Family Courts & Children

  1. Resolving parental disputes in Family Courts: fact or fiction?

Is it realistic for parents to expect our judicial system to offer meaningful help and support for families experiencing the distress of divorce/separation? Particularly those who demonstrate a history of bitter dispute and patterns of obstructive parental behaviour?

Separating parents need to recognise and appreciate that in bringing family matters before the Courts, they are, in essence, relinquishing ‘control’ of their family’s future and thereby reducing their capacity to resolve their own parental issues. By handing over their parental ‘power’ to a judicial system that is combative in style, the risk is, that the very nature of the court process will only serve to aggravate, and often escalate, the conflict

It is not surprising then that Courts cannot always be expected to come to the rescue of a family who are shipwrecked out on an ‘emotional sea’. Judges are often required to make monumental decisions for families, sometimes having only just met the parents briefly and in most cases, never even having met the children. How can family court judges be expected to satisfy the detailed requirements of a family whose lives they have no knowledge of? The impossible position of the Court creates a “nobody wins” atmosphere, which does little to encourage positive & effective co-parenting and can only generate more resentment.

In an attempt to discredit each other as parents, former partners often ‘paint’ an entirely disapproving, negative and harmful profile of one other. This kind of damaging ‘tactic’ usually only serves to encourage suspicion and mistrust. It’s a destructive approach to dealing with an already very fragile system that can only be likened to taking a sledgehammer to an already shattered glass flower. So how can this create a positive basis on which to build a future co-parenting model when parents who are emotionally raw from separation end up thrashing it out in the Courts?

Whilst it is both recommended and essential to fully understand your rights and entitlements from a legal perspective, parents should bear in mind that solicitors fight solely for their clients. In this respect any legal advice you receive does not necessarily take the needs of the whole family into account. For this reason it’s important to think carefully before entering a system that can create further resentment, leaving you mentally exhausted, financially depleted and emotionally battered.

The Courts can be very effective but cannot be the ‘fixer’ of all problems. Family situations and dynamics vary so greatly these days and everyone’s situation is unique. By diminishing your own decision-making capacity as parents and blaming each other, you could find yourself unpleasantly surprised at the outcome.

2. How playing the ‘blame game’ undermines & affects separated parenting.

As a separated parent, playing the ‘blame game’ may seem fairly satisfying in the short term but over time will eventually surreptitiously undermine your parenting, whilst negating and eroding the another parent in the process. Sadly this is a typical behaviour observed when parents separate. The need to blame is very much a part of the initial stages of grief and fury. It can feel really good to blame the other parent and absolve ourselves of guilt and of course there are only so many painful emotions one can cope with when breaking up feels so dramatic and awful.

But, by finding oneself constantly in a blaming matrix and frequently blaming the other person, the longer we maintain our fixed position. And the longer we remain ‘stuck’, the more we avoid necessary change. “It’s all his/her fault”, we say in adopting this ‘easier’ stance, where no shift or compromise or healthy self-analysis can take place.

If we are unable to be really honest about assessing our own roles, looking within ourselves and examining our own behaviour, how can we determine how one can change and learn from past incidents? We run the risk of the situation becoming further ‘inflamed’ to a point that disables us – like a paralysis. Entrenched and stuck in a rut, no progress or forward motion can truly be made.

Parents who blame each other are actually negating their own parenting prowess, robbing themselves of all their strengths and qualities as parents. By spending so much energy focusing on one another’s mistakes, an impasse is reached. It is often at this point that their children will feel hopelessly lost or overlooked. We end up with two negated parents, erased by their continuous blaming of one another, creating a severe emotional deficit for their children. Particularly at a time when children need to observe their parents being stronger than ever, both parents need to conserve all their energy for themselves so that they can focus on bringing up their children – an even more difficult task than usual!

Taking stock of oneself and learning to regulate our actions & reactions is far more rewarding and the results far more tangible. One can see the progress from within. Negative profiling the other parent; viewing them with an ever-critical eye; plotting their demise and obsessing over what they are doing with ‘your child’ ultimately only detracts from YOU as a parent.

The amount of time and effort wasted obsessing and generating negative energy and blame results in loss of time spent enjoying your child. It is only in building on the foundation of their childhood that we can continue creating lovely moments and wonderful memories for them.

Of course, it takes time to recover from a separation experience (especially if you are embroiled in family court legalities) so if you continue to find yourself on this negative trajectory after more than a couple of years, maybe it’s time to explore alternative options and other kinds of support.

Try to have more fun with your children. Stop looking at those court papers or taking note of all the times the other parent slips up, or making a case for your solicitor about ‘what an awful parent they are’. ‎

It’s time to enjoy yourself and your child – to take a healthy control and start to reap the rewards of your decisive actions to move forward in seeking a fruitful co-parenting future.