As a therapist and divorce coach, I’ve sat through many hours of discussion around custody. Here’s what I’ve learned: there is no easy answer to this problem. What works for one ex-couple might not work for another. Using what I’ve observed and learned over the years, I’ve written a series of blog posts to outline what to expect as you move through what can be a contentious process. I hope these blogs can provide some insight on what your child needs along with tips on how to make the process less hostile.
It’s Called a Custody Battle for a Reason – 5 Tips for Bringing Peace to the Battle Zone
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we discussed the aggressor and the defender. We also covered how your child feels about and views each parent, and how the court system removes your input.
Here are some ideas you can use to help you manage a hostile situation, and hopefully, bring the war to an end.
- Learn to accept the following: when parents split, it usually means a 50/50 split of the child’s time. Nobody wins in this situation, and it’s just the way it is. You are trying to give the child as much access to each parent as possible, whether you like it or not.
- While we’re at it, accept this, too: your child loves both of you. Don’t try to interrupt that attachment bond, discredit, or devalue the other parent. Remember, your child may be a parent someday, and it’s difficult to erase those messages.
- Do your best to offer what you think is a fair parenting time agreement. This can be pretty straightforward: 50/50 split time with rotating holidays. Holidays don’t actually have to be celebrated on the exact day they occur. As a child of divorce, I had multiple celebrations throughout the year for holidays, and I didn’t feel any loss in my life because I didn’t get to celebrate Christmas on Christmas day with each of my parents. My parents created a nice little rhythm and all of the celebrations were joy-filled and festive.
- When discussing finances, it should come down to equity. One parent should not go broke paying for the needs of their child(ren). If you’re not able to come up with a number on your own, a financial mediator can help determine that number. All expenses outside of base support (which covers providing a home and food) should be split 50/50. Remember, each parent has to provide a suitable home for the child. Remember: this all benefits your child. Things like medical costs, camps, sports fees, etc. are above the support costs.
- Try mediation. This can only be done when both parties are mature enough to do so. If you are in a position where you have to protect your rights, then you probably need an attorney. But be prepared to give up a lot of control and financial resources when you go this route.
Depending on which role you are playing in this battle will determine what lies ahead. For the aggressor, anticipate days of strife and trying to justify why you attacked. Know that your battle will never truly end unless you can accept that your child loves and identifies with their other parent as much as they do you.
For the defender, there are many days ahead that will be peaceful and even joy-filled. There may be some sorrow around what you lost in the battle. Don’t think the aggressor lost nothing as they have been damaged too, even if by their own volition.
Regardless of which role you play, how you handle yourself today and in the days ahead will be reflected in the years to come and especially in your relationship with your adult child. As your child grows, they will come to their own conclusions and make their own judgments of each parent. And no longer under the burden of having to choose between warring parents, they’ll be able to choose how and with whom they spend their time.
So focus on your actions now as they lay the foundation for your future relationship. Even if it means a bruise to your ego or sacrificing some things you really want, choose to build a beautiful and connected relationship with your child.
Because this is RISEilient, I’ll leave you with a message of hope: After every war there is rebuilding. As a parent going through this tough situation, it probably feels like you don’t know from day to day what is going to happen. Eventually, though, both you and your child will come through these battle-scarred days.
Disclaimer: Lori Mazenko is not an attorney, nor making legal or diagnostics recommendations. Each reader needs to determine their own needs and use these tips at their own discretion. This blog applies to mentally healthy parents, and may not apply to your particular situation. Lori Mazenko will not be held liable for any use or misuse of the information contained herein.