How do you fight the loneliness when going through divorce, especially those first days when your kids are gone? It’s hard to sleep. The mind races. You just want to escape, but no matter where you would try to escape to, that racing mind goes with you. It can be crazy making time. Even if your ex is an ass and you feel somewhat relieved that they are gone, you will go through a mourning period. It’s OK to do that. It is normal to tell everyone how horrible your soon to be ex is, but then go home and miss them and wonder why you miss them when you make them sound so horrible.
Allow yourself the grieving time, as much as you need. Try to figure out in your head if it is your ex you miss or if you just miss having someone there for you when you come home. Maybe you just miss the security of another adult in the house for when something goes wrong. Maybe it’s just that there used to be someone you could leave the kids with if you had to run to the store quickly and now you aren’t able to make quick runs to the store unexpectedly without taking the kids along for the ride. These are normal feelings. It’s OK to feel glad that this person you hate is gone, but 10 minutes later find yourself sobbing because they have left.
During divorce, people go through the exact same mourning process that they do when a loved one dies. It makes sense, in a way, it is the death of a relationship. So go through those feelings of loss. Be with people if you need to or stay away from people if you just don’t feel like socializing. Most likely, you will either sleep a lot or hardly at all, maybe you will alternate between the two. Many people lose a lot of weight during this time. Of course there is a feeling of profound sadness. Your life is changing. Maybe you weren’t prepared for that to happen. It is hard to deal with the shock, especially if you feel blind sided by the situation.
Once you feel a little more accepting of the situation and have made peace with everything, you may start feeling a little excited about the opportunity to reinvent your life, you will still find that loneliness still creeps in now and again. Where can you go on those lonely days?
It’s a very good idea to stay busy and take your mind off of your problems. Distractions can be a good thing. If you are having serious legal battles, keeping busy will help save your sanity. On weekends when the kids are with the other parent, carve that time out for yourself. Make sure to plan something fun to do. If you have some good friends, make some definite plans and don’t back out, even if you’re not feeling that great when the day comes. Try your best to go and have fun. Don’t spend the entire weekend on court matters. If your lawyer needs you to write a document with all the nitty, gritty details of your case for him/her, get it out of the way as soon as you can so you can still allow time for weekend fun. If the deadline for getting it completed is not approaching that quickly, save the task for a weeknight instead.
I know that many people have to also find new friends after they divorce. I have often joked that my ex got all the friends and I got all the bills. Well, in all honesty, those people were not my friends anyway. I have awesome, awesome, God sent friends now and I wouldn’t trade them for the world! If you need to get out and meet people, there are many ways to do that. You could volunteer. Is there someplace you have always wanted to volunteer, but never had time? Make the time now. You could volunteer at a school or a homeless shelter or food shelf. You could check in with some senior apartments or assisted living or nursing homes and go visit an elderly person who has no family to visit or read to a blind person or maybe play cards or do a puzzle with a shut in. They would love it! You could volunteer at church. If you don’t have a church, join one. You could sing in the choir or try something else. Churches often have groups that you can join, too. My church did not have a singles group when I inquired and so I started one!!!! I never got too many takers, but yet, I tried and it was a great experience for me. There are police and fire reserve units that always need volunteers. If you are musically inclined, you could check around with different cities nearby and see if there is a community band you could join. If you are looking to meet people there are literally thousands of groups of all different persuasions that you could join at meetup.com. They have groups for card playing, biking, hiking, singles, political groups, parent groups and many other things. Check it out, it’s pretty cool. I remember that I showed a friend of mine that had a Dachshund that they even had a Dachshund owners meetup! Do you want or need to increase your income? Go back to school. Trust me, you are never too old (just ask this woman) and you will be able to afford it. Whatever you do, just get out there and get involved. You will be amazed at the people you will meet!
What happens when you lose your focus? If you focus too much on the wrong things or if unexpected life events rob you of your energy and time, you will find that your other responsibilities get neglected. When that happens, everything can become very chaotic.
Sometimes losing focus cannot be helped. For example, when my aunt became sick I had to put some things on the back burner, but she was my mom’s only living immediate family member so I thought it was important to take my mom to visit as much as possible. My aunt lived out of town so we took time every weekend to visit her, including one weekend that we stayed for four days because she was not expected to live through the weekend. She did make it through and actually lived another couple of months. What a fighter she was! It was worth neglecting things on the home front. Since then, both she and my mom have passed and I can look back without regret. Imagine if I had decided that housework and yard work were more important! Yes, during that time some things were ignored. Laundry piled up, the dust gathered, and the yard work did not get done, but I had my priorities straight. It was important to spend the time with my aunt and meet my moms needs, too. I knew that the chores could get done later. No big deal. Sometimes, you have to do what you have to do.
What about times when you lose focus on what is important and then the important things get ignored? For example, I have a friend who obsesses over what her ex is or is not doing. She needs to clean up certain aspects of her life that are causing her grief, but she never gets around to cleaning those things up. She has a boyfriend, who thinks she is fabulous, but instead she alienates him by talking about how much she hates her ex husband. Wouldn’t it be better to focus on building this new relationship rather than lamenting the past? Consider where it is you want to put your energy and who you want to put your energy into. Exes are exes for a reason. The past is the past. Leave it there and live in the here and now while you plan for the future you dream about.
I know a man who has a wonderful family, but he is a workaholic. His employer could live without him there 60-80 hours per week, but he thinks he must work that hard to get rewarded. Truthfully, companies rarely reward you with more than your salary. Ask anyone who has been laid off. Companies will always act in their own best interest when push comes to shove, and to hell with the employees. Especially when the economy is bad! The workaholic is missing out on his children growing up and being the kind of man that his children can count on to be there when they need him. As it is now, when his wife needs him or his children need him, he is never available. He is always at work. I don’t know what his future holds, but what I do know is that if his life were to end, his wife and children would most likely wish that he had given more to himself than to the company, or maybe, this is sad to say, but maybe they wouldn’t miss him much. If they are not used to having him around, the days after his death may be just a return to business as usual. When it comes to your family, don’t take them for granted. Be the kind of person who leaves a huge void when you are gone. Nothing is more important than family. Trust me, I work with people who have taken things for granted and lost them. It is a hard thing to watch someone go through and even harder to be the one going through it.
When not focused on the right things, your life can spin out of control. You can also miss opportunities and events in your child’s life. You may miss important moments that you can never get back. To make sure you don’t, here are some tips:
1. Make a priorities list Take some time, whether an afternoon, a day, a week or whatever time frame you need to figure out what parts of your life are most important to you. Once you have set realistic priorities, live it. Short of a temporary emergency or out of the ordinary situation, stick to your priorities. You will be glad you did.
2. Put yourself at the top of your priorities Put yourself at the top of your priorities list. If your love or energy banks are depleted you don’t have much to offer others. Eat, get plenty of sleep, and put together a good support system. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with something.
3. Set realistic goals. Whether you have big dreams or just daily life expectations, be conscious of what it will take to meet those goals. Remember that some things are accomplished by taking small steps and that is okay. Meeting the goal is the important thing, but you have to make sure that it is an attainable goal. When goals are too lofty, you can end up disappointed. At the end of each day, think about the progress you made and recognize even the smallest advances. If you did not make progress toward your goals, forgive yourself when unforeseen circumstances or emergencies get in the way and then get right back to it tomorrow. If you need to, break big goals into smaller goals that will lead to the same thing.
4. Take time to relax and have fun. This is something you really have to allow yourself to do. Many people deny themselves and believe they are not worthy of a break. It is not true. Life is about balancing what you need to do with what you want to do. The world will not fall apart because you took your eyes off from its desires for you for a short while and remember, you are not in control of the world. Worry about what is your responsibility and don’t take on something that is not your concern.
5. Don’t feel guilty! There really is nothing to feel guilty about. People who learn to say no usually get much more joy and fulfillment out of life than those who do not. If you don’t want to help your friend move, say no. However, if you want to help your friend and maintain the friendship, be confident explaining to them that you cannot do it that particular day, but maybe you could help in a different way. Maybe you help for a couple of hours or maybe on a different day (if they can arrange it). Maybe you offer to help unpack things and arrange things after the move. When you say no to people you care about, make sure they know that you are not saying no because you don’t want to help, you are saying no because you are not available at that particular time. If they are a good friend, they will understand. Try not to say no to your spouse or children though, unless it is an absolute must!
6. Use To-Do lists! It helps to write down the things you need to do and have a plan of action. It also helps to cross each item off the list when done. That way, you see that you have accomplished things and it keeps you motivated to do more!
7. Separate work from home life. Bringing work home with you, even if it is only the bad mood the boss put you in, puts your focus on the wrong things. You are likely not getting paid when you are not at work so why put your energy into that? Get rewards at home, such as the smile on your family’s face from receiving your full attention on them. Work is for work and earning an income to support your family, but home is where the heart is!
8. Schedule tasks that you don’t like to do, but know you have to do. Does the garage need a good cleaning? Pick a day and stick with that. However, the garage is part of the house so enlist family to help. You get to spend time together, sharing, while doing something that is a benefit to the family. It is also teaching your kids how to cooperate and share, even when it may not be the most fun thing in the world!
9. Balance together time and alone time We all should be making time for the important people in our lives, but we all need some time to ourselves, too. You may also want to spend time with friends and family as a group, to best utilize your time, but also, connect with each person individually as well. People need to know that you are interested in them as a person and if you only spend time with them in groups, it can create a wedge. Make time for you, for individuals and for group activities also, and do not forget how important couple time is for a couple who has children. Mommies and daddies need to connect without kids to keep their connection strong for sharing the kids.
10. Make it more about positives than negatives. Focus on what you have done, not what you were unable to get done. Focus on the few minutes you spent with your kids today, rather than the hours you did not get to spend with your kids today. Remember, tomorrow is another day and we never get to have every day go exactly as we plan or as we’d like! Before you go to sleep each night, reflect on what went right and what made you feel good. You will sleep so much better when you think in the positive!
As a Life and Divorce coach, I am sometimes misunderstood and misjudged. Over the years that I went through a high conflict divorce, I brought myself out of a deep dark place and into a life of joy and happiness. I have successfully shown many others how to do the same and focus on finding their way beyond what has happened in the past and to the life of their dreams I’ve been able to help many people, but not everyone. Some people want to stay stuck. If an individual wants to stay stuck in something bad, there is nothing I can do. There is also nothing a psychologist, lawyer, or judge can do either. They may try, but ultimately they will have to leave you behind and move onto helping the people who are willing to do the work that will get them where they want to be.
I work mostly with people in the Family Court System. These are parents who find themselves in a high conflict divorce situation, getting beaten to a pulp (legally) by the confounding judge, who is unable to understand what the heck it is that drives them to do the things they do.
I understand domestic violence. I understand parental alienation (which is not the same as Parental Alienation Syndrome). I understand Domestic Violence Organizations. I understand Father’s Rights Groups. I understand the parent who lives under a microscope for years in family court proceeding after family court proceeding. I understand the legal community. I understand the psychologists. I understand a lot of what happens in Family Court. I understand how people got into the mess they have gotten themselves into. Understanding all these things does not mean that focusing on them will make anything better. In fact, putting a focus on what is wrong in Family Court can be a huge waste of time and hurt you in achieving your custody and parenting time goals.
There have been times when I have either lost a client or lost a client’s respect and trust when I have had to tell them that they and their attorney are putting too much emphasis on domestic violence in their family court case. I have also angered parents when I’ve had to tell them the parental alienation syndrome argument won’t get them far. An honest statement like that mistaken to mean that I don’t believe parental alienation happens. I know it happens. I have even experienced it for myself. It happened to my youngest son and I, at the hands of a manipulative father, but my son and I are closer than ever now because I always trusted him to know truth and to figure out what was happening. I did what I could, left alone what I could not do, and put my energy into waiting for my son to be ready to restore our relationship. I had faith that I had raised him in a way in which he would see truth, and now, we are closer than ever. He does know the truth and bears some scars.
It was a long journey from my naive beginnings in family court. I went from being blind sided by the nastiness of Family Court to getting to where I am today.
More than believing in parental alienation, I believe that co-dependence, childhood trauma and unhealthy relationship patterns are likely the underlying cause of on-going family court nightmares. A good psychologist should tell you that as long as there is one strong parent, your child can overcome the trauma, regardless of what your ex throws at you. I have seen this to be true. In my own case, I stopped being the victim of domestic violence and stopped adding to the drama. I wanted a better life for my children and myself. That meant that I would have to pull myself up by my bootstraps, get healthy, and work with the professionals in the Family Court System at their level. They were not going to listen to me if I only spoke to them when I was at the point of hysterics. I was never heard when I screamed and swore at them, and you won’t get far with that either.
They were also not going to allow me to educate them. These were educated professionals and in their eyes, I was the one who was uninformed. If I was so smart, how come I couldn’t put an end to this conflict for my family? Why did they have to make decisions about my children? They could not understand and I was not able to make them understand. I found them to be obstacles in the way of me being able to move on with my life. They were also, definitely, hindering my children’s development, but they would not have ever wanted to hear that. Over the years I came to realize, that they were not the answer to the problems and they should not be my focus. Instead, my focus needed to be on myself, and my children. That is when I began to turn that ship around, and in doing so, I freed myself and my children of those professionals forever. No more obstacles. No more hindrances.
This is what I help my clients as well. Please don’t think that means that this can happen overnight. It is a process. I help my clients through that process, but they determine the pace, I cannot. I connect with many clients through a free consult, but not every consult turns into a client. Some people think I am nuts and they never come back. They do not want to give up that crutch of family court. That is sad because most people come to me due to their frustration with how the Family Court is not helping the situation, but is instead, making it much, much worse, but when told that they may need to take the focus off of family court professionals and onto their healing and gaining skills, they don’t want to refocus their energy inward. It is a lot of work to explore what has happened to you, and it is painful and ugly to peel back the layers of who you are you, and so some people cannot stomach it.
Think about this for a minute. Maybe it will make sense to you and maybe it won’t. I can only put it out there and hope that you can make some sense out of it. When you are a victim of domestic violence and look to the family court to help you with it, that is your focus. If you keep your focus there, and run to and fro, in search of professionals who will understand, that is taking your time, energy and money away from having the life you want. You may think that you cannot have the life you want, but I am here to tell you, it is just not true. You are the one keeping your life and your children’s lives in the family court. Your ex may stay there, and he or she may use it against you, but if you really get yourself strong, stay confident in your truths, and put your focus outside of the court, you will see miracles happen. The people I see who beat this system at its own game, refocus on their life and their children and slowly shift their thoughts and energies away from their nasty ex and the confusing court people, are the ones who succeed in getting saving their children from an imprisoned life. The people who latch on to their domestic violence experience or try to expose parental alienation will find that they ramp up the conflict, get more deeply embedded in the Family Court System, and feel more and more stuck over time. I am not saying that domestic violence or parental alienation should be tolerated or ignored. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is you cannot push those memes the entire time because there are only certain ways to successfully use those arguments in family court.
Not everything involved with the conflict is related to domestic abuse or parental alienation. Some things are communication issues and related to how you speak to or correspond with you ex. Some issues are related to those Mars-Venus, male-female issues, too. Some issues have to do with the stage of development your child is in, as well, and so you need to really consider what is driving the conflict for each particular issue that arises. You cannot blame everything on domestic violence or parental alienation because the professionals don’t always have any recourse, even if they do recognize those issues are present. You still have the court orders you have and their roles are limited as far as what action they can take. You are the driver of a family court battle, not them. You want to make sure you are focused on which direction you want to go and where the journey will lead. If you know your desired destination, you cannot go around in circles. That will not get you there. Instead, map out how you are going to get there and come hell or high water, keep traveling in that direction and don’t stop until you get there!
This post may anger some people and intrigue others. It’s hard to really explain it all in one blog post! If you are interested in finding out how to free yourself of the family court, as much as possible, please contact me through High Conflict Central. I’d love to consult with you to tell you more. There is nothing more rewarding for me than to see a client who grasps these concepts and takes their life and their children back!
In challenging times one can often feel hopeless and stuck in a downward spiral of negativity.If anything doesn’t go according to plan or it takes your time away from doing what you need or want to do, you go on the attack. Everyone is a target. You start finding yourself labeled as psycho, angry, disturbed, etc. If you are involved in a court battle you could be labeled as a bad parent or with a mental diagnosis like bipolar, histrionic, schizoid or other, even if you have no such diagnosis in any medical record. The courts throw these terms around at the mildest suggestion by an ex or a court authority. It is extremely upsetting for the accused when people who are not doctors or psychiatrists or therapists to start writing labels into your court documents. These labels will then stick. You may even start to wonder if they are right! If you haven’t been diagnosed outside of the family court arena, in most cases those labels are NOT right!
So what can you do? The courts view you as something you are not, your ex bad mouths you all over town. Sometimes your kids act kind of distant. You get upset about everything and everyone. Work becomes a hostile environment also. How do you have a positive attitude and stay out of the negativity trap?
First of all, take time to nurture yourself. When things get really intense, have a great workout, take a walk, do some yoga, ride a bicycle, or a motorcycle, go hang out with a friend, watch a movie, use some kind of distraction to separate you from your problems. Have you colored in a coloring book lately? Do this with your kids and see how creativity uplifts you. For just an hour or two, do not allow yourself to dwell on the negativity at all.
Next, make sure you are taking care of your body by getting enough food and drink and get the amount of sleep you need. A strong body supports a strong mind. If you’re not able to sleep without dwelling on your problems, sit and meditate, or listen to soothing song that makes you feel good. Take some deep breaths. Think of anything positive in your life. Make a list of positive things or goals. Think of how it will feel to accomplish those goals. Read some scripture. Pray. God is always on your side, even when you think no one else is! Then go to sleep on a positive note. This takes a lot of practice, but you can get yourself to where you can always pull yourself out of negative and into the positive thoughts anytime the negative tries to creep in.
Use good body language. Walk tall. Hold your head up. Have you ever tried it? It is amazing. If you stand up straight and wear a smile on your face, people will see you as confident and happy. Say, “Hi”, to people as you walk by. See the reaction. Don’t slouch, it comes off as the appearance of defeated, you don’t want to look weak or defeated, especially when you are dealing with the court or court authorities.
Use positive words. When I decided to go for sole custody, I used words like “when” i am granted custody, rather than “if” I am granted custody. “If” was not in my list possibilities. I use that when going on a job interview as well. I act as if I already have the job! This is very important. Believe in your ability to do whatever it is you want to do. If you are going for sole custody, know you can and will do it. Believe in yourself. If any doubters try to bring you down, let them know that you WILL prevail in court. You WILL do everything humanly possible to achieve your goals. Know that whatever happens in life, you will get through it. Negative times are temporary. A Positive attitude is permanent.
It may feel strange at first, if you have been struggling for years, but you will get the hang of it. If you need something tangible to hold to remind yourself, get yourself a good luck charm, either a necklace, bracelet, key chain or something that you keep on your desk at work or in your car. Find something that will bring you back to your focus if you start reverting back to the old negative ways. Retrain your brain to stay on some kind of movement forward in your life so that you are not stuck and you are not going backward.
Life is a balancing act. When you allow yourself to obsess over one part of life, while not allowing time for the good parts, you will feel hopeless and want to give up. Sometimes you will have to focus on the court battle. That will be unavoidable. For times when you don’t have to focus on those spirit draining things, don’t. No matter what. Make sure that you schedule time with a friend or doing some activity you really enjoy at least a couple times per week. That gives you something to look forward to and helps you move forward.
You don’t have to stay stuck. You really don’t. You can always think of something positive in your life if you really try. Focus on the good things and put the negative in a closet where you only let it out if you must. Get unstuck in life by moving forward. You will notice a difference and you will feel a new strength that helps you achieve all of your goals.
When hit with divorce some people decide that their life is over. They think that in order to be a good parent, they must make sacrifices. They decide that dating has to wait until the children are grown, or they decide that they must be alone FOREVER.
There are always those people who decide that “all men are scum!” or that “all women are man haters!” While it certainly feels that way as you try to heal the wounds of divorce, those statements are blatantly false. Just because one person hurt you, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a loving man or woman out there who has been hurt just as badly, and would love to find someone like you. Many people are looking for a decent, loving individual, with whom they can build a new life, but instead, they do not allow themselves to seek out a potential mate.
It is called fear, people. Fear holds them back from true happiness. Those who live in fear never get to live life to the fullest. They miss out on the joy life can bring. They miss out on sharing a life with someone wonderful.
We can take our past experiences and let them continue to hurt us, or we could chalk it up to experience and hop right back on that bicycle and try it again. What I think people find through dating, especially when they are a little older and have been through divorce, is that they matter, and that they are more beautiful and desirable than they think they are.
The period following divorce can be a chance to learn about yourself. It can be a time to figure out who you are and what your interests are. You can try people on for size and it will help you find the right one for you. Just because the last one turned out to be the wrong one, that is no reason to give up and hide under the covers. I truly believe that there is someone out there for everyone. Just make sure that you have examined your part in the failed relationship and that you are emotionally healthy and ready for a new relationship before you get deeply involved with a new mate. It will save many headaches later if you get your act together!
I have another take on that whole “sacrificing for the children” belief. I think that when you swear off dating, you are robbing your children of a good example. Here’s why: Since you ended up divorced, that was probably not the best example of a healthy relationship. Did you fight? Was there chemical dependency involved? Was your ex physically and verbally abusive? Children learn by modeling. They observe the relationships they see and it leaves an impression on them. The kind of relationship they witness will be the relationship they seek out in their own lives and they will do so without even knowing they are doing it.
One day, they will choose a significant other and have a relationship just like their parents had. Why? Because this is what a relationship looks like to them. Do you want that? Would it be better to show your children how to date selectively and then hopefully find that special person with whom you can have a healthy, lasting relationship with? What a great model to give them, especially if all of the relationships around them haven’t always been the healthiest! Do this for you, but also for your children, and for that new person you have yet to meet, the one who is just as lonely as you are. You just might surprise yourself and find the right one. I know I have.
Keep in mind that there is another reason to open your heart and mind to love, and all of the possibilities in life. Your ex. While I would never recommend dating just to get back at your ex, I do think the best revenge on an ex is for them to see you blissfully happy and successful in life! Go ahead. Have the last laugh.
I have an acquaintance who, like me, has dedicated her life to helping children. This is something that we both agree on, the importance of parents in the life of their children. In fact, we agree on many things when it comes to parents and children. Especially, when it comes to those families who have been impacted by divorce. We agree that children need to interact with both of their parents. We agree that children are given to parents from God. We agree that God chose both parents as being responsible for the particular child in question and that both parents have a right to that child and a responsibility to act in good faith to raise them. Where we disagree is on a 50-50 split. She believes that dividing a child 50-50 will resolve all conflict and remove all court battles for that child’s family experience. I disagree.
The reason I disagree is because I work with parents in these horrible high conflict situations and I see the harm that high conflict can inflict on a child. I see this played out every single day. The worst of cases? Those who stipulated (agreed) to joint custody and/or 50-50 parenting time when they had no business doing so. In those families, they have some serious work to do before they will ever have even a remote chance of working well together. Neither parent will be able to fix the problem on their own and the other parent has no interest in working together on resolution. In those cases, a 50-50 split is not going to be a good thing for their child and will also not be a good thing for either parent. It will be a detrimental situation for both parents. Sole custody and limiting time for the parent who won’t get in the game may be the only resolution for that family, unless they want to constantly run to court or a court appointed decision maker to get decisions made for their child.
Why do my acquaintance and I see the situation so differently? Why do law professionals see it differently than feeling and emotion professionals do? Why do so many parents get it wrong when they talk about “parental rights”?
The acquaintance, whom I will now refer to as “Parenting Equality Bound” has studied Supreme Court decisions on Parental Rights. I have also studied the same decisions. She sees the law as a weapon. I see the law as a tool. Some of the work she has done over 30 years has severely weakened the law. I’d like to fix some of that and return the law to a strong place again. It is the weakness she helped create that is the source of many of her complaints about the law. It’s rather ironic. Because Family Law is an extremely weak and vague area of law, she’d like to do away with it all together while I’d like to see its hands untied so it can get back to a place where it works for people it is supposed to serve. Two different people. Two different ideas. Two different beliefs. Two different solutions. Two different perspectives and the only way that this difference will be resolved is if one of us decides to see things differently. That is unlikely to happen.
The reason for our different perspectives? I used the law as a tool to help my children and it worked. Someone very close to her in her life used it as a weapon regarding parental rights in a system that is there for the Best Interests of children, and it did not work that way. It rarely works if you only see it as a weapon and see it about you without regard to the children. Unfortunately, some parents only know weapons. Regardless of perspectives, law is law. It doesn’t care about feelings. We’ve tried to make it care about feelings and that has been a disaster for high conflict families whose feelings can be extreme and sometimes out of touch with reality. High Conflict families are the lens that both me and Parenting Equality Bound see it through because the cooperative families don’t need the help of law so much as the high conflict families do. The problem is that the laws have been molded into expectations of parental cooperation for the benefit of children and to date, we don’ have 100% compliance with cooperation.
The other day, Parenting Equality Bound and I were discussing new legislation she is pushing. Every year without fail, she pushes, and pushes. She has been described as a “bull in a China” shop. Just a few weeks ago she greatly insulted several colleagues that she has worked with for the last three years on a publication and I watched her lose all of what she gained in terms of respect. Any respect her colleagues developed over the three years disintegrated in one brief moment. She lost the respect of everyone on that work group, myself included. I stay open-minded with people and try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but what she wrote to the work group was simply outrageous and unfounded and just another example of how things have to be her way or the highway. It also showed the very narrow lens though which she sees the world. Many of the parents I’ve had to work with also see through a very narrow lens and because of it, they are not able to see the big picture in a variety of situations. During my conversation with Parenting Equality Bound, she asked me why I would not want parents to have equal rights. My answer is that parents do not have two separate rights to a child. There is only one shared right. She makes an argument that parent’s rights are 100% and 100%. That math makes 200%. I know the reality is simply 100%, which means both parents combined share 100%, which can be distributed between the two anywhere from zero to 100. 50-50 is only one possible outcome, but there are several other possible outcomes to choose from. I don’t understand why parents would want to be limited. From my perspective, they might be the one who should have close to 100%. If it was to benefit their child, why wouldn’t they take on more responsibility if the other parent is not capable of being responsible or child focused?
I used to see it the same way she did. I had my rights and my children’s father had his rights and because it was so painful to work with him, I just wanted to take my rights and the child over here and have him take his rights and the child over there and leave each other the heck alone! He had always been abusive to me and the children and he had also had issues with alcoholism. Someone with those kinds of relationship issues doesn’t make for a very reliable or responsible co-parent. Still, I tried to make it work and all it did was prove how impossible it would be unless the abuse and alcoholism were going to be addressed. Professional after professional wanted me to pretend those issues did not exist so we could move on. Unfortunately, moving on was not in and of itself going to foster an environment of cooperation in our case. I did everything I could do on my end only to have the other parent highly resistant to change anything on his end to improve things for the children and I started to realize, we really had zero care and control of the children. Because we were unable to figure this out and do it together, the court professionals held the care and control of the children. That was unacceptable to me. I believed a parent should take charge over and above the court professionals and so I made my case and was awarded sole custody. That corrected 95% of the problems my children faced by being stuck in a long, drawn out legal affair and under the custody of court people. Because of this, I still believe and will continue to believe that there are cases where it is better to have one parent take over the heavy lifting instead of leaving the decisions of children in the hands of court professionals. When 50-50 does not work well for the family involved, it equates to a childhood lived inside the overshadowing of a system. The family has no escape route until the children turn 18 and are fully emancipated. What 50-50 means is two half parents and in most cases, it actually means 100% court professional parents.
When families have two parents who can work out the sharing of divorced parenting, great! They should. Those who can agree to do it, do it, and it works well for them. They don’t need a court order to tell them what to do and they understand that parenting is not an exact science. They are sometimes willing to let the other parent take a greater role from time to time and sometimes they have to take on a greater role, too. It may not be fair and equal, but it is balanced. Those parents don’t want their rights handed to them from a court. They know that they already have their shared right and understand that with that right comes the responsible to their children so that no one has to do it for them. They also understand the concept of sharing. They know that sometimes you have to give up something to get something else.
The parents who cannot get cooperation without (and sometimes even with) a court order are the ones who have to make hard decisions. Can the situation work for the child and how much can they do alone to support their child and make it work? Sometimes one parent can do a lot to improve a situation even when the other parent won’t life a finger to make things better. They may be able to make 50-50 work despite the other parent. However, in some families, when a parent is actively working against their every effort, it may be time to put a stop to the sabotage. Sometimes that is the kindest thing you can do for your children and the parent who doesn’t know how to share because in reality, they are harming the children and themselves. I do not want to see sole custody go away because it can sometimes be the only thing that rescues a child that is being harmed. I also always believe that it is better to have a parent entrusted with the children rather than a system. I’d prefer there be two parents, but when that is not possible, it makes sense to have one rather than none.
Parenting Equality Bound never sees a reason why 50-50 won’t work. As I said, she believes that each parent has a right to the children from the Supreme Court of the United States. I’ve listened to lawyers try explaining to her that there aren’t two rights, but only one shared right. She will not listen. Through my research, I have also learned about this shared right. There are not two rights, there is only one right to one child. Therefore, that one right can be distributed between parents and in Family Court, that is what is done. It may be 50-50. it may be 25-75 or it may be 35-65. How it gets distributed depends on how parents can make it work best for the child or children involved.
Parenting Equality Bound continues to tell me to read the Supreme Court decisions. I have. I ask her to show me where they say parents have more than a “right”, in other words, when do they say parents each have a right separate from the other? She can never show me that. She will show me various SCOTUS decisions, which she believes offer parent’s rights in the plural, but everything I have read lists parents in the plural and the words “right” or “interest” in the singular. Does it matter? Yes, it does.
There is only one right to one child. Yes, there are two parents. Splitting the baby in half is not the answer. The answer has to be about the child’s safety and well-being. In the King Solomon story in the Bible, the only custody battle shared from God’s word, one parent is lying and manipulating and acting in bad faith. The other parent is able to be focused on the child’s safety and well-being. The bad faith parent doesn’t care if the child is destroyed, so long as she wins. The good faith parent is unwilling to allow the child to be harmed no matter what the outcome is for her. Solomon, the wise judge, gives the care and control to the parent who can put the child’s needs above their own. That is what good parents do. That is why we do need wise judges to make tough decisions like that. Part of the problem is that for so long now, judges have tried to make parents share and make decisions together because the child does need both parents. Some of it has gone beyond all common sense and good judgment. There has been a big push for restorative and social justice (with ideals such as equality) that have weakened the law in the area of families. The truth about equality is that we are all created equal, but we are not promised an equal outcome, especially when we act in bad faith or use court as a weapon that harms our children.
I would urge parents who believe in parenting equality to review the Supreme Court documents on the right or the interest of parents. Is it singular or is it plural? Is it a right you share with the other parent or are there two rights, plural? If it is truly one right to be distributed in the best interest of your child, are you placing a limit on yourself and tying your hands when the other parent acts in bad faith? What if you are the only one who is focused on providing a good outcome for your child? Might it be that you are the one who should take control away, not only from the parent acting in bad faith, but from a court who would prefer not to act, but has to act because the two of you have shown that you cannot act in good faith together?
It is a rare event when a parent gets sole custody after divorce, as it should be, but real equality is when each parent has an option to rescue their children from having court professional be the parents when one parent makes it impossible to get decisions made for their child.
If you want the truth to be shown, do not interfere. When someone is digging themselves a deep hole, let them! This is a hard concept for many divorced parents, but it is a myth to believe that any of it is within your control. It isn’t. Do what you are supposed to be doing and stop worrying about your ex. They will do whatever it is they are going to do. Trying to make them do what they won’t is a never-ending source of misery. Protecting them from their own nonsense is no longer your role. Protect the children as much as you can, but when you ex is acting a fool, let them. If you think they are acting a fool, it is highly likely that other people will see it that way, too. Don’t get yourself in the mix!
You may also enjoy a video from Coach Susan called, “Just Get Outta the Way!” . You can view it here.