As someone who has been working for almost 20 years to help parents navigate the very choppy waters of family court, I get a fair amount of calls and emails from parents who feel overwhelmed with how off track their case has become. High conflict cases snowball into unimagineable craziness and parents desperately want […]
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 email@example.com.
This post is more on my theme for this week, “The greatest of these is love”. Love is the answer. It is the one thing that is missing from the Family Court System. How can a system that works with families be devoid of love?
How do I treat parents who struggle for years without end in on-going court battles? Why do I connect with these parents, while the court authorities label these families , placing judgment, such as high conflict, or label the parents and children with some mental behavior disorder? While court authorities may be correct in recognizing some disorders that are present in these lives, they may instead be seeing a situational manifestation of the underlying stress, emotions, extreme fear, and lack of understanding the system that keeps these people living back brained, every day of their lives.
These parents wake up in the morning wondering why. Why did this happen to me? They go to bed at night asking, why. Why can’t this stop? Why can’t I have my life back? Why? I never did anything to deserve this! No one ever called me a bad parent before. They cannot understand for the life of them how the things they have always done without being vilified for, and were instead, often praised for, are now treated like a crime. Treated as a crime that is not on the books, not listed in the world in general, as criminal behavior, but in this new setting of darkness, it is a crime and punishable.
I’d like to see the system change. The system can work where it needs to, but it takes so long, and it is not really doing any justice. It was put in place to help people terminate a marriage, and to establish a place in their child’s life after that marriage has ended. It was not put in place to follow families for years, and to pick at every little parenting decision that they make. Those of us who are parents understand that we don’t always do the right thing. Sometimes we don’t know what to do, and that is made worse by not having the freedom to figure it out through trial and error. We do our best much of the time. There are certain triggers for parents, or anyone for that matter, who is struggling. When you are hungry, lonely, tired, angry or afraid, you don’t always do the right thing, have the right reaction, or choose the right path.
All people have these feelings from me to time in their life, but the families who are frequent fliers in court experience trauma all the time. They go through life thinking that they are done with this system, and wake up one day and there it is again. Rearing its ugly head. It is maddening to try to become free, and find out you are not. In their face is another battle, and another request for thousands of dollars to pay an attorney, thousands of dollars that this parent would rather spend on their family. Thousands of dollars they would rather spend on their family, on their children, and on more positive things in life.
You can’t disengage from the Family Court because if you don’t respond, if you don’t show up, the consequences are severe. The other party wins. What kind of justice is that? We should be able to say, no more! I quit. I’m done! I am not going to engage in this nastiness anymore! I am not going to engage in that which takes me away from my children. I am not going to engage in that which makes me so weary that it takes away so much time and energy away from my children, that it is beyond ridiculous. I’m not going to do it anymore.
But they do not let people do that. Parents are often punished with a financial judgement or losing time with their children, and sometimes, losing their children completely. They have been accused of doing things that are often unproven. Accused of things that other parents do in their daily lives, and no one judges them for it, or punishes them for it, and no one says anything to them about it. No one thinks anything of it when t involves a parent not in the Family court setting, because no one is pointing it out in a court of law, and saying that they don’t like that behavior. Unfortunately, that is what these on-going court battles are really all about. One parent doesn’t like what the other parent is doing. It has nothing to do with laws, and so these things don’t belong in court. They just don’t.
What I do differently, is that I love these people. I accept them for who they are. I accept the fact that they have faults, like we all do, and I help them take the system that is all powerful, and break it down to size. I help them realize that it is a set back in life, but they cannot allow it to be all consuming. I cannot do it for them, though. They do it for themselves, but what happens is that I trust them to do it. I stand back and I let them do it. And if they are struggling to know what to do, at times, I work with them to help them figure it out.
We need to be loving these families. We need to be holding them in our hearts. We need to be loving the children, and allowing both parents to be who they are and not label what kind of parenting they should do. Some will co-parent, and do it well. Some will co-parent and not do it well. Some will not be able to co-parent, and they will need to find another way, but it doesn’t need to be labeled as anything other than parenting. It doesn’t mean that these parents are bad.
In a lot of these battles the parents are chastised for their struggle. Judges and court authorities chastise them for bad mouthing each other. Yet, what is the court doing? What are the court authorities doing? They, too, are badmouthing the parents. They are not looking for the positive. They are looking for who is to blame. They are looking to find fault. They are often looking, not for the good parent, but which one is the worst parent. The court thinks that both parents are bad, because, to be honest, the court doesn’t think highly of either one of these people.
We have to do better, and I know we can do better, and when these parents are supported and accepted for who they are, and held accountable when the children aren’t safe, or the children are hurting emotionally. What I mean by accountable is not punishment, but it is, asking them what action they will take for their children’s security. We need to give them the support, the tools and the space, to rectify the problems.
These parents wants to make things better. They want to do better for their kids. They want to be left in peace. They want that stress taken away, so that they can focus on parenting and moving in a better direction for them and their children. Sometimes the other parent is going to move in a better direction with them, and sometimes they are not. When the other parent will not move in a positive direction, we need to give a parent the permission to say, “They are not going to move on with me, so I have to move on by myself.” Then, just let it be.
The relationship will be what it is going to be, and if given time, space, and acceptance, they might come into a better relationship. If court professionals keep pointing out how bad one is to the other, the court system is doing what they accuse these parents of doing to each other all the time-badmouthing. I think it would be much better if the court would focus on the positive things that these parents are doing, because there are positives.
I came from my own high conflict battle. The other parent and I were never going to see eye to eye. We had completely different world views. We married when we were young, before our front brains were developed, and by the time our brains were developed, we were totally different, with different views of the world, and different paths we wanted to take, and that is all there was.
Divorce law shouldn’t be about changing the people into what some legal authority wants them to be, because this court involvement in families ends when children are 18. So why should a parent change their life, and who they are for 1-18 years in the system, when their life will hopefully be 100 years long or so, and they have to be who they are. People have to be who they are, and be accepted for who they are and not criticized all the time. And then they can soar! But keeping these families in court is like tying an anchor to them. It’s a heavy weight that they always carry, and they cannot fly. They cannot be free. The court should be about laws, but families are about love. And if the court is not going to love them, then the court needs to get out of their way, and let them be the light, and the love, for their children.
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:
There are many more. Do your own research.
Here are a few boo
ks that I highly recommend:
Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I have an announcement to make! Life’s doors Mediation will be moving to a new location as of March 1, 2014. As you may know, in March of 2013, I joined the Circle of Healing Arts Cooperative, and moved to Coon Rapids. There were many great things about this move, but some were not the best for my clients or my plans to bring the High Conflict Diversion Program to Minnesota.
This winter has absolutely stunk, to put it mildly, and crossing the river can be especially challenging any day, but this winter? Almost hopeless. You had to be extremely motivated to drive anywhere this year! Thank you to those willing to make the journey to Coon Rapids for class.
There have also been expansion plans for me and others in the co-op, but the building we are in was starting to fill up. It has left me without very good options for my classroom.
I love the people at the Circle of Healing Arts so this has been a difficult decision. Still, what I want to offer to my clients and students made me decide it was time to change, sooner, rather than later. I am a go getter and will do what I need to do to keep things moving forward for me and my clients. You need help and I will bring you options. I hope that Life’s doors Mediation becomes known for not only mediation and coaching, but also as a great place for education for families. I have a lot of information to share with you!
As of March 1st, I will be back in Brooklyn Center. Not in my old building. This one is just down the road a couple of blocks from there. This will be an exciting move. I cannot wait to show you all the new classrooms there! This place used to be a college so it is all setup for what I need and better able to accommodate my students more comfortably.
I may even be moved in earlier than the first. Keep an eye out. Once I get settled in, I will be making changes to the website and this blog.
I hope you will join me when you need mediation, coaching or classes that help you move forward toward your goals. I do not have anything listed yet, but working on a class for Adult Children of Alcoholics, which is another area of my expertise.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to call 763-566-2282 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I do not know who it was who wrote this or I would give them credit. This was an opening for a Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota Parent Leader meeting this weekend. PCAMN is now known as Minnesota Communities Caring for Children. Our coordinator read this to the group yesterday. I thought it was quite good and so true of our lives and how we learn from our mistakes and grow so I wanted to share it with you.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in
I am lost . . . I am helpless
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in . . . it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
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