During a high-conflict divorce and child custody situation, it’s not unusual for you to focus only on your own thoughts, opinions, perspectives, etc. You’re unlikely to give an unbiased consideration for the perspectives of others, and most especially your ex-partner. This is understandable. However, it would behoove you to find the inner strength to set aside the emotion and give some thought to why your ex-spouse makes issues of certain issues while seemingly disregarding others.
For example, in many child custody cases, a mother’s tendency is to focus on all things financial. Some of it may be due to earning a lower wage than the father or perhaps they’re not working at all. Some of it may also be due to the beliefs that are often propagated by society that women are owed for past wrongs done to them on a macro scale – gender discrimination, a woman’s “place” is in the home, the belief that women will automatically end up impoverished after divorce. This mindset drives some to go for as much money as they possibly can obtain during divorce and child custody proceedings.
For men in child custody cases, a father’s tendency is to, yes – you may have guessed it, focus on all things financial. Aside from the fact that they, too, have to figure out how they will arrange their caretaking activities in the aftermath of the divorce, they know that too often the focus of the family court system is their ability to pay and not how much time they are entitled to have with the children (and the children with the father).
A common myth among too many in our society is that “…fathers only want more custody time with their children so that they don’t have to pay as much child support.” Interestingly, this mindset is offered while completely ignoring that an equally plausible argument can be made that the only reason mothers want primary custody or sole custody is so that they can maximize child support. The two are not mutually exclusive and yet you’ll rarely hear someone say, “The only reason the mother wants to minimize the father’s role in the children’s lives is so she can get the maximum amount of money.” It is one of the great many double-standards in situations where parents want to win child custody at any cost.
Both of these assumptions can consume fathers and mothers in the middle of a child custody fight. The reality is that two loving parents are faced with forever having less time and less involvement with their children and that is a very sobering reality to any loving parent. The financial issue is one that is easy to toss in either direction while we lose sight of the fact that both sides fear suffering the loss of daily contact with their children, with fathers with a far greater likelihood of suffering that loss. The reality is, this loss of time faces both parents and is often the driving factor behind the fight.
This is each parent’s reality. Can you take the time to reflect on the possible perspective of your ex-partner?
There are those parents out there who believe that they have been so wronged (either real, imagined, or some combination thereof) that no amount of consideration will be given to the other side. That happens and it’s out of your control if you’re the target. Still, understanding what your ex-spouse’s perspective is, maintaining focus on what is most important to both you and them goes a long way towards discovering potential negotiating points.
We strongly believe shared parenting works. We believe in laws that make the primary focus a rebuttable presumption of equal custody. We don’t suggest that anyone who is a loving, caring, willing, and able parent should ever negotiate away parenting time in a child custody matter that would result in less than 50/50 custody if that’s doable. Children need both of their parents for the maximum amount of time that is feasible. So, when it’s time to consider negotiating for more parenting time during child custody proceeding, you may want to consider adjusting (or not adjusting) child support figures if you can afford it, at least temporarily. It might mean getting additional parenting time and allaying the fears that the other side won’t be able to make ends-meet. Perhaps it means agreeing to sign the child up for a certain extra-curricular activity. Maybe it means helping out with an emergency bill.
While we understand that this comes across as paying ransom in order to obtain additional parenting time with your children – we also understand that sometimes having some wiggle room for negotiating is worth it depending upon your circumstances. Sometimes, when you take the time to see things through the eyes of your ex-partner, absent all of the emotion and acrimony, you’ll discover negotiation opportunities or other positive situations where additional parenting time is achievable where it might not be via litigation and the decision of a judge.
Oh – and yes, we also know that there are plenty of people out there with whom there is no satisfactory negotiation, settling, or improving either the post-divorce relationship or child custody arrangement. Still… periodically take the time to consider and assess your ex-partner’s perspective. Things could change.