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Free E-Course: Parenting Time Expediter vs Parenting Consultant-What’s the Difference

 

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.

Living Rent Free in Your Head

Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

So how do you go about changing things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mending Broken Relationships

Life’s Doors Mediation offers services for individuals, couples and families.  Many people are not aware that mediation works for all forms of conflict.  You don’t have to be going through divorce to try mediation.  I also offer marital mediation so that a couple can work on saving their marriage.  Whether you try to piece a marriage back together, or work out a better co-parenting relationship after divorce, the benefits are far greater than what you will experience as a couple.  If you have children, they will also benefit.  They will learn that forgiveness can happen, and that all is not lost when someone makes a mistake.  Extended family, neighbors, and coworkers also benefit when you learn peaceful ways to resolve conflict.  Everyone can benefit from taking the time to resolve conflict, rather than avoid it.  Avoiding conflict is nothing more than delaying resolution.  Conflict will either stay the same or build up, over time.  You can try to hide from it, but it has a sneaky way of creeping up on you when you least expect it and are the least equipped to deal with it.

If you are struggling in a relationship, consider scheduling an appointment for coaching, or mediation.  While some relationships cannot and should not be mended, such as abusive, coercive or those involving substance dependency, many relationships can be repaired.

Success Story?! REPOST

The following is a repost from 1/14/13.  It is important to post now because the video appears to have been scrubbed from the internet.  Does that surprise anyone?

As you know, I am determined to raise awareness about Parenting Consultants, known in other states as Parenting Coordinators.  I am also trying to help people avoid this process all together.  See the video below, and I have added some links to Liz Library articles about PCs, too.

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

http://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/site-index-frame.html#soulhttp://www.thelizlibrary.org/parenting-coordination/parenting-coordination.html

http://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/site-index-frame.html#soulhttp://www.thelizlibrary.org/parenting-coordination/

Oh, Ye of Little Faith

Prisoner And Family by vectorolie

Image courtesy of Vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How do people become mired in the Family Court System?  People who don’t believe in their own abilities become stuck in the Family Court System.  People who feel wronged become stuck in the Family Court System.  People who want to punish their ex become stuck in the Family Court System.  People who want the world to know that they are not bad people become stuck in the Family Court system.  Unfortunately for all of those people, going to court is not the answer.

The Family Court System is a crazy, mixed up world of opposite outcomes.  What you would expect to see happen there, rarely happens.  The frequent flyers in Family Court, or High Conflict families, if that is the preferred label these days, think that they can chip away at the system until the truth is uncovered.  No one in the system is really trying to get to the truth because, truth be told, the truth doesn’t matter in Family Court.  There.  I said it.  Do you know why the truth doesn’t matter in the world of the Frequent Flyers?  Because we are talking about family matters.  Families are made up of people, and truth is in the eye of the beholder.  You have your truth, and the other side has their truth.  Some of your truth may be true, but some of the other person’s truth might also be true.  This is why the pendulum can swing back and forth between each side and keep you coming back for more in the never-ending game of swinging the pendulum your way again.  The problem with that game is that the other person is playing it, too.

People put too much stock in the system, giving it, and the people in it, way too much power over their lives, but the system has never done anything to deserve this blind faith from the people.  If the people realized just how little faith the Family Court System has in them, they would take their children, and their money, and give the system the finger.  If you are mired in the Family Court System, take a step back for just a moment, and look at the stack of papers you hold from the court.  What have they “given” you that you could not have given yourself?  You held all the power in the first place.  They took that power from you because you believed that the system was more powerful than you, and more powerful than your children.  In your life, no one is more powerful than you.  No one.  Stop allowing your power to be stripped away from you.

The Family Court System has no faith in you.  They do not believe that you can survive as a single parent without a piece of paper that tells you to do the right thing.  They do not believe that you know what the right thing is, without a piece of paper that tells you what the right thing is.  They brain wash you into believing what they want you to believe, and they convince you that they are the experts on divorced families, because then you will come back to them whenever someone is not following “the rules”.

When you had children, did you wait for someone to tell you that it was the right time?  Did you wait for someone to tell you how to parent?  Did you ask anyone’s permission to have a baby?  Did you and the other parent plan out every minute of your parenting journey with the children?  Probably not.  You couldn’t foresee everything then, and you cannot foresee, or plan, for everything now that you are divorced either.  I suspect most people, but definitely not all people, discussed having a child.  If it was planned, they discussed the timing of starting a family, if they could afford to have a child, where the child would be when they could not be home to care for the child.  Most people discuss the basics, but then, they were content to let the parenting styles develop and flourish as they learned on the job.  When the other parent did not step up as you would have liked them to, you just stepped up, and did what you had to do, and there was probably no pat on the back for doing so, was there?  You just did what life required of you, what your children required of you, what your family required of you.  You just did.

Now that you walk the path as a single parent, can you just do again?  Can you let go of a system that doesn’t believe in your ability?  Can you have faith in your own ability?  Can you step up when and where you need to step up? Can you have faith in your children to see the truth in who you are as a parent, and better yet, a person?  Can you trust in your children to develop their own truth about the other parent?  If that parent is who you think they are, good or bad, children will see, regardless of pieces of paper that say otherwise.  Actions speak louder than words.  Remember that.  Live without the court now because you will have to live without the court when your children are 18, even though you will still be a parent.  Will you pretend then, that you don’t know what to do without help?  Of course not.

Can you improve your life, and the life of your children, because you have faith?  If you need more money, go after it yourself.  Get a better job.  Stop relying on the other person.  They have already proven to you that they don’t have the same view of truth that you do.  They have already proven to you that the things you’d like them to care about do not matter to them in the same way they matter to you.  Stop relying on someone who is unreliable.  Don’t seek out worthless pieces of paper.  Write your own piece of paper that says, I believe in myself, and then hang it somewhere that you will see it every single day, and then believe it.

The system does not believe that you can be a good parent without the help of the other parent.  Prove them wrong.  The system does not believe in your ability to provide for your family without financial help from a person who no longer wants to share their life, or their money, with you.  Prove them wrong.  The system wants to dictate to you how you are going to raise your children.  Do not allow that.

You are the expert in your life, and you are the expert on your children.  You are the only one who can achieve your dreams.  Dreams are not awarded to you in a court order.  Dreams are achieved by those who believe in their own abilities.  You will achieve your dreams much easier by staying away from a system that has no faith in you.  You cannot work on your dreams when you are working on punishing your ex.  Do not spend your life looking for a court to tell the world that you are not a bad person.  Show the world what kind of person you are by doing the right thing, just because it is the right thing, and by achieving your dreams because you have faith in yourself.

The Best Revenge on an Ex-Updated

Image courtesy of Photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This article was originally posted on May 18, 2011.  Due to its popularity, I thought I’d re-post it.

When hit with divorce some people decide that their life is over. They think that in order to be a good parent, they must make sacrifices. They decide that dating has to wait until the children are grown, or they decide that they must be alone FOREVER.

There are always those people who decide that “all men are scum!” or that “all women are man haters!” While it certainly feels that way as you try to heal the wounds of divorce, those statements are blatantly false. Just because one person hurt you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a loving man or woman out there who has been hurt just as badly, and would love to find someone like you. Many people are looking for a decent, loving individual, with whom they can build a new life, but instead, they do not allow themselves to seek out a potential mate.

It is called fear, people. Fear holds them back from true happiness. Those who live in fear never get to live life to the fullest. They miss out on the joy life can bring. They miss out on sharing a life with someone wonderful.

We can take our past experiences and let them continue to hurt us, or we could chalk it up to experience and hop right back on that bicycle and try it again. What I think people find through dating, especially when they are a little older and have been through divorce, is that they matter, and that they are more beautiful and desirable than they think they are.

The period following divorce can be a chance to learn about yourself. It can be a time to figure out who you are and what your interests are. You can try people on for size and it will help you find the right one for you. Just because the last one turned out to be the wrong one, that is no reason to give up and hide under the covers. I truly believe that there is someone out there for everyone. Just make sure that you have examined your part in the failed relationship and that you are emotionally healthy and ready for a new relationship before you get deeply involved with a new mate. It will save many headaches later if you get your act together!

I have another take on that whole “sacrificing for the children” belief. I think that when you swear off dating, you are robbing your children of a good example. Here’s why: Since you ended up divorced, that was probably not the best example of a healthy relationship. Did you fight? Was there chemical dependency involved? Was your ex physically and verbally abusive? Children learn by modeling. They observe the relationships they see and it leaves an impression on them. The kind of relationship they witness will be the relationship they seek out in their own lives and they will do so without even knowing they are doing it.

One day, they will choose a significant other and have a relationship just like their parents had. Why? Because this is what a relationship looks like to them. Do you want that? Would it be better to show your children how to date selectively and then hopefully find that special person with whom you can have a healthy, lasting relationship with? What a great model to give them, especially if all of the relationships around them haven’t always been the healthiest! Do this for you, but also for your children, and for that new person you have yet to meet, the one who is just as lonely as you are. You just might surprise yourself and find the right one. I know I have.

Keep in mind that there is another reason to open your heart and mind to love, and all of the possibilities in life. Your ex. While I would never recommend dating just to get back at your ex, I do think the best revenge on an ex is for them to see you blissfully happy and successful in life! Go ahead. Have the last laugh.

 

No Assumptions

no licensing requirement found

no licensing requirement found

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.

I’ve Seen Enough!

What this lady says is true!  We need to restore our liberties.  Family Court is way out of control.

Why Your History of Domestic Violence Works Against You in Family Court

Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Why Court Ordered Co-Parenting Doesn’t Work

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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