Disputes or High Crimes and Misdemeanors?


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.

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.

Where is Your Focus?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a Life and Divorce coach, I am sometimes misunderstood and misinterpreted.  Over the years, I brought myself out of a deep dark place and into a life of joy and happiness.  I have successfully shown many others how to turn their backs on the darkness and move into their own piece of happiness, focusing on finding their way to the life they dream of.  I’ve been able to help many people, but not everyone.  Some people want to stay stuck.  If an individual wants to stay stuck in something bad, there is nothing I can do.  There is also nothing a psychologist, lawyer, or judge can do either.  They may try, but ultimately they will have to leave you behind and move onto the people who will work with them to get where they want to be.

I work mostly with people in the Family Court System.  These are parents who find themselves in a high conflict divorce situation, getting beaten to a pulp (legally) by the confounding judge, who is unable to understand what the heck it is that drives you to do the things you do.

I understand domestic violence.  I understand parental alienation (which is not the same as Parental Alienation Syndrome).  I understand Domestic Violence Organizations.  I understand Father’s Rights Groups. I understand the parent who lives under a microscope for years.  I understand the legal community.  I understand the psychologists.  I understand a lot of what happens in Family Court.  I understand how people got into the mess they have gotten themselves into.  Understanding all these things does not mean that I want you to focus on them.

I can lose someone’s attention and respect when I tell them that they and their attorney are putting too much emphasis on domestic violence in their family court case.  I also anger people when I tell them that parental alienation syndrome is not real.  That statement can be confused with not believing that parental alienation happens.  I know it happens.  I have even experienced it for myself.  It happened to my youngest son and I, at the hands of a manipulative father, but my son and I are closer than ever now because I always trusted him to know truth and to figure out what was happening.  I did what I could, left alone what I could not do, and put my energy into waiting for my son to be ready to restore our relationship.  I had faith that I had raised him in a way in which he would see truth, and now, we are closer than ever.

It was a long way from being blind sided by the nastiness of Family Court to getting to where I am today.

More than believing in parental alienation, I believe that co-dependence and Legal Abuse Syndrome are likely driving the on-going family court nightmares.  A good psychologist should tell you that as long as there is one strong parent, your child can overcome the trauma, regardless of what your ex throws at you.  I have seen this to be true.  In my own case, I stopped being the victim of domestic violence and stopped adding to the drama.  I wanted a better life for my children and myself.  That meant that I would have to pull myself up by my bootstraps, get healthy, and work with the professionals in the Family Court System on their level.  They were not going to listen to me if I only spoke to them when I was at the point of hysterics.  I was never heard when I screamed and swore at them, and you won’t get far with that either.  They were not going to allow me to educate them.  These were educated professionals and if I was so smart, how come I couldn’t put an end to this conflict in my family?  Why did they have to make decisions about my children?  They could not understand and I could not make them understand.  I found them to be obstacles to moving on with my life.  They were also, definitely,  hindering my children’s development.  I found that they were not the answer and they should not be my focus.  Instead, my focus should be on myself, and my children.  That is when I began to turn that ship around, and in doing so, I freed myself and my children of those professionals forever.  No more obstacles.  No more hindrances.

This is what I do for my clients as well.  Please don’t think that this can happen overnight.  It is a process.  I help my clients through that process, too.  Not every consult turns into a client though.  Some people think I am nuts and they never come back.  They do not want to give up that crutch of family court.  That is sad because most people come to me due to their frustration with how the Family Court is not helping the situation, but is instead, making it much, much worse and they don’t want to refocus there energy anywhere else.  It is a lot of work, and it is painful and ugly to peel back the layers of you, and so some people cannot stomach it.

Think about this for a minute.  Maybe it will make sense to you and maybe it won’t.  I can only put it out there and hope that you can make some sense out of it.  When you are a victim of domestic violence and look to the family court to help you with it, that is your focus.  If you keep focusing there, and seek professionals who will understand, that focus is taking your time, energy and money away from having the life you want.  You may think that you cannot have the life you want, but I am sorry to tell you, it is not true.  You are the one keeping your life and your children’s lives in the family court.  Your ex may stay there, and he or she may use it against you, but if you really get yourself strong, stay confident in your truths, and put your focus outside of the court, you will see miracles happen.  The people I see who beat this system at its own game, refocus on their life and their children and slowly shift their thoughts and energies away from their nasty ex and the nasty court people, are the ones who succeed in getting their story told.  The people who latch on to their domestic violence experience or try to expose parental alienation will find that  they ramp up the conflict, get more deeply embedded in the Family Court System, and feel more and more stuck over time.  I am not saying that domestic violence or parental alienation should be tolerated or ignored.  I am not saying that at all.  What I am saying is you cannot push those memes the entire time because there are only certain ways to successfully use those arguments in family court.

Not everything involved with the conflict is related to domestic abuse or parental alienation.  Some things are communication issues and related to how you speak to or correspond with you ex.  Some issues are related to those Mars-Venus, male-female issues, too.  Some issues have to do with the stage of development your child is in, as well, and so you need to really consider what is driving the conflict for each particular issue that arises.  You cannot blame everything on domestic violence or parental alienation because the professionals don’t always have any recourse.

This post may anger some people and intrigue others.  It’s hard to really explain it all in one blog post!  If you are interested in finding out how to free yourself of the family court, as much as possible, please contact me.  I’d love to consult with you to tell you more.  There is nothing more rewarding for me than to see a client who grasps these concepts and takes back their life!

Can You Work on Coparenting by Yourself?

It takes two to co-parent, no doubt about that.  The family courts are filling a lot of people with false hope by making parents believe that watching a video, attending a parenting class, or having a parent coordinator or parenting consultant as the case manager of the parental relationship can force co-parenting to happen.  There are cases where none of those things are going to work.

I know that this line of thinking does not endear me to the family court or put me top of the list when they appoint a parenting consultant, but I have to say it anyway.  I am a realist and one who speaks the truth, whether or not that truth is popular.  Does that mean that there is no hope for the high conflict divorce parents?  No.  That is not what I am saying.  I am an eternal optimist and I believe that all things are possible.  When two people want to have a relationship, those two people will have the relationship they want, but one person cannot have a relationship.  That is what cannot be done.  In the same way you cannot make someone love you if they don’t, you will not get a cooperative co-parent if they have no interest in co-parenting with you.

Some people can and do co-parent effectively.  Those parents have had closure from the end of the relationship and have healed their hurts.  They also see a way forward without the other parent sharing their life and can separate parenting together from having a life together.

Those who cannot co-parent effectively, those referred to as high conflict families, have never had a healthy relationship.  They may not even understand what a healthy relationship is.  They have probably never experienced one themselves and have never seen one in action in their extended family. 

There are many factors that contribute to hostile co-parenting situations.  Chemical dependency may have been a part of the relationship, for one or both of the parents.  Abuse, which can take many forms, may have been part of that household in one way or another.  There may have been a prolonged custody battle, in which the lies and mud slinging stung and deeply wounded one or both parties.  As an aside, if you told horrific lies about your ex and now expect them to co-parent, SHAME ON YOU!  As I wrote about before, co-parenting requires a level of trust.  If the type of relationships I mentioned above exist for you, there is no trust, or at least not enough for someone to trust you with the children or take your word on anything.

Co-parenting means that you will be on time and return the children on time.  If you are going to have parenting time on certain days, you will move heaven and earth  to see the children those days.  You will make the children a priority and you will treat the other parent with respect.  The other parent has a life without you and their time, their interests and their home, including phone and email, must be respected.  The phone and email are not to be used to insult and threaten them in their own home.  You do not have to like what the other parent does and they don’t have to like what you do, but as co-parents, you must treat each other with respect.

If you have the misfortune of a hostile co-parenting relationship, nothing will make the other parent change their ways.  There isn’t a court order or a parenting consultant or a law in the world that is going to make them change their ways.  You already know this.  The court already knows this.  The only one who can change someone’s behavior is the person behaving that way.  Court orders won’t work.  You can tell the person until you are blue in the face that they need to change.  It won’t make it so.  The person who is behaving badly has to see their mistakes and want to change.

What can you do about it?  The only effective way to shut down someone who is trying to upset you is to work on your reaction to them.  The best revenge is to let them know that they are not going to get anything out of it and you are not going to waste time on what they do or say.  So many people fear that their children will believe lies the other parent tells them, but if you do right by your kids, they will know truth.  Kids will know who was there for them and who was standing strong for them.

You cannot force someone to co-parent with you.  Pushing the issue in court will only further alienate the other party.  If you are going to improve the relationship, give them some time and space and stop tattling on them.  If they are ever going to warm up to the idea, they need to have time to heal first.  Stop pushing them.

Focus on you and the way you parent.  Do not make excuses for the other parent when you talk to the children and do not criticize the other parent.  If the children ask why mommy or daddy won’t talk to you anymore, tell them that you hope, in time, things will get better, but you both need the space to adjust to single parenting.  Also tell them that you are always there for them and they will always be taken care of.

When you prepare yourself to be a great parent, regardless of what someone else is doing, you gain confidence and independence.  If you do not have to rely on that other parent, you will not be disappointed.  The other parent may do their part and that is great, but your saving Grace is to be able to parent with or without them.

Image courtesy of Jeron van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Parenting Consultant Nightmare is Now Available!

Its here.  It’s here!!!  Much later than I had hoped, but it is here!  Editing is a tedious process and I have learned that for future books, but hopefully that makes this title user friendly. 

I am not a lawyer and I am not a psychologist, but this book has tips you need to avoid a Parenting Consultant Nightmare for your family.  If you read it and think that your parenting consultant should read it, do not give it to them personally.  Email me with their info and I will make them aware of the book and encourage them to read it.  You might get in trouble with your pc for implying they do not know what they are doing.  Allow me to take the risk for you!

Also, tell anyone you know who is living in Family Court hell that there is a guide to parenting consultants now available.

Buy it today on Amazon or Create space

The Best Course of Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Most Important Thing I Can Tell You

The most important thing I can tell you is empower yourself.  Those who control what is within their power fair much better in family court and with parenting consultants than do those who turn their power over to someone else.

If the example that follows sounds like how you proceed in a situation, please consider coaching.  I can help you learn what is your power and how to never let go of it!

Someone I know who was a stay at home mom, went through a nasty custody battle, and lost custody to an abusive ex, is still fighting this system some eight years later.  She has only been allowed to have parenting time four days per month.  For the last six years, she has been allowed to see her children and until recently, there were no issues where the father claimed the children were not safe with her.  What happened recently to change that?  She filed a lawsuit against her ex on a matter not related to the children.  Her ex immediately responded with false allegations of child endangerment.  Suddenly, he considers her too dangerous to see the children and is denying her parenting time.  He sought a restraining order, but the judge that looked at evidence found no basis for the restraining order.  The woman won that round, thankfully, because that judge followed the law.  One of the problems with family court is that some judges pay no attention to the law and consider all family court matters to be “gray areas” and decide to use their discretion for their decisions, rather than to use the law, even in small part.  Sad, but true.  If you end up in criminal court, those judges do actually use laws to decide cases.  That is why, justice does seem to be served in that area.

Anyway, on with the story.  The father who was denied a restraining order is still denying the woman any access to the children.  He did, however, offer to allow her to go to counseling with the children.  She was willing to do that.  I discussed with her how she needed to control that process. I know that those who empower themselves against these people fair much better than those who do not, therefore, in my opinion, she needed to control that process.  She needed to be the one who chose the therapist.  She needed to offer to agree to no weekends, as long as she could have parenting time one afternoon or evening per week to attend counseling.  Now, you might say, why should she agree to less parenting time when the court order allows for four days per month?  Because currently, she is allowed zero parenting time.  The ex is agreeing to counseling for her and her children and that gives her an opportunity to improve her relationship with her children, without interference from her ex.  The therapist should be a person who is protective of the parent child relationship when he or she is present.  It does not seem like much, but it is a way of opening the door that her ex has closed right now.  Yes, she can take court action, but it has never turned out well in her case.  The court has never been concerned about denied parenting time, and there is no reason to think they will now.  Still, she probably will take that action.  The problem there is that it takes time to get to court.  It can take several months.  In those several months, she will be denied the children, but if she does therapy now, she will be able to keep the door to her children open a crack, instead of having it closed to her.  This is important.  If she were to refuse therapy and wait for court, she will be sick with worry about her children.  Not knowing what is happening with your children is torture and especially overwhelming for women to deal with.  When you go to court over custody or parenting time, you have to keep your wits about you.  If you are going insane because of the overwhelming feelings of anger, pain and worry, you will not react well to court, and probably come across as a crazy, angry, out of control person.  While I understand those strong emotions, the courts do not care about or deal with emotion, and strong emotions come across to the court as desperation.  They decide some really weird things when they see desperation.

So, this mom, did not take control of the situation.  She sat back and did nothing, other than plan a court motion.  Her ex took her power away by choosing the therapist and discussing the issue with the former court appointed therapist and guardian ad litem.  He probably would have talked to the former parenting consultant, but he could not, because she died earlier this year.  Should he have talked to these people?  No.  They all withdrew from the case years ago.  Still, they talked to him.  He, and they, also talked to the new therapist, and lord knows what he was told.  Now, I could go off on a tangent about the new therapist and ethics because I question whether they should have talked to anyone without signed consent of the mom, but that is another issue, for another day.

On with the story, the mom had told me who the new therapist was and I checked out the website.  Immediately, I saw several red flags.  First, this group touts more an interest in pleasing court authorities than they do therapy.  They are willing to testify in court and also video tape therapy sessions (??????).  I told the mom that it seemed as though her ex was setting her up. He wanted these people because they would testify on his behalf in court.  Still, the mom was willing to try because she thought they might help her in court.  When she called to do the intake, she was told that she could not have therapy.  They were only authorized to allow her supervised parenting time.  There is no court order that states her parenting time is to be supervised.  Now she will not be seeing the children because she will not agree to that.

What happened here is that she sabotaged herself.  She gave away her power.  Had she controlled the situation, maybe it would not have worked, it is hard to say, but it would have been worth it for her to try.  She was offered some crumbs by her ex and rather than make her own decision and choices about what to do with the offer, she took no action.  That allowed her ex to control the situation.  Knowing that his desire is that she never see the children, knowing that her desire is to see the children even more than she currently is allowed, who would be better to control the logistics so that she could receive the outcome she was going for?  Also, how do you think this will be presented by her ex in court?  This was a bad situation made much worse because the mom did not grab hold of the power she had.

In a nasty family court battle, you must look out for yourself.  Do not trust the other side to do anything on your behalf.  You have to go after what you want.  It is like that old saying, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself!”

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do Moms Always Win Custody?

There is a myth out there in family court land and lately, I have heard people repeat the meme.  I want to try to dispel the myth, if I can.  I am not trying to cause undue anxiety or throw you into the realm of negative thoughts that make the battle more difficult, but what I try to do is tell the truth about family court so that you can be prepared.

Do moms always win custody?  The short answer is no.  There are groups out there, in particular, father’s rights groups, who say that woman win custody 95% of the time.  That used to be the case, but I assure you, it is not the case any longer.

Why did things change?  One reason is because father’s rights groups have fought for equality and now we see the results.  They have been pretty successful in changing minds of the judiciary.  Another reason is, that while the courts have not gone to an assumption of joint custody as their standard, meaning, in Minnesota, they have not made it law that they always award joint physical custody for parents who cannot come into their own agreement, it is in the law that children benefit from the involvement of two parents. The law does state that there is a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interests of the child .  That, along with changes to the way child support is determined, has already given the court the mindset that both parents have equal rights to the child and that it is in the best interests of children that the parents work together to coparent the child.  Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing for a vast majority of cases.

You may have read articles where I have written that I do not believe in joint legal custody.  That is true.  What I mean by that is for cases where there are exceptions to the rules about joint custody, joint custody is an insane idea.  That is why exceptions were put into the law (see subdivision 2 a-d).  For my clients that come to me for help, they have been dragged through the mud, slandered, harassed, stalked, threatened and maligned for many years, trying to prove why they cannot coparent with the psycho ex.  Usually there have been abuse or chemical dependency issues, but they did not put it out there in court documents from day one.  Often, people are too ashamed to admit they lived with that, or they think things will be better after divorce and so they agree to joint custody, not knowing their are exceptions and not foreseeing the insanity that is going to come their way.  Really, those of you who live the insanity, how could you have ever imagined this?  Those in hostile coparenting situations were also never told that abuse or chem dep issues would have made any kind of difference.  The legal meme is, the courts will never grant sole custody, especially sole legal.

Like I said, in most cases, joint custody of ANY kind, is not a bad thing.  When parents have made peace with divorce, and they can work together for the children, that is the best outcome.  The second best outcome is for parents, who despise each other, to have minimal contact with each other.  The worst outcome is these high conflict cases where one parent uses the children as a weapon.  There is no way to build a coparenting relationship when you cannot trust the other parent.  Period.  The courts should understand this by now, but they do not.

So, the point of my post is that a mother should not assume that she is going to get custody.  No matter if you were a stay at home mom, were the one who did all the driving of children to various events, were the one who always took the children to the doctor, etc., you do not come in with any extra points in the parenting column.  Can a stay at home mom lose custody?  Yes, and I know some moms like that to whom I could introduce you.

It is my opinion that it would be best for children if the parenting roles stayed the same as they were during the marriage, meaning that, if mom did the heavy lifting of driving the kids to and from appointments or events, and they want to continue on the same, that should happen.  Unfortunately, once one party has been told they have the right to x, y and z, they start to want x, y, and z, whether they had been interested in that originally or not.

If your ex files for custody, whether you are a mom or a dad, you need to take this seriously.  Consider trying mediation about this because you are always better off making your own agreement, rather than allowing a judge to decide.  Some of these judges leave a lot to be desired.  Understand that when the court deals with money or property, they try to end with a zero balance sheet.  It can depend on how long you were married and other factors.  When the court deals with your children, they also want to try to get a zero balance sheet.  They don’t think that either parent is better for the child.

You cannot know how a custody battle is going to go, until it goes.  It depends on the judge, the thirteen factors, and can even be impacted by the judge’s mood that day.  Is that right?  No, a judge should not take his or her bad day out on you.  Still, it happens.

It also happens, in high conflict divorce cases, there are high numbers of cases where the father wins custody.  Never say that they will never take custody from me.  When you say that, you are basing that on a myth from years ago.  Times have changed and the courts and judges have changed.  Tread cautiously when it comes to custody of your child.

Yes, mothers do sometimes lose custody.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A Brand New Look

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

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

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

Have a great afternoon!


Lawyers Are Sometimes Held Accountable

A question that I am asked regularly is, “Who can I complain to?  Will it do any good?”  The answer is, Yes, sometimes lawyers, judges and even parenting consultants are held accountable.

It can be an uphill battle because the legal community wants to make sure that they are not acting on complaints for those who are angry that they lost there case.  Understandably, there are times when a lawyer has done everything they can, but their client still loses.  Family court has what many consider “gray areas”.  There are no laws that can help you when someone is attacking you as a person and uses the courts to harass you.  If you want to file a complaint against a court authority, you must prove that they were unethical or engaged in illegal practices.  You can learn more from the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board.

Yesterday, I learned that two lawyers from St. Paul have been reprimanded.  When I hear about things like this, I will post it here.  If either one is your attorney, you will need to find a new attorney, at least until they are reinstated.  If you want to see if your lawyer has ever been disciplined, the LPRB website has a search option so that you can find out.  It is always a good idea to check out any attorney that you are considering allowing to represent you.

*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net