I recently spoke with a client who was, shall we say, not excited about a likely modification for her children to spend more visitation time with her ex-spouse. What she really wanted to do was raise holy hell, but after a bit of discussion she understood the benefits of cooperating.
“Remember,” I told her, “he or she who ducks and dodges the best will be the one left standing.”
What do I mean by duck and dodge? I mean if you want to come out ahead in the divorce process, don’t enter the ring with your fists flying. Instead, show flexibility when you can. If you insist on having things your way too often, it will come back to knock you down.
While you may secretly hope your soon-to-be-ex-spouse gets hit by a bus on the way to the courthouse, the judge wants to see that you support your children’s time with the other parent. A top priority of the family court system is to ensure the well-being of the children. With very few exceptions, the judge is going to strive to give your children the opportunity to maintain relationships with both parents.
So the judge will be looking for evidence that you ducked and dodged. To show this, you need to:
- Show flexibility when possible with scheduling conflicts
- Be the cheerleader your child may need to make the transition between your two households
- Help your spouse with logistics: car seats, snacks, favorite toys, and so on
- Refrain from spying and resist the urge to grill your child about what Mom or Dad is up to
Even if your spouse isn’t able to do any of the above, take it as a challenge for you to do your best. Your children will be happier, the divorce process will be smoother, and less energy will be required overall. You’ll reduce your stress and enjoy more peace.
Yes, I know: “Why do I have to be the one to duck and dodge, help, be the cheerleader, ect…” Life isn’t fair and divorce is certainly filled with perceived unfairness, but at least one parent has to be willing to step it up and do what is necessary to ease the impact on the children. Choose to be that parent. Thinking, instead: “What can I do? How can I help?” is far more productive.
If all else fails, consider this: Parenting Plans are rarely set in stone. They can, and often do, fluctuate with time. Doesn’t it make sense that the judge will look to the parent who is standing tall with the pompoms for input on any modifications, rather than the one flailing at a punching bag?
Where are you struggling with your plan? What steps can you take to put the gloves aside? If you find this too hard to do on your own, maybe you need your own cheerleader? A trusted friend or, better, a coach who is familiar with the ground you are fighting for, can help you stick to your plan which, in the long run, is a winning strategy.