Disputes or High Crimes and Misdemeanors?

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When parents enter the Family Court System it is very confusing.  First, they want you to part ways, but at the same time keep forcing you together to “co-parent”.  They use confusing lingo and it seems like the parents do all the work, while the professionals take a lot of money for putting the hard work on you.  It is true.  They do.  A common quote from my coaching clients is, ” I had to do all the work for my lawyer.”  Well, there is a reason for that.  The professionals do not know your children, your schedules, what matters most to you and what doesn’t,  and in particular, once you have entered post decree land, there isn’t a whole lotta law that goes on.  The law becomes the law you (or the courts if you weren’t able to agree) created for your family.  There is no law that dictates what your parenting time schedule has to be.  There really isn’t.  The time can be distributed evenly between parents or it may not be distributed evenly for any number of reasons.  Some states do a default parenting time schedule when parents cannot create one on their own, but it is all very complicated.  Parents can choose to deviate from a schedule if they want and they are encouraged to be flexible as life evolves. Why be flexible?  Because life can change quite a bit over the span of a childhood, but even when you have deviated from the schedule, if you return to court later, the court will enforce the schedule that is in an order because that is what they signed off on.

Sometimes, this confusion and lack of structure creates fear and anxiety for parents.  Some parents do not understand that the law has pretty much completed their case and they keep waiting for “it to be done”.  In other words, a parent may want this person who hurt them so terribly to go away and never bother them again.  Unfortunately, though, that is not the way it works when you have children together.  Like it or not, you do have to talk to each other and coordinate schedules, school or medical needs, etc.  The way most parents learn to do this is to work on emotionally processing the divorce and hurt feelings they were left with from the relationship through therapy, coaching, education or self help,  so they can move into a new type of relationship, without having all of the bad feelings get in the way.  Unfortunately, some people are unable to do this or don’t see the value in doing the hard work of self reflection.  They don’t like what has happened.  They don’t like the arrangement.  They don’t like that they have a co-parent because life would certainly be easier if they didn’t, and they don’t like that their ex never got punished for the hurtful things they said or did throughout the marriage and/or divorce process.  Is that what Family Court is there for?  Are they there to punish?

Many people who continue to push for some kind of “conviction” of their co-parent do not seem to understand that Family Court is not criminal court.  It is not a crime to get a divorce.  It can be very hurtful, but it is not a crime.  It is not a crime to want some of the stuff that was accumulated during the marriage or to want to continue to be a parent to your child after the divorce.  The fact that someone seeks a divorce, even though one parent does not think that will be good for the child, doesn’t make it a crime.  These things are the nature of relationship breakdowns and unavoidable in some marriages.  If the marriage is going to end, it is going to be end and hopefully, each spouse will learn to come to terms with that and move on to create the life they dream about, either on their own or with someone new.  On top of that, when you share a child, you have to process these separate lives, while still coming in contact with the other person.  That makes it much harder to go through all of the emotions and accept the loss.  That is why your success in court depends greatly on you more than professionals.  It depends on how resilient you are.  Professionals don’t know what you need to get to the point of acceptance.  Some professionals believe that you need time, but courts have deadlines.  They cannot just sit and wait for everyone to process their loss.  If they did, many people would continue to not process the loss and hope that their spouse will change their mind by forcing the marriage to continue forever, but there are two people in this thing.  Often, two people with very different desires for outcome.  What do you call that difference of opinion or differing needs?  It is called a dispute.

What do you do when working with two people in a dispute?  For example, let’s say that two of your friends have a dispute over some words that were said.  Suppose that the friends are Janet and Martha.  Janet told Martha something in confidence and without realizing it, Martha shared the information with another friend named James.  Her breaking confidence was not very nice, but it was not a crime.  Now, in this dispute, the words have been spoken and the action cannot be undone.  Hopefully, Martha is sorry for saying something she should not have said, but she cannot do anything other than to apologize and ask for forgiveness.  Janet can either accept her apology and work to repair the relationship or she can decide that it is time to let the friendship go.  For the two of them, that may work, but maybe because your goal is to remain friends with the two of them, even though their friendship has ended, and no one is upset with you about anything, each one will be able to stay friends with you individually.  The relationships are all going to change, even though you were not part of the dispute, it does affect you.  You may try t it and see how it goes and find out that there needs to be some ground rules set.  Especially when the friends don’t think that you should be friends with both of them and fight over you.  If your friends are going to put you in the middle or try to win you over to one side or the other, it is going to become very uncomfortable for you and you are going to feel the ramifications of their quarrel.  As an adult person, you can walk away and say good-bye to both of them if the situation becomes too uncomfortable for you,  but a child of divorce cannot do that when the dispute is between their parents.

Another thing that would not happen between the friends is this, no one would try getting the police involved or ask a court to prevent you from having a relationship with either Janet or Martha.  There was no crime committed and you have the right to have a relationship with anyone you wish.  There wouldn’t be any authority figure to come yell at Martha or order her to not be allowed to have friends again.  Because we are talking about a dispute between people, no matter what anyone else thinks of it, no crime occurred, and so there is nothing that anyone else can do about it, certainly not the police.  Martha and Janet will feel the way they feel about it.  A relationship ended.  There is really no “right” outcome from what has happened.  People who care about them may want them to apologize, make up and go back to being friends, but Janet and Martha will be the ones who decide their next steps, but they way they will each treat you afterward will determine how you feel about each one of them going forward.  Hopefully, they will understand that you have separate feelings and needs from them and that your desire is to remain friends with both of them separately and they will create conditions where you can do that.

For a child of divorce, they need their parents to sort this out for them.  They don’t want anyone to punish mommy or daddy because they hurt each other’s feelings or made each other sad.  If mommy and daddy can deal with their hurt feelings and put them aside in order to understand their child’s needs and figure out how to separately manage the child’s activities, health and wellness, that is the best thing that can happen, but when the parents refuse or keep trying to make the child choose sides or stop seeing a parent, in the legal divorce they are going through, that is when a third party neutral is called upon to come in and try to help for the child’s sake.  By this time, the hurts of the past are way behind the parents and they are usually already divorced.  The situation is what it is and the court orders/agreements are what they are.  Court appointed third parties are there to help everyone make it work, but if they do see a child in the middle, they will help to free the child from the conflict and negative feelings between parents.  There really isn’t a lot that third parties can do to help you improve the situation.  You will have to do this for yourself.  They will try to get you focused on the child to make the child’s life more manageable because children do suffer enormous consequences when they have to live through parent hostility.

Many times parents do not understand this.  They complain and complain and complain about what it is they do not like about the other parent or what the other parent has done.  They expect that if they demonstrate just how bad a person the other parent is, someone will punish that parent in some way.  That is not the nature of dispute resolution, which is what Family Court is about.  Family Court looks for solutions and moving families forward.  They want you to take your family out of court and start making decisions for yourselves.  They don’t want to parent your children for you.  They want to give you the tools to do it.

If your approach to Family Court is to try to prove fault in a no-fault system, you will lose sight of the needs of your child.  If you need help understanding dispute resolution or gaining some coping skills so that you can focus on your children more than the battle, especially if you have an ex spouse who cannot seem to grasp the nature of custody and parenting time, give us a call at 763-566-2282 or at High Conflict Central, 1-800-516-2446.  We’ll do our best to help you.

Saturday Songs-The Reason

Music is one of my passions.  It has helped me get through many painful life situations, helped me realize how deep my love can go and also helped me grow in faith.  When I went through difficult Family Court situations, this song helped me understand that I could change for my children.  Whenever I hear it, I think of my kids and the sacrifice I made to free them from a difficult situation that I had a hand in creating.  Because I helped create it, I could also be instrumental in undoing it.  You can, too.  What better reason to change than to be a powerful parent for your children?

Happy Saturday!  Blessings to you and your children.

Don’t Let Them Scare You!

Young Couple Watching Scary Movie On Tv by marcolm
Image Courtesy of marcolm at freedigitalphotos.net

As a parent who navigated the Family Court System myself, it pains me to see all of the false information out in the Blogosphere and on Social Media that the uninformed have written, trying to entice you into joining their battles against Family Court and other systems that parents may encounter.  I get very upset at the thought that you might buy into the junk they are trying to sell you.

Last week, some blogger/coach was promoting an event through Facebook and because I am always looking for good folks to join me in providing solid information to parents, I decided to join the event and see what the person had to say.  The event was earlier today.  I am both glad I did join in and at the same time horrified that I wasted time on that.  The women is definitely someone I’d put in the category of misinformation-Blog-o-fears-gullible-nitwit.  I am not going to name them, their blog or their website, because you could be harmed if you pay any attention to them and I do not want to help them build an audience.  Quite frankly, I hope no one finds them at all.  Thank God only 3 people joined the big event today and I was one of them, which only leaves 2 people who could possibly be fooled.

Long story short, the blogger is another parent who believes in falsehoods and because they did, lost custody of their children.  They refuse to believe that they could be in any way flawed as a parent and so it is easier to believe in conspiracy theories than to have to self reflect.

Keep in mind that I often hear from clients about these sorts of blogs, organizations or groups, who are out there to “help” and I often have to offer reality checks and counter the nonsense that they have heard from these “helpers”.  So let’s look at the leader or founder of these types of organizations.  A common theme is that they lost custody of their child or had their child taken away “for no reason at all”.  OK.  So let’s say that is true.  They did nothing wrong.  They were just minding their own business, sitting at home and some evil entities came to the door from Family Court and removed the children from their home.  I have never heard one single case of this happening.  Not one.  So, anyway, my first question to a parent who wants to follow them is why would you follow their example?  They lost custody of their children.  Are they the role model to follow?  I think you should run like hell from them and find someone who knew how to get custody or at least keep it.  Doesn’t that sound more logical?  If any of you think that listening to the advice of a parent who lost custody is a wise idea, give me a call.  Seriously, I need it explained to me how that is ever helpful.  Call me at 763-566-2282 and let me know why I should change my thinking on it.  If I am wrong, I will admit that I am wrong and I will make corrections because I have the ability to self reflect.  I think my ability to self reflect may have been one of the keys to the positive outcome my own family experienced in our family court case.  If you think that it is logical to want to follow in the footsteps of parents who lost custody and sometimes all rights to their children, I do want to connect with you, for your children’s sake, if nothing else.

Your children are much too precious to put your faith in someone who doesn’t demonstrate an ability to succeed, no matter what it is they are trying to succeed at, and I care about parents way too much to sit idly by while they are being taught a bunch of nonsense.  It could cost a parent dearly and it could cost their children dearly.  At the very least, you should talk to people who hold an opposite view of the system so that you can weigh the difference between what was said by the system hater and those who “get” the ins and outs of the system, and decide for yourself which stance seems more logical and which path seems more likely to help you achieve your goals.  On the Family Court hating side, you have people who have all lost custody and still cannot seem to figure out the reason why and on the side who uses Family Court appropriately, you have some folks who kept or won custody of their children and they know exactly how they achieved their goals.  One side tried to cut the other parent out of their child’s life completely, mainly because of their inability to cope or manage co-parenting.  The other side was able to put their child’s needs before their own and wouldn’t dream of cutting their co-parent out of their child’s life.  This might be one hint to what equates to success in Family Court, hint, hint.  On the blog of fears side of the table, the leader of the pack has no clue what lead to them losing custody.  Do you really think they can show you the ropes if they are clueless like that?  On the successful side of Family Court encounters, parents can self reflect and not feel threatened by the other parent.  They know that both parents can win, although it is up to each one individually if that is going to happen.  Those parents are not going to try to scare you.  Their goal is to assist you and feel empowered as a parent.  I certainly hope you’ll think long and hard about the people you allow to help you through Family Court because another thing about those who “get it” is, they typically can recommend the best professionals to use, the ones who did help them.  They had professionals who understood their case, did the right thing and took the right action.  Many professionals will be willing to help you when you are able to help yourself, too.

So why do these blogs-of-fear people give out false information and try to scare you?  I have some theories.  The truth is that the nitwit people, like that blogger I listened to, are miserable.  They are miserable because they live in a land called denial and they refuse to see the truth.

Theory # 1:

Misery loves company.  Something horrible happened to them and they need you to make them feel better about it because if they are able to pull a bunch of you into it and you lose your children, too, then they are not alone in their misery.  They can use you as another example of how mean and nasty Family Court and Systems are.

I find it laughable how many disgruntled parents tell stories of Family Court professionals getting incentives for stealing their children away from them.  So, if Family Court is getting an incentive to take children away from parents, why did their ex get to keep the child?  Wouldn’t there be twice the money to take kids away from both parents?  No one wants to take your children, but parents sometimes do face harsh consequences when they continue to put their child in the middle of a nasty battle and/or make the child choose sides.

As I mentioned before, nobody is sitting around minding their own business and then Family Court comes to your door and makes you get divorced and have a custody battle.  Those are voluntary things.  I can attest that it doesn’t feel voluntary when you are not the one who filed for divorce.  Maybe your spouse filed and dragged you in kicking and screaming.  They were able to do this because you are in a legal entanglement of coupledom and they decided it was time to end the marriage they voluntarily entered into, which included certain legal entanglements.  They voluntarily entered into the marriage, but they have to seek court permission to get out of it so that those legal entanglements can be undone, like it or not.  Most people know in their heart that if a spouse wants a divorce, it doesn’t make any sense to force them to stay.  Divorce is hard.  It is sad.  It is the death of some dreams, but it may also end up being the best thing that ever happened to you and it can be a beneficial thing for children when their parents emotionally process their negative feelings about the life change, grieve the loss and build new lives full of new opportunities.

Theory #2:

They really do think they can take down Family Court.  They have an upside down view of Family Law and they really do think everything that happens there is illegal or unconstitutional.  Because they couldn’t “save their child”, they are going to save the rest of the world to make up for it.  It is very noble thinking to save the world, but when I coach parents, my advice is always to save yourself first.  Once you have succeeded in freeing your own family from a life of  nonstop Family Court action, you will have a plethora of knowledge to share, not to mention credibility.  Only when you succeed are you able to fully explain to someone else how they can succeed, as well.  To be honest, once a parent succeeds in taking control of their life in spite of a nasty ex and in the midst of court proceedings, they understand that there was a method to the madness and know that it lead to tremendous personal growth.

Theory #3:

They hate their ex more than anything else in the world.  They are consumed with hatred.  So much hatred, in fact, that they cannot see anything or anyone else.  They cannot say to themselves, “I love my child more than I hate my ex and will do anything to help my child”.

Theory #4:

They have extremely low self esteem.  They have no love for themselves and would rather go it alone, operating under false beliefs than to seek help, especially if they may have to admit that they need help or they have some problems with relationships.  In their minds, it is better to continue presenting a fake self than the real self they despise.  Deep down maybe they want to lose and create a self fulfilling prophecy?

Theory #5:

They may just be evil.  Some people want to hurt others.  Because they could not succeed, they don’t want to see anyone else succeed either.  All they want to do is destroy anyone in their path.

Whatever the reason that some people want to spread misinformation and make you afraid of Family Court, do not let them do it to you.  If you need real help, there is help for you.  Parents in Family Court need to have mentors, parents who went through the system and found solutions for their family.  Parents do not need to be terrified that they will lose their children.  It is a rare case where that happens and those parents are doing harm to their child.  They just may not be able to see it.

Divorce and co-parenting can be very difficult to navigate and if your ex spouse wants to put you through the worst experience of your life, it can seem overwhelming and unmanageable.  Look for people who help. Look for people like me and the team of mentors I am building at High Conflict U.  Do I have an ulterior motive?  Yes, I do.  I hope that you will succeed and build the life you dream about with your children and what would be even better than that is if I could convince you to positively help others through so that they can succeed as well.

Family Court can be a tool or a weapon.  That is a matter of fact.  However, you can choose not to use it as a weapon and if your ex decides to ttack you with it, there are people like me who will absolutely support you through it and help you turn the attacks back on the attacker, all while keeping your children out of the middle and living as carefree a childhood as possible.

If you need help with anything Family Court or Co-parenting related, help is just a phone call away at Life’s Doors Mediation, 763-566-2282 or High Conflict U at (800) 516-2446.

Life’s Doors Mediation has Moved!

Fragile Box Means Easily Broken And Breakable by Stuart Miles
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

As of July 1, 2018, you can find Life’s Doors Mediation in Golden Valley, Minnesota.  Life’s Doors Mediation offers divorce and post decree mediation along with a variety of other services.

Our Family Law Connected services:

  • Mediation
  • Parenting Consultant
  • Parenting Time Expediter
  • Divorce and Conflict Coaching

We encourage people who are experiencing relationship problems or long drawn out high conflict divorce and co-parenting issues to also check out our affiliate, “High Conflict Central“.

High Conflict Central offers:

  • Relationship Coaching and Consulting
  • Parenting Classes and Information
  • Online Webinars
  • Online Learning options
  • Divorce and Co-parenting Support, Education and Information
  • Specialty Programs
    • Discover Your Piece
    • Victim in the System
    • Crossroads to Connections
    • DYP for U

Check out our new location at:

The Golden Valley Professional Building
1710 Douglas Drive N., Golden Valley, MN 55422

If you want to schedule mediation, get support with divorce or are trying to work through a difficult co-parenting, high conflict custody situation, please contact Susan Carpenter at Life’s Doors Mediation, susan@lifesdoorsmediation.com, 763-566-2282.

Marital Advice and Marital Mediation

Here is a video from Henry Winkler offering the secret to a long marriage.  There is a lot if truth in what he says and it doesn’t matter if you are married, divorced people trying to co-parent, a parent and child relationship in conflict or even experiencing issues between friends.  It is not about how you meant it, but how it lands!  See what Henry Winkler says…

 

 

Many people do not know that Life’s Doors Mediation offers much more than divorce services.  We also offer Marital Mediation and relationship coaching services.  Our goals is to improve relationships.  No matter where two people are in their relationship, they can move beyond conflict and reach a peaceful coexistence.  We’ve had married couples and unmarried couples come in to learn communication and conflict management skills without any mediation at all, but we have also helped parents with teenage children and couples who are struggling to stay together negotiate their way to a workable relationship through non legal mediation processes.  Agreements do not have to be written.  It gives people a chance to discuss their needs in the relationship and try to get to a place of understanding from the other side.  Many couples want to discuss their needs and desires and agree to a way forward.  Couples who use marital mediation can avoid divorce, but it has nothing to do with any court process.  It is simply an agreement between two people.  The agreement can be written or simply be a verbal agreement.  It is a matter between the two people involved whether they wish an agreement be written or not.  Because these types of agreements are usually not very involved, the fees are much lower than it would be for a court involved case.

If you would like more information on informal marital or relationship mediation, please contact Susan Carpenter at Life’s Doors Mediation via phone, 763-566-2282 or email: susan@lifesdoorsmediation.com.  You may also want to check out High Conflict U for our relationship, communication and conflict skill building classes and programs.  There are times when you may be able to save your marriage or restore a relationship.  As Henry Winkler said, both people have to willing.  If that is where you are at, despite any problems you are having, reach out and see if Life’s Doors Mediation or High Conflict U may be able to help.

Renewal

Light Path by dan
Image courtesy of Dan at freedigitalphotos.net

 

When I started my journey to help parents, the goal was to save them from the confusion I knew they felt and to make their journey shorter and less painful than the one I had walked.  I felt called to be a guide, a teacher and provide comfort when I could.  I never promised to have all the answers.  We are all human, after all.  We need that higher power.  We need to believe in something greater than ourselves.  We need hope that there is much more to the journey than our current situation.  We need hope.

I spent the time of my story all alone.  I was alone because I could not find anyone else who really understood.  I started out scared and alone, just me and my two boys, but I did ask God for help.  I did not think he was helping so I quickly dismissed God and searched for someone or something else.  When I did that, there was nothing but me and the prison I was building for myself.

When I was finally tired of my lonely misery and found no one else who understood or had real knowledge I turned back to God and found he was always there.  He had never left me.  I was simply refusing to see him, to hear him and to trust him.  When I gave in to what he was doing, my life changed.  I was freed from a prison that really only existed in my own mind.  The door had always been open for me to walk through.

I was blessed and I wanted to share that blessing, that peace, that freedom with others who were held captive in their imaginary prisons.  I wanted them to see what I finally saw.  The door to your prison is already open.  You simply have to walk through it!

I went on to walk a new journey of helping parents escape the pain of divorce and high conflict custody battles.  Those who are open to change receive great rewards.  I share with them the secret to conquering Family Court and painful relationships.

While I am a mediator, parenting consultant, and parenting time expeditor in Minnesota, and I enjoy that work to a degree, those roles offer limited success.  Results depend on the good faith of the individuals involved.  The success or failure comes from the skills and abilities of the parents themselves and their desire to escape their own prison.

What I really enjoy is teaching.  It is in the one on one work that I do where I see dramatic results for parents.  It even works for high conflict families.  How wonderful it is to see fear and anxiety replaced with peace and confidence and to see that spill over for children.  Parents living peace and confidence are able to offer so much more to their children than are parents who struggle with pain and trauma.  Pain and trauma will not help you find your way out of a paper bag!  Pain, trauma and the stress of a journey through the darkness of family court, leaves you stuck.  Fumbling and stumbling because you aren’t aware of your true power makes you rely on professionals to light the way.   What you do not realize is most of the professionals don’t know the way either.  Even if they do, the professionals will not light your path for you.  They are trying to show you where the light is.  You have to take it.  It is not the lawyer’s job to teach you.  It is not the mediator’s job to teach you.  It isn’t the parenting coordinator’s job to teach you.  In some cases, I have made it my job to teach, but I can only do that in the one-on-one services I provide.  I’ve decided that will be my main focus in this coming year and beyond.

I will show you the way and offer guidance, but the work is up to you and you alone.  It is not easy, but you can free yourself and your children from the pain and trauma of Family Court and High Conflict divorce.  Even when your co-parent keeps inflicting more and more control, financial hardship and fear on you, there are ways to expose their attacks for what they are and find peace for your own house.

The goal of our the programs offered at Life’s Doors Mediation is to clue you in to what you do not understand so that you can free yourself from a narcissistic ex, a bipolar co-parent, toxic co-parenting and really understand why it is you feel so trapped.  We also share with you the truth about Family Court professionals.  Why don’t they seem to know what they are doing?  Why don’t lawyers help you?  Why don’t parenting consultants seem to care about domestic abuse?  We have programs that are specifically created to help victims of domestic violence.  Check out our program, Victim in the System.

 

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Victim in the System logo-a trademark of Life’s Doors Mediation

 

We also help those in High Conflict situations.  Are you tired of it yet?  Do you want out of the control?  Check out what High Conflict U has to offer.  There is even a free e-course about Parenting Consultants and Coordinators!

 

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High Conflict U-a trademark of Life’s Doors Mediation

 

You have nothing to lose!  If you have tried everything else and found no help, why not try something new in this New Year?  Pick our brains as to why your situation seems so backwards and upside down.

While Life’s Doors Mediation can only provide mediation, parenting consulting and parenting time expeditor services to parents in Minnesota, our coaching and educational programs are without limits.  We can assist anyone in the United States, or even the world, to move beyond the prison of Family Court.  You owe it to yourself and your children to try something new!  It is always a free consult.  What have you got to lose?

Mandated Relationships

PAS statement from APA image by Susan Carpenter

We live in an age where state authorities have taken it upon themselves to mandate relationships.  As crazy as it sounds, that is what they do.  We also have the court system creating syndromes where none exist.  This is done so that people who are incapable of developing and maintaining relationships on their own, can force others to be in relationship with them.  We have judges who want to play along in this little game of mandating relationships, and lawyers who allow it to happen because they can earn a lot of money doing so.

Read the latest, in a string of state control over children, from West Bloomfield, Michigan:

Judge Locks Up Kids for Refusing to Have lunch With Dad

This is all such a farce for several reasons!  First off, I contend that only an abusive parent would force their children to have a relationship with them.  As difficult as it is, if the other parent is lying about you, but you are able to spend time with your children, the children will know how you treat them when they are with you.  Children know.  Children are not stupid.  Children come to know the truth, as they experience it, not by what is written, not by what is told to them, but by their life experience of the time they spend with you.

 

Background Image courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net
Background Image courtesy of arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net

Why this judge is participating in a farce:

1. The state’s only interest in the parent-child relationship is due to the state ensuring “the Best Interest of the Child”.  Removing children from the safety of their home and both parents is not in their best interest, and will harm them in a FAR greater way than if they are not spending time with one parent.  It may be harmful if they are being denied time with a parent, but we all know that children find a way to do what they want to do, especially as they get older.

2. If this judge truly believes that PAS is the problem here, then she would hold the mother accountable and not the children.  Stop punishing the victims!

3. A reasonable parent would realize that court “forced” interaction with anyone will not deepen anyone’s affection for you.  Maybe the father should ask for court ordered therapy sessions where they may get to the bottom of what is happening and work on their relationship.  This would afford an opportunity to repair a broken relationship, and not demand “parental rights”.

I realize that there is much more to ANY court story than meets the eye.  I will try and research this case to find out more information, but until then, on the surface, it is pretty pathetic.  Both parents and the professionals on this case are failing the children and I hope, for the children’s sake, that someone will do the right thing!

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.

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.