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: Time/Money Grabs & the Court System (Part 2 of 3)
We learned in the first blog post in this series that bullies don’t know they are bullies. They think they are right – no matter the cost.
Picture this: one parent can’t push aside their own wishes, desires, and emotions in order to make decisions about what’s best for the child to grow up in a secure environment. They prepare to go to battle for full custody. They become the aggressor in a classic power and/or money grab. They want to punish the other parent or take their resources (the child, finances, or both). The child in this situation is being used as a pawn.
If you see yourself in this parent, know that your children feel your vibe. Your hostility towards your ex is damaging to your relationship with your child. Children are sponges for feelings and behaviors, and they are watching everything you’re doing. Actions speak louder than words.
As a therapist, I often see these children grow up resenting the parent who does the grab. They mistrust the parent who speaks poorly about the other parent because they begin to see for themselves the character and demeanor of the other parent. What the grabbing parent says doesn’t match up with what they see in their other parent.
There is, too, the pain of battle. Just like with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pain is not felt just between the militia (parents), but it involves the whole country (family) and even the world, (our communities).
We are shocked and dismayed when we hear the rulings by the judge. It all seems so clear-cut to us, so easy to see the violations that occur. It’s rare for both parties to be happy with the outcomes decided by a judge who has never seen nor observed the child with either parent. Yet one parent insists that a judge will be a better person to determine who their child should be around. This can certainly be the case when one parent is violent or abusive, has a drug or alcohol addiction, or has otherwise shown themselves to be unsafe around the child. These conditions are outside the scope of this blog. The focus of this discussion is about two mentally healthy parents who simply don’t want to be together any longer.
And war is expensive. As Russia and Ukraine are spending billions of dollars on this illegal war, parents, too, can easily spend the amount of money it would cost to put their child through college. When there is an aggressor and a defender, both will pay. Often the defender would like to agree to joint custody and mediation, however, the aggressor won’t stop until they get total control, even if that means causing harm to their child.
It is possible to agree on a parenting plan and custody arrangement without exhausting emotional and financial resources. But that means both sides have to put down their weapons and accept that they both play an important role in their child’s life. It is the sign of a healthy and mature adult to want the other parent to be in their child’s life, no matter their personal opinion of them.
In part 3 of this series, I’ll give you 5 specific actions you can take to help navigate this war zone and bring the battle to a close.
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.