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Your Children Are Not a Piece of Luggage

I began my divorce journey 11 years ago. I came to the legal process with 15 years of employment in providing child and family psychotherapy in multiple settings, under my belt.

As a trained professional I was sure that the divorce process would be smooth for me. We did not even have assets to fight over. However, I became quickly shocked, dismayed and surprised. First, I realized that I did not know what I was doing. The lawyers certainly did nothing to make the process more understandable for me. And going back, I had never learned about the divorce process in any of my therapy education. It was mentioned in a few classes as a risk factor towards a child growing into an adult with mental health issues – that was all. So then, I went back into the research only to discover that there was very little published information on how a family could best navigate the divorce process. For me, as a woman with a very young child, I was desperate to know what the ideal divorce and parenting situation was for my daughter.

Therefore, I had to learn as I went along. I had to improvise.

Second, my shock and in turn, anger began to swell when I realized how the court’s intentions of ‘best interest of the child (ren)’ and the system’s workings were so out of alignment.

I mean how is a judge and/or attorney supposed to know what is in the best interest of your child?

Guess what? They don’t. The legal system relies on a study that was published stating that a child does “better” having contact with both parents – even in high conflict divorces. When this information became widely known; the assumption became that parents should have a 50/50 split. I am sure that the legal system thought this might decrease the incidences of mothers remaining underemployed, alimony arguments, and parental alienation.

Good intentions – yes. Because prior to this, many fathers were being iced out of their parental rights. Often, dads were working long hours if not out-of-town and the mothers were able to remain in full control of their children and father’s financial contributions. It is no wonder that many of the dads that I start working with hold onto the outdated fear that they will lose their children in the divorce process.

But what happens when • Dads or mothers work to the point that a 50/50 split is just not feasible? (Remember if you agree to that time and then do not hold up your end of the bargain – then you are in contempt of court). • One parent is a personality-disordered high-conflict person and though they are not physically abusing their child – they are ruining their kids’ psyches forever. (of note, my daughter at the age of 13 was just diagnosed with a suspected form of PTSD from dealing with conflict initiated by her father, and like I mentioned earlier, we divorced 11 years ago). • Lawyers encourage badly performing parents to ask for half custody, knowing that their client is unable to provide this. • Children grow up in their communities and develop their own lives and want to have a say in their visitation plan (or see their friends more than their parents). • Siblings have different opinions and emotional needs. (For example, 5 year old Johnny might have an easy-breezy temperament and have no issues with back and forth, while his 14 year old sister might have anxiety and transitioning issues and not want to switch so much). • A parent moves out-of-state • The parenting plan does not account for real life circumstances that arise unexpectedly. (For example, what if a parent becomes ill for an extended period of time).

This is where I start to cringe and curse the court system. Children and life are constantly evolving. A parenting plan does nothing to account for that. The court system is a black-or-white program (letter of the law) and does not seem to care about what real day-to-day life is for your child.

So here is the reality. Your children are considered property. They are considered nothing more than luggage to move back and forth “fairly” between two households. The divorce process treats them as nothing more.

I have literally been sick to my stomach while sitting in four-way meetings with attorneys and clients (including my own) and hearing the language that is used to speak about our children.

“Well, if my ex-wife takes her to her family’s Thanksgiving day party – I need my make-up time within the next month.”

“My husband is dominating my son’s time by planning fun events during my parenting time (to go camping, which mother does not enjoy but son does greatly).”

“I am demanding that I only have to babysit my children when I am home and rested from my commute.”

“If he takes our daughter to the doctor’s appointment while I am at work, then I want him to give me an extra day during the week.”

“How dare my wife favor our daughter by keeping her another night and giving me our son?”

I could go on and on. Hear this language? How insulting to our children could we possibly be? Children are complex and growing individuals with their own needs? And as they grow their needs and desires change right along with them.

This is the main reason why I do the work that I do. It is tough and draining – no doubt. But when I can save parents from losing their integrity, ability to co-parent with reasonable expectations and their finances – then who I am truly saving is the children.

When I empower you, as my client, I also empower your children!

When you are in your integrity – then you can show up for your kids in the best possible way!

When your children see that you are strong and not a victim – it gives them permission to thrive!

I am definitely here for you.

But I am also 100% behind your babies (no matter how old they are!).

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