Psychological research evidences divorce has many parallels with losing a loved one to disease or age. At Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., we observe the “perfect” divorce is one that untangles and disconnects the parties from each other completely.
Then the grieving process can begin and, over time, the parties can move on in productive directions, being even better future spouses if they learn from their mistakes.
If there are children born of the marriage, total separation does not ever occur, even after the children grow up and move on in their own lives and relationships; there are weddings, births and funerals where they will inevitably encounter each other. The steps to healing sometimes never gain traction and bitterness and bickering replace it.
In fact, while the children are minors, some parents’ personalties--the dynamic that so intensely brought them together, drives them apart--causes every child-related issue to be nearly impossible to deal with. Winning is foremost, with the child’s best interests a distant second.
Unfortunately, this is all too common, and is aptly reflected in one case the Indiana Court of Appeals decided, summarizing and quoting a psychiatrist involved:
“The psychiatrist who most recently evaluated this struggle between two battle-hardened parents observed that because all of the alternatives here are less than ideal, ‘we [the Court of Appeals] might need to substitute the hope for the least detrimental alternative as a proxy for the best interests of the child.” Kirk v. Kirk, 770 N.E.2d 304 (Ind.Ct.App.2002).
Is this your situation? If so, the anecdotal evidence Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., advocates obtain from their own clients and interaction with other lawyers suggest there are some simple (in what they are, but difficult to accept and implement) de-escalation techniques that work to minimize parental conflict.
We hope you find these tips useful and you can refine them to help in your situation:
E-mail is not the be-all, end-all. There are times when it clearly is not prudent to communicate with the other parent by e-mail, such as a medical emergency. Some parents do not have such access or, if they do, refuse to use it. Nevertheless, in a majority of cases it is a very effective communication tool between parents who do not get along.
First, it removes all of the non-verbal communication (body language) from the communication stream. The message sent is what is. Stated a bit differently, there is little ability to unintentionally or otherwise send mixed or hostile messages through e-mail, except through what Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates observe by UPPERCASE and bolded letters followed by exclamation points: !!!!!.
Second, e-mail provides a less intrusive form of communication than a phone ringing, note sent through the child, and the myriad of communication tools parents use to sometimes torment the other. E-mail can be sent and answered in due course.
Third, e-mail provides a written, dated and timed memorialization of the communication. This may be useful to determine where communication breaks down, who is not fostering parenting, and ultimately utilized in court proceedings.
Be flexible and give to the point it hurts.
Some parents engage in very clear patterns to incite the other parent. Two common examples are showing up consistently late, which avoids the receiving parent from being able to timely address his or her schedule following. Another is canceling just before the parenting time, devaluing the other parent to the child and wreaking havoc on daily life.
Nevertheless, if such is an identified pattern, there is some advanced planning that may be made to account for this. To the extent possible, every drop-off, pick-up, event, and the like should have a plan “B.” This is not fair or right, but no lawyer, judge or psychologist can account for the way a parent may inflict pain on the other.
There are three (3) questions to ask with every potential issue of dispute:
- First, what will be the ultimate fall out? If it is not in the child’s best interests nor detrimental to the parent-child relationship, should this issue or issues be allowed to pass unaddressed?
- Second, if the dispute is engaged, what will be the long-term fallout?
- Third, is this worth going to court over and what can I gain by this?
While acquiescing and remaining silent to little grievances may be hard to take, it is important to remember that no court can remedy all of these situations and there is no way to turn back the hands of time.
To the extent possible, do not allow yourself to be baited but rather disengage.
Live in a “fishbowl.”
In today’s electronic world, privacy is a relative term. Nothing is truly private. E-mails, social media, camera phones, and private investigators are a part of the everyday landscape of domestic cases. This cuts both ways and may validate bad behavior or take truly private matters and turn them into a foundation for a custody battle.
For this reason, parents who are involved in high-conflict cases should live in the proverbial “fishbowl” and assume anything you are doing personally, professionally, or privately will be made public–act accordingly.
No tool is the perfect remedy or even applicable in every circumstance. However, the parent who seeks peace and parenting time with the children in a calm and cool environment should always be considering how to keep parenting issues from becoming heated.
In some case, there is a third party, be it a parent or family friend, respected by both parents, who may be able to facilitate scheduling, drop-offs and pick-up, and even communicate or handle routine issues. A variant of this is to use neutral exchange points.
Nevertheless, in most cases, these should not be places that might lead the children to believe there is something wrong with the other parent. A police station is such an example. This does not necessarily mean it should not be used, but parenting must constantly be filtered by how to maintain an amicable situation and also meet the children’s best interests.
In particularly tense times, it never hurts to consider bringing along a third party who might be a witness to a parenting event where there is interaction with the ex. This person–a witness–can be called upon if necessary to provide some explanation to the various type of claims and allegations that sometimes results.
Using this technique, necessitates caution and prudence. Taking a new significant other is probably a bad idea. These persons tend to escalate situations.
Prepare for “Hot Buttons.”
Hot buttons. We all have them. For ex. spouses., they have the benefit of being aware of the other’s “hot buttons.” For instance, a long-running family trip may be such a custom, it is worth agreeing to no matter whose parenting time it falls.
Every domestic attorney worth his or her salt has fought over some “hot button” issue in amazement. Who gets to keep the child’s sport trophy. My family always attends this event we are going . . . . Be aware of these issues and try to engineer around them. Being technically right does not mean the fight is worth it.
In a number of cases, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates have reached agreement with the opposing counsel and counsel/party to appointment of a parenting coordinator. A parenting coordinator is nothing more than a neutral third-party who helps the parties timely communicate and work out parenting time.
This is beneficial in two (2) ways. First, a dispute, disagreement or concern is addressed in real time, not months later (typically) in a courtroom. Second, the ability to fight as you go keeps issue upon issue from building up to a cataclysmic event and protracted litigation driven by emotion.
While PCs are not the right tool for every party, they may play an invaluable role by opening up a monitored communication channel between the parties.
The Indianapolis divorce attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. hope you find these tips useful. The aim is to keep parents out of court, or if necessary, as it sometimes is, to litigate critical issues for which there is no middle ground. Our attorneys practice throughout the state and are available to consult with you.