Excerpt from: A New Way to Win: How to Resolve Your Child Dispute Without Giving Up, Giving in or Going Broke, Copyright © 2010 by Tobias Desjardins.
It only takes one angry parent, step-parent, or grandparent to instigate a destructive custody dispute that eats up thousands of dollars, poisons relationships, and puts children at risk. Once begun, these conflicts take on a life of their own and are fueled by an adversarial family law system that too often brings out the worst in people. So whether you are just breaking up or have been separated for a decade, the information contained here could prove invaluable.
Child custody disputes often come to resemble a no-limit poker game where the kids watch from the sidelines while adults raise the stakes to dangerous levels. Acting under the pretext of doing what’s in the best interest of the children, the adults play hand after hand, throwing more and more chips into the already inflated pot. The dispute gets bitter, intractable, and deadlocked.
This is partly because of an alarming trend among some family law attorneys to act as fierce negotiators. Adept at throwing gas on fires, they know all too well that they won’t make a dime if their clients find a way to amicably resolve their custody dispute over a coffee at Starbucks. So they push parents to fight for what is “good and just,” then disappear when the money runs out.
Interestingly, many custody cases revolve around common issues that families deal with on a regular basis. After a breakup, however, rather than calmly working out differences at the dining room table, they unnecessarily embark upon an emotionally and financially draining process, involving lawyers, depositions, custody evaluators, expert witnesses, and one court date after another.
Imagine a parent in an intact relationship hiring an attorney to work out a parenting problem or write up a household budget. How would someone explain such a thing? “Honey, I know money is tight, but a friend at work said that if I asked Mr. Gray here to represent my interests in our budget discussion, I could get those premium cable TV channels we’ve talked about.” It would be absurd. Yet all too often, when a relationship ends, this is exactly the way once rational people start to behave.
Fortunately, there has also been a trend in the other direction. Over the last fifteen years a growing percentage of family law attorneys have embraced the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) model. An umbrella term that refers to a group of non-adversarial approaches for resolving conflicts, ADR-focused family law attorneys help parents resolve custody problems in a fair and cost-efficient way outside of the formal court system. Now being taught in law schools around the world, the ADR approach has been shown to be highly effective. Unfortunately, most parents have never heard of it. The “fierce” negotiator types hope they never do.
For the kids, the risks couldn’t be higher. Whether they show it or not, children of separation and divorce are deeply affected by their parents’ breakup. They love and want a relationship with both parents, no matter how imperfect. However, when a custody battle gets in the way, they can quickly begin experiencing profound levels of anger, fear, and confusion. In very difficult cases, children become so distressed that they may begin to wish they were never born. Some may even have thoughts of suicide.
If you are recently separated or divorced and want to avoid an ugly custody dispute, this book is for you. If you are in a custody battle and have tried everything you can think of to help the kids “win” the game, but have failed, read on. This book will show you the tools that millions of families around the globe are using to resolve their shared custody problems. The concept is simple. You need a new way to win.
The new way to win presented in this book is built on a promise we make to ourselves and our children—a promise to protect all from the serious harm a custody dispute can cause. This is done by:
• Building the children a safe harbor
• Using the “what works” research to develop creative new options
• Having the courage to look within
• Reflecting deeply on what loving our children means, especially in difficult times
• Choosing to be powerful rather than forceful
• Unlocking the power of intention
• Being the most important role model in our children’s lives
• Tapping into the wisdom of parents who have walked in our shoes
• Having faith that uncertainty and hardship will lead to insight and healing
• Not being afraid to change course
• Refusing to give up, give in, or go broke.
This is a promise we must commit to in our hearts and make happen with our hands and feet. Protecting children during a breakup is not something we can do by ironing superhero logos on their shirts, getting them on Prozac, or by hiring the super nanny. A “New Way to Win” is leadership. While having the right support in a custody dispute is essential, we must be sure to always lead the way. Our own best interests and the best interests of our kids are at stake. Leadership is especially important if the going gets rough, like when a spouse is unreasonable or chooses to play dirty, as we will see later on.
Whether you are a parent, step-parent, or a grandparent, this book will show you the skills and strategies needed to avoid a custody battle in the first place. If your family is already having custody problems, it will show you how to bring them to an end quickly and peacefully.
Finally, this book is designed to serve as your family’s personal lifeboat. Use it to help you through the storm that is your custody situation. Your challenge is to navigate the current and paddle to the other shore—to that place where the dispute is resolved, the kids are thriving, and life is good once again. While the thought of setting out may at first seem intimidating or perhaps even impossible, rest assured that you have everything you need for the journey in these pages.