The term “control” is too often a dirty word in divorce and child custody proceedings.  Some high-conflict parties will spare no effort to make the “C-Word” into something that should be considered when taking child custody away from a parent who is normal, fit, ready, willing, and able to be a great parent to their children.  There are those who love to twist the term “control” into something bad, even when a specific situation is normal by any other standard.  You will be portrayed as:

  • A control freak
  • Controlling and therefore abusive
  • Obsessed with controlling others

In real life, which sometimes isn’t reflected in family court, we do control things.  We do control people.  For example, setting appropriate household rules and regulations is about exerting appropriate control over others.  Setting boundaries that you want honored and respected is about the very same thing.  Control isn’t inherently a bad thing, though your adversary will certainly try to spin things that way.  As parents, we are charged with developing and shaping the behaviors and attitudes of our children – very often that continues well into their adulthood.  It’s what parents do, whether our children like it or not.

Let’s talk about “controlling the controllables.”  What can you truly expect to control during divorce and child custody matters in a health way and what do you simply have to let go just because you have no control?

Family Law

You have no control here, folks, much as you might like to believe differently or change. Regardless of how unhappy those situations may make you from time to time, it is important that you recognize that those things are out of your control.  When things don’t go your way in child custody proceedings, maintain your composure.  A failure to maintain self-control will most assuredly reflect poorly on you and make the court rather unhappy.  While laws vary from state-to-state, here are some things over which you have no control:

  • Jurisdiction over your case will almost always reside where the divorce and child custody proceedings were initiated, even if one or sometimes both of you move.  It will take more legal proceedings to have a change in jurisdiction.
  • An order of award to pay your adversary’s attorneys fees is governed by some states’ statutes.  The outcome is influenced by issues such as earnings differences between the two parties and/or whether or not a matter was initiated in “bad faith” or is otherwise frivolous.   Also, sometimes those issues aren’t even relevant.
  • Child support guidelines.  They are what they are and no amount of complaining is going to change the formula in your state.
  • Wage garnishments have become mandatory in the majority of states.  They are automatic.  It no longer has anything to do with your ability to pay or payment history.  It’s now law.
  • The tax benefits for claiming the children as dependents almost always go to the parent with primary child custody, absent agreements to do something different.
  • Judicial discretion – will very likely be the most frustrating issue you’ll ever experience.  Some honest attorneys will tell you that the judge, “…can do whatever they want to do regardless of the statutes using judicial discretion…” and as scary as that sounds, it is the truth.  The rules and laws that govern family court are nothing like those in criminal and civil court.  You should not be surprised to be surprised.

There is a lot more over which you have no control within the family law system.  Focus your energies on managing your emotions when these things conspire to upset you.  Focus your energies on those things you can control like your behavior, your parenting ability, you contact with the children within the framework of your circumstances, and improving your child custody situation.

Your Ex’s Parenting

This shouldn’t take long, but bears discussing because we’ve seen it frustrate the heck out of many parents.  The frustration results in too much contact with your high-conflict ex-partner, which invariably escalates into phone or email arguments that will never come to a successful conclusion.  Absent a serious and significant danger to the children, you have absolutely no control over how your ex-spouse will parent the children during their parenting time.  It is another top frustration point during child custody matters.  Litigating it won’t change it.  These are things you simply have to let go of and teach the children differently during your parenting time, whether it’s eating properly, watching television less, less time on the phone or internet, appropriate bedtimes, or whatever parenting issues in your ex-partner don’t meet with your standards.

To learn more about the parenting differences, consider reading our article on the Parallel Parenting Custody Agreement Plan.