How to Survive a Custody Battle
Most likely when you enter into a custody battle you have one thing on your mind…winning, as did I when I went thru my divorce. But winning isn’t everything. A custody battle is one of the most stressful live events you can endure, similar to that of a death of a loved one. At times during my custody battle I wasn’t sure I could survive the stress. I eventually agreed to joint custody of my children because of the stress it was putting on my kids. I made some mistakes along the way and I often see other parents unknowingly doing the same.
Understand while you read this I am in no way advocating one way or another joint or primary custody. Especially in cases with abuse or extenuating circumstances. You do what is right for you and your situation. Most importantly do what is right for your children who will live with this arrangement and the fallout from this divorce/battle for years. If done sensibly and with the best interests of the children you can survive a custody battle with your spirit and your kids intact and successfully co-parent. I am here to give you a few tips to get you thru a custody battle as peacefully as possible.
- Be humble- Realize your child’s love towards the other parent is priority over your disdain for that person. Don’t ever disparage the other parent in front of the children. It will only distance the child from you in the long run. In some states legally this is called Parental Alienation and can be used in obtaining custody. It also will cause irrevocable psychological damage to the child. If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
- Do not engage- If a soon to be ex-spouse is in the “redzone” (fighting, intolerable, engaging is unhealthy behavior) document it and hand it over to the attorney. Do not participate in this behavior it only incites it.
- Be your best self- Rally for your children. This is when they need you the most. You are feeling beat up right now and emotionally low so if that means taking more time for yourself or practicing self-care to be a better parent, do it. Do whatever it takes to give your kids the extra support.
- Step Away from Social Media- I recently had to watch couple friends of mine go thru a custody battle in which they both posted daily tirades about each others lack of parenting skills with colorful vocabulary. The entire time wondering if they we’re not aware that once it’s out there IT’S OUT THERE FOREVER. Their 9 year old will eventually see all of that slander. Don’t do it, just don’t. This behavior will backfire and you will regret it.
- Ignore Outside Influence- You will receive good advice and bad advice. You will have bitter friends that have an ax to grind for some reason and will try to influence you, step away from toxicity. You want people around you that encourage you to be strong, be your best self and be happy. Also realize you will lose some friends. Some friends go with you, some with the other spouse. It’s just the way it is, whomever is supposed to be in your life is in your life.
- Keep clear communication- During the separation it is always wise to document everything especially If you and your ex-spouse are in the “redzone” meaning you cannot communicate without fighting. Find another way to communicate. Whether that be texting, email or thru your attorney. But keep it clear, concise and free of emotion. Always keep the kids aware of where they are going to be ahead of time, kids need consistency. I created a calendar for myself, grandparents, ex and kids. Every month I sent one out for everyone that was involved. The calendar helped immensely and kept confusion and stress to a minimum.
- Do not play the “Tin Can Phone Game”- Never use the children to communicate with the other partner. It stresses out the kids, burdens them and exposes them to things they just don’t need to be a part of, especially finances.
- Be effective productive loving Co-parents- Your children are learning by example. Do not undermine each other “just because.” If a child is in distress or acting out present a united front, don’t disagree for the sake of disagreeing. Realize the child’s best interest in the situation. This is especially important at school functions, activities etc. It always saddened me when my ex and I were in the redzone and our families would sit apart at their programs. I would see their little faces bob from family to family, and after the programs the kids would have to “work the room” it seemed like. While saying all of their goodbyes.
Of course no two custody battles are the same. These are tips to help with avoiding as much conflict as possible. I went thru a horribly messy divorce and custody battle. While made good decisions and bad, I learned some things along the way. I hope these few things help other people going thru the same battle.
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