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 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 for 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 the court will enforce the schedule that is in an order.

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, they 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 emotionally process the divorce and hurt feelings from the relationship so they can move into a new type of relationship, but some people are unable to do this.  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 you 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 create the life they dream about 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.  We 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 since you want 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 if your friends are going to put you in the middle or try to win you over on 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, 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.  It was a dispute between people and no matter what anyone else thinks of it, no crime occurred, so there is nothing to be done about it.  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 that and the way they 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 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, that is when a third party neutral has to come in and try to help.  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.  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 easier for them 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 U, 1-800-516-2446.  We’ll do our best to help you.

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Leavers vs. the Left from lessonsfromtheendofamarriage

This piece, about what happens to the people that leave relationships abruptly and/or with deception, caused quite a stir on Facebook recently. The comments fell into two camps: “Thank you for validating my experience” and “I’m the one who left my marriage and I’m tired of being painted as the bad guy.” The reaction got me […]

via The End of a Relationship: The Leavers and The Left — Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A Poem for You

Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Clare Bloomfield / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

If I Had My Child to Raise Over Again

If I had my child to raise all over again,

I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.

I’d finger paint more, and point the finger less.

I would do less correcting and more connecting.

I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.

I would care to know less and know to care more.

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.

I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.

I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.

I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

I’d see the oak tree in the acorn more often.

I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.

I’d model less about the love of power,

And more about the power of love.

by

              Diane Loomans

Saving Face

Image courtesy of Ambrose at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambrose at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After divorce, some people play the victim.  It garners them attention and sympathy from others and helps them explain, in their own mind, that they are not at fault for the divorce.

Oddly enough, even though all US states are no fault divorce states, it doesn’t seem to matter.  Fault or no fault, divorce can be deeply wounding to someone’s ego.  In order to show the world (and make themselves feel better), they have to portray a false reality that their ex is to blame.  They will accuse their ex of having an affair, being mentally ill or turn it around in some other way.  They may tell others that they initiated the divorce instead of telling the truth, that it was their ex who initiated.

Typically, these individuals fear being alone and will enter into a new relationship quickly, long before they are ready.  They have done nothing to come to terms with the divorce or take the time to heal.  They grab hold of the first person who comes along and buys their story.  It helps them show the world: Hey, I am OK.  See?  Someone loves me.  That other person had something wrong with them.  That’s all.  I am not a bad person.  See how quickly someone found me?

The new relationship develops during their grieving process about the divorce.  These quick rebound relationships can interfere with, and may even  halt that grieving process all together.  Because they met their new significant other during the grieving process, they may have shared with their new mate how terrible you are, in order to explain their misery.  The problem is that they will have to keep this story going for the duration of the relationship.  This makes things very confusing to an ex spouse who has to try to co-parent with the person who is trying to keep a storyline going.

The ex spouse will struggle to understand why their child’s parent hates them so and cannot let go of it.  If you are the ex who is constantly lied about, you may become defensive.  You may also be very hurt and feel guilty about the divorce when you have to watch your children’s parent carry on with so much anger,  while you try to take the high road, as they continue to tells lies.  You may hope that they will come to terms with the divorce so that your co-parenting relationship will improve.  Unfortunately, you cannot make things better because it really is not about you.

This is all about your ex wanting to save face.  What does it mean to save face?  To put it simply, to preserve one’s dignity.  It has to do with how one sees him or herself and how he or she thinks the world sees them.  If a person finds divorce to be a highly negative reflection on their worth as a person, and is deeply wounded that their spouse, who promised to love, honor and cherish them no longer loves them, they often cannot see divorce as anything other than  an acknowledgment  that they are unlovable,  and a failure.

As the years go by, you may be shocked at how petty your co-parent is and stunned by their refusal to sit in the same room with you for the children’s extra curricular activities, doctor appointments and even mediation to settle a dispute about the children.  Try not obsessing about changing the other parent, and do not make yourself a door mat and try to appease them in an effort to build a better relationship.  If the other parent is saving face, nothing that you do will change the situation.  It is all about keeping their secrets safe.  Avoiding you, and making you out to be the bad guy,  is the basis of their new relationship.  They will move heaven and earth to keep the story going.

If the avoiding parent starts to repair the relationship with you, their new partner may start to see all of the lies and they cannot risk being exposed.   People who live a life based on lies will never risk a second breakup.  The first one devastated them.  Because they never took pause to heal from that, another rejection would be unbearable.  Eventually, the new partner may start to see that the story they have been told does not make sense, and your ex may possibly have to face their biggest fear, but again, you cannot change them, and it is not your responsibility to save them.

So what do you tell your kids when the other parent spreads lies and acts crazy?  Tell your kids the truth.  Tell them that you would like a better relationship with their mom/dad, and it is not possible right now.  Tell them that you do not understand why the other parent acts that way, but that you love them and will always be there for them no matter what. You may also want to tell them that you feel sorry for the other parent’s pain and hope that one day they will find a way to work through it.  That is all you have to say.  Then you must commit yourself to taking the high road and doing the best job of parenting that you can.

Hostile co-parenting relationships are not helped by seeking revenge or telling the other side what they need to do to make things better.  You are the last person they will take advice from.  Sometimes the best you can do is keep your own house in order and choose a healthier relationship for yourself, and leave your ex to battle their own demons.

Success Story!?

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

:-( Sad News to Report


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

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