together to make things better for divorced parents everywhere. I am sharing something new and exciting with you and I hope you will give it a try. Check out Discover Your Piece and their education site for High Conflict parents, High Conflict U!
High Conflict U offers a free e-course to learn everything you wanted to know about parenting time expeditors ( a role exclusive to the state of Minnesota ) and Parenting Consultant/Coordinators. Enroll now to learn about these important roles for your family.
I found this while researching for a different kind of article. They really do a great job of laying out the problem with Domestic Violence in Family Court. There are 6 parts to the article.
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If I were to pass legislation to improve the Family Courts, I would not want to pass a joint custody assumption or a 50-50 shared parenting time assumption or anything of the sort. I’d put forth a “Make No Assumptions” Family Law bill. I would prefer that the courts not be involved in families at all. If you are the two parents whose relationship resulted in bringing a new life into this world, you already share a child. Why look to the court to give you something you already have? The only time a court should be concerned about the relationships in your family is if someone or something is denying with or interfering with your right to participate in that relationship. Other than that, it should be up to you to determine how parenting should be split, based on numerous different factors, and if you have to look to a court for a decision, they should have to look at those numerous different factors, too. A split down the middle might be the right way to go, but it might not be. We should also keep in mind that parenting is not just about time with the children. It is about much more. Raising a child is not an equal proposition. It’s not a perfect science, and it is definitely not fair. 50-50 is something we invented to seem fair, but is it fair? Is it fair to the child? What about the parent who works evenings, whose kids are in school all day? Should we still give evening time, to be fair, even though the parent cannot be there? If that parent has every weekend with the child, is that fair and equal to the parent who gets zero weekends? Kids do not always feel close to both parents equally, at all times. That is just the nature of life, love and the intricacies of a relationship, and it isn’t always fair. If parents come to court to settle parenting time disputes, shouldn’t the court have to look at all of the factors of the case and then decide what makes sense for that family over what is fair?
Let me explain why I believe that courts should not make assumptions about custody, or even parenting time.
In Minnesota, the courts use the Best Interests of the Children Standards when there is a Custody dispute. That standard is often applied in parenting time disputes as well. Many legal experts admit that these standards are out of date. Personally, I feel that the Best Interest standards are a myth, just like much of what Family Court tries to do to “Case Manage” families, is a myth. Families cannot and should not be case managed, and who is qualified to determine anyone’s best interest?
The interesting thing about the best Interest of the Child Standard is that the courts have gone to a shared parenting assumption throughout the nation. It may not be law in every state, but it is the line of thinking behind the scenes. Research shows that children do better in life when they have involvement and on-going contact with both of their parents, whether in the marital home, or after the marriage has ended. Shared parenting, one could say, is in the “Best Interests of the Child”. I am not arguing that fact. Whenever possible, both mom and dad should continue to be involved parents for their children. What I am going to argue here is whether or not the courts are actually concerning themselves with the best interest of the child, or more with the best interest of the parent. Is giving a parent 50% of a child’s time/life about the child, or about the parents perceived “right” of fairness?
There is research out there that shows children of married parents do better than children of unmarried parents. Should a court force a couple to stay married because of that research? How can you force a relationship between two people? Still, Family Courts do try to force their idea of shared parenting on families and it has been a disaster. They instill parental “rights”, and when parents fight over those shared rights, there is no one actually looking at the “rights” or needs of the child. The child becomes lost in the battle. The battles are almost always a dispute about what dad wants or what mom wants, and judges decide which parent “wins”. Children are an unseen entity that everyone loses sight of. They are usually not in the court and rarely given a voice. Of course age has to do with that somewhat, but even older children are excluded from the process.
I do agree that a child has 2 parents with equal rights, and those parents share the rights to that child. I really hesitated writing that last sentence because to say a child belongs to both parents, or anyone has the “rights” to each other seems highly adversarial and enslaving. It creates a misconception that a person could be the property of someone. We do not own our children. We have been blessed with being given a relationship with them and a responsibility to care for them. We have to recognize that both people are the parents of the child, and the child was born to those two individuals who produced the child. I do not want to use words that imply “ownership”. None of us have a “right” to another person. Maybe we need to call it “relationship with”, and rather than protecting “parental rights”, we should protect the “parental relationship”. When you think in terms of a relationship with someone, you can then realize that a relationship cannot be proclaimed. If you want to have a relationship with another human being, you have to cultivate and cherish that relationship. You have to honor and respect the other person if you want to keep them in relationship with you. This applies to a co-parent and it applies to your child. It applies to every person with whom you intend to have an ongoing relationship, and asking a court to proclaim it for you will never create the relationship you hope to have with your child, former spouse that you parent with, or anyone else.
If we want to look at best interest of a child, we need to look at best interest according to whom? I certainly would not want anyone deciding what was in my best interest because they would have to know my history and what things have happened in my life that forged the person I am today. They would have to know my heart, and what makes me tick. They would have to know what my passions are, what I am interested in and what I am not interested in. They would have to know what family means to me, because it means different things to different people. Some people could care less about blood relationships and more about caring relationships in their lives, than they care who shares DNA. They would have to know my life experience from birth, and there is just no way that they could. So who is the best authority on what is in anyone best interests? As you ponder that question, you can see, that is a tough one to answer.
Maybe it should be the best interest of the family. What do little Mary and Johnny need? What do mom and dad need? What does the family need to make this transition easier for all? What has happened in their past? What are their dreams for the future? Can a family find that kind of help in the legal system? No, they cannot. You can ask for court orders, but try to get enforcement when another individual is truly opposed to something. Asking for court orders also creates a bad pattern for your life because the only authority courts have over your family exists now, because of a minor child. If you have to force children to be in relationship with you, what happens when they turn 18? A parent had better hope to cultivate, honor and respect that relationship so that it still exists when a child becomes an adult. Court can only ever be a temporary fix. You will need to figure it out at some point, or you just might lose it all in the end.
The reason that no one should make assumptions about families is because families are complex. Is it fair when one parent wants the relationship with their children, but not the responsibility for them? Families are made up of individuals and relationships. They have different passions. They have different personalities. They have different schedules. There may be good reason why the parents do not interact. There may be good reasons why a parent should not have 50% of their children’s time. Parents have to look at time, not as a reflection of their value as a parent, but rather as the value of their child’s life and activities and interests. Life cannot be scheduled on weekends and mom’s time/dad’s time, and be fair to everyone. Life happens on its own schedule and in its own time frame. Events and milestones happen when they happen. Parents and children have different time frames of healing from trauma, and let me tell you that there are very few things in life as traumatic as divorce, especially divorce with children.
In a perfect world, we would stop talking in terms of “Parental Rights” and the “best interest of the children” and start honoring and respecting the family relationships and dynamics. These things cannot be legislated or court ordered. We can and do have laws to protect parental relationships so that parents are never denied time with their children, or restricted in building a relationship with their children. Denying and restricting time is something that not only warring parents try to do, but courts do as well, and there are laws that are supposed to prevent that, if only those would be enforced. Naysayers will always remind me about safety and abuse, but if the Family Court would get out of relationships, the criminal courts could and should deal with abuse and neglect issues where they exist.
Children are not property and society needs to stop treating them as such. We are destroying beautiful children as we carve up their lives into the ownership of percentages of time, and we are setting them up for failure. They are also being given a horrible example of how to build and cultivate healthy relationships and work through relationship conflict. We have to do better as a society with honoring and respecting each other as the beautiful, wondrous people that we are.
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I have a personal experience of domestic violence. I am just putting that out there so that people know that I know what I am talking about. I understand domestic violence from your perspective. I lived it. I escaped it. I moved beyond it, and I went through trying to prove it in Family Court. I learned a lot from it and that is why I want to help you learn from my experience. The goal here is to help others understand where it is going to be beneficial to you in Family Court and where it is not.
Let me first caution you that if you are in an abusive relationship, tell someone about it. Find someone you trust, a family member, or a friend, and tell them. Do not be ashamed or afraid to do so. It is the first step toward a better life. If you don’t have someone in your life that you can go to, find a domestic violence organization such as the Domestic Abuse Project, the Battered Women’s Coalition, Cornerstone, Sojourner Project, Alexandra House, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, or do you own search to find an organization near you. They will help you.
My second caution is to know that the above listed organizations will help you and encourage you to tell your abuse story to court authorities. That is important. I just caution you to know when it will help you and when it will hurt you so that you who should hear it and how to tell it in a way that really will help you. Knowledge is power. Domestic Violence groups want to help you, but they may not always know how best to apply it in the Family Court situation.
My third caution is that if you are going through a divorce from an abuser, tell your attorney as early in the process as possible. I know it is hard to do because of the shame involved, but this is important for your children’s sake. You have put your children first all these years so you need to be brave just a little longer and put it all out there. Ask for help from an advocate so that you can be your bravest now. It is very important.
My fourth caution is to make sure your attorney understands abuse and when to apply it to your case. Not all of them do. They have to use it for maximum effect. If they don’t, they are going to talk you into making some really bad choices, and sign on for things that are not in your best interests, for example, a Parenting Consultant or Coordinator. If your attorney is not presenting your case correctly, find one who will. The Domestic Violence groups should know attorneys who get it. I also review pleadings to see if an attorney is presenting that aspect of your case for your best interests. If your attorney would consult with me on domestic violence, I’d be happy to help with strategy, too. While I am not an attorney, I know when and where they can best use this piece of your divorce story, and protect you from getting stuck in a big mess.
When you have a history of domestic violence, you have spent all of your time living under a cloud of worrying about what the abuser wants. You have lived your life trying not to make him or her mad. You know the hell it brings when you make them mad. You are now conditioned to be hypervigilant, always reading the behavior of others in an effort to protect yourself. In Family Court, this hyper-vigilance can be misconstrued as mental illness on your part. For this reason, you need to do Family Court divorce and then be done with it. Get your judgement and decree, and then get out. Do not sign up for any court authority to manage your case. While you may think you need a professional to make decisions because you and your ex will never agree on matters related to the children, you are better off going with professionals who cannot coerce you into situations that will make you relive the abuse daily. Stay away from any professionals who can court order you to do things that will interfere with your parenting, and your healing process, and who may completely misread your actions. Any on-going Family Court actions put you at further risk of abuse, and will not benefit your children. Your best hope for healing and raising healthy children is to seek help from a therapist and/or domestic violence groups. You can move beyond domestic violence in your life, but you will not move past it in the horrific world of Family Court.
The most beneficial times to get your story across in Family Court:
With your attorney, from day one
Domestic Violence is a reason why your attorney should look out for you when trying to settle financial and property matters to ensure that you are not intimidated into giving away too much of what you are entitled to.
Also, many states have custody and parenting time laws in regards to proven domestic violence. While it is an uphill battle to get sole custody in the “group think” of family court, a world where everyone is equal and parents should share custody 50-50, there will never be a better time to go for sole custody and keep your family out of the court clutches than in your original divorce proceedings. Post decree it is nearly impossible to make any changes if you have not made the initial plea. Abusers do not think of their children’s best interest and so it is my opinion that you should not have joint custody with an abuser. That is the reason why many states have laws about this in the first place. However, if you find your lawyer is too wimpy about this issue, and many are, be careful with this. Many people are afraid to use the court as it is intended. This includes lawyers. If in doubt, get a second opinion. We do it with medical care and we should do it with lawyers, too, when it seems that they are not being an advocate for us. Tread carefully, but confidently, when you can prove your claims.
Also make sure to follow your gut instincts. Most domestic abuse victims know that they will never get their ex to work with them on important decisions regarding the children, but legal professionals give you false hope that your ex will change. Haven’t you hoped for this for years? You couldn’t make it happen and neither will they. Trust your gut.
With court professionals, post decree.
This part is tricky business. First off, in my opinion, you should avoid getting a “case manager” type of court professional assigned to your case. These would be Parenting Consultants and Coordinators, but may also be a Guardian ad Litem or something else. These roles are not helpful for Domestic Violence and often increase the hostility and interactions between you and the abuser, turning your life and your children’s lives into a nightmare.
I have seen many parents push the abuse claims, when they cannot prove it after the fact. As I said, the best time to prove it and use it is during the initial divorce proceeding. Post decree, there is little that can be done about it, especially by the court professional. I have sat in many trainings with professionals who say, “we don’t care about domestic violence”. Personally, they will tell you that they do care and wish there was no such thing, but professionally, there is nothing they can do about it. Nothing. There is no place to report domestic violence of an adult and no one who could do anything about it if there was. What would you expect them to do? You would think that they could, at the very least, keep the abuser away from you, but instead, the frequently force you to come together “for the children”. This shows just how little they care about domestic violence.
Police can act on domestic violence. The problem for you is that they are part of the criminal court system. Criminal courts will address it and can go so far as to put an abuser in jail. Family court has very little in the way of remedies for domestic violence of an adult. Keep that in mind. Not all court systems are the same. Family Court deals with custody, parenting time, and division of property. They do not deal with crime. Something else you need to know is that criminal courts will rarely deal with an issue when you are actively involved with Family Court for that issue. That is a big problem. Family Court sucks all issues into it over other courts. If a crime is committed related to domestic violence, it must be very blatant and beyond a reasonable doubt, to be prosecuted in criminal court. The emotional abuse and harassment of parenting time and legal custody matters typically falls to the Family Court to deal with. In their eyes, with joint custody, the parents have equal rights to the children and as such, are expected to “co-parent”. Rather than protect you from an abuser, the Family Court often brings you more interaction with the abuser because they have an expectation that you and the other parent will work together to raise your children.
What you can hope to achieve in Family Court in regards to domestic violence is direction on how to communicate and facilitate co-parenting. By telling your story, you can hope that a court authority will understand why you want little to do with the abuser, or why you are always worried about things that might happen because you have had to be hyper-vigilant for so many years, but there will not be much else that they can do for you. Many of them will ignore your claims entirely because the violence history is not relative to the role that they are fulfilling to bring about co-parenting. Even when a professional does believe you, you have to take action about it. Nothing comes on its own. You have to be the advocate for your healing and for the well being of your children. Here’s why it is your battle to fight, for example:
Parenting Consultants/Coordinators are like a mini court. You agree to use them to settle parenting disputes instead of going to the court. The Parenting Consultant/Coordinator is now basically the judge of your family to settle disputes about the children. In court, you must file a motion in order for a judge to make a decision. That is how it works. Courts are not just sitting around watching people and waiting for something to happen so they can jump in uninvited and decide an issue. In the Parenting Consultant process, you must ask the PC to make a decision and you should also give them an idea of how you want the matter resolved. This is similar to how you ask a court to decide an issue for you. You lay out the area of disagreement, tell the court how you want to see it decided, and ask the court to decide it. Since a Parenting Consultant is a mini court on their own, you want to approach issues the same way. The difference is that Parenting Consultants don’t have to know or understand the law. They are deciding the law of your family as is spelled out in your court orders, or agreements that the two parents have created over the years. In their role they are also supposed to “assist” the parents in co-parenting.
When you tell a parenting consultant about a history of abuse, you need to take it further than just telling your story. When you tell a court authority a story, they can really just determine if they believe it or not. They could also, I suppose, try to make the abuse stop, but when you tell your PAST story, to them, it has already stopped. Again, there is nothing they can do about something that happened in the past.
I see victims who have learned that domestic violence has an impact on custody and so they continue to tell their story repeatedly, hoping to get some kind of action out of the court authority, whether it is a PC or a judge, but you need to know:
- the difference between criminal court vs family court
- the role of the court professional on your case
- what are the expectations of co-parenting in joint custody
- the differences between sole and joint custody
- the differences between physical custody and legal custody
- how you have to take action for yourself and your children
- what is parenting time vs custody
- constant court interactions interfere with your healing process and that is not in the best interests of your child
In Family Court, the main reason that courts stay involved with a family is out of concern for the children. They care about the conflict because of the effect it has on the children. They don’t necessarily care about you. When a childless couple divorces, there is no continuing involvement from the court. If you are a victim of domestic violence, you need to look out for yourself. You can do this with the help of therapists and advocates who understand what you are going through and what you have been through. If you are going to tell your story in Family Court, it needs to be done strategically. You have to learn to tell your story in terms of making a request for a remedy, but also to balance if that remedy is doable under the parameters of the court orders in your case. I wish I could say with any confidence that you someone you can turn to for help in Family Court, but I can’t. Even when the court authority understands domestic violence, the professional’s role, and the court orders, dictate how they make decisions. It is going to be up to you to explain what it is you are asking for and why. Your history of abuse may come into play if you want separate meetings from the other parent, or if you want to put limits on communication between you and the other parent. It definitely comes into effect if you plan to file for sole custody, however, a Parenting Consultant cannot change custody so you don’t need to try and hammer that home to the PC. You will also need to understand how professionals must try to balance your needs as a victim with joint custody and co-parenting. It is my opinion that you will do better outside of the Family Court system, but when you have to use the system, do so strategically.
There is a huge problem today in how Family Court has decided that their role is to oversee families after divorce. Time and time again I remind court authorities that they cannot force co-parenting; it will either happen naturally, or it won’t. Time and time again I listen to court authorities continue to believe that it is their duty to determine how parents will parent their children after divorce, and to force these parents “get along” to make a better life for the children. Still, I persist in trying to stop court ordered co-parenting. Many people think that I am anti-co-parenting. I am not. I am just a realist, and a champion for peace in the home of parents and their children.
Co-parenting is the best way to move past divorce. It is the best way for parents, and the best way for children. It is the best way to create a healthy, functional family. I do not dispute that, and I would not interfere with families who choose to do that for their family. I am a supporter of co-parenting where it can and does work. On this, I do not disagree with court authorities about co-parenting. Where I disagree with the court authorities is when they put parents and their children through hell to try to get them there. My belief is that if parents are going to co-parent, they will do so without being forced by a court. It comes naturally to those families, after they have been allowed to heal the hurts that created the divorce. When it doesn’t come naturally, it is my belief that the harm caused by the court authorities who “case manage” the family for years and years, is more harmful than if those families are allowed to choose a different way to parent after divorce. It prolongs the pain and anguish for each member of the family, and it actually interferes with the healing process of each member of the family. Forced co-parenting creates high levels of distrust, which generates much higher levels of hostility, and leads more families into the category of high conflict, as those parents feel pressured and depleted, emotionally and financially. The parents feel imprisoned and no longer feel that they control their own destiny. This affects the whole family, including extended family members.
A recent op-ed in the New York Times speaks to how divorced parents lost their rights. Courts do not take the same control of married families, as they should not, but they seem to feel obligated to do so when people with children terminate a marriage. I do not think they have the right to do this in any family. There are many ways to parent after divorce. Families can co-parent, parallel parent, and alternate parenting. Who said that the courts should get to dictate which method you choose? When did it become illegal to parallel or alternate parenting?
When I was married, my husband and I never referred to our parenting style as co-parenting. We never heard the term “co-parenting” until after we divorced and we experienced a conflict. The word was in our divorce decree, but we never really paid much attention to it until court authorities started chastising us for not “co-parenting”. Had we not had a post decree conflict that took us back to court, we would have gone happily on our way, having very little to do with each other, parenting separately, and both parents and children, would have never been the wiser. We would have never called that wrong for our family, and we would never have considered it to be illegal. Do you know why? Because it is not illegal for us to live our lives as we see fit, and to parent our children, as we see fit, even when doing so deviates from the group think of Family Court authorities. I’m not sure what one might have called the way my ex husband and I were parenting, in between the decree and the conflict that lead to the shackles of the Family Court takeover, but it was natural for us and informative. We did not need to discuss the children much and each had our own way of parenting the children, based on the fact that we hadn’t spent much time doing anything together. My husband had not been very interested in doing things as a family, including the years that we were married, so it was natural for us to do our own things with the children. Even though we kept things separate, we knew enough to tell the other when there was an important school and medical matter that arose. No one had to tell us to act, we just knew to tell the other because we did know right from wrong, as it went along with our morals, values and beliefs. The relationship wasn’t perfect, not much is perfect in a life, but it was manageable and peaceful. Once family court authorities told us how wrong it was and took our family captive, we no longer knew wrong from right. The reason we could never know wrong from right is because those court authorities wanted us to live under their morals, values and beliefs. They were strangers. How can we know what is right and wrong in their eyes, especially where parenting is concerned? There is no manual on how to parent, and no one ever gave us a manual to explain the court way of parenting. Another problem was that the court way of co-parenting changed with each individual court authority who came along. Just when you thought you had figured it out, someone new came along with their morals, values and beliefs, and we had to try to conform again. It was a never-ending process of trying to follow rules in a game where the rules kept changing and the goal posts kept getting moved.
A friend and I were discussing co-parenting and the courts the other day. We were trying to figure out why court authorities ever came to the belief that they needed to involve themselves in relationships. Why would anyone think it was a good idea? Our discussion went to how the court should be able to terminate a marriage, and to ensure that both parents are able to establish a continuing relationship with the children, but we drew the line at allowing the court to determine the relationship between the parents. To us, you cannot court order relationships. Period. Think about the two of us as friends. We are very close friends and have been friends for a number of years. We have had our disputes over the years, and even did end our friendship for a couple of months at one time. This “breakup” was created when we were having a profound difference in a situation which showed the difference in our values and beliefs, and neither wanted to bend our values and beliefs to cater to the other. Luckily, we were able to come together and resolve those differences, and our friendship is stronger than ever. We have figured out, all on our own, how to maintain our friendship, but still allow each other to have our different beliefs. Had one of us decided that the friendship was not worth working things out, the friendship would have ended. Neither of us would have been able to force the other back in, and no court would have cared how we moved forward after the split.
Should a court have told us that one of us had to cater to the other? Do you think we’d be friends now if one of us had to give up our core values for the other? How often would we have needed to return to court to ensure that we stayed in the relationship? That’s what we are doing by having Family Courts “manage” post decree conflicts. Why don’t courts interfere in all relationships? When someone wants to end a relationship, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so without judgement? Should the next step in Family Court be to have a friend take the other friend to court to make one stay in the relationship? It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? But that is what we are doing with forced co-parenting. Since the courts force co-parenting on this ridiculous argument that it is “in the best interests of the children”, maybe the courts should not allow divorce for couples with children. Research also shows that children whose parents stay married do better overall so why is it not considered the best interest of the children to force the parents to stay married? Because it is ridiculous to court order relationships! That’s why!
We need to get away from this notion that any court or law can force a relationship to continue. They can’t. Family Court should continue to free people from of a marital relationship they no longer want, but they need to stop there. They need to get out of relationship matters, stop with co-parenting orders and stop with post decree conflict resolution. Couples are made up of 2 individuals, each of whom has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in these United States of America. Most people will negotiate a way to continue on as parents in a way most beneficial to their children. For those who won’t, there are probably equal numbers of married parents who are not parenting as Family Court would like them to either. The difference is that Family court doesn’t have the authority to dictate how married people parent anymore than they do with divorced parents. It is a myth to think they can, and the reason why some families get embroiled in high conflict situations that devastate their children for years.
Co-parenting is not only a style of parenting after divorce, it is also a relationship between two people, much like a marriage is. If one doesn’t want to do it, nothing in the world will make them. The reason why courts stay out of most relationships is because it is not violating a law to choose not to be in a relationship, and there are too many variables in the relationship for a court to even try to dictate what to do. Still, the Family Court uses “co-parenting” as a way to keep families in perpetual legal proceedings for years. The time has come for this to stop.
I do believe Family Court authorities can and should present information to divorcing parents about why co-parenting is best and explain what co-parenting means, but I do not believe that co-parenting has any place in the law, or in a court order. Families should follow the natural way of parenting that worked for them during the marriage based on their own morals, values and beliefs, either shared, or not shared, and with that, figure out the best way they can go forward after the marriage ends. If left to their own devices, I believe most people will enter a natural way of parenting after divorce that will be more peaceful than any court coerced relationship would be.
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After years of parents trying to expose the detriment to children in the Family court System, the news media is finally willing to cover this! I reached out to the news media after my own abusive case, but the media said, “This is not news”. Luckily, I proved my case in court.
Many other parents (moms and dads, I might add) have also tried to get media coverage, to no avail. I am not sure why the media is finally covering abuse and parenting consultants in the past year or so, but let us thank God for the blessing of exposure now!
Excerpts from http://www.safekidsinternational.org/
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As a Life and Divorce coach, I am sometimes misunderstood and misinterpreted. Over the years, I brought myself out of a deep dark place and into a life of joy and happiness. I have successfully shown many others how to turn their backs on the darkness and move into their own piece of happiness, focusing on finding their way to the life they dream of. I’ve been able to help many people, but not everyone. Some people want to stay stuck. If an individual wants to stay stuck in something bad, there is nothing I can do. There is also nothing a psychologist, lawyer, or judge can do either. They may try, but ultimately they will have to leave you behind and move onto the people who will work with them to get where they want to be.
I work mostly with people in the Family Court System. These are parents who find themselves in a high conflict divorce situation, getting beaten to a pulp (legally) by the confounding judge, who is unable to understand what the heck it is that drives you to do the things you do.
I understand domestic violence. I understand parental alienation (which is not the same as Parental Alienation Syndrome). I understand Domestic Violence Organizations. I understand Father’s Rights Groups. I understand the parent who lives under a microscope for years. I understand the legal community. I understand the psychologists. I understand a lot of what happens in Family Court. I understand how people got into the mess they have gotten themselves into. Understanding all these things does not mean that I want you to focus on them.
I can lose someone’s attention and respect when I tell them that they and their attorney are putting too much emphasis on domestic violence in their family court case. I also anger people when I tell them that parental alienation syndrome is not real. That statement can be confused with not believing that parental alienation happens. I know it happens. I have even experienced it for myself. It happened to my youngest son and I, at the hands of a manipulative father, but my son and I are closer than ever now because I always trusted him to know truth and to figure out what was happening. I did what I could, left alone what I could not do, and put my energy into waiting for my son to be ready to restore our relationship. I had faith that I had raised him in a way in which he would see truth, and now, we are closer than ever.
It was a long way from being blind sided by the nastiness of Family Court to getting to where I am today.
More than believing in parental alienation, I believe that co-dependence and Legal Abuse Syndrome are likely driving the on-going family court nightmares. A good psychologist should tell you that as long as there is one strong parent, your child can overcome the trauma, regardless of what your ex throws at you. I have seen this to be true. In my own case, I stopped being the victim of domestic violence and stopped adding to the drama. I wanted a better life for my children and myself. That meant that I would have to pull myself up by my bootstraps, get healthy, and work with the professionals in the Family Court System on their level. They were not going to listen to me if I only spoke to them when I was at the point of hysterics. I was never heard when I screamed and swore at them, and you won’t get far with that either. They were not going to allow me to educate them. These were educated professionals and if I was so smart, how come I couldn’t put an end to this conflict in my family? Why did they have to make decisions about my children? They could not understand and I could not make them understand. I found them to be obstacles to moving on with my life. They were also, definitely, hindering my children’s development. I found that they were not the answer and they should not be my focus. Instead, my focus should be on myself, and my children. That is when I began to turn that ship around, and in doing so, I freed myself and my children of those professionals forever. No more obstacles. No more hindrances.
This is what I do for my clients as well. Please don’t think that this can happen overnight. It is a process. I help my clients through that process, too. Not every consult turns into a client though. Some people think I am nuts and they never come back. They do not want to give up that crutch of family court. That is sad because most people come to me due to their frustration with how the Family Court is not helping the situation, but is instead, making it much, much worse and they don’t want to refocus there energy anywhere else. It is a lot of work, and it is painful and ugly to peel back the layers of you, and so some people cannot stomach it.
Think about this for a minute. Maybe it will make sense to you and maybe it won’t. I can only put it out there and hope that you can make some sense out of it. When you are a victim of domestic violence and look to the family court to help you with it, that is your focus. If you keep focusing there, and seek professionals who will understand, that focus is taking your time, energy and money away from having the life you want. You may think that you cannot have the life you want, but I am sorry to tell you, it is not true. You are the one keeping your life and your children’s lives in the family court. Your ex may stay there, and he or she may use it against you, but if you really get yourself strong, stay confident in your truths, and put your focus outside of the court, you will see miracles happen. The people I see who beat this system at its own game, refocus on their life and their children and slowly shift their thoughts and energies away from their nasty ex and the nasty court people, are the ones who succeed in getting their story told. The people who latch on to their domestic violence experience or try to expose parental alienation will find that they ramp up the conflict, get more deeply embedded in the Family Court System, and feel more and more stuck over time. I am not saying that domestic violence or parental alienation should be tolerated or ignored. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is you cannot push those memes the entire time because there are only certain ways to successfully use those arguments in family court.
Not everything involved with the conflict is related to domestic abuse or parental alienation. Some things are communication issues and related to how you speak to or correspond with you ex. Some issues are related to those Mars-Venus, male-female issues, too. Some issues have to do with the stage of development your child is in, as well, and so you need to really consider what is driving the conflict for each particular issue that arises. You cannot blame everything on domestic violence or parental alienation because the professionals don’t always have any recourse.
This post may anger some people and intrigue others. It’s hard to really explain it all in one blog post! If you are interested in finding out how to free yourself of the family court, as much as possible, please contact me. I’d love to consult with you to tell you more. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to see a client who grasps these concepts and takes back their life!
- in accusations, assessments, Attitude, Bad guys, Child Abuse, Child Custody, Children, Communication, Conflict, Coparenting, Coping, Court Authorities, custody, divorce, Divorce Nastiness, Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence, downward spiral, Ex Spouse, Family Court, Family Court System, fighting, Parent Coordinator, Parent Coordinators, Parenting, Parenting Consultants, Parenting Time, Single parenting
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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.
- in Abuse, Abusive Relationships, accusations, Attitude, Being punished, Child Custody, Children, Coparenting, Coping, Court Authorities, Court Orders, custody, Dating, divorce, Divorce Nastiness, Domestic Abuse, Domestic Violence, Emotional Expense, Ex Spouse, Family Court, Family Court System, judgement, judges, lies, love, Parenting, Parenting Time, personal growth, Physical Abuse, Relationships, self care, Single parenting, Toxic Relationships, Unhealthy Relationships
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Recently, a parent that I know, but have never worked with professionally, sent me a rant about how PAS is very real. She knows that my position is that it is not real, except in VERY extreme circumstances. The only time I will agree that PAS has been used against a parent is when they are not allowed to see their children at all, and the other parent tells the children that their mom/dad can see them anytime they want to, but choose not to. The other parent will often tell the children it is because mom/dad doesn’t love them. In that kind of case, the parent has zero time with the children to demonstrate that what the custodial parent says is not true. In a case like that, I do think alienation occurs. Otherwise, it is used as a court strategy to punish an ex.
Now one might wonder how does a parent have ZERO time with their children? Sadly, it does happen. A Family Court judge can find a parent is “endangering” the children and take away all parenting time. I, personally think that this violates the law. Judges have the option to grant supervised visitation, but sometimes, all parenting time is taken away. Sometimes, a judge will take it away without giving any conditions through which, the parent can get their time restored.
It can also happen when a parent is allowed parenting time per a court order, and the other parent just withholds the children. One might also think, how can that happen? Can’t they just go to court? Well, sometimes court helps, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, a case has been so badly managed from a legal standpoint, whether it be acting pro se (representing yourself), or due to a really lazy or misguided attorney, that the judge has told you both to stay out of their court room.
Anyway, back on topic.
I have known parents with minimal parenting time who experience the horror of having an ex that tells lies about them or badmouth them in front of the children. They are not alienated from their children, no matter how hard the other parent tries to make it happen.
I also know parents who have 50-50 parenting time with their children, and scream alienation when their children start to express any desire to not spend time at their home.
What is the difference? How can one parent, with minimal time not be alienated, while the other parent claims to be alienated? The difference is that the one parent focuses on their children when the children are in their care, and the other parent chooses to focus on the battle during their parent time. The parents I have known, who claim parental alienation, cannot accept responsibility for their situations. They have latched onto blaming the other parent for every single parent-child clash they experience. It wears on the children after a while.
I have worked with many parents over the years, even before I ever thought of doing it professionally. Once my ordeal started in 1998, I reached out to other parents and they also somehow found me., and we would share our experiences of the evils of doing battle in the court setting. I can tell you that no matter how minimal the parenting time allowed to a parent, if they show the children love and a commitment to solid parenting when the children are in their presence, they do not lose their children’s affection. No matter what. Words can never beat deeds. Period. The other parent can bad mouth you until the cows come home. As long as you prove your love with actions, your children will see the truth. The children may be confused as to why their other parent says such crazy things about you, but they will eventually figure it out.
What I have seen across the board from parents who feel “alienated” is that they:
1. Have a drug or alcohol addiction that interferes with their ability to be fully present during parenting time, and they are very disengaged from their children.
2. They discount their children’s feelings about life events. for example, when it comes to a new significant other, they will just spring that relationship on the children, without having any discussion or without preparing the children for this change. I have seen parents move their new boyfriend or girlfriend in and be shocked when their kids come for parenting time and are upset to learn that mom/dad has a stranger living there.
3. They continue to engage in unhealthy relationships in their life and not protect the children from those unhealthy relationships. Some parents are so lonely, with such low self esteem, that they will become involved with the first member of the opposite sex who gives them any attention whatsoever. Many of these partners who are willing to jump into a relationship with someone they barely know have low self esteem, too. They are abusive, often chemically dependent, and will not take long to demonstrate how abusive they are to you, and to your children. Exposing children to that is cruel and will interfere with how your children regard you, ad how willing they will be to spend time at your home.
4. Rather than spend time on new traditions and making their house a home, they spend all of their parenting time complaining or bad mouthing their ex,and the children feel ignored and hurt.
So my point is that the parents who are “alienated” have often done it to themselves.
I know that many people will strongly disagree with my opinion, but it is my opinion. With almost 20 years of seeing these patterns, I have more evidence than there is evidence that there is such a thing as PAS.
As always, I will add the American Psychological Associations stance on PAS. Read about that here.
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