TOOL OF THE DAY: Protecting Your Child During and After Divorce
CATEGORY: Family Law
Protective parents are feeling frustrated and powerless. Let’s take a look at what some are considering protective.
“It is my job as a father to protect my son. I don’t agree with the mother’s decision to take my son to a counselor and I want the court to stop her. I don’t even think that my son needs therapy.”
“It is my job as a mother to protect my son. The father brought him back to me with bruises on his arm. When I asked him where these came from he told me that he is taking him to martial arts. I feel this is too dangerous of an activity and I want the judge to stop him.”
There is a limit for what you can protect your children from when you are divorced. You have to accept that the other parent has just as much right as you do and you cannot protect the child from every harm they might suffer from the other parent. Remember when we talk about harm, there are all different levels and kinds of harm. When you are not as emotional about it, which is rarely, I understand I went through it too, try to think about this from the way the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the case where a parent brought the other parent back to court (somewhere in the 1970s I believe) and wanted the judge to restrict the other parent because she had just married a black man. The father felt that his child was going to suffer teasing and bullying at school. The court decided that this was harm that was outside the reach of the court.
What does this mean? That means that there are some harms in life that even the court cannot protect individuals from, not even children. Should we go on a campaign and start advocating for the courts to start incorporating that harm into the list of things they protect children from. Thankfully, they didn’t in that case. That could have led to more racism. And restricting the exercise of the other parent’s right to marry whom they chose would also have led to restricting fundamental rights – freedoms.
There are consequences either way. We prefer that your fundamental rights are protected so that you can continue to enjoy the freedoms of raising your children how you see fit, within the boundaries of the law of course. – And if you’ve read our other posts then you know that we mean the laws that are constitutional and equally applicable to everyone.
“Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit.”
This is an extremely difficult concept to apply to your personal situation because anything that is stirring up your protective nature in you with your child will feel like it is worse than what all the other cases were about. What is happening is you are feeling powerless. You want to protect your child from any harm you see. And when the other parent no longer agrees with what is harm and what is not, you can fall quickly into believing that a judge is going to help you protect your child from what you see as a harm.
I had a parent yell at me this week and want me to tell them that their situation is different and that a judge will see it their way. They just couldn’t believe that it would be so difficult to just get a judge to agree with them, especially since they have CPS agreeing with them that the other parent makes poor decisions.
There are some simple things that you should look at before you decide to go before a judge and ask them to control the decisions of the other parent if those decisions do not qualify for child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or any other illegal act directly involving the child:
- Do you want to protect your rights to make the best interest determination for your child or do you want to forfeit these and give them to the judge?
- Do you want to risk being powerless to change the judge’s decision?
- Are you willing to risk losing and having your child given to the other parent even more and possibly even being put on supervised visits?
I have seen all of these happen with the best of intentioned parents.
We come across parents all the time who want to rush into court and try to get the other parent restricted from some activity or decision regarding therapy. Keep in mind that this can be a problem even in 50/50 or nearly equal custody time arrangements as well. Even parents who have primary control still complain about this angst and difficulty with the decisions the other parent is making when they have the child.
Parents who made decisions you didn’t agree with when you were married will probably continue to make decisions that you don’t agree with when you are not.
The difference in divorce is now you have less influence over the other parent and are not able to be around when the other parent is with the child.
So not only are you going to feel protective over your child. Your emotion about it is going to be even stronger because you feel powerless to influence it.
Some of you may have even given in to the other parent and given them primary control over the child in hopes that when the litigation was over and the threat of losing the child was over that they would calm down and stop making decisions that you don’t agree with.
When this doesn’t happen you want to rush back into court.
Before you do this and open yourself up to a judge’s unlimited power ask yourself another set of questions:
- Do you want the court to control every decision you also make for your child that is not child abuse, neglect, or serious danger?
- Do you want the other parent to be in control of private decisions you make for your child like what time you put the child to bed, whether they can participate in martial arts, whether they can go to dance class, eat a cookie, eat a happy meal at McDonald’s?
- Do you want to be told what to do by anyone the court appoints, a guardian ad litem, counselor, parenting facilitator, etc.? Do you want to pay for this?
- Do you want to pay the thousands and thousands of dollars that it is going to take to get to the point to get an order on all of this and then find out that the only way you can enforce most of the order is to follow the actions of the other parent, document for years, and then spend more money and take it back to court for enforcement, and no guarantee of those results either? You may end up being ordered to pay for a GAL and social study and lose your child when you bring this back into court. Are you willing to take that risk?
It is definitely a strong driver to want to say anything is better than what you have now. Well, let’s look at what parents have gotten with this thinking: Supervised visits imposed on the parent trying to protect the child, loss of more time with their child, restrictions place on them instead of the other parent being complained about, cps turning on them, court imposing expensive social studies, psych evals, counseling, and other costs onto them to investigate their claims, false charges from the other parent, protective orders against them, stalking complaints against them, child support imposed on them, no more privacy in their personal or financial life (everything becomes accessible to the court), an expensive GAL appointed for your child and speaks on your child’s behalf, alienated from your child, told by the court that you are alienating the child from the other parent, pressure put on the child by the other parent and now the child gets interviewed by the judge privately and the child chooses to stay with the parent you were trying to protect them from, and the list goes on.
Okay, many of you are probably saying, exactly, this is why the courts are broken, it’s corrupt, and there is no justice. Hang on a minute here. We are not agreeing or disagreeing, we are simply trying to explain how you might have opened this up based on your desire to control the total protection of your child from any decision you disagreed with (and now you categorize it as a harm you ask the court to step into) 100% of the time.
If you are asking the court to use discretionary power you might not persuade them and you might lose. They are not required to side with you and protect your child from every harm. My gosh do you seriously want the other parent to be able to drag you into court every time you make a decision they don’t like. When you are less emotional about this maybe you can look at this from clearer lenses.
The court should be following the laws including the supreme law of the land, right? And if this is the case, why would you want to go in there and ask them to lower the very standard that protects you from this arbitrary and capricious type of decision making?
Bottom line is you are going to have to get used to the fact that there are many more things that are going to be out of your control when you are divorced. One of them is you will probably have less influence over the decisions that the other parent makes regarding the child.
Of course, if you want to pay the court to try and exert some form of control over the other parent, you have that option. But I would guess that most of you are reading this blog because you have been stripped to the bone financially or you don’t want to be financially enslaved by the system. When you complain to a court of law and it is something that they court really cannot control directly, what do you think they are going to do?
By encouraging the courts to help you control the other parent, you have encouraged the court to use lowered standards and they have found ways to respond to people fighting like this. They impose expense requirements on you until someone gives in, gives up or is run into the ground financially.
And, by the way, we have seen parents think they can ask the court to control the other parent and throw their rights argument in there to protect their right to continue to be free from the judge’s control over best interest decision for their child. But it doesn’t work this way. If you lower the standards and forfeit your rights to the judge then you do. There is no middle road.
And you still might not get to tell the other parent what to do. When you don’t protect your rights you usually aren’t the one telling the other parent what to do either, it is usually expensive experts, counselors, other attorneys, and the judge. And most of the time, as most attorneys will tell you, neither of you are usually very happy with any of their decisions.
When you protect your rights, you are protecting your right to continue to make the decisions as you see fit. Exactly that – how YOU see fit. You are not getting the right to determine what decisions are fit for your child during the other parent’s time, just as the other parent isn’t deciding what is right for your child during your time.
Bottom line, if you don’t want the other parent or someone designated by the court or the court directly to tell you what to do, then don’t ask them to tell the other parent what to do.
Some of you may say, but this isn’t about me, and “I’d rather the court tell me what to do if it means they are going to tell the other parent what to do.” But again, you don’t control the court and most of the time the court actually empowers the other parent and it costs you financially for these services.
Think of the court as an expert model. If you go to any expert…motivational guru, relationship counselor, strategist, etc., they are going to cost you money. The court really is no different, if you go to them with something that really falls under the legal radar then they no longer really act on law but more on the services that you are requesting and consuming. Any expert you go to, if they refer you to a product or another person to help you with the service you request, those people and products have fees too.
We understand how emotional it is for you when you want to protect your child from bad decisions the other parent is making. But consider this. The child is going to suffer harm that you are not going to be able to protect him from throughout the rest of their childhood years as long as you and the other parent are apart.
The other parent could decide your 8-year-old can watch rated R movies. You might believe this is damaging and harmful to their development and completely disagree. This is a harm that you just aren’t going to be able to protect your child from.
When we share this concept with parents and they are emotional at that time, they will come up with all different types of excuses why it should be different for them and how their situation is worse, and provide other examples in an attempt to convince us that the harm that they are talking about is really bad and they have to let a judge know, and once they do they are confident the judge is going to see it their way.
Well let us tell you that this is not usually the case. And this is a huge gamble and risk. Thinking like that is a bigger risk then probably the decisions you aren’t agreeing with the other parent are to the child. There are mothers and fathers who have lost their children with as serious as you can get with bad decisions just under the radar of being child abuse or neglect and then lost their children to that parent. It is worse for your child to spend even more time with the other parent and get no breaks at all, no influence from you at all. Who will they learn how to cope from?
When you let your emotions decide for you, you put yourself and your child at risk of making decisions that don’t lead to the result you think they might lead to. You put yourself at risk of the judge using their own determination of what is best for their child.
I know it doesn’t feel natural to have to convince yourself that your child is going to suffer some harm and have to go through some bad decisions made by the other parent. Remember I’ve had to do it. And this may make you upset. The other parent probably feels the same way about you.
Children manage through this in marriages all the time. You can teach them how to build coping skills and tools for dealing with this outside the marriage as well. There are many things in life that your child will experience that they don’t like, are difficult, and even things that are uncomfortable. They will deal with things like that when they are an adult as well.
It is best to let go of many of the things you cannot control and just ensure that you have as close to equal access to influence your child. And if your child is having difficulty with accepting some of the other parent’s decisions, they will be better off dealing with that then losing you being able to be an authority in their life.
I wonder if you knew if you were going to be even more powerless in divorce if you still would have chosen to divorce?
Some may not have any choice, you may have been in an abusive relationship. We know that you might feel really, really bad for your children having to continue to be with and around the other parent. If the other parent cannot be prosecuted for child abuse, child neglect, or child endangerment (those level of bad decisions) then it is best for you to learn to stop trying to control the decisions of the other parent through the court.
Oh and by the way, after the court fights were over and Ron maintained equal custody with his daughter and his ex-wife. His ex-wife stopped calling the police and falsely accusing him of harassing her on the phone, etc. Ron has actually been able to persuade her on things that before she was difficult and would refuse. Now he pretty much rules the roost even though the orders say they are equal. So when you stop thinking the court is your solution for control over the other parent you may find that you can have influence in other ways even with a 50/50 order.
In order to do this though you first are going to have to deal with your emotions. You have to stop making emotional decisions. You will have to calm down and recognize when you are being too emotional to make a decision. If you are feeling any of the following you are making emotional decisions and need to settle down before re-visiting the topic. No decisions should be made when you are overly emotional. This is when you make mistakes. Check the following list and if you are in this mode, time to take a break: (The following chart list does not apply to parents who suspect the other parent of beating, torturing, starving, neglecting, abandoning, or other serious legal offenses. The following only applies to parents just making decisions that you don’t agree with but are not illegal.)
- I must rush into the court and be heard by the judge as quickly as possible.
- I can convince the judge that the other parent is crazy now because a CPS worker agrees with me. (And if the other parent is endangering the child then this list doesn’t apply.)
- My child shouldn’t have to suffer through those therapy sessions when the last counselor said he/she didn’t need them and is doing fine.
- The other parent is feeding the child snacks late at night and this is hurting my child.
- My child doesn’t like to be with the other parent so if the judge talks to him/her they can tell the judge they don’t like it over there.
- My child doesn’t like to be told what to do by the new boyfriend so I have to let the judge know that the child wants to live with me now.
- I have plenty of reports now to prove that not even the experts like the other parent.
So when you back up a little bit and take a breath and check yourself, ask yourself if what you want to control is going to be considered something that requires forfeiture of your rights and required to lower yours and your child’s protections long term.
By the way, there are ways to get some of your argument in, not lower your protections, and actually receive some of the results that you want if the other parents decisions are interfering with your relationship with your child. Sometimes its in the way you format your argument. When you present your argument to the court that the other parent is interfering with the child’s rights and your relationship, this is not allowed, so you can present a solution that provides either equal custody time if you don’t already have that, or if you can show that the parent has a history of not following orders and is unlikely to follow them in the future, you might have grounds to persuade the judge without lowering the protection of your rights.
We hope that this helps you avoid thousands of dollars of loss in your family income in the future.
Keep coming back to this blog for other solutions and tools posted daily, as we help you explore your options and make your decisions easier to make on what is right for you and your family.
Take Care and see you back here tomorrow!
Read our book for citations of specific cases that you can use in your arguments to the court when you are arguing for the proper protection of your family rights.
You can learn more about this and how to reason through your rights and protect your rights in our books and courses. Click at the top on Store and you will find the books and training tabs. The book teaches you your rights and the training courses teach you how to argue them like I demonstrated above.]
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*We are not telling you to disturb the peace. This paragraph is a quote from the movie “Selma” 2014.
Strategic Parental Rights Strategist, Instructor, Constitutional Scholar, and Author
Divorce Solutions and Child Custody Solutions
Co-author “Not in the Child’s Best Interest” (Book on parental rights and children’s rights)
Co-author “Protecting Parent-Child Bonds: 28th Amendment” (Book includes guide for legislators)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/fixfamilycourts (@fixfamilycourts)
Disclaimer: I am NOT an attorney or a lawyer. I do NOT practice law in any federal or State court system. Any information provided by me to you, regardless of how specific, is NOT intended to be legal advice under any state or federal law. I provide research, written strategies, and non-professional personal opinions on the Constitution and State laws as free exchange of politically important information that also serves an important public need and interest allowed under the First Amendment. You are highly encouraged to engage an attorney in your State to help you with the specifics of your legal issues and the law in your State. If you are a pro se litigant then you bear all and full responsibility for understanding the law in your state and acting under the law in your state. Nothing you receive from me is intended to be a “legal” document for purposes of any type of filing in any court. You are free to use my words for your personal non-commercial benefit, or as an aide in petitioning your government for redress of perceived wrongs, if properly cited where appropriate. YOU TAKE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY LEGAL ACTIONS YOU PURSUE AND THE RESULTS THAT YOU GET. I BEAR NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR RESULTS. MY OPINIONS ARE NOTHING MORE THAN MY PERSONAL NON-PROFESSIONAL OPINIONS OR BELIEFS. I MAKE NO CLAIMS OF LEGAL COMPETENCY IN THE LAW UNDER ANY GOVERNMENT STANDARD OF COMPETENCY IN THE LAW.
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