My D-day was October 2019, I found you early and you have helped me keep sane.
I have three children. At D-Day they were 8, 6 and 3. He had been having an affair for over a year with a ho-worker. I thought he was depressed and I was doing a samba of a pick me dance.
Anyway, I need advice.
I live in Northern Ireland and he has initiated children’s court to get more access to the children. He sees the children twice a week at the moment. He thought he could have me waiting at home with his darling children until I found out. Consequences hurt.
I had a Zoom call with my barrister last week. I was shocked at her statements, which included I’m “weaponising the children to try and hurt my soon to be ex.” I have “anger issues.” I need to go see a GP. I’m going to traumatise the children which will be harder for me to deal with when they are teenagers. If the court views me as hostile I could lose residency of the children.
You could have picked me off the floor. Thank God I was a year post D-day. My question is — was this advice to try and get me to take mediation seriously? Or again am I being abused, but this time by someone I’m paying a large amount of money to?
I have not spoken to Fuckwit since D-Day, thanks to your advice of No Contact. I just walked away from the crazy. Therefore I’ve conducted myself well, displaying no anger issues.
Any advice on mediation? He was rarely at home when he lived here. I hate the thought of losing more time with my children. I’m a nursery school teacher and I live for them.
Dear Doubtful Chump,
Is there some reason you chose this lawyer? Has she been a good lawyer to you in other ways? Because while I think she’s probably correct to caution you about how you may be perceived in court, it’s quite another thing to make personal judgements about your future parenting relationship, or how you’re coping with trauma. (Yes, being cheated on and suddenly left primary care of 3 children is traumatic.)
I would break this down and start asking some questions, stat.
1.) What am I doing specifically that leads you to believe I am “weaponizing” the children?
2.) Is this your observation of me, or is this what’s being charged from my ex?
3.) My perception is that I have conducted myself well, gone no contact, and have not displayed hostility, despite a very heart-breaking set of circumstances. What emotional reactions have you witnessed that you think are harmful/counterproductive? Or are you warning me NOT to have such emotional reactions in court/mediation?
Next, consider how your lawyer might reply and have some answers for that.
1. ) Weaponization. Your lawyer might want you to state certain things you find obvious, like “I don’t object to Fred having time with the children.” Then expand: It’s the amount of time and oversight that’s at question.
“It’s not vindictive of me to want primary custody. It’s what’s Best for the Children.”
Then you document, document, document why that is. (The time you spend with them, versus what he does. If you take them to school, doctors, activities. All of it.) The courts concern is What’s Best for the Children. Everything has to be seen from that lens. Including your criticisms of your ex.
I.e., thousands in unpaid child support does not make him an asshole (IT DOES), but it’s Not Best For the Children (to not have dental coverage, food, school books, etc.)
See how that works?
2.) Anger. Mr. CL (a trial lawyer) deals with upset people in court as a profession. People who have been unjustly fired, discriminated, maimed, injured. You get the idea. He tells them that the other side will try and paint them as unreasonable and angry. Insane and unhinged. Your JOB is to NOT be any of the things they allege. EVEN IF IT IS PATENTLY RIDICULOUS. Like, of course you’re upset that the assembly line malfunctioned and tore off your hand! But nope, in court, he with the coolest head wins.
So, of COURSE you’re furious your husband bailed on his family for a co-worker. But in mediation? Nope, we’re chill. It’s all business about who is best qualified to raise these kids and be the sane parent.
If you’re accused of anger? Have some stock replies. “Yes, that was upsetting. But I’m focused now on rebuilding a stable home for my children, who’ve been put through a lot.” (Left unsaid, THAT HE PUT THEM THROUGH.)
If therapy is recommended, do therapy! “I am only too glad to learn ways to deal with this difficult life change and become a stronger parent.”
As my lawyer once told me — court is a dog and pony show. Judges don’t really want to know all your messy shit. They want to make snap decisions about who looks sane and reasonable.
Is that FAIR, when you’re dealing with an INSANE and UNREASONABLE situation? NO. No it is not.
But it’s the shit sandwich we choke down for our children, to be given the right to do what it is we have been doing all along — being the show-up parent.
So, comb your hair, put on your best outfit, and your poker face. Come armed with documentation and REPRESENT for the chump team.
3.) Hostility. Does your lawyer have some Esther Perel delusions that you should be friends with your ex? Is she concerned that you will malign your ex by telling the truth, that dad had an affair?
Figure out what is going on there. Again, come armed with a script.
“My children are well-aware their father cheated, because he left for his girlfriend. I’m not maligning him by acknowledging their reality.”
Remember, no editorializing (Dad is a fuckwit). Just acknowledge reality (Dad has a girlfriend.) If you’re in one of those bizarro worlds where even acknowledging the basic facts of the divorce is verboten, then take your lawyer’s advice and shut up about it until the custody is SETTLED.
(We have a lot of work to do, CN, on changing the narrative.)
I’m going to traumatise the children which will be harder for me to deal with when they are teenagers.
You tell your lawyer “This shit my husband put me through is traumatizing. I am dealing with it the best I can and showing up for my kids. Have you lived this?”
Being abandoned is traumatizing. Being left with more responsibility than you fear your can handle on a nursery school salary is traumatizing. Explaining why dad is checked out is traumatizing. Having to go to family court to fight for your parental rights is traumatizing.
If your lawyer cannot understand how DIFFICULT this is for you, if it doesn’t feel like she’s on YOUR TEAM, then you need a new lawyer.
A good lawyer is not someone who is going to agree with you all the time — lawyers do tell us difficult things we need to hear (i.e., court is a dog and pony show. No one cares about your pain. Don’t bad mouth your ex, even if he’s a fuckwit.)
You don’t want to be that person who slops grief on her kids, or crushes small cities underfoot with her Bitterness. (That cartoon is me.)
But you do want a lawyer who GETS IT. And delivers hard messages with compassion.
Push back and find out what kind of lawyer you have.