Saturday Songs-The Reason

Music is one of my passions.  It has helped me get through many painful life situations, helped me realize how deep my love can go and also helped me grow in faith.  When I went through difficult Family Court situations, this song helped me understand that I could change for my children.  Whenever I hear it, I think of my kids and the sacrifice I made to free them from a difficult situation that I had a hand in creating.  Because I helped create it, I could also be instrumental in undoing it.  You can, too.  What better reason to change than to be a powerful parent for your children?

Happy Saturday!  Blessings to you and your children.

I Can Only Imagine Movie Trailer

I am very much looking forward to this movie.  It looks amazing!

Many of the people I’ve worked with in the last 20 years are parents who experienced a traumatic family event.  Now, their own children struggle with a similar situation.  My goal is to help everyone get through it in the best way possible, which is not always easy, depending on the circumstances you find yourself in and the mindset of the people who are involved.  Even some of the professionals have scars that they carry, scars that create their own toxic contributions to conflict or family drama.  Still, no one should ever give up hope for a better family life.

I enjoy working with parents, regardless of what they have done in the past or how difficult their situations may appear on the surface.  While many shy away from “high conflict” families, I tend to embrace them, especially when I can work one on one with them.  Why?  Why do I do it?  It can certainly be painful and stressful.  It is often hard to watch parents who are hurting their children.  Many of them do not even realize their part in the struggle, but for those who take the little seed that I plant and let it grow, the results are amazing.  For that reason, even if there might only be a handful in hundreds, I am compelled to continue working with parents.  Once someone works through pain, trauma, abuse or anger and recognizes their own piece in the relationship puzzle, their eyes are opened.  They cannot un-know what they know.  They cannot undo the past, but they can create their future.  It is a blessing to see and the effects are not just in them, but ripple to others, children, friends, neighbors, and the community.  Parents willing to self reflect out of  pain and into peace to be awesome role models for their children are the greatest parents I know and I admire them deeply!

Please go see the movie, “I Can Only Imagine”.  I can already see the greatness within, even simply from getting a couple of minutes worth of a glimpse.  Have a glimpse of faith and hope.  I pray it plants a seed in you!

No Assumptions

no licensing requirement found
no licensing requirement found

If I were to pass legislation to improve the Family Courts, I would not want to pass a joint custody assumption or a 50-50 shared parenting time assumption or anything of the sort.  I’d put forth a “Make No Assumptions” Family Law bill.  I would prefer that the courts not be involved in families at all.   If you are the two parents whose relationship resulted in bringing a new life into this world, you already share a child.  Why look to the court to give you something you already have?  The only time a court should be concerned about the relationships in your family is if someone or something is denying with or interfering with your right to participate in that relationship.  Other than that, it should be up to you to determine how parenting should be split, based on numerous different factors, and if you have to look to a court for a decision, they should have to look at those numerous different factors, too.  A split down the middle might be the right way to go, but it might not be.  We should also keep in mind that parenting is not just about time with the children.  It is about much more.  Raising a child is not an equal proposition.  It’s not a perfect science, and it is definitely not fair.  50-50 is something we invented to seem fair, but is it fair?  Is it fair to the child?  What about the parent who works evenings, whose kids are in school all day?  Should we still give evening time, to be fair, even though the parent cannot be there?  If that parent has every weekend with the child, is that fair and equal to the parent who gets zero weekends?  Kids do not always feel close to both parents equally, at all times.   That is just the nature of life, love and the intricacies of a relationship, and it isn’t always fair.  If parents come to court to settle parenting time disputes, shouldn’t the court have to look at all of the factors of the case and then decide what makes sense for that family over what is fair?

Let me explain why I believe that courts should not make assumptions about custody, or even parenting time.

In Minnesota, the courts use the Best Interests of the Children Standards when there is a Custody dispute. That standard is often applied in parenting time disputes as well. Many legal experts admit that these standards are out of date.  Personally, I feel that the Best Interest standards are a myth, just like much of what Family Court tries to do to “Case Manage” families, is a myth.  Families cannot and should not be case managed, and who is qualified to determine anyone’s best interest?

The interesting thing about the best Interest of the Child Standard is that the courts have gone to a shared parenting assumption throughout the nation. It may not be law in every state, but it is the line of thinking behind the scenes. Research shows that children do better in life when they have involvement and on-going contact with both of their parents, whether in the marital home, or after the marriage has ended.  Shared parenting, one could say, is in the “Best Interests of the Child”.  I am not arguing that fact.  Whenever possible, both mom and dad should continue to be involved parents for their children. What I am going to argue here is whether or not the courts are actually concerning themselves with the best interest of the child, or more with the best interest of the parent.  Is giving a parent 50% of a child’s time/life about the child, or about the parents perceived “right” of fairness?

There is research out there that shows children of married parents do better than children of unmarried parents. Should a court force a couple to stay married because of that research? How can you force a relationship between two people?  Still, Family Courts do try to force their idea of shared parenting on families and it has been a disaster. They instill parental “rights”, and when parents fight over those shared rights, there is no one actually looking at the “rights” or needs of the child. The child becomes lost in the battle.  The battles are almost always a dispute about what dad wants or what mom wants, and judges decide which parent “wins”.  Children are an unseen entity that everyone loses sight of.  They are usually not in the court and rarely given a voice.  Of course age has to do with that somewhat, but even older children are excluded from the process.

I do agree that a child has 2 parents with equal rights, and those parents share the rights to that child.  I really hesitated writing that last sentence because to say a child belongs to both parents, or anyone has the “rights” to each other seems highly adversarial and enslaving.  It creates a misconception that a person could be the property of someone.  We do not own our children.  We have been blessed with being given a relationship with them and a responsibility to care for them.  We have to recognize that both people are the parents of the child, and the child was born to those two individuals who produced the child.  I do not want to use words that imply “ownership”.  None of us have a “right” to another person. Maybe we need to call it “relationship with”, and rather than protecting “parental rights”, we should protect the “parental relationship”.  When you think in terms of a relationship with someone, you can then realize that a relationship cannot be proclaimed.  If you want to have a relationship with another human being, you have to cultivate and cherish that relationship.  You have to honor and respect the other person if you want to keep them in relationship with you.  This applies to a co-parent and it applies to your child.  It applies to every person with whom you intend to have an ongoing relationship, and asking a court to proclaim it for you will never create the relationship you hope to have with your child, former spouse that you parent with, or anyone else.

If we want to look at best interest of a child, we need to look at best interest according to whom?  I certainly would not want anyone deciding what was in my best interest because they would have to know my history and what things have happened in my life that forged the person I am today.  They would have to know my heart, and what makes me tick.  They would have to know what my passions are, what I am interested in and what I am not interested in.  They would have to know what family means to me, because it means different things to different people.  Some people could care less about blood relationships and more about caring relationships in their lives, than they care who shares DNA.  They would have to know my life experience from birth, and there is just no way that they could.  So who is the best authority on what is in anyone best interests? As you ponder that question, you can see, that is a tough one to answer.

Maybe it should be the best interest of the family.  What do little Mary and Johnny need?  What do mom and dad need?  What does the family need to make this transition easier for all?  What has happened in their past?  What are their dreams for the future?  Can a family find that kind of help in the legal system? No, they cannot.  You can ask for court orders, but try to get enforcement when another individual is truly opposed to something.  Asking for court orders also creates a bad pattern for your life because the only authority courts have over your family exists now, because of a minor child.  If you have to force children to be in relationship with you, what happens when they turn 18?  A parent had better hope to cultivate, honor and respect that relationship so that it still exists when a child becomes an adult.  Court can only ever be a temporary fix. You will need to figure it out at some point, or you just might lose it all in the end.

The reason that no one should make assumptions about families is because families are complex.  Is it fair when one parent wants the relationship with their children, but not the responsibility for them?  Families are made up of individuals and relationships. They have different passions. They have different personalities. They have different schedules.  There may be good reason why the parents do not interact. There may be good reasons why a parent should not have 50% of their children’s time.  Parents have to look at time, not as a reflection of their value as a parent, but rather as the value of their child’s life and activities and interests.  Life cannot be scheduled on weekends and mom’s time/dad’s time, and be fair to everyone.  Life happens on its own schedule and in its own time frame. Events and milestones happen when they happen.  Parents and children have different time frames of healing from trauma, and let me tell you that there are very few things in life as traumatic as divorce, especially divorce with children.

In a perfect world, we would stop talking in terms of “Parental Rights” and the “best interest of the children” and start honoring and respecting the family relationships and dynamics.  These things cannot be legislated or court ordered.  We can and do have laws to protect parental relationships so that parents are never denied time with their children, or restricted in building a relationship with their children. Denying and restricting time is something that not only warring parents try to do, but courts do as well, and there are laws that are supposed to prevent that, if only those would be enforced.   Naysayers will always remind me about safety and abuse, but if the Family Court would get out of relationships, the criminal courts could and should deal with abuse and neglect issues where they exist.
Children are not property and society needs to stop treating them as such. We are destroying beautiful children as we carve up their lives into the ownership of percentages of time, and we are setting them up for failure.  They are also being given a horrible example of how to build and cultivate healthy relationships and work through relationship conflict.  We have to do better as a society with honoring and respecting each other as the beautiful, wondrous people that we are.

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

Parenting…there is no feeling in the world like it!

Inspirational Unconditional Love Will Touch Your Heart.. True Story.

Not her child, but she loved her anyway! I have always thought…you don’t have to be a parent by blood to have an amazing bond. If you have a parent who is uninvolved in the life of your child, make sure you have a loving role model for them. One strong parent, with great role models of the opposite sex to teach you child about the roles, will make a huge difference in your child’s life!

Now or Later

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

Relationship problems suck.  They really do.  When you are married, relationship problems suck even more.  When you have children, the stakes are extremely high.

As a coach, I talk to people who are looking for help.  They may want to try communication coaching.  Sometimes, one or both partners have anger issues, and they might want to look into Anger Management.  They may even be contemplating divorce.

Divorce will scare the crap out of you.  Sometimes, it is sprung on you.  Your spouse has determined, without talking to you about it, that they want a divorce.  They have thought it over for a long time, and come to the decision.  You can’t change their mind.  It is done.

Other times, you talk together about how the relationship is not working.  This is a great time to act.  Even if you think this is not a great time because you are on the brink of divorce, it really is an opportunity.  There is something positive in the fact that you have been able to talk about this together.  That shows promise!

For parents of small children, you really need to see the opportunity in this situation.  While some couples will choose to divorce, others may find that they don’t have to.  If no one has come to the divorce decision yet, there is still time, and there is certainly a lot of wisdom in waiting to make that decision while you spend time working on your issues.

Relationship problems are a two-way street.  It is rarely about the actions of just one person in a couple.  The relationship didn’t start out sour.  If it had, why would you have gotten married?  Why would you have had a child together?  There was potential there and most likely still is.

The question you have to ask yourself is this: If I need to make some changes to improve my relationship, should I do it now, in an effort to save my marriage, or should I do it later, to work on the co-parenting relationship?  If you and your spouse have a child together, you are going to have to continue to build that relationship, aren’t you?  If you have trust or anger issues in your marriage, won’t you still have them in the co-parenting relationship, too?

When a relationship has problems, most people seem to know where their own personal weakness lies.  They often know, or are willing to learn about their faults.  If the two people are willing to make changes to improve their lives, it would be better to do it now, before more damage is done, than to have to do it later.  Just something to consider.

Divorce was a good thing for me.  I am not sure my children would agree that it was a good thing for them.  Divorce might be a good thing for you but it might be worth really making sure that you cannot salvage that relationship, especially if you have children who end up being part of that relationship forever, no matter what it becomes.

Love is the Answer to the Family Court Question

"Tulips and Heart Shape Butterflies" by anekoho
Image courtesy of anekoho/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.