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Thoughts From High Conflict U

As someone who has been working for almost 20 years to help parents navigate the very choppy waters of family court, I get a fair amount of calls and emails from parents who feel overwhelmed with how off track their case has become. High conflict cases snowball into unimagineable craziness and parents desperately want […]

via Who Do You Recommend for a Parenting Coordinator or Consultant? — High Conflict U

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

 

Life’s Doors Mediation is partnered with Discover Your Piece.  We are working together to make things better for divorced parents everywhere.  I am sharing something new and exciting with you and I hope you will give it a try.  Check out Discover Your Piece and their education site for High Conflict parents, High Conflict U!

High Conflict U   offers a free e-course to learn everything you wanted to know about parenting time expeditors ( a role exclusive to the state of Minnesota ) and Parenting Consultant/Coordinators.  Enroll now to learn about these important roles for your family.

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!

Success Story?! REPOST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updates on the Parenting Consultant Nightmare!

Updates on PCN-Therapy resized smaller

Buy Now

When I wrote my book, “The Parenting Consultant Nightmare”, I knew that because things can change so quickly in Family Court, the book would need to be updated from time to time.  I have tried to figure out how to keep parents updated on the latest trends in the world of Parenting Consultants or Parent Coordinators, and how to work with the process more efficiently.  I have decided to offer low cost E-Books that you can download, for the latest information.  These will be on a variety of topics to help you understand how to minimize the effects of on-going court battles, and move your family away from Family Court Case Managers, and back to at least one parent.  It is not easy, but it can be done.

My latest E-Book, “Updates on the Parenting Consultant Nightmare-Therapy, Parenting Coordinators and Family Court” is now available through E-Junkie.  Click on the Buy Now button above if you’d like to purchase it.  You can also buy it through my Life’s Doors Mediation E-Book webpage linked below.

 If you’d like to be notified when a new Ebook is available, please enter your email on my E-Book web page.

The Right of First Refusal, Helpful or Hurtful?

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of
Stuart Miles
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hadn’t really given too much thought to “the right of first refusal” until a client showed me the Liz Library article about it a few days ago.  I often recommend the Liz Library for a reference because the articles are insightful and linked to research on the topics, and my client found the article because of a post where I referenced the Liz Library.  I had not really contemplated this issue before.

My opinion on the Right of First Refusal is that one should not give it to the other parent without asking for the same right in return, and I do still believe that to be a wise move.  In your own case, you should always discuss that with your lawyer, of course, but I’d be surprised if any lawyer would not think it should be reciprocal. That is about as far as I’d ever thought about it, mainly because if a parent asks for it, a Parenting Coordinator or judge is likely to give it.  It is one of the tools in their arsenal to encourage co-parenting, and so they usually will use the tools they have.  That is my take on all things Family Court.  You would not be there if it wasn’t about co-parenting difficulties, and the Family Court loves their toolbox.

Do I think that the right of first refusal is a good thing?  No.  As with anything in double edged sword land of Family Court, it could be a good thing, but it can also be used as a weapon by the controlling, vindictive ex spouse.  Is your ex spouse trying to gain more parenting time by way of the right of first refusal?  Probably.  What else might they hope to accomplish by it?  Control, control, control, and engagement, engagement, engagement.  They either hope to ensure they are informed about everything you are involved in when you either would not or could not involve the children, or they are trying to create another reasons that you will need to contact them.  On its face, the right of first refusal makes sense.  A child should be with their parent when a parent is available to care for the child in the other parent’s absense.  In most cases, it is better to have a parent with the child before involving a third party.  Too bad we don’t look at that with legal custody, huh?  I digress.  This is why it is hard to say if it is a good or bad thing.  It is both.  What I mean by that is when it comes to a high conflict family, odds are that it is a bad thing.  It will most likely increase the conflict, and become more problematic than it is worth.  For the cooperative, low conflict divorced family, it would be a good thing.  The problem is that the right of first refusal is typically sought by high conflict parents.  A cooperative family is neither going to ask for the right of first refusal, nor will they need to have it written in a court order.  For the low conflict divorced family the right of first refusal is an automatic thing, or they trust the other parents judgement on who they will choose to leave the children with when they cannot be available and don’t fixate on such trivial things.

Any of these tools really are remedies for high conflict families and no one else.  Truth be told, no one should ever call them tools, as much as they should call them weapons.  It is just a sad fact.  There is a reason why your family cannot manage co-parenting.  There is a reason why I am not a fan of co-parenting in high conflict situations.  I understand that the circumstances that create high conflict cannot be fixed by court ordered anything, and that most court ordered things are more problematic than they are worth.  Unfortunately, when remedy is asked for by one party, court authorities have to offer you some kind of remedy .  If it were up to me, the courts would first determine if there has been a problem, for example, is the other parent leaving the children in someone’s care frequently?  The court should make that determination before they try to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist.  In other words, they should make sure there is a problem before they offer a solution.  the reality is that court authorities don’t generally think that broadly.  They should also look at the dynamics of the family from which a parent is asking for a remedy, and if the parent is using things to control or punish the other parent with, they should not deliver any more weapons to the equation.  This is why I continue to oppose the one size fits all, cookie cutter approach that is used in the Family Court System.

The courts don’t know much about High Conflict and what exactly drives it.  This is why they are ill equipped to offer remedies to it.  The court authorities continue to make the same mistakes that parents make when it comes to high conflict divorce.  I would coach the court authorities in the same way that I coach parents.  Less is more.  Court orders aren’t working?  Why add more?  A parent getting more information on the other parent increasing the conflict?  Why give them more?

What the courts should keep in mind is that they really do know some of the accusations that come out of high conflict divorces.  The accusations that come are abuse, alcoholism, drug use, mental illness.  If those accusations are coming, they may never be able to prove any of it.  That is a fact with how the Family Court operates.  They aren’t really looking for evidence of anything if you have joint custody, but what they could do with the accusations, is to know that you are likely a high conflict case and remedies don’t provide solutions in the high conflict divorce.  Instead, they provide weapons.  In the way that they would allow a cop to have a gun, but deny a psychopath a gun, the right of first refusal works great for the well intentioned good guys, but in the hands of a bad guy, the right of first refusal will be a dangerous thing.  The Family Courts need to start determining that in the high conflict family, one parent is a bad guy.  Even if they don’t want to put in the work of determining who the bad guy is, they need to acknowledge that there is one and take a less is more approach.  They should not offer remedies that can be used as a weapon.  Period.  They only need to recognize that there is at least one bad guy involved.

Oh, Ye of Little Faith

Prisoner And Family by vectorolie

Image courtesy of Vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Follow Up to My Domestic violence Post

I found this while researching for a different kind of article.  They really do a great job of laying out the problem with Domestic Violence in Family Court.  There are 6 parts to the article.

http://justicewomen.com/help_family_law.html#one

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.

Here’s the scoop!

The Newspaper And The People by njaj

Image courtesy of njaj at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last year, Life’s Doors Mediation went to all sliding scale fees for Mediation, Parenting Consultant and Parenting Time Expediter services.  The change has been a good one for everyone, especially, the families that I want to serve.  This has led me to the decision to go full sliding scale fee for 2015.  Starting next year (and if you mention this post to me before then), all coaching and parent advocate services will be a sliding scale fee.  My goal has always been to reach parents and help families to mostly stay out of court when possible, but to use the court in the most efficient way possible for those who do have to use it.  Life is all about balance.  Family Court should be there in some instances, but realistically, courts or the law cannot help you with emotional issues.  A key piece of the coaching services I provide involves looking realistically at what is causing you the most difficulty, weeding out what you can combat on your own, what you need a lawyer to help you with, and what things are not yours to “fix”, but instead, learning to protect yourself and your children from abuses and intrusions from those who lash out at you.

Many things help you when used strategically, but you have to know where, when and how to apply them.  This is where I come in.  I am a divorce and co parenting coach, parent advocate, high conflict program instructor and mediation professional.  Life’s Doors Mediation does focus on divorce and hostile co parenting issues, but I also coach couples and individuals on dating, confidence, self-awareness and much more!

Visit the website and if you are interested in coaching, give me a call and ask about my new sliding scale fees for coaching.

http://www.lifesdoorsmediation.com

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