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Living Rent Free in Your Head

Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net

When you devote much of your day in fear of your ex, or thinking about what your ex is doing, you are allowing them to live rent free in your head.  It is completely understandable that if you have had many negative experiences with your ex and experienced a prolonged, bitter custody battle, you would become afraid of having to deal with them in the future.  Still, the best thing to do is to get them out of your head and out of your life as much as possible.

I do not want to make light of the situation.  I hope to help people move forward and stop giving their ex more attention than they deserve.  If you have become overwhelmed with thoughts and fears about your ex, you have to work on changing your thinking.  It is not going to happen over night, but it can be done.  You will have to work hard at it and things may get worse before they get better.  What I mean by that is the controlling, abusive, meddling ex will do their best to make you fail in your quest for freedom.  That is reason enough why you must do it.  When you start paying less and less attention to them and no longer cower in fear of them, they are going to get in your face a little more before they slither away and the fact remains, they may never slither away completely.  You see, the problem is not with you.  It is with them.

Your ex has been masterful at turning the tables on you and keeping you off balance.  Because their behavior is not normal, you may be confused about why they are behaving the way they are.  Worse, you may also be confused that in the real world, people view your ex as very nice, smart, thoughtful, etc.  They may have a new relationship that seems just peachy and you may be questioning if you really are the problem.  Trust me, you are not the problem.

Keep in mind that most people in the real world only get a glimpse of who your ex really is and when your ex wants to, he or she can really turn on the charm.  The same goes for the new relationship.  They must make their new partner see you as a crazy person.  It helps them ensure that you will never go near their new partner and that they will steer clear of you as well.  No one can talk to each other that way.  The angry ex’s secrets do not get divulged.  This keeps their new love in the dark about who they really are and it helps keep you wondering what the heck is going on…and they LOVE that.  Remember how they treated you early on and how wonderful you thought they were.  The new partner will also be charmed.

They LOVE having you fear them.  They LOVE living in your head rent free.  They do not even have to do anything because you fear them so much and try to anticipate what they will do next.  It feeds their ego to know that they are always on your mind.

So how do you go about changing things?

First things first, you have to put your fear behind you.  You may even need to get angry.  You also need to retrain your brain to stop any and all thoughts of your ex whenever they crop up.

Second, have a diversion.  If you are overwhelmed thinking about what your ex may or may not do about any given issue, have a friend or a hobby or even look for a new love interest and whenever you just cannot shake the evil ex thoughts, call on that person or take some time to work on it.  If you choose a hobby, make sure that it is something that will keep you busy.  Reading sometimes will not work because if your mind keeps wandering, you will not really be reading.  Try exercise, too, and some stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, mediation or swinging your arms back and forth for 10 minutes.  Trust me, it works.

Third, carve out “ex free” time.  When you have the luxury of your child spending time at the other parent’s house or with grandma and grandpa or their friends, carve it out.  Announce to yourself that you will not give your ex anymore time than they have already taken from you.

This can be done, trust me, I have done it.  It takes some time and some practice, but once you master retraining your brain, the less you will think about your ex or care about your ex.  It will become habit to you and you will be well on your way to a new and happier life.  One last thing, it is natural to want to put your life on hold for fear that your ex will ruin anything that makes you happy, but that is just giving them more control over your life.  You do NOT want to do that.  Write down on a piece of paper in big letters the following:

NOT ONE MORE DAY.  MY EX WILL NOT GET ONE MORE DAY OF MY LIFE.  MY EX HAS BEEN LIVING RENT FREE IN MY HEAD FOR YEARS AND TODAY IS HIS EVICTION NOTICE.  HE/SHE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF MY HEAD AND OUT OF MY THOUGHTS AND OUT OF MY LIFE STARTING RIGHT NOW.  I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED THE WAY I AM BEING TREATED.  I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.

And then go live it.  If you want to find a new love, seek them out.  Your ex may try to meddle and he/she may try to make things difficult for you in unimaginable ways, but you are stronger than he or she is.  Much stronger.  They have a sickness that they probably cannot escape, but you will choose to get healthier.  You will take steps to ensure that you never choose the same kind of psychopath as a partner again, and you won’t.  Your new love will love you and because they love you so much, they will see what your ex is doing and they will stand by you no matter what.

When you see it, you will believe it and achieve it!

Image courtesy of Nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Why Your History of Domestic Violence Works Against You in Family Court

Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici  at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have a personal experience of domestic violence.  I am just putting that out there so that people know that I know what I am talking about.  I understand domestic violence from your perspective.  I lived it.  I escaped it.  I moved beyond it, and I went through trying to prove it in Family Court.  I learned a lot from it and that is why I want to help you learn from my experience.  The goal here is to help others understand where it is going to be beneficial to you in Family Court and where it is not.

Let me first caution you that if you are in an abusive relationship, tell someone about it.  Find someone you trust, a family member, or a friend, and tell them.  Do not be ashamed or afraid to do so.  It is the first step toward a better life.  If you don’t have someone in your life that you can go to, find a domestic violence organization such as the Domestic Abuse Project, the Battered Women’s Coalition, Cornerstone, Sojourner Project, Alexandra House, The National Domestic Violence Hotline, or do you own search to find an organization near you.  They will help you.

My second caution is to know that the above listed organizations will help you and encourage you to tell your abuse story to court authorities.  That is important.  I just caution you to know when it will help you and when it will hurt you so that you who should hear it and how to tell it in a way that really will help you.  Knowledge is power.  Domestic Violence groups want to help you, but they may not always know how best to apply it in the Family Court situation.

My third caution is that if you are going through a divorce from an abuser, tell your attorney as early in the process as possible.  I know it is hard to do because of the shame involved, but this is important for your children’s sake.  You have put your children first all these years so you need to be brave just a little longer and put it all out there.  Ask for help from an advocate so that you can be your bravest now.  It is very important.

My fourth caution is to make sure your attorney understands abuse and when to apply it to your case.  Not all of them do.  They have to use it for maximum effect.  If they don’t, they are going to talk you into making some really bad choices, and sign on for things that are not in your best interests, for example, a Parenting Consultant or Coordinator.  If your attorney is not presenting your case correctly, find one who will.  The Domestic Violence groups should know attorneys who get it.  I also review pleadings to see if an attorney is presenting that aspect of your case for your best interests.  If your attorney would consult with me on domestic violence, I’d be happy to help with strategy, too.  While I am not an attorney, I know when and where they can best use this piece of your divorce story, and protect you from getting stuck in a big mess.

When you have a history of domestic violence, you have spent all of your time living under a cloud of worrying about what the abuser wants.  You have lived your life trying not to make him or her mad.  You know the hell it brings when you make them mad.  You are now conditioned to be hypervigilant, always reading the behavior of others in an effort to protect yourself.  In Family Court, this hyper-vigilance can be misconstrued as mental illness on your part.  For this reason, you need to do Family Court divorce and then be done with it.  Get your judgement and decree, and then get out.  Do not sign up for any court authority to manage your case.  While you may think you need a professional to make decisions because you and your ex will never agree on matters related to the children, you are better off going with professionals who cannot coerce you into situations that will make you relive the abuse daily.  Stay away from any professionals who can court order you to do things that will interfere with your parenting, and your healing process, and who may completely misread your actions.  Any on-going Family Court actions put you at further risk of abuse, and will not benefit your children.  Your best hope for healing and raising healthy children is to seek help from a therapist and/or domestic violence groups.  You can move beyond domestic violence in your life, but you will not move past it in the horrific world of Family Court.

The most beneficial times to get your story across in Family Court:

With your attorney, from day one

Domestic Violence is a reason why your attorney should look out for you when trying to settle financial and property matters to ensure that you are not intimidated into giving away too much of what you are entitled to.

Also, many states have custody and parenting time laws in regards to proven domestic violence.  While it is an uphill battle to get sole custody in the “group think” of family court, a world where everyone is equal and parents should share custody 50-50, there will never be a better time to go for sole custody and keep your family out of the court clutches than in your original divorce proceedings.  Post decree it is nearly impossible to make any changes if you have not made the initial plea.  Abusers do not think of their children’s best interest and so it is my opinion that you should not have joint custody with an abuser.  That is the reason why many states have laws about this in the first place.  However, if you find your lawyer is too wimpy about this issue, and many are, be careful with this.  Many people are afraid to use the court as it is intended.  This includes lawyers.  If in doubt, get a second opinion.  We do it with medical care and we should do it with lawyers, too, when it seems that they are not being an advocate for us.  Tread carefully, but confidently, when you can prove your claims.

Also make sure to follow your gut instincts.  Most domestic abuse victims know that they will never get their ex to work with them on important decisions regarding the children, but legal professionals give you false hope that your ex will change.  Haven’t you hoped for this for years?  You couldn’t make it happen and neither will they.  Trust your gut.

With court professionals, post decree.

This part is tricky business.  First off, in my opinion, you should avoid getting a “case manager” type of court professional assigned to your case.  These would be Parenting Consultants and Coordinators, but may also be a Guardian ad Litem or something else.  These roles are not helpful for Domestic Violence and often increase the hostility and interactions between you and the abuser, turning your life and your children’s lives into a nightmare.

I have seen many parents push the abuse claims, when they cannot prove it after the fact.  As I said, the best time to prove it and use it is during the initial divorce proceeding.  Post decree, there is little that can be done about it, especially by the court professional.  I have sat in many trainings with professionals who say, “we don’t care about domestic violence”.  Personally, they will tell you that they do care and wish there was no such thing, but professionally, there is nothing they can do about it.  Nothing.  There is no place to report domestic violence of an adult and no one who could do anything about it if there was.  What would you expect them to do?  You would think that they could, at the very least, keep the abuser away from you, but instead, the frequently force you to come together “for the children”.  This shows just how little they care about domestic violence.

Police can act on domestic violence.  The problem for you is that they are part of the criminal court system.  Criminal courts will address it and can go so far as to put an abuser in jail.  Family court has very little in the way of remedies for domestic violence of an adult.  Keep that in mind.  Not all court systems are the same.  Family Court deals with custody, parenting time, and division of property.  They do not deal with crime.  Something else you need to know is that criminal courts will rarely deal with an issue when you are actively involved with Family Court for that issue.  That is a big problem.  Family Court sucks all issues into it over other courts.  If a crime is committed related to domestic violence, it must be very blatant and beyond a reasonable doubt, to be prosecuted in criminal court.  The emotional abuse and harassment of parenting time and legal custody matters typically falls to the Family Court to deal with.  In their eyes, with joint custody, the parents have equal rights to the children and as such, are expected to “co-parent”.  Rather than protect you from an abuser, the Family Court often brings you more interaction with the abuser because they have an expectation that you and the other parent will work together to raise your children.

What you can hope to achieve in Family Court in regards to domestic violence is direction on how to communicate and facilitate co-parenting.  By telling your story, you can hope that a court authority will understand why you want little to do with the abuser, or why you are always worried about things that might happen because you have had to be hyper-vigilant for so many years, but there will not be much else that they can do for you.  Many of them will ignore your claims entirely because the violence history is not relative to the role that they are fulfilling to bring about co-parenting.  Even when a professional does believe you, you have to take action about it.  Nothing comes on its own.  You have to be the advocate for your healing and for the well being of your children.  Here’s why it is your battle to fight, for example:

Parenting Consultants/Coordinators are like a mini court.  You agree to use them to settle parenting disputes instead of going to the court.  The Parenting Consultant/Coordinator is now basically the judge of your family to settle disputes about the children.  In court, you must file a motion in order for a judge to make a decision.  That is how it works.  Courts are not just sitting around watching people and waiting for something to happen so they can jump in uninvited and decide an issue.  In the Parenting Consultant process, you must ask the PC to make a decision and you should also give them an idea of how you want the matter resolved.  This is similar to how you ask a court to decide an issue for you.  You lay out the area of disagreement, tell the court how you want to see it decided, and ask the court to decide it.  Since a Parenting Consultant is a mini court on their own, you want to approach issues the same way.  The difference is that Parenting Consultants don’t have to know or understand the law.  They are deciding the law of your family as is spelled out in your court orders, or agreements that the two parents have created over the years.  In their role they are also supposed to “assist” the parents in co-parenting.

When you tell a parenting consultant about a history of abuse, you need to take it further than just telling your story.  When you tell a court authority a story, they can really just determine if they believe it or not.  They could also, I suppose, try to make the abuse stop, but when you tell your PAST story, to them, it has already stopped.  Again, there is nothing they can do about something that happened in the past.

I see victims who have learned that domestic violence has an impact on custody and so they continue to tell their story repeatedly, hoping to get some kind of action out of the court authority, whether it is a PC or a judge, but you need to know:

  • the difference between criminal court vs family court
  • the role of the court professional on your case
  • what are the expectations of co-parenting in joint custody
  • the differences between sole and joint custody
  • the differences between physical custody and legal custody
  • how you have to take action for yourself and your children
  • what is parenting time vs custody
  • constant court interactions interfere with your healing process and that is not in the best interests of your child

In Family Court, the main reason that courts stay involved with a family is out of concern for the children.  They care about the conflict because of the effect it has on the children.  They don’t necessarily care about you.  When a childless couple divorces, there is no continuing involvement from the court.  If you are a victim of domestic violence, you need to look out for yourself.  You can do this with the help of therapists and advocates who understand what you are going through and what you have been through.  If you are going to tell your story in Family Court, it needs to be done strategically.  You have to learn to tell your story in terms of making a request for a remedy, but also to balance if that remedy is doable under the parameters of the court orders in your case.  I wish I could say with any confidence that you someone you can turn to for help in Family Court, but I can’t.  Even when the court authority understands domestic violence, the professional’s role, and the court orders, dictate how they make decisions.  It is going to be up to you to explain what it is you are asking for and why.  Your history of abuse may come into play if you want separate meetings from the other parent, or if you want to put limits on communication between you and the other parent.  It definitely comes into effect if you plan to file for sole custody, however, a Parenting Consultant cannot change custody so you don’t need to try and hammer that home to the PC.  You will also need to understand how professionals must try to balance your needs as a victim with joint custody and co-parenting.  It is my opinion that you will do better outside of the Family Court system, but when you have to use the system, do so strategically.

Enough With Demonizing Parents!

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This nonsense of the legal community demonizing parents who want a chance to have their day in court, has got to stop.  There has been enough of this nonsense in recent years.

Any time a parent has legitimate concerns about the welfare of their children in a shared parenting situation, that parent is demonized, and their life and the lives of the children are put through hell for daring to question the legal community and their effort to bring  joint custody everywhere.

In the past, custody determinations were based on what was best for the children.  Even though we have family court laws that are based on the “Best Interest of the Child” standard,  the courts frequently push the parents to share custody because the legal community has determined that is what is right for parents.  It is all based on a gender equality agenda, and there is no consideration really given to the child, when that consideration would throw a monkey wrench in the agenda.

The reason I bring this up is because my youngest son recently moved out, which has given me the custody of my basement back!  I am going through the junk that has been acquired over the years and going to do a cosmetic makeover of my entire basement.

The other day, while cleaning, I came across the nonsense bullshit that I had to deal with when I separated from my Mixed Personality Disordered (proven in a psych eval) spouse.  I don’t bring this up very often because I no longer allow his mental strangeness to infect my life, and my children have learned exactly who their dad is and what he is all about.  It doesn’t mean that they don’t spend time with the man, and it doesn’t mean they don’t love the man, it only means that I do not.  There is no reason for me to have anything to do with him.  When it comes to him and I, the relationship is toxic to both of us, and I will not engage in the toxicity.  I did not want to engage in it back then either, but the court coerced and threatened me when I tried to disengage.

So back to the bullshit I found in my basement.  When my husband and I separated, the man did some really freakish things.  I knew he was an alcoholic.  I knew that he was abusive to me, and the children, for that matter, but I became very concerned when the threatening phone calls came at all hours of the day and night from pay phones near where he lived, and the mysterious letters, and a package that I received in the mail started coming.  The man actually stalked me for a summer.  It was all very frightening.

He lived an hour away from me, yet, he would show up near my home, in places that did not make sense for him to have driven an hour to, and to be “coincidentally” there at the same time I was.

I received letters implying that I was a lesbian, with flyers from lesbian groups.  I one time received a metabolife brochure, after my ex’s girlfriend had told me how fat I was (I weighed 135 at the time).  I also received an odd joke printed out, something about a person who is lazy and can’t stand on their own two feet.  The package though, that was the kicker.  The package had deodorant, mouthwash, tampons, soap, etc., and it contained a note about what a filthy, smelly person I was and included a comment about me at “that time of the month”.  I was very frightened to open that package.  I seriously thought it might have a bomb in it.

There is much more to this story, and much I can tell you about why there is no doubt in my mind that my ex was behind all of this, but it would take a very long time to tell the story in full.  One day I plan to tell this at a training event, but what you need to know now is that I did involve the police.  The police did very little.  They really did not care about it, or the fact that I was scared, or the fact that I was stalked by my ex husband.  They told me flat-out that they could not really do much unless he injured or killed me.  Isn’t that comforting?  This is what Domestic Violence victims live with all the time, especially if they have children, and are going through family court.

Anyway, in the end, I could not prove that it was him.  It might have been his girlfriend, I was told.  True, but again, all of this gave me reason to be concerned about my children spending time alone with their dad and/or his girlfriend, but to bring that up in court, no one wanted to allow it, not even my own attorney, who I paid a sizable retainer to be an advocate for my children and I.  As a matter of fact, this attorney told me not to include any of this in my affidavit because it would make me look stupid for having chosen such a man to marry.

The problem with not being able to have my day in court on the matter is that my ex’s bad behavior continued, and even got much more disturbing, as time went by.  After hundreds of thousands of dollars, and eight years, I finally had to have my day in court anyway.  Once I was able to prove my case, I won sole custody, which I should have had all along!

I find it deeply disturbing that family court and the legal community do everything in their power to keep parents from having their day in court and to explain why they should be an exception to the joint custody rule.  It creates a hellish childhood for the children in these families, and it prevents the entire family from moving on with their lives and accomplishing their dreams.

We demonize any parent who doesn’t readily embrace joint custody.  Why the need for such demonization?  We don’t demonize mass murderers, but we will demonize a parent who just wants their children to be safe???

Back in 1993, a man opened fire on the Long Island Rail Road.  There were dozens of witnesses.  Passengers held him down until police arrived and handcuffed him.  There was no question that he did it.  Still, he was entitled to his day in court.  No one was demonizing him for pleading not guilty and wanting his day in court.  No one.  He had his trial, represented himself and was found guilty.  Justice worked, as it should have.

Why then, do family courts try to deny parents their day in court and to raise questions important to their child’s future?  Why does the legal community treat a mass murderer with more respect than they do a parent in family court?  It doesn’t make sense and it needs to stop.

And by the way, this is not only happening to parents who experience domestic violence.  There are many parents who know that their children will not be taken care of by the other parent for numerous reasons, not only suspect, but know it.  They should have a chance to be heard and a chance to present evidence to back up their claims.  That is our right here in America.  We need to fight for it.

Let’s take the Family Courts back to the rule of law and the role they are really supposed to play, and kick them to the curb on pushing their activist agendas on our lives.

 

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

Embattled Parents Wanted

Image courtesy of sakhorn38 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sakhorn38 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you had your fill of Family Court?  Are you tired of the battle, and think or hope that your ex is sick of it, too?

 

Life’s Doors Mediation is looking for parents who have been at war for too long and want to find a new way to parent, whether that means co-parenting, parallel parenting, or something else that we come up with.  I have been quite successful in changing the direction of parents who are looking to the family court for answers.  I’d like to help you.

If you live in Minnesota, please give me a call.  The first 2 parents who call me will get a free assessment to see if we can make a positive change to your situation.  I will even contact your ex to see if they would be willing to call a truce.  After that, I will work with you separately or together, as needed without charge. You have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.  Your children have a lot to gain also.

Can you be a little vulnerable and let go of the family court crutch?  Find out today, 763-566-2282.  You can also email me at susan@lifesdoorsmediation.com.

 

What is Your End Game?

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great PAS Debate

Image courtesy of / jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of / jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recently, a parent that I know, but have never worked with professionally, sent me a rant about how PAS is very real.  She knows that my position is that it is not real, except in  VERY extreme circumstances.  The only time I will agree that PAS has been used against a parent is when they are not allowed to see their children at all, and the other parent tells the children that their mom/dad can see them anytime they want to, but choose not to.  The other parent will often tell the children it is  because mom/dad doesn’t love them.  In that kind of case, the parent has zero time with the children to demonstrate that what the custodial parent says is not true.  In a case like that, I do think alienation occurs.  Otherwise, it is used as a court strategy to punish an ex.

Now one might wonder how does a parent have ZERO time with their children?  Sadly, it does happen.  A Family Court judge can find a parent is “endangering” the children and take away all parenting time.  I, personally think that this violates the law.  Judges have the option to grant supervised visitation, but sometimes, all parenting time is taken away.  Sometimes, a judge will take it away without giving any conditions through which, the parent can get their time restored.

It can also happen when a parent is allowed parenting time per a court order, and the other parent just withholds the children.  One might also think, how can that happen?  Can’t they just go to court?  Well, sometimes court helps, but sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes, a case has been so badly managed from a legal standpoint, whether it be acting pro se  (representing yourself), or due to a really lazy or misguided attorney, that the judge has told you both to stay out of their court room.

Anyway, back on topic.

I have known parents with minimal parenting time who experience the horror of having an ex that tells lies about them or badmouth them in front of the children.  They are not alienated from their children, no matter how hard the other parent tries to make it happen.

I also know parents who have 50-50 parenting time with their children, and scream alienation when their children start to express any desire to not spend time at their home.

What is the difference?  How can one parent, with minimal time not be alienated, while the other parent claims to be alienated?  The difference is that the one parent focuses on their children when the children are in their care, and the other parent chooses to focus on the battle during their parent time.  The parents I have known, who claim parental alienation, cannot accept responsibility for their situations.  They have latched onto blaming the other parent for every single parent-child clash they experience.  It wears on the children after a while.

I have worked with many parents over the years, even before I ever thought of doing it professionally.  Once my ordeal started in 1998, I reached out to other parents and they also somehow found me., and  we would share our experiences of the evils of  doing battle in the court setting.  I can tell you that no matter how minimal the parenting time allowed to a parent,  if they show the children love and a commitment to solid parenting when the children are in their presence, they do not lose their children’s affection.  No matter what.  Words can never beat deeds.  Period.  The other parent can bad mouth you until the cows come home.  As long as you prove your love with actions, your children will see the truth.  The children may be confused as to why their other parent says such crazy things about you, but they will eventually figure it out.

What I have seen across the board from parents who feel “alienated” is that they:

1. Have a drug or alcohol addiction that interferes with their ability to be fully present during parenting time, and they are very disengaged from their children.

2. They discount their children’s feelings about life events.  for example, when it comes to a new significant other, they will just spring that relationship on the children, without having any discussion or without preparing the children for this change.  I have seen parents move their new boyfriend or girlfriend in and be shocked when their kids come for parenting time and are upset to learn that mom/dad has a stranger living there.

3. They continue to engage in unhealthy relationships in their life and not protect the children from those unhealthy relationships.  Some parents are so lonely, with such low self esteem, that they will become involved with the first member of the opposite sex who gives them any attention whatsoever.  Many of these partners who are willing to jump into a relationship with someone they barely know have low self esteem, too.  They are abusive, often chemically dependent, and will not take long to demonstrate how abusive they are to you, and to your children.  Exposing children to that is cruel and will interfere with how your children regard you, ad how willing they will be to spend time at your home.

4. Rather than spend time on new traditions and making their house a home, they spend all of their parenting time complaining or bad mouthing their ex,and the children feel ignored and hurt.

So my point is that the parents who are “alienated” have often done it to themselves.

I know that many people will strongly disagree with my opinion, but it is my opinion.  With almost 20 years of seeing these patterns, I have more evidence than there is evidence that there is such a thing as PAS.

As always, I will add the American Psychological Associations stance on PAS.  Read about that here.

Do You Recommend Your Parenting Consultant or PTE?


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I created my first website, I had a page called, “Rate Your PC”.  My plan was to collect information on all Parenting Consultants in Minnesota so we could find out if there were any good ones, and keep the good ones in business while weeding out the bad ones.  At the time, my attitude about being a PC was, “Hell NO!”  I NEVER wanted to inflict that kind of damage on a family.  Period.

After working as a coach, it turned out that most of my clients came to me for help dealing with their parenting consultant and hostile co-parent.  I blogged about PCs and people would find me because of that.  After a while, I decided that I really needed to write a book because all of the questions were the same: “How do you get rid of a parenting consultant (coordinator)?” “Why won’t they do something about my ex?”  “How did I become the bad guy in all of this?”  “Can you file a complaint against a PC?”  All of these questions and more are covered in my book, “The Parenting Consultant Nightmare”

As part of my research for the book, I attending the training to be a Parenting Consultant.  Don’t think for a moment that my stomach wasn’t queasy.  It was.  I attended the Parenting Time expediter training as well, even though it was facilitated by my former PTE and PC.  I think she was much more intimidated than I was.  Because the training was pretty good, I did decide to offer these services.  It’s something I struggle with all the time.  Is it the right thing to do?  If you have any feedback on the question, I hope you’ll either comment after the post, or send in a contact form through the website.  Many clients tell me they want me to offer those services because I “get it”.  Still, if I am their coach, I cannot be their PC.  Anyway, having attended the training, and offering PC services, made me rethink that “Rate your PC” page.  Not because I felt hypocritical in collecting the data, and not because I have become “one of them”, but because I realized it was not giving me what I was looking for.

Being a friend to parents who deal with  high conflict co-parenting situations is not easy.  I can help you with many things, and I have succeeded in empowering people into making the system work better for them, but I cannot make the situation go away completely. If you have a co-parent who is always on the attack, they are going to stay on the attack, however, if you are empowered, their interest in you tends to decrease significantly.  The less reactive you are, the less they continue to try.  So I have had to rethink and shift gears as I learn more about the issue from the viewpoint of the parenting consultants or parenting coordinators, and what works for you and what doesn’t and have changed my approach somewhat.  I decided to stop collecting that data and had good reasons to stop collecting it.

One reason was that I did not get any good reviews.  If anyone has had a parenting consultant or parent coordinator on your case, that makes sense.  You would not expect to find anyone who knows how to manage these high conflict cases.  But are there really no good ones?  Typically, people are willing to take time reporting a negative, but rarely will report a positive.  I’d like to find out there are some good ones available, but it did not look like anyone would let me know that aspect.

Another reason  I quit collecting data is because people are afraid.  They are not going to turn in that information unless they know me and trust me.  Let’s face it, those of you in high conflict cases involving a PC just do not trust anyone.  You end up wondering where the information goes and who does it go to and worry that you may not stay anonymous?  My clients do learn they can trust me, and that I am not “one of them (PCs)” so through my daily work I can learn who the good and bad PCs are.  Again, no good PCs to report, but if you had someone who actually decreased the conflict, why would you be looking for a website, blog or coach to tell that story to?  Most likely, you would just go about living life, quite happily, I might add.  I still like to hold out hope that there are some out there.

Since I no longer collect information about PCs,  I want to share with you a website where you can write a review of your parenting consultant, parenting coordinator or parenting time expediter.  It has been around for a while, but the owner of the site  is not really going through those court issues anymore, from what I understand, and so I don’t think the owner does much with the site anymore.  That makes it harder to find when searching on the internet.  You can help move it up in the searches by adding reviews. The reviews are listed as a Parenting Time Expediter directory, but most PTEs also work as PCs.

For anyone who wants to write a review of their court professional, please do so on that directory site.  I think it would be an excellent resource for parents who need to choose a PC or PTE, whether the first time appointing one, or if the old one has left the case and they need to appoint someone new.  If you have anyone to report on, please do it at:

www.mnparent.org

I hope that we can raise awareness about that site so that people can come away with options for who to appoint and not to appoint.  Remember, it is important to share who the good guys are.  It’s not just about the bad guys!

You Cannot Know What You Cannot Know


Image courtesy of pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As someone who experienced the harsh world that is High Conflict Divorce, first hand, I have been helping others navigate the process for as far back as 2000.  I was never prepared for the sheer lunacy of the family court system and, like most, was waist deep in it before I got a clue as to how unhelpful it was.  I often had no recourse and even if there was some action that could be taken, I often did not have enough money to pay for an attorney, at the exact time I needed an attorney.

I have seen the shock on faces of those who have not experienced the system.  When you tell your story to the lay person, they often stare in disbelief.  They cannot fathom that your children are being treated the way they are and no one will step in to protect them.

I am in an interesting position because I have some connections in the legal field.  Plus, I work with high conflict parents.  The stories are similar, and I know that these parents tell the truth.  Truth is a matter of perception and it can be misinterpreted or exaggerated, but the pain that high conflict parents experience is real.  My belief is that if we can support those parents, no matter what anyone in the system perceives truth to be, we would then be able to help these families, but the problem is that very few in the system actually understand it.

I have had to work very hard to share what I see and what I believe.  I work very hard because I am not an attorney, and I am not a licensed psychologist.  I do not have the credentials to make those in authority listen to me, except for a rare few.  The thing I have is personal experience, and a way of explaining things so that people can understand.  They may never be able to understand completely, but they can get some of it, and that is what is important.  Every little bit helps.

The most important thing though, is to help you get deeper into you, who you are, and why you have found yourself in this hellish place of the family court nightmare.  So I want to share with you a commonality that High Conflict Parents have.  This has been a common theme with almost every parent I have worked with.  You have all had to live through having a parent who was an alcoholic, or a parent who was abusive, and there are some other common threads out there, but for the most part, you are an Adult Child of Dysfunction.  You grew up in that relationship and when you grew up that is the relationship you knew.  That is what seemed familiar to you, and the result was that you picked a mate who would repeat for you the relationship you had with one, or both of your parents.

When I learned this about myself, it was life altering.  Wow!  I was excited!  You mean, I don’t have to be this way?  I don’t have to feel lousy all the time because of people who suck the life out of me and give me nothing, but pain in return?  I did not give into this very easily until the light bulb went off in my head and I was ready to look within.

A couple of years before my light bulb moment, a therapist had told me that people choose a relationship just like their parents had.  I was perplexed and confused by what she said.  My husband was an alcoholic, but my father was not.  In my mind, I equated the similarity in my husband and my relationship with that of my parents’ relationship, but was not seeing the role reversal.  It played out in my head numerous times.  I did not choose the same because my dad is not an alcoholic, I told myself.  The more I thought about it, the more I thought that therapist must have been crazy to suggest such a thing because my dad rarely touched a drop of liquor.  But, finally, one day, it hit me!  OMG, I did choose the same relationship, only I was my dad, my ex was my mom.  That is when the healing began.

I don’t want to go into a long drawn out story about my mother’s drinking, and the affect it had on me, but I will tell you that I had no clue about what was not normal in a family who keeps secrets, speaks to each other through filters, or manipulates people into doing things for them or against another family member.  I was surrounded by people like these.  It was in my family.  It was the same with friends.  It was a learned behavior, a behavior learned from birth, no less.  Birth!  If this is what I was surrounded with, and what I learned by example, and I never got to experience a healthy relationship, then how could I know any different?  How could I not have that experience repeat itself, especially in a system that is ripe for a higher level of that secrecy, lying and manipulation?    This system wants to give you a court order saying that you will co-parent, but they give you no direction on what exactly that means.  Court authorities lay this in your lap and basically say, “Now go co-parent for the good of your children”.  Then, when you cannot accomplish this feat, the torture begins.  You can never win at this game because they are asking you to do something you have never done, seen, or heard of in your life and you simply don’t know how to do it. 

You try as hard as you can to do as they say and then get criticized.  You are not even sure why, most of the time.  You just know this is how it has always been.  One person tries to hurt the other, the other person walks on eggshells trying not to “make them mad” and you still end up having everyone angry at you anyway.  So how do we rectify this situation?  I suspect that we cannot rectify it in the court setting because they will never be able to walk in your shoes and you will never be able to walk in their shoes.  You cannot know what you cannot know!  What is worse, we have no idea if the professionals on the case have their own Adult Children of Dysfunction issues or not.  If they do, they will probably never go after the bully because they, too, learned to walk on eggshells and not make waves.  You cannot know what you cannot know.

If no one ever teaches you what a healthy relationship is, you will never find one.  As soon as you try, it would feel as foreign to you as if you were in a foreign land without a translator.  You may find a table full of wonderfully kind people and sit down with them, hoping to fit in, but feel lost.  And if you saw a table of people who speak your language, even if they were very mean and uncaring people, you would feel more at ease with them.  At least in that instance, you understand them, and it is comfortable to you.  You don’t have to try hard to fit in because you have always been surrounded by those types of people.

Undoing this damage from the dysfunctional environment you grew up in is not easy.  First, you have to be made aware of how unhealthy the people around you are.  You have to let that sink in and realize it is true.  You have to learn this new way of doing things and then you have to practice at it.  It will not happen overnight.  It takes a lot of practice to break free and you also have to step over the fear of the unknown because again, you cannot know, what you cannot know.

If you are involved in a high conflict divorce, and just cannot understand why you cannot get out of it, I’d like you to consider the possibility that you are an Adult Child of an Alcoholic/Dysfunction.  It may not apply to you, but it may lead you to other areas of understanding.  Check out these resources:

http://www.drjan.com/

http://acainnerpeace.ncf.ca/charac.htm

http://www.houstonadultchildren.com/

http://psychcentral.com/lib/tips-on-setting-boundaries-in-enmeshed-relationships/00017840

There are many more.  Do your own research. 

Here are a few boo
ks that I highly recommend:

http://www.amazon.com/Intimacy-Struggle-Revised-Expanded-Adults/dp/1558742778/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392424912&sr=1-2&keywords=the+struggle+for+intimacy

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-ACOA-Sourcebook-Children-Alcoholics/dp/1558749608/ref=la_B000APW2GK_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392424937&sr=1-3

http://www.amazon.com/Adult-Childs-Guide-Whats-Normal/dp/1558740902
/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392424276&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Adult-Children-Secrets-Dysfunctional-Families/dp/0932194532/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392424988&sr=1-1&keywords=adult+children+the+secrets+of+dysfunctional+families

http://www.amazon.com/Boundaries-Where-You-End-Begin/dp/1568380305/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392425197&sr=1-9&keywords=boundaries

http://www.amazon.com/When-Past-Present-Emotional-Relationships/dp/159030571X/ref=sr_1_35?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392425469&sr=1-35&keywords=healthy+boundaries+in+relationships

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