Child custody battles are about winners and losers. Marjorie’s joy at gaining shared custody of her daughter in addition to a financial settlement that included spousal support, a share of her husband’s retirement assets and no liability for the marital debts has a flip side: her ex’s loss.
Clearly the settlement is not what he wanted. That is the risk of going to trial. When you have two people fighting over custody it’s going to get ugly. It will mean your STBX dragging up all the moments which spotlight your very worst behavior, it will mean expert witnesses to testify against your fitness as a parent and it will mean people you regarded as friends testifying against you. It will also mean tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
And once the judge has delivered the judgment, both sides are expected to leave courtroom and go about the business of parenting together. This is precisely the position that Marjorie is in and so I asked her how she plans to start creating a relationship with her ex again. Here’s Marjorie:
My ex was very pissed, to say the least, in the courtroom, and his lawyer had a conversation with him, I don’t know what he said, but by the time he got into the parking lot of the courthouse, he was a totally different man. We all sat there, his attorney, my attorney, and we were ready making plans for future swaps and communication.
When my daughter was staying with me he had started texting me, and texting at all hours of the night, texting instructions for my daughter about shampooing her hair and doing homework. I had to put a stop to it, and set up boundaries right away, to let him know, “You have to respect and honor my time, our time and our child together and let me be her mother and know that she’s going to be OK.”
I think this is going to be a hard adjustment for him. My role in this is I’m going to have to humble myself with him. I know he’s been this mean-spirited person for the past year. I have to put that behind and try to look at him differently now and understand that he didn’t get anything that he asked for, and his pride and everything is hurting. I’m going to be patient with him because I want to make sure there’s no friction because I don’t want our daughter to sense that. She doesn’t need that anymore in her life.
That’s what the judge said, “Everything in the best interest of the child. If you have to bite your tongue, whatever you have to do, think about what it does to your kids.”
I think that happens to a lot of us with divorce, we don’t realize we’re so emotional and upset at the other party, we say it’s for the child, and in some ways it is, but it’s more about our pride, it’s more about our feelings, and we take it personally. I know it’s easier said than done, but I think what’s going to happen is in the long run, as our kids grow up, they see the truth, they know. I don’t care what you tell them now, they’re going to remember what they heard and what they saw, and that’s what’s going to be real to them, and that’s how they’re going to be basing their future relationship with you.
“Did you let Daddy come and pick me up?” or “Did you let me have time with Daddy? What were you saying about Daddy?” They hear these things. You think now when they’re young, they don’t understand, but they’re going to keep all of that stuff in their mind and as they get older, that stuff is going to come back and they’re going to see the reality of it.
I don’t want to be that mom when she’s older, for her to look at me with resentment. We just have to grow up in these situations.
Just knowing my husband and who he is and how he thinks, he’s never been much for change and he is about control. When you have someone that doesn’t like change, and someone that likes to be in control, if you rock their world in any way, or give them an indication you’re going to rock their world, they’re going to get you before you get them. That’s exactly what his intention was. He learned that if we went amicably with this divorce, it was going to be joint custody, but he was probably going to lose a lot of time with his daughter. He didn’t want to lose her, he didn’t want to lose the house. Those were the two most important things to him and so he did what he could to take control of the situation.
If anyone had told me that he was capable of doing what he did, I would have said, “No way.” I would have sworn on my husband’s behalf that he wouldn’t do something like that. I felt like I did not know him. I think that a situation like this does things to people. That’s all that I can say, that it was the situation and the fear. He was afraid and he didn’t want to be without control, and so he had to take control of the situation and that’s what he did. It carried on for too long, and a part of it too was hurting me, knowing how much my daughter missed me, but he was totally ignoring what it was doing to her, totally ignoring that. So that’s what happens when we let our emotions get in the way.
I think that his being cordial is a part of his playing the game out because this is what he has to do, but I don’t trust him at all. I think he will use any opportunity to get back into my head, back into my life so that he can maybe even take me back to court, so I have to watch my back with him. I could be wrong, but I’m not optimistic, I don’t see it right now.
The Divorce Coach Says
Given the history here, Marjorie is right to be on the alert and indeed as she commented on an earlier post, her ex has already filed a petition to change the parenting plan. Wanting to change the plan is understandable – I wouldn’t want all my parenting time to be on school days and no weekends but there was an opportunity here for Marjorie and her ex to work together, using a mediator, if necessary to negotiate a more equitable division of time. And their attorneys could have suggested this.
As it is Marjorie will have to retain legal counsel to respond to the petition. While she was able to secure pro bono legal help when her ex blocked access to the marital assets. that pro bono help is unlikely to continue. I’m guessing that although Marjorie was awarded spousal support, it won’t go far if she has to use it for legal fees. So pursuing a remedy via the court system as opposed to mediation could be a continued power play by her ex. He could also be unaware that mediation is an option – his attorney after all, has a vested interest in keeping the litigation going which is why it’s important to remember that you are the client, your attorney is there to make recommendations but ultimately it is you who makes the decisions.
Marjorie is also right that children do see through the actions of their parents and this sends a message that Mom and Dad are still arguing, not able to work together. Going the route of mediation would have sent the message that they were both at least willing to attempt to resolve the issue and would show their daughter a different way of handling disputes.
I’m curious? Do you agree that on-going litigation could be a way for an ex to keep control over a former spouse? How would do you respond? How do you break the cycle?
Photo credit: GrowWear