I’m coming to the end of things with a divorce hearing shortly, on money and children matters next month.
As part of the custody proceedings, my lawyer wants me to say such pearls as my ex is a “good parent” and I am “as attuned to the children’s needs as she is” and — we both “work hard to provide for the kids.”
The lawyer thinks this will make me sound more balanced, which is helpful with the local courts who tend to side with the less crazy-sounding spouse.
But I just can’t say any of this. My entitled ex has not only refused to pay anything for the kids, she is demanding extra for herself, despite making a tonne of money as a lawyer. The only person she is working hard for is herself.
She is manipulative and a pathological liar who models lying to the kids. She blew up our family with her affair and her biggest issue about the kids is how they reflect on her. Their success (which she assists) is her success. She is not a “good parent” — she is a deeply flawed parent, even if she has some good points.
And, being at least a little narcissistic, she lacks the empathy to be attuned to the kids and usually just projects her own feelings on them (especially about what they would like, i.e., to spend every holiday with her and her family, to spend more time with her, to do whatever it is she feels like doing).
I know it might help my case, but I just can’t say these things.
Any thoughts on whether to eat this shit sandwich and hope I get a better outcome or take a pass in favour of hoping the courts will understand?
I’m generally in favor of doing whatever your lawyer tells you to do. I am not a lawyer, so I can’t give you legal advice. And I have no way of verifying the legal credentials of anyone who comments here. All I can do is caution you against only listening to advice you want to hear, versus really difficult advice that could help you.
My husband is a trial lawyer and he would lecture his clients about how they should appear on stand. The other side, he’d tell them, is going to paint you as crazy, angry, and irrational. So it’s your job to be NONE OF THOSE THINGS, no matter how justified you feel, no matter how right you are — “the person with the coolest head wins.” Don’t play into their narrative of you.
And these are very ugly cases in which any person in their right mind would be frothing, insanely angry. Like your boss left a noose on your desk (and then tried to say you were a bad employee), or your co-worker sent you naked pictures of himself and constantly propositioned you for sex, and then said you were slutty and wanted it. Or a crane hit you in the head at work, you fell into a coma, and then were fired for “failure to show.” (All real cases he had.) My point is FTSL — there are a LOT of shit sandwiches of injustice out there.
My guess is the narrative the other side wants to paint is that you hate your ex-wife and you want to punish her by withholding support or time with the children. I know that narrative makes your head want to explode. I GET IT. I think what your lawyer is trying to do (and I’m not a lawyer — see disclaimer above) is balance the narrative. Give you the cool head of someone who is trying to be reasonable.
And I know that to you, that feels like lying. She’s a terrible person who blew up her family for ego kibbles. A mother who will not pay to support her kids. A narcissist who is only concerned with how those children reflect upon her.
You bred with a fuckwit. So did I. So did many of us here. We feel your pain.
If it were me, this is how I would address this — make a chart. (Bonus, the court loves exhibits.) Take all the emotion of it and just make LISTS — all the things you do for your children and all the things she does. Time, money, homework, packing lunches, all of it. And let the list do the talking for you.
The list says, “I concede that she has packed the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the last 6 months,” however “I pay all the kids’ expenses despite having a smaller income” or “I spend 80 percent of the time raising them compared to her 20 percent.” I don’t know what your particulars are — but I would just assemble as much EVIDENCE to support your point of view.
My husband says, “Testify to the facts, don’t characterize them. She does this, this, this well.” I wouldn’t lie and characterize her as a “good mother,” but you could concede that she makes sandwiches.
FTSL, I faced a similar dilemma when I had custody trials years ago. (I had physical custody and decision-making. My son’s father sued me multiple times, mostly pro se, for full-custody despite the fact he had deadbeat child support issues and a history of mental illness. Yeah, I know how to pick ’em.) I got the same advice to be reasonable and understand that my son had a right to a relationship with his shitty, horrible father.
I told the judge that recognizing that “need” for me was difficult. And I had to “balance” that need for a relationship against his father’s mental illness. I signaled to the judge that I saw both points of view, but the illness greatly concerned me. That approach — showing my vulnerability and my desire to do the right thing — resonated with the judge. I got what I wanted in court. (Of course, I was in court against someone who was demonstrably mentally ill. You are dealing with a competent-appearing person. Results may vary, and again, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.)
I’d ask your lawyer if you couldn’t say something similar, if asked. You recognize your ex’s right to have a relationship with the children, but you balance that against her narcissism, non-support, and indifference to breaking up their home.
Remember, it’s ALWAYS about the kids — not you. How this divorce effects them, not your personal animosity towards your ex. It’s about their well-being — so make that argument — how you are a GOOD FATHER and what all you do. Her proving she’s a good mother is on her.
Good luck. I know it sucks epically. But you will survive this. Thanks for being the sane parent. Big (((hugs))) from Chump Nation.