It is easy to fall into the trap of post-divorce child custody litigation. The same personality issues that led to your unsuccessful marriage are the same reasons you continue to fight post-divorce. Custody litigation is extremely expensive and acrimonious for all involved. When you are focused on litigation, you are missing opportunities to enjoy your children’s childhood.
It is a sad thing to watch parents squander the precious and fleeting moments of their children’s childhoods. Although parents often feel justified in going back to court by claiming that it is in their children’s best interests to protect them from the inadequacies of the other parent, absent cases of abuse and danger, it is generally not in your children’s best interests to engage in constant court battles with their other parent. Custody litigation is toxic and bad for the soul.
Though some child custody litigation is unavoidable, necessary and inevitable, the following is a list of the six best ways to avoid post-divorce custody litigation:
- Take Some Responsibility: Most parents involved in high conflict custody cases cast 100% of the blame on the other parent. You are unable to see how your own conduct has contributed to the problems post-divorce. Usually, both parents have engaged in behavior that is not conducive to a good co-parenting relationship. Even if you are the perfect parent and the other parent has no redeemable qualities, it still always comes back to this simple fact: You chose that person to be the parent of your child. When you take responsibility and stop casting blame, you start to forgive. When you forgive, you stop engaging.
- Understand that Being Right Has a Cost: There are definitely times when the law is in on your side and your attorney will advise you that you have a strong likelihood of success if you go back to court. Understand, however, that there are no real winners in family court. You can “win” on an issue in a courtroom, but you do not raise your children in the courtroom. When you leave the courtroom, you still have to co-parent with someone who, from her perspective, is now the victim of an unjust system. Be sure that the battles you are engaging in are truly important to the well-being of your children and not just about being right. Sometimes there is no other choice to litigation, but be sure to explore all alternative options.
- Mediate: One such alternative is mediation and parenting coordination. A parenting coordinator is generally a lawyer with mediation training and experience in high-conflict custody cases that helps parents to implement their custody agreement and facilitates the resolution of their disputes outside of the courtroom. The process is less expensive and time consuming than going to court and leaves parents with some control over their own situation. In parenting coordination, conflicts, particularly those that are time-sensitive and involve day-to-day issues, are resolved efficiently and effectively.
- Know Your Decree: Sometimes problems arise post-divorce because one party does not know the terms of his own custody agreement. You should review your custody agreements carefully. If terms are not clear, meet with a lawyer to make sure that you understand what is required of you.
- Get Some Therapy: I think everyone benefits from therapy and self-reflection. I advise therapy in all initial consultations with clients. There are few things in life more stressful than being embroiled in litigation with an ex-spouse. Keeping your emotions in check and your head clear is important to your own and your family’s well-being. In therapy, you may gain the strength to forgive and make the decision to stop engaging with your ex. At the very least, you may gain some coping skills to help you navigate the emotional battlefield of post-divorce litigation in the healthiest way possible.
Jessica S. Hanson-Anderson
Divorce Attorney Reno, NV