What is Your End Game?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Song of Truth


This song expresses what I want you to know.  Times are extremely difficult for many of you right now, but it will get better.  Anytime we experience times of struggle, it can be overwhelming and you might think, “Is this all there is?  Is this my life now?  Why me?  Why now?”  All you can do sometimes is pass the time with some simple pleasures.



When I used to feel alone and friends weren’t around, music was always there for me.  Those times when I thought I could not live through the nightmare I was experienced, music was healing and allowed me to express my anger and shed many tears.  The craziest thing of all is that I went through so much personal growth and if being spared the difficult times would mean that I would not be who I am today and doing what I am doing today and being with the love of my life today, I would choose to go through it all again because of what I found on the other side.





And I cannot forget my favorite Jo Dee Messina song:










Update on my most recent personal experience


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Coming Soon!






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

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

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

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





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




Let Them Surround You


 

Are you being beaten down by a parenting consultant, another court authority or your ex?  Have they convinced you that you are a horrible parent or that you might be crazy?  Don’t let them do that to you.

I am certain that you most likely have some people in your life who love you, care about you and are amazed at your strength and your perseverance.  They know you are not perfect, but they also know that you are not a monster and you should not have to put up with the accusations and insanity that comes by way of a nasty, bitter, ugly divorce and coparenting situation.  Those people are the people who matter and they outnumber your attackers.  Keep them near you.

What I am suggesting to you is to do the math.  Quite possibly, there are three to four people who are making your life hell.  Those people are in the minority.  They do not count and they are not worth using your energy on.  The players are probably the following:

        1. Your ex
        2. A parenting Consultant
        3. A Family Court Judge
        4. A Guardian ad Litem

That is it.  The maximum number of hellions in your life.  Their opinions of you do not matter worth a hill of beans in the scheme of your life.  They are in a system in which they choose a winner and a loser.  That is just the nature of the family court beast.

If you have five or more people in your life who build you up, love you, and believe in you, those other people are outnumbered.  Why do people tend to believe the voice of the few over the voice of many?  Why do you take to heart those things that are said to cut you down by those who don’t matter, instead of basking in the words of the people who are there for you and are in the majority when it comes to the court of public opinion and know the truth about you?  Think it through.  Think of the family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors and compare the numbers.  If you do, you will find that the numbers are on your side.  Let yourself be surrounded by people who matter, people who will still be in your life after your children are grown and the family court experience
is only a painful memory.  I am also in your corner because I know the truth.  Family court authorities do not know you.  They do not know your child.  They are not going to take the time to get to know anyone.  It may appear to you that they have gotten friendly with your ex, but it is doubtful they give your ex the time of day either.  That may be your perception.

You may want to believe that because they don’t like you, they do like your ex.  The reality is that they probably think very little about either of you.  The court authorities see cases like yours day after day after day.  They think you are all the same.  They do not know what it is like to have to live with the eyes of the court on you year after year.  It is horrifying.  Because they are never going to understand how it makes you feel, they are never going to understand your reactions to it and they are going to draw the wrong conclusions.

The people who are close to you and support you have seen the toll it is taking on you.  You owe it to yourself to let them be the loudest voice you hear.  If they are telling you that you are a great parent and you are not crazy and that you really are under attack, you owe it to yourself and them to ignore the others and focus on what it true. 

*Image courtesy of Ventrilock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net 





:-( Sad News to Report


I am very sad to share the news I am going to share with you.  As soon as I saw the headline, I wondered if it was the same country star I had written about in a previous post.  I am very sad to say that it was.

The prolonged court battles take quite a tool on people.  I wish the court would know how much damage it really does.  I wish I had had a chance to speak to Mindy McCready.  It may not have had made any difference though.  There are some people who fall into addictions and cannot be helped, at least not without facing the addiction demon first.  
You will hear Mindy’s story and I already can see that the press is making it all about drug and alcohol issues and downplaying the effects of the family court nightmare.  I do not know which was a problem first.  All I know is this woman hurt and nothing the family court did helped those children.  Those children now have no opportunity to know their mother.
I have said before, I don’t have all the answers.  What I do know is how custody battles can shred people and destroy lives.  Liars win and protective parents are misunderstood and misjudged.
God bless all of you readers who struggle with this on a daily basis.  By the grace of God, I made it through.  I knew that because of the knowledge I had that I had to help people.  I swore to God that if he brought me and my children through, I would do just that.  If you are reaching the end of your rope, hold on and reach out to someone who will help you.  Please call me and let’s take stock of your situation and try to turn it around.  I really am in your corner and I know what it is like.  I am not one of “them”.





Like a Fly on the Wall


Every once in a while I hear a song that sounds perfect for the high conflict co-parenting situation and my own metamorphosis from victim to strong outspoken advocate.  These lyrics grabbed me.  See what you think if you apply them to your own situation.

If you could just see it all just like a fly on the wall, would you be able to accept what you can’t control?

The fights are exhausting and frightening, this I do know.  Can you start to separate your life from the high conflict court mind control and time that you hold with your children and not let it in?  Sometimes, we create our own prison.







Family Court Will Not Help You If You Can’t Help Yourself





I am working on some things that I hope will make a difference in the lives of families that encounter the family court system.  The system is broken.  Laws are ignored and the powers that be believe that everyone is lying.  They do not rule “for” people, they rule “against” people.  They do not understand conflict resolution, not at all.  Even though it is verbally embraced by the courts and attorneys, conflict resolution is rarely understood.  Many court orders require people to take their issues to mediation prior to filing any motions.  It is pretty much standard procedure in dissolution with children decrees.


The system is an ever changing animal.  It changes so much that none of the players understand it or keep up with it.  There are guidelines in place for parenting consultants, yet they tend to overstep their boundaries much of the time.  They will side against the party who does not pay them.  It is not right, but they do.  They are supposed to be objective, but when they are asked to provide a service, for free, they will make the one who doesn’t pay suffer the consequences and rule against that non paying party.  Judges want these create a position people to take on the high conflict cases and free up the court calendars, but they do not have any understanding of the real role of parenting consultants or what their roles entail.  They know there are no laws and so they will not listen to your complaints about how parenting consultants make situations worse and not better.  They do not think there are any rules or laws that put limits on these actors, and that would be the correct assumption; there are no laws about what a parenting consultant can or cannot do.


I see coaching clients who are very upset, first look to the filing of a court motion to solve their problem, but I also see that many times court action makes things much worse.  It does not seem fair.   Judges in the family courts decide that in order to cover the “gray areas” in family court law, they will throw the laws out all together and just go to “judicial discretion”.  You have no idea how a judge will rule in your case.  It depends on what they had for breakfast or which side of the coin they flipped this morning.  Ok.  Well, maybe that is an exaggeration, but you never know how a judge is going to view your case.  The fact that there are laws on the books means nothing.


Not just my clients, but also their ex spouses, through email and voicemail, are always threatening each other with court action. Often times they do take court action.  These couples are going to court to do what they can do for themselves.  I want to emphasize this fact: You can do a much better job of managing your family than the family court ever will.


Before you take court action, it might be in your best interests to consult with a coach.  I charge $50 per hour, which is very low in comparison to the hourly rate of most coaches.  It is my way of giving back for all of the blessings I have had after escaping an abusive relationship.  It took thirteen years to escape the marriage, another five to escape the codependency and another three to escape the family court codependence. 


The problem is that the family court system becomes the last in a chain of codependency.  You become dependent on them to free you and they become dependent on you, to prove by their statistics, that their feel good solutions work.  Their solutions do not work, not in high conflict divorces. 


Just like in any area of life, if you put it on someone else to make your life better, or to free you from a bad situation, you give up control.  When you empower yourself, that is when things change.


The perpetual court merry go round will do just that, take you round and round, but if you want to heal from wounds of a bad marriage, only you can do that.  If you have an ex who constantly expects the court to punish you, you will have to respond, but you can control your reaction to it.


The family court will take you on a ride and if you want to escape, you will have to jump out of the vehicle.   Spit yourself out of this system.  Think about the thousands of dollars they require from you to try to “fix” your problems.  If you think you have problems now, imagine how you will feel when you still have those problems and then also have an empty bank account.


Divorce coaches are usually people who have been through this system and seen what is behind the curtain.  They are hoping to help you see it before you get in too deep.  Consider consulting a divorce coach to review your court documents so you might find a way to empower yourself to improve your life and family situation.


Lastly, consider this, imagine you get a court order that gives you everything, word for word, you were hoping for.  Who will police that for you if the other party doesn’t follow it?  Can any parent look bad if everything they do or say is under a microscope or used by one party against the other?


Spit yourself out of the system and move on with your life.  Find support from other places, read books, build your confidence and spend your time with your children and not engaging in a family court battle that won’t end. 



Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net





The Best Course of Action



As I wrote in the last post, sometimes you have to accept what seems like a loss in order to move closer to your ultimate goal.  I have had people surprised at the divorce strategy I lay out for them, but there is a method to my madness.



I have studied and studied and studied relationships.  I consider myself an expert on both abusive relationships and those in which one of the partners is chemically dependent.  Clients who have had success know that I can predict behavior of the other party almost every single time.  I always knew how my ex would use something or how he would present a conflict to the court and amazingly, now I get to know your ex, through your court documents and what you experience that I get to know exactly how your ex will react as well, and I never have to meet them, talk to them or even know what they look like.  This is because I know the behavior.  I know how they are going to react and I also know how you are going to react.  I can, if I can work with you at the right time, help you empower yourself and react in positive ways, rather than knee jerk emotional reacting to what the other party does.



Family court makes certain assumptions.  They assume that children need both parents.  They assume that parents will cooperate for the good of the children.  They assume that both parents are capable of cooperating and parenting the children, unless one party has shown them otherwise.  They assume that if there is an issue, abuse, chem dep, etc., that you will say that from day one of a custody dispute and not years later.  With all of their wisdom, they are wrong on that part.  It often takes people years to feel comfortable admitting they lived with abuse or alcoholism or anything like that.  It takes them years because in their mind, it makes them look bad.  In relationships where abuse or chemical dependency is involved, the people have learned to keep secrets.  They do not admit to this because there is a great deal of shame in admitting their part in this bad relationship. 



What happens in the hostile coparenting situation is that years of hell lead one party to throw caution to the wind and spill their guts.  It is very liberating to do that, but it because a prison because the courts are very slow to believe you.  Judges do not change custody or parenting time easily  Once it has been agreed to, they do not like it when people “reneg” and try to take it from the other. 



Those who thought that divorce would free them from the hell of the marriage and now find that coparenting is the ball and chain that keeps them under their ex’s thumb, start screaming to be heard and when they are not listened to, or not believed, they up the ante and start telling everything that has happened since they met their ex.  The court wants to deal with here and now.  They are not going to make changes unless something has happened since your divorce.  When you throw out information from twenty years ago, they do not pay any attention to it.  The court does not feel that the past is a basis to change the way things work today.



I do understand how the past impacts today.  I also understand the courts thinking.  I do not agree with it, but I know their position and I know your position.  This is why, sometimes, you may find the strategy I give to you to seem strange, until you hear why I think it is your best course of action.  I do lay out different ways to tackle a problem and I will give you my expert opinion on the outcome of each plan of attack.  It is then up to you to decide which way you think will get you to your goal.  I hope that you will pick the best course of action once you are armed with the information.  The strategy has nothing to do with law or legal advice.  My strategies are based on the relationship between you and your ex, but also your relationship with the court authorities and what have been the outcomes thus far.



Sometimes you have to start out small and work your way toward your
ultimate goal.  Starting small is better than staying stuck with a
difficult situation.



If you would like information on divorce and coparent coaching, please contact me.  Whether you decide coaching is right for you or not, I do learn a lot from reviewing court orders.  I learn about the court’s current thinking, I learn about judges, and I learn about parenting consultants and parenting time expediters and how they view coparenting relationships and abuse.  I welcome you to schedule a complimentary session and have me review the history of your case.  You have nothing to lose, but I also like these free consults because I learn things about the players and the behaviors that help me coach the next person.



Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net





A Brand New Look



The Coparent Coach website has a whole new look.  Other than some challenges with the event calendar, it is more inviting (I hope).  Check it out!

For some reason, I could not add the next schedule of classes to the calendar, but if there is a class or group coming up, I will always post it on the blog.  The only event scheduled for October is the divorce support group, starting tomorrow evening at Brooklyn United Methodist Church, in Brooklyn Center, MN.  I hope that if you are in the area and struggling with divorce, you will join us.

Do not forget that if you do not live in the area, but could use some ongoing support, the court battle forum is available as well.

Have a great afternoon!

Susan