Your soon-to-be ex (hereafter STBX) has assured you that he has all the evidence he needs to take full custody of your precious children and you are scared.
Single motherhood looms menacingly, haunting your quiet moments. Your heart is pretty much destroyed and financial strain is already taking its toll on your sanity. You are truly frightened that STBX can and will make good on his threat to take the kids away.
Don't dissolve. Breathe. You have a mother's heart, and when it comes to your children you are a lioness! You will do whatever it takes to protect your young.
In court, however, you must play it cool. Here are some custody battle hacks that might help things go your way in court:
1) Never say or write anything irrational to your STBX because he is likely to record it or print it out for his lawyer. Losing your temper gives him evidence to substantiate his false claims against you.
2) Understand his lawyer is telling him whatever he wants to hear. STBX desperately wants to believe his attorney's assurances of a glorious victory. It's comforting and he believes what he is told. That doesn't make it true, though! Don't let his lawyer's words intimidate you. They're only words.
3) Distract your STBX by seeming to invest lots of emotional energy to the issues that don't matter most to you. For example: you want custody of the kids, so you make a fuss about how much you want the house. Meanwhile, you slip the 'Tie-Breaker', or 'Final Say' clause under the rug; hiding it deep in the language of the divorce decree as though it's a mere formality.
4) Don't use drugs at all, and don't drink when the children are in your care. Regardless of your personal philosophy, these matter to the judge and your STBX will use any societal deviance against you if he can.
5) Keep your house clean. STBX will not hesitate to call social services, so be ready with a fresh kettle of tea and a clean fridge. Invite them in with kind vibes if the show up at the door. They are doing their job and usually they're social workers because they care about kids. Plug into your shared motives and treat them like you'd want to be treated in their position. They're people too. Moreover, their testimony is paramount to a judge.
6) Don't waste time trying to get dirt on your STBX. Just devote yourself to making sure your children are healthy and happy. Remember to take care of yourself too!
7) While in mediation and/or court, don't use words like "abusive" and "misogynistic". Yes, he was absolutely an abusive misogynist kumquat. HOWEVER--you must avoid sounding spiteful. If you say anything about STBX at all, say that he is "difficult", "negative", "not very involved", and "hard to get along with". This makes you sound more reasonable and mature compared to the punkass claiming that you're a psychotic lesbian child abuser on drugs.
8) Keep in mind that divorce/custody proceedings are only temporary. This is a time of intense transition. Keep calm and endure a little while longer and you'll soon have resolution.
9) If you truly believe your children are in real physical danger with your STBX, don't allow them to go with him and alert the police.
10) If your children aren't in real physical danger going with you STBX and he asks for visitation, let them go. Neither make your children feel weird about spending time with their father nor question them when they come home. Resist the urge to probe and simply love them up when they get home. This bolsters your reasonability, saves you stress, and reinforces your children's feelings of emotional safety and respect when they are with you.
11) Be the one to bring your child(ren) to their medical, dental, religious, and extra-curricular appointments, and keep receipts for all fees paid. The status-quo is often what judges like to maintain in a child custody battle, so if you're the one doing the heavy lifting parentally, you're very likely to be chosen for the job permanently.
12) Don't sling mud in court. Hold your head up above the fray and prize your dignity. Let your STBX make a fool of himself by accusing you of unholy acts and bestial abominations. You are a queen, and you have your priorities straight!
13) Wear somber clothing...like you're going to an upscale funeral. If you have dreads, cover them in a demure head wrap and remove your piercings. Play down your fringy side for a little while. Most judges are relatively conservative, and will experience your more conservative appearance as respect for their own values.
14) Keep your answers simple and short. Don't let opposing counsel provoke an overly emotional response in you--that's what they want. It's helpful to consciously modulate your voice and concentrate on breathing evenly and quietly. Getting upset will only serve to substantiate STBX's claims against you.
15) Ignore all attempts on your STBX's part to engage you in marital arguments prior to court or mediation. Focus on the goal at hand: maintaining your children's stability and getting legal custody.
A custody battle can be utterly terrifying, but keeping your wits about you can shorten its duration and intensity. Remember that it's all about the children! They need a chill Mama now more than ever.
You may experience my refusing to behave like a victim as an attack on you personally, but that's yours. I make no apologies, and don't feel guilty of having 'twisted everything' that you've written, but rather--I feel like I've shown you exactly what it is you have written, and what you see makes you uncomfortable because I have a solid point.
Your original, *unprovoked comment: " 16) Be personally accountable. Admit that it was your fault that you chose the wrong man" begged my response because I didn't want my readers to assume that I'd written such a thing.
"Admit that it was your fault" is just the kind of insidiously abusive statement that some women reading my article are struggling to overcome. You even presumed to start your original comment with the number 16), as though it were a continuation of what I had authored.
Subsequently, I proceeded to point out to you how your words: "Many women are mindlessly attracted to the bad/tough/macho alpha male" were insulting.
I also couldn't help but stand up for 'most Australian men', who you asserted are merely the insecure puppets of social pressure. I just can't get with hating on people like that--I think that MOST people (male and female and all shades beyond and between) are actually pretty wonderful and deserving of respect!
You then charge women with the task of "assuming some responsibility and taking control" of their partner choices because to do otherwise is "chronic victimhood". Well, that was victim-blaming. And that hurts.
I love what Ina May Gaskin said:
"It's easy to scare women. It's even profitable to scare women. But it's not nice, so let's stop it."
I'd like to stretch that concept to include the insulting of women. It's easy to do because it's so prevalent and accepted; even a cultural norm (see U.S. presidential candidate Trump's various gems on women). But it's wrong and we should stop it.
You say you wish to empower women, but it sounds to me like you have a pretty low opinion of people in general; sentiments I don't happen to share. I have great faith in the human spirit, and I see integrity just about everywhere I look.
Promoting the assumption of responsibility for our own dark shadows--a long and beautiful process---is TOTALLY different from feeling authorized to "educate women in general to avoid making poor partner choices".
Women are NOT (not not not) to blame for the dominant culture's inexorable grind, even if we find ourselves participating in courtroom custody battles, abusive relationship dynamics, rape, and countless other demoralizingly horrific scenarios. What we need is sisterhood and support as we learn with our hearts and through experience. What we need is safety--and to say that we'd be safe from abuse if we simply choose better men--well, that's not true. Especially for pan/bi-sexual women and lesbians.
How about supporting each woman in her own unique struggle, and without judgement? Don't you think that'd be more helpful than judging them for their vulnerability, shaming them for being victimized, and essentially telling them they're stupid?
I assure you, the women I know are not just a bunch of bimbos bumbling about looking for macho partners, mindlessly (to use your term) ending up being abused because of 'careless' reliance on a botched partner-choice checklist! I could only imagine that you implied such a thing about women because that is how you see yourself. I don't know you and can't judge you, I'm going on what you've said, and based solely thereon I linked you to a great article authored by a fabulous woman whose works help me to this day.
In any event, the real problems we, as women, face in society are much more complex than mere improper partner choice. The roots of these issues we all face (regardless of race, education, and socio-economic standing) are as complex and multifaceted as the women and children who continue endure and prevail in spite of them.
I'm speaking now to the intelligent, soulful, loving and concerned mothers who are my sisters even if I've never met them. Even to you, commentator leemr...even to that one woman who once shamed me for breastfeeding my newborn in public and tried to get me fired as a result.
Women (if I may be so bold as to speak for other women) who have suffered emotional abuse don't need other women to reinforce the fallacies of victim-blaming and misogyny.
Further-- I'm not so sure that women wish to be schooled by you or anyone else on the basis that they aren't 'as educated or intelligent' as other women.
I, as the proud (?) possessor of a high school diploma and that's all, find your condescension an affront to women's intuitive intelligence.
I hope that many women WILL read the debate below that has transpired between us! It's pretty fascinating, really.
Great article!! It's a very hard and frightening road going through family court and your advice is helpful in a factual yet encouraging way.
Your many judgements are concerning. Charming men can hide behind a mask and keep abuse for later, so saying its women's fault for choosing the wrong guy is ignorant and useless. Not to mention, victim blaming. "Men are puppets..." you say. No - there are plenty of great guys out there who are genuinely kind to the world around them. Kindness and abuse are choices.
There's plenty of great info out there about violence etc. fortunately. Let's be informed and be an encouraging part of a solution and support the vulnerable as the writer has...rather than unleash the opposite (and be complicit with abuse).
Ipspi: Your eagerness to categorise me almost to the point of name-calling reveals your chronic victim agenda. The point is, how do we ever educate women in general to avoid making poor partner choices? We need to assume some responsibility and take control. Victimhood will not help at all. The average Australian male is a puppet of peer-group pressure.
I can't speak for average Australian males since I'm not one (and if you are I'm sure you aren't one of the pesky peer-group puppets of which 'most Australian males' are comprised) but I know that my purpose in writing this article was to help mothers who are in a specific situation. I wrote it because I have been through a painful and scary custody battle and I know how it feels. I know how heartening it is to seek and find helpful advice, too! So I'm doing what I can with a whole lot of respect for my sisters.
I really do hope, since you say you want to empower women, that you'll go on to do just that with whatever gifts you've got. In that connection, you may wish to know that calling women 'mindless' and 'careless' isn't empowering to me (a woman), and your calling most men puppets isn't empowering women. Hatred directed toward men isn't empowering, though it may be a step along the way to empowerment. But just between you and me and the cicadas, hatred is never a satisfying end in itself because it hurts the hater. Further, your personal attack (spot-diagnosing me with chronic victim agenda-itus based solely on our text exchange here) tells me that you are either: a very sleepy psychologist; a lay-expert on emotional abuse having an off-night; OR a wounded individual who was triggered by my article and decided to attack me personally in lieu of an honest debate because...well...I don't know why you might have felt like doing that. But in any event, no thanks.
And for my pride's sake (I'm planning to look up an article on how to deal with ego and pride one of these days, I really am!) I must clarify that I am posting my responses to you ONLY so that other women might feel empowered when they read them. I would otherwise ignore you--since that is what *empowered women* do when they meet someone (gender notwithstanding) who makes them feel insulted. I sincerely thank you for offering me another chance to examine my own heart and find it true. :)
And by the way--women who are in a custody battle for their precious children with an abusive former partner don't need to be educated on how to choose a different, more lovely partner. Women don't actually NEED a partner at all to live joyfully and experience their personal power.
@Ipspi you are so wrong. Admitting you had a role to play in the whole unfortunate sequence of developments from Day1 is tremendously empowering. It is not blame at all. Agreed we "don't knowingly enter into abusive relationships", but we do carelessly enter into abusive relationships. Many women are mindlessly attracted to the bad/tough/macho alpha male when he is the most insecure of the lot.
You say that 'many women are mindlessly attracted' to macho tough guys who abuse them, and that women 'carelessly' enter into toxic relationships because they wish to be dominated by an alpha male. Sounds to me like you are shaming women for being 'mindless' and 'careless', not to mention employing the tired old stereotype of the wilting daisy, clutching at her muscle man and basically asking for abuse. That's pretty insulting, leemr. If you have never experienced emotional abuse in the context of a close partnership where there are children involved, then you may be out of your element offering advice. If you have experienced this kind of abuse and (presumably) count yourself among the 'mindless', 'careless', and helplessly submissive--then you might be projecting. Here's a fabulous link that I've found really helpful about that and much more: http://blog.melanietoniaevans.com/how-the-narcissist-projects-hisher-behaviour-onto-you/