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





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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!

Susan




Are Women Losing Custody Because They’re Too Nice?




I have worked with numerous women since I went through my custody trial, many of them as human being to human being.  I have helped people long before I started making it into a business.  A pattern I see in women is that they don’t feel they should go for full custody, not because they don’t deserve it, but because they want to be fair.  I have heard these exact words repeatedly, “I’m not trying to take him/her away from his/her father.”

I have seen the sole custody vs. joint custody battles play out.  In every case, it was involving the father, who didn’t like something the mother was doing or had done, filing for sole custody.  Listen, ladies, when he does this, he is not trying to be nice.  He doesn’t have a problem if he “takes the child away from the mother.”

Family court is not the place to be fair.  It is the judge’s job to be fair.  Family court is the place to state what you want the outcome to be for you and your child(ren).  It isn’t up to you to tell the judge what your ex should have, either.  That is your ex’s job.  If he cannot express what he wants, that is really not your problem.  He should have an attorney to help him with that.  Think about it, he isn’t trying to be fair to you if he has filed for sole custody.

I wrote a post about asking for what you want and the problem with joint vs. sole custody.  You can read about that here.

I am not an attorney and these are my opinions based on my experience.  You should always check with your attorney and not take as gospel something you read on the internet, but I will tell you that in every case I have seen where one party asks for sole custody and the other party asks for joint custody, the person asking for joint custody loses.  In every case, and there have only been three, where both parties asked for sole custody, the moms were able to prove that they were the one more involved with the child’s upbringing, and they all three won sole custody.  It makes sense if you think about it.  People who can cooperate and coparent enough to agree to do it do not end up in court.  People who cannot resolve their own conflicts are the ones who end up in court.  If you are proving that you cannot resolve your own issues cooperatively, then it is a tough sell to say that you can manage joint custody under the Minnesota Statutes.

Remember that sole custody has nothing to do with parenting time.  Just because a parent has sole custody, it does not mean that the other parent doesn’t get to see the child anymore or be involved with the child.  It does mean that the losing parent has no say in decisions about the child.  If you do go to court asking for sole custody, and the court rules in favor of you having sole custody, you have a responsibility not to shut the other parent out of the child’s life.  You can still involve them in decisions if you want, but when you don’t agree, the decision is yours to make.

Stop the battle by being responsible.  Ask yourself if you and the other parent can work together to do what is best for the child.  If the answer is no, how would joint custody work?


Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net





When the Stay at Home Mom Has to go to Work


   

There is no greater betrayal than the one that occurs when a stay at home mom must go to work because of divorce.  The court order rarely tells a mom that she will have to go to work, but realistically there is no way to take care of children and pay for two households on one income.  Even if the woman is the one who initiated the divorce, the anger will run deep because for whatever reason the divorce had to happen, in her mind, it had something to do with the man.  If the man had an affair which precipitated divorce, he should not expect any forgiveness anytime soon.  This is a double betrayal of destroying the family and taking away the mom’s role of being the care giver for the children.

Mom is going to feel many losses and very overwhelmed.  I think this gets lost when courts or parenting consultants try to make “fair” decisions.  While it may sound fair to make parents split transportation of the children, that split is often only applied to parenting time transportation.  Often left out of consideration is how much one parent runs the children around to activities, sports, preschool or friends’ houses.  It is a lot of work being a stay at home mom.  Stay at home Dads, I am not discounting you.  If you have been a stay at home dad, you’ll feel just as betrayed.  I am using stay at home moms in this post because there is a greater number of them.

If your ex is enraged at the sight of you and she was a stay at home mom prior to the divorce, you can do some things that will help heal the wounds.  First, try to offer to assist more with running the kids around.  The stay at home mom did more heavy lifting than you can imagine while you were at work with grown ups.  Too many dads think that their parenting time should only be free time to play.  That is not being a parent.  Parenting takes some heavy lifting by both parents.  If you are not willing to help out then do not be a hindrance to her ability to do it.

Consider how much it weighs on her mind that someone else is taking care of the children so that she can earn a living.  If the two of you made the decision that she would stay home and take care of the kids, no matter how you want to look at it, to her you screwed that up and reneged on that agreement.  Try to help make it easier for her to go to work.

Some ways that you could help would be to help her work part time, or to ease into full time slowly.  This can be accomplished by offering to pay as much as you can towards the children’s activities and school expenses.  In the early years of divorce, if at all possible, spousal support would be helpful.  Even $100-200 per month can help.  The more that Mom gets to stay home with the children, the less you’ll pay in daycare anyway.  If at all possible, try to schedule your parenting time when she doesn’t work.  If work schedules can compliment each other maybe there will be no need for daycare.

I am not saying that the parent who has always been the main breadwinner is not suffering some losses.  I know that you will be hurting, too.  The main priority should be the children and trying to keep some kind of normalcy for them.  If they are used to mommy being home with them, this is going to be an adjustment.  You don’t have to think of it as helping your ex as much as you should think of it as helping your children and not disrupting their lives any more than necessary.

To the stay at home mom who feels deeply upset that you can no longer be at home with your children full time, there are some bright sides to all of it.  You are setting an example for your children.  They will learn how to manage life from seeing how you go about it.  If you have a good attitude, they will adjust.  You will get to have a sense of independence and the freedom to provide your children and yourself the life you want.  

If this is an area you are struggling with, consider divorce coaching.  I have been through things like this and can help you figure out how to simplify your life and how to get to where you want to be.  The Coparent Coach can help with many issues, even finding the right career.  Give me a call if you’d like to know how.            



Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net





The Case Against a Presumption of Joint Custody in Minnesota


The following is a document with written objections to the idea of having the state of Minnesota go to the presumption of joint custody as the standard.  Even though most legal authorities will tell you that there is no presumption of custody in the state, if Minnesota does not have the joint custody presumption, one would think that means the presumption is sole custody.



I recently sat in a room with legal professionals and listened to them have a lengthy discussion about how they hoped we would never have a joint custody presumption and how they wished that we would “do away with” the custody labels all together because parents get “so stuck on those labels”.  They prefer that everyone talk about parenting time in percentages and keep it as close to what it was during the marriage.  That sounds noble and all, but I can assure you and bring forth several people who were never given the option to continue the same percentage of parenting time as they had during the marriage.  I reminded the group that maybe in their legal world (that is completely out of touch with the reality of the real world) it may be fine to do away with the labels, you know, in a way that won’t make anyone feel bad (sarcasm intended), parents get “stuck on” the labels because in the real world those labels ARE important.  For a parent who doesn’t have custody, schools and medical professionals don’t seem to understand that the parent who does not have custody can still have information about their child.  Being a non custodial parent is not the same as being a parent whose parental rights have been terminated.




Thank goodness so far Minnesota has not accepted a presumption of joint custody as standard.  On Friday, the Minnesota legislature passed a bill that changes the minimum percentage of parenting time allotted each parent to 35% up from what it was formerly, 25%.  The governor may veto the bill. I will let you know what happens as I find out.  For now, <a href="/files/5/1/5/2/0/309915-302515/Written_Submission_Against_Joint_Physical_Custody.doc”>The Case Against Joint Custody.  I agree wholeheartedly that it would be a horrible idea and that parenting fights are typically over the legal custody and not the physical custody.



 




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Web Coaching



Have you wanted to try coaching, but don’t want to spend an hour on the phone?  It is hard to imagine driving a long distance to meet with a coach?  Are you located in a different state or even a different country from Minnesota?  You still can try coaching at Life’s Doors Mediation.

If you have a webcam, you can do online coaching.  You can still see your coach and your coach can see you, and the two of you can have that interpersonal conversation that is so important to the coaching process.

Not all of my coaching clients are from Minnesota.  Many, in fact, have been from other states and I have had clients from Canada, as well. 

While I do stress coaching people involved in high conflict divorce and long term family court battles, I coach people on dating, career, confidence building, communication, parenting and couples coaching and much more.  No matter where you are in the world, we can connect for a coaching session. 

If you have any questions about how coaching can work for you, please give me a call at 763-566-2282 or 1-800-516-2446.