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Children Need Their Parents

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Children need their parents. This is particularly true during times of transition, such as divorce. The most challenging thing about going through divorce is to manage your own pain so that you can be the support your child needs. Divorce is a critical time for a family. Emotions are high. Sometimes parent conflict is extremely high to the point of insanity. If you are feeling so much stress and upset, just imagine what your children are feeling. They need their parents to reassure them that everything will be alright, but if you are not sure of that, it is hard to make them believe the words you tell them.

Many parents seek out help from lawyers or mediators to get through the divorce process. Some will even turn to a therapist. Those are good professionals to turn to, but the problem is that you may hear different things from each different player. A therapist is going to validate your feelings while a lawyer is going to tell you your feelings don’t matter. Everything will feel like it is tied to money when it is supposed to be about your children’s best interests.

Have you ever thought about seeking help from a coach-mentor? High Conflict Central has been involved with parents in conflict, especially parents going through divorce or post decree issues. We not only have a collective 21 years of experience in the process divorced parents have to go through, but also have experienced the pain. A requirement for our coach-mentors is that they have been through similar things to what you are going through. We can understand what you are talking about and help you understand the upside down and backwards experience of what it is like to go through family court in a way that your lawyer or therapist will never be able to do. We also understand the reason behind Family Court and what seems like insanity in their thinking and we want to help you understand, too. There is nothing that feels more like eternal darkness than trying to navigate a system that you are not prepared to navigate and do not understand.

High Conflict Central tries to be the link to connect all the pieces for you. While you may not want to spend money on coaching when you have high legal bills and concerns about your future, our clients will tell you that coaching helped decrease their lawyer bills and the number of interactions with court professionals like judges or parenting consultants. It will also help you feel supported and in the strongest possible position to help your child. Contact us to learn more about coaching services at High Conflict Central, a trademark of Susan Carpenter Coaching and Consulting.

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Who Do You Recommend for a Parenting Coordinator or Consultant?

Approved Seal by Naypong

 

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 to find ways to make it stop.  Much of the craziness doesn’t really come from court.  It really comes from the behavior of one or both parents.  When you get sucked into the vortex of the land of upside down and backwards, AKA family court, there is little that the legal system can offer to fix it.  Everything depends on the level of the cooperation between parents and their willingness to accept the reality of the situation and follow the prescripts that court professionals have to offer.  Unfortunately, there is no magic fairy dust.  There are no gold plated court orders that will make someone “follow the rules” or court orders.  Parenting is not an exact science, whether a couple is happily married or whether they are angrily, hostiley, vindictively or hatefully divorced.  The problem for divorced people is that you cannot put parenting on hold.  Married couples sometimes alternate parenting between each parent because they do not fear the other has plans to take the children away, but divorced parents battle over who gets to do what, often because fear or hurt feelings are driving the parenting.  Court orders cannot magically take fear or hurt feelings away.

In many cases, parents work through their fears and hurt feelings, and divorce drama can settle down to a level that will make the situation workable for children and parents, but in the case of high conflict, the battle continues to rage without end.  It is possible for the craziness to not only stay the same, but to increase.  It happens because one or both parents are very rigid and demanding and they are unable or unwilling to look at how they contribute to the conflict.  Until both parents can examine how they got to this point, there really is no way to move them forward.  So, even though the real burden is always on the parents, desperate parents beg the court for help.

Family court doesn’t have much to offer that will be of much help to you.  They operate with no-fault ideas for divorce.  You can blame all day long, but they don’t want to hear about it.  Court operates under “the best interests of the child” doctrine, which means that the court has been elevated to the keeper of your child’s best interests, regardless of what a parent might think their child’s best interests are, and the most they can offer you is usually some type of mental health services.  Even then, their options for mental health services in high conflict situations are a blend of law and psychology and sometimes, neither specialty does what it is supposed to do.  If those areas don’t work together, but are in conflict with each other they add more drama to the mix.  You end up being at the mercy of the biases and ideals that the professionals hold, often outside of court and outside of the application of law, but that is what they have to offer you if you cannot make it workable yourself.

About the only thing they can offer, once the Judgement and Decree has been signed, sealed and delivered, is  the services of a Parenting Consultant or Parenting Coordinator.  The term Parenting Consultant is exclusive to Minnesota.  The rest of the world calls them Parenting or Parent Coordinators.  What these professionals do is to act as a neutral party, who will case manage the parents’ communication and conflict, try to help the parents cooperate and make agreements about the children, but they will also make a decision when the parents are unable to agree.  It can be helpful, but it can also be a prison sentence.

Because of my personal and professional background in family court, parents seek out my wisdom on who they should choose as their parenting consultant.  Since I am in Minnesota, I know specifics about some of the PCs here.  Because I work one on one with parents as a divorce and conflict coach or parent educator, I have seen samplings from many of our local PCs and I know how they think or react.  That can be helpful when someone asks me who they should choose as a PC, but truthfully, you just cannot know how a PC will act in your case.

Over the years, I have had favorite PCs.  There have also been some PCs that I tell people to steer clear of.  Still, it is a hard call.  PCs can burn out.  PCs can come up with ideas that they think are really good and then see that they go bad.  PCs charge you a lot of money for their services and so if that is their sole motivation, they may enjoy seeing the conflict increase.  Every so often I see a PC do a phenomenal job and I recommend that individual very highly, but then something happens and they do a terrible job on the next case.  Did they suffer from burn out?  Are they too overloaded with cases?  Word gets around if they seem to know what they are doing.  Did they get ill?  Are they just tired of the pettiness?  What you may not understand is high conflict is not only stressful for you, but also stressful for the professionals.  I can speak to how difficult it is to witness some of the things parents will do to their child on a daily basis and be unable to do enough to put a stop to it or make the parent see their role in the conflict.  Performing the role of PC is not easy.  Being a prisoner (parent) of the role is frustrating, to say the least.

What you must remember is this.  The individuals who fill the role are human, just like you.  They make mistakes.  They get stressed.  They have no magic formula to make people cooperate, treat each other decently, put their children first, or “follow the rules”.  Your conflict may be different from the conflict they’ve managed in other families.  While conflict is very similarly rooted, the underlying issues or triggers may be different.  The interaction between parents may be very different.  The histories between parents may be very different.  The children’s personalities may be very different.  Parent’s personalities may clash with the personality of the Parenting Coordinator/Consultant.  A PC may be too passive to make a difference for you or they may be too aggressive to change an aggressive parent.  You can never really know how things will go in your particular case.

If you are planning to appoint a Parenting Coordinator/Consultant to your case or are struggling with one that you currently have, I strongly recommend coaching services.  Your approach to the process and with the professional will determine how well it can work.  Coaching can help you understand what is happening, especially when it makes no sense to you.  For more information on why your family cannot move forward, contact us.  We are always happy to see if we can make a difference for you and your child.

Also, regardless of where you live, if you have any recommendations for a Parenting Consultant or Parenting Coordinator, leave a comment.  Parents want to know about different professionals so that they don’t choose the wrong one.  Your feedback may spare another parent from a lot of grief.  Always keep in mind though, if a parent has approached the situation with ill intent, they probably will have a hard time with the PC on their case.  Everything is about perception.

Follow High Conflict Central.  Our goal is to help parents make a better life for themselves and their children.  You can read more about that here and here.  We are assembling a team of divorce mentors around the country.  If this is something you are interested in, either finding a mentor or training to become a mentor, contact us today.

PC services are part of what is offered by Life’s Doors Mediation, a sponsor of High Conflict Central.  Reach out to them if you are looking for PC services.  To learn about the difference between a PC and a PTE, sign up for our free e-course on the topic.

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Divorced Parents, Where is Your Focus?

Life is like a camera
Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/explore/inspirational-quotes/

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!

Susan

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How to Stay Positive When Everything is Negative

Think Positive by jesadaphorn
Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at freedigitalphotos.net

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.

 

 

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What’s the Difference Between a Parenting Time Expediter and a Parenting Consultant AKA Parent Coordinator?

 

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Let’s face it.  The world of Family Court today is nothing but crazy!  If you get divorced and you have children, prepare yourself for upside down and backwards land.  NOTHING is as it seems.  The power is extreme.  The players are extreme and there doesn’t seem to be much room for such things as liberty, the freedom to choose your own relationships and there really isn’t a whole lot of law going on in Family Court anymore, at least not post decree.

There has been a push to keep families out of court to try and make sure they don’t make anyone feel bad by having accountability.  Unfortunately, rather than NOT make parents feel bad by being held accountable for their actions, they instead make everyone feel bad, including the children.  Then, once everyone is feeling bad enough where they’ll do anything to make it stop, families are offered special help in the form of third party decision makers who can make decisions without you ever having to go to court.  Sounds great doesn’t it?  Well, it can be a nightmare.

Your family may very well need the help of a parenting consultant or parent coordinator, but they can be a very complex role that parents just do not understand.  We know that families do better when they are prepared.

Because parents are not always fully informed about the different roles of independent contractors who work with high conflict families,  High Conflict Central has created a free e-course to explain the difference between two of these court authorities that you might end up with.  Whether you are in Minnesota or not, there are things that you can learn in this free e-course about PCs, which are known as Parenting Consultants in Minnesota and Parent Coordinators in other states.  These are important roles to know about in a high conflict case.  Check it out:

Parenting Time Expediter vs  Parenting Consultant-What is the Difference?

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The Best Revenge on an EX

Best Revenge
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.

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Truth Always Comes Out

Pointing Truth On Blackboard Stock Photo
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

 

A common concern for divorced parents is what to do when their co-parent is deceitful and manipulative.  You have to know when and how to respond to lies or accusation and when not to.  Parent’s instincts can cause them to react defensively, rather than respond appropriately.  Unfortunately, by getting defensive, you can make others believe that there is truth to what your evil ex is saying about you.  The easiest thing to do is say, “That’s not true.” and move on.  Most of the time, false accusations will not impact your parenting time, especially if you already have an agreed upon parenting time schedule or court ordered schedule in place.  What can impact your parenting time is when you have extremely negative reactions to the lies and the games.

Professionals see these games all the time and for the most part, they do not simply take the word of one parent as gospel over the other.  No matter what your ex says about you, do not let it change who you are or give them the reaction that they crave.  Be confident in the truth and trust in professionals to see.  It can sometimes take a while, but eventually they will see the truth.  Remember, you were charmed or fooled by your ex when the two of you got together and over time, you found out who they really were.  The professionals only get little glimpses into each of you so it may be hard for them to see.  However, if you allow you ex enough rope, as they say, they will indeed hang themselves.  You do not have to prepare the noose or grab the rope to show it to anyone.  Leave your ex to falter with their own devices and do not take the low road that they do.

Truth stands the test of time; Lies are soon exposed ~ Proverbs 12:19