Custody Battles: Ways to Smooth the Path

I’m a child of divorce. I may or may not have mentioned this before. My parents split when I was 10 and the divorce was final after I turned 11. It’s not a pretty story, but my mom easily got custody. There wasn’t a battle because my dad (at the time) wasn’t fit to have custody.

I didn’t have to hear my parents fight over splitting time or who was going to have my sister and I over the summers. We lived with our mom and I was the only one that went to visit our dad every other weekend.

I stopped that once I hit high school, because, you know, boys, friends and roller skating. I had my priorities straight at that point, and hanging out with my dad in the cornfields of Southern Indiana was not on the list.

I am not kidding. My dad and former stepmom bought a house outside of a small town and the neighborhood was so new that there was nothing next to it except cornfields.

I didn’t really like the area- when your dad’s black, your stepmom is white and the nearby town is known for its dislike of interracial marriages, it’s hard to like.

I may have escaped this battle, but many kids don’t.

Paperwork

Moving Into A New Way of Parenting

Everyone has a different situation in which they have to decide custody, and many need to go to court to make sure things go okay. If you can work things out without having getting the courts involved, that’s the best scenario for everyone.

Many people around you may want to give you advice on how to proceed, but only you and your co-parent know what is best. I give you these tips, courtesy of Parents.com to give a starting point.

Making things easier for everyone:

  • Do not speak badly about the other parent around your child. This can be extremely difficult in some cases, but it’s important that your child(ren) doesn’t hear the mean things you have to say about their other parent. They still love them, no matter what may be going on. They may internalize what they hear- if you can’t stand certain things about your ex, and your child shares that trait, they may think you don’t like them either. This can cause a lot of emotional damage.
  • Do not drag your child into adult issues. Kids already have a lot going on in their minds during a family split. They do not need added pressure to choose between a parent (the worst thing you can do if you ask me), have to worry about money, housing or other adult- related issues. If you need help sorting things out, please take it to someone you trust and/or a therapist.
  • Keep realistic schedules in mind. Look at the factors that may impact your time with your child, and try to make adjustments where you can. It may not be possible to spend as much time as you are used to with your child. This is hard to think about, but trying to make everything go your way can be hurtful in the end. Be flexible and open to change as your child(ren) grow and needs change.
  • Find a good way to communicate with your ex. There are websites, apps and other ways to communicate that don’t require seeing each other. You can talk through texting, email or even use Google Calendar to help keep schedules straight. Your lawyer can recommend good communication paths.
  • Let your child have a voice. My brother and sister in law recently divorced and because they were able to work things out among themselves, plus letting their kids (who are 10 and 13) have input on the custody part, they did not have to set foot inside a courtroom. The kids didn’t get everything they wanted, but they did get to pick the day of the week that they see their non-custodial parent, holiday visits (somewhat) and other things. I thought this was great and so far, it’s worked. If your child isn’t old enough for this option, this may have to wait.

Special Circumstances Require More Thought

If you have a child with special needs, there may need to be more paperwork and planning. I did a 5-part series with Bonnie Price last year, one part of which can be found here

This series details how to handle divorce in this circumstance because it is a reality. Parenting will put a lot of strain on a marriage- throw in special needs and the chances of divorce go up even more. It’s a thought-provoking series.

This situation may be the first time that you and/or your ex have even thought of long term planning for your child, depending on their needs.

For example, I hadn’t thought very far into the future for Julian’s needs until I was looking into a divorce. He is higher functioning, but he still may need assistance when he’s older. It happens to the best of us. My marriage obviously improved, but I have been looking into the future, so that is one of many lessons I took away from that experience.

Parent and child

How Do We Make This Work?

This information comes from Help Guide

Co-parenting can be stressful but it’s better for everyone involved if both parents can get along, even if only for the kids.

Communication is KEY. Tips to make it effective:

  • Try not to demand things from your ex. This can set a negative tone for the situation that you need help with. Making requests may be an easier way to set the tone for getting assistance.
  • Show restraint. This might take some time, depending on the situation you may be in. It can be hard to hold back the anger, pain and other feelings that come up. Try some calming techniques, deep breaths, using communication that you don’t have to see your ex to communicate. This may help.
  • Keep the conversation focused on the kids. The two of you may not want to know about the other’s lives, and it might become counter-productive. Keeping the conversations between you solely about the kid(s) will help from things going badly.
  • Stay open. Things will change and both parties need to remember this. Rigidity will not help anyone involved. Compromise will go a long way in co-parenting.
  • Listen. Try to hear your ex’s side of things and try to solve things together. Even if you don’t agree, you can at least acknowledge their view. Listening can help during intense situations.

Families form and change in different ways. The best ending for divorce (with kids involved) is that the parents are able to work together to make sure life stays as stable as possible.

Sometimes, this doesn’t happen and courts have to get involved. This isn’t a failure, but a different way to solve things. Life after divorce is not an easy path for anyone, especially not kids.

Do you have experience with custody battles? How did it work out?

After Thanksgiving Goodies

This is a good month- I love Thanksgiving. I am so happy to see Demi Lovato, one of my sobriety role models, out of rehab. Enjoy the posts and leftovers!

The Road to Authenticity

5 Ways to Conquer Self-Kindness

Healing Through Creativity: Art and Hippo Therapy

Broken Wings Part 5: What I Wish My Spouse Knew

Song Lyric Saturday with Britney Spears

Broken Wings Part 5: What I Wish My Spouse Knew

What I Wish My Spouse Knew About Our Child With Special Needs

This series was inspired by a Facebook post I read six weeks ago. A member posted this question “Does having a special needs child affect your marriage?” Post after post, people shared examples of how their marriage was tested. Some made it, others did not. I always wanted to create a platform where people could talk and share their experiences, the good and the bad. I cannot thank my collaborator Wrae Meredith Sanders enough for her open and honest contributions. Whatever your decision is, I hope you know you’re not alone and you will make it.

This is the last part of this series. Please feel free to like, comment, and share.

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There are many things that I can look back on now and wish that I could change. I’m unable to change the damage that was done to our marriage- both of us did things that we regret but we have been able to move forward together.

If I’d known that we would disagree so much and loudly, I would have shut the door a little more. I would have stopped and asked for a break–this would have helped more than we realized at the time. I would have asked why we had to be right all the time instead of coming up with a compromise.

Julian Needed Us to Come Together, Not Fall Apart

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If I’d known then that I’d spend many nights crying myself to sleep for so many reasons, I would hit the rewind button. I would figure out each separate reason instead of letting it all become a big ball of depression.

I thought I was doing the right thing–fighting you for Julian’s needs. This turned out to be two evaluations, a diagnosis of ADHD (combined), traits of Asperger’s (later amended to High Functioning Autism) and medications. He also needed group therapy.

Moms are supposed to do what it takes for their kids, right? The only thing is, I did it alone. I didn’t listen to you. You didn’t want any of these things to happen because you were in denial. If I had known what to say and not be confrontational, I would have done it. But I didn’t. That’s where I went wrong.

I tried explaining, even in a way you could understand but that didn’t do it. In your family, disabilities aren’t real unless you see it. Julian has the kind you can’t see. You couldn’t see it, so it didn’t exist. This even applied when Julian almost broke my nose and I had to get X-Rays.

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I sought out ways to deal with the loneliness. When your husband is in denial and emotionally bashes you daily, you have to find a way to cope. I drank. That was not productive at all.

I went out a lot with people who turned out to not be good for me, you even tried to tell me, but I didn’t trust you enough to care. I worked out in the gym obsessively and lost 60 lbs. Even my doctor was concerned. I barely ate for days on end. This didn’t help my decision making.

What I Know Now

We worked hard to put this family back together. I still have problems opening up to you this day. I finished therapy two months ago. You were there from day one to the last and cheered me on the whole time.

During that time, Julian has grown, and he has done well. He finished group therapy and dealt well with a change in providers. He is going into the seventh grade after a few bumps adjusting to middle school.

You’ve become so supportive of Julian and I. When he has a bad day, I know I can tell you about it. You’re happy when he does well. Raising kids isn’t easy and we have three. Having a kid with special needs makes things a bit more interesting and sometimes difficult. I’m glad that both of us decided to make this work.

Thanks. I know Julian wouldn’t say it but I’m sure he likes his mom and dad being together.

Love always…

Wrae

What I Wish My Husband Knew About Being A Special Needs Mom

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Dear Husband,

Never at the age of forty did I dream I would marry, then become pregnant a few months later. It took us both by surprise yet we agreed to go on this wild journey called parenting. I had a little more experience with raising a child as my daughter was fourteen when we tied the knot.

I was fat, tired, and cranky–everything a pregnant woman is and probably will be as long as little humans continue to beautifully invade our personal space. There were precautions because of my age and health, but I was sure I would go full term.

But I didn’t. He came nearly three months early. After a long stay at the hospitals, oxygen tanks, and therapy, our baby boy could live a normal life.

There’s Something About Keith

We both noticed how energetic he was, how once he started talking he couldn’t stop, and how sleep evaded him. No worries though, I sleep trained him. Plus, kids are naturally talkative and hyper, right?

But he never slowed down. After being kicked out of two daycares, we had him evaluated. I already knew, but I wanted to hear the doctor say it. He had ADHD.

Now here’s where the story starts to fall apart

I ran straight towards the ADHD armed with books, natural medicine because our pediatrician refused to help him, and age-appropriate behavioral techniques. You ran in the other direction, straight to the door of denial.

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Days grew into weeks, months, and even years. Six years isn’t much time to some, but when a person feels like they’re carrying the load alone, it can seem like a millennium.

The feeling is familiar because I went through the same thing raising my daughter alone. I felt overwhelmed all the time. I feel that way now.

As the primary caregiver, I stay on top of his meds, homeschool him, and take him to the doctor’s appointments.

I know you can argue that since I don’t have a nine to five, I should be doing this anyway. I remember carrying the same load as a full-time working mom too.

And when you did participate…

Yes, you went to the doctor with us sometimes. You ‘yessed’ your way through the appointments, but the heavy part of the load rests on my shoulders.

When he’s having a bad day, I try to redirect. You punish him by sending him to bed.

If he talks back, I remind him that his behavior is inappropriate, you yell at him and say things he will repeat later when he’s frustrated.

Even when you excuse yourself from spending time with him, he loves you anyway.

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If I thought you would really listen to what I have to say, I’d tell you that you are creating an insecure man who will be afraid to share his feelings, think he isn’t good enough and may do inappropriate things to get attention.

But I’m not brave enough. What I am is strong. I’m strong enough to walk away and do it on my own.

I don’t want to, but his well being comes first. The only reason I haven’t walked away now is that much like a little girl, I have hope.

You’re not a bad person. That’s why I haven’t left yet.

Until then, I pray we can fix these broken wings.

Love,

Bonnie

Comments? Leave them below.

Thank you so much for reading this series! We appreciate your support during this month. If you missed any of the previous parts, you can catch up here:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

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