What comes to mind when you think of custody battles? Two parents screaming at each other, while a child of six or seven tries not to listen. Hostile custody exchanges with heated disputes, growing louder and louder as one aggressively peals out of the parking lot, away from the tension. Maybe you think of a court room, where the parties’ fight spins out of control, forcing the judge to use his gavel to bring back order in the room. Perhaps your vision is silent, full of passive aggressive body language and snide mutterings. Maybe you think of your own situation.
Society and media has created an image of custody cases that is comparative to a drunken bar fight that hasn’t quite escalated to the point of physical violence (at least not outside of closed doors). Parents haphazardly lugging insults at one another, seemingly more interested in being right than being a parent. While this image is dramatized for entertainment, sometimes it is reality. I often think that elevators at Family Court are the most uncomfortable places. You can either cut the tense silence with a knife, or you wish you had earplugs or the ability to transfigure yourself into a fly on the wall. Perhaps that’s why the custody department is on the first floor in Allegheny County? I’m sure this isn’t the reason, but it is worth wondering. Custody is so rarely completely amicable. I’ve seen the best of situations deteriorate over forgetting to pack a toothbrush for an exchange. That’s why this next factor exists.
We are nearing the end of list of factors, and you may think some of them are repetitive. I wouldn’t disagree with you, but each factor has its nuance. This thirteenth factor looks at the behavior between the parties. It investigates the level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. There are exceptions, which will be examined closer in later posts, but for the most part, the court wants to see that the two parties are capable of co-parenting.
Slinging insults at each other, whether you are right or not, never ever helps your custody case.
And I get it. He or she probably really hurt you at some point in your life. They were wrong, and it probably should not have happened. You hate his new girlfriend and he thinks your fiancé is a bad influence. She bickers at you for being 2 minutes late and he always forgets to brush your daughter’s hair. He cheated. She cheated. You wouldn’t be here if something hadn’t gone wrong at some point. Your feelings are valid, but while they are valid, it is best not to display them in the courtroom.
I’m not suggesting that you ignore these feelings because in my experience, they find their way out however they are able. The healthy way of processing feelings is to actually process them, and here are a few alternatives to many of your impulses such as ranting to your kids, bickering with the other party, or venting to court officials:
1. A trusted friend. Finding a good and trustworthy friend for this purpose is rather difficult, actually. You need to make sure that they aren’t affiliated with the other party. And you can’t rely on them solely for the purpose of venting, but a listening ear is always helpful. I would caution against letting them rile you up though. If this person is going to inspire you to arm yourself for battle and escalate the issue, it probably isn’t your best option.
2. Let the energy out. Writing, journaling, painting, drawing, coloring. Running, swimming, biking, boxing, hiking, yoga. Join a gym or a class. Get involved with a book club or volunteer. Just do something. Writing is a great way to purge your thoughts onto paper, helping you to process everything. Expressing yourself creatively will help you to cope with your emotions, and will in turn help you to deal with your situation. Physically letting out some energy may help with pent up aggression and angst. Don’t bottle it up, but let it out in healthy, constructive ways.
3. Ask a professional. I can’t speak enough about the benefits of therapy in family law cases. Talking to a neutral third party who specializes in human behavior and relationships is the best possible way of learning how to get through things. Everyone wants to be heard, so tell it to someone who listens to people for a living. Sometimes, clients use their attorneys as fill-ins for this purpose, and while I love speaking with all of my clients and am very much interested in helping out however I can, sometimes it is cheaper (therapy is typically eligible to be paid through health insurance) to go to a therapist.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a way to get started thinking about how to maintain your cool in the courtroom. This factor is huge in considering your custody schedule, so make sure you are in the best position to get the best result.
This article was written by writer and content strategist, K. Gleason.
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