I’ve just read an article on Huffington Post’s divorce section, ‘The Biggest Divorce Don’t of All’ which argues for couples sticking together and not divorcing. There are a number of points that I disagree with but one that I do concur on is that often times people approach divorce thinking that it’ll all be over once the divorce is final. What they don’t have is a true understanding of what life after divorce will be like.
If you have children together, chances are that you and your ex will be communicating at least until your children complete secondary education and quite possibly well beyond as you face sharing special occasions such as college graduation, marriage and grandchildren. Ex’s can often find themselves back in court arguing over both parenting time and financial child support.
Julia and her ex divorced when their children were just toddlers with Julia being the primary custodial parent. While she says they agreed initially that parenting would be fifty-fifty by the time the children were four or five, when the time came, she didn’t think that was in the best interests of her children. She prevailed then and now, she’s gearing up to back to court to seek to reduce his parenting time. Here’s Julia:
He’ll be devastated and I think it is going to put the kids in a really awkward position when I share all the different things that they’ve shared with me that he doesn’t know about. I want to feel that I have control over the process but I’m scared someone like my parents or my attorney or someone else will make me do something.
I fear that if we hire a child-family investigator and they find he needs anger management classes or something, that they’ll decide that once he’s completed a program, he can have fifty percent custody. That would be the worst thing that could ever happen because I’m going in to take away custody or to have supervised visits but I don’t want to lose what I have. I have nine days out of fourteen right now and I want it to be ten or eleven, not fifty-fifty.
I’m scared of what he might do to us. we have places we hide, places we’ve hidden in the past when he’s gone ballistic, but I worry about my parents or other people. What if he goes to their houses and tries to find us there? I worry for them.
The last time we went through this we had a counselor who met with my ex and the kids and she came back and said,
“Oh, he has a wonderful relationship with the kids.”
Well, the kids never told her truth. They said,
“Yes, we love our daddy.”
She said the problem with me was that I was too good a parent because I had all this education in childhood development and all this experience in discipline and working with kids so it ended up being a negative.
The kids admitted later that they weren’t honest, they were too scared of what their dad was going to say.
I’ve talked to the kids about going for more custody, especially with my daughter and I’ve tried to explain to her that I’ll have to tell her dad the things she’s told me – about hoping her real dad comes and how she’s been hurting herself and she says ‘whatever it takes.’
But this is something that will affect them their entire life. I don’t know what to do. I know I want to go for more custody but I don’t know if I’m going to have the courage to do it.
The Divorce Coach Says
I wanted to include this segment of Julia’s story because I think it captures so many of the concerns about seeking more custody:
- You feel you have a responsibility to manage the risks your children are exposed to but don’t want to lose the parenting time you have;
- You hear what your children are telling you but worry that they won’t be able to say the same things to your ex, face-to-face;
- You worry about the impacts on your children’s ongoing relationship with your ex.
I think Julia’s concerns about losing parenting time are valid. That’s not based on any assessment of her parenting skills but just on the fact that any time you go to court, you are asking someone else to make a decision. You are losing control. It’s always better if you and your ex can resolve the issues yourselves but obviously, there are cases, like Julia’s were that isn’t going to happen.
What has helped you to make decisions about child custody? What advice would you give Julia?