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Custody Without Courts

Episode 2: Custody Without Courts

O

ne thing that I’ve successfully done that seems to be one of the most puzzling things for most of my friends is that I don’t have anything in writing when it comes to the custody of my kids.

Yes, I was able to avoid the Court system when it came to the custody of my children.

I am truly blessed and if I had a different Co-Parent than I do, things might have been different.

I did it all using effective and clear communication mixed with flexibility, plus I did it without having to go to court, hire an expensive attorney and have the stress of “selling myself” to the State.

Yep, it’s just a handshake and some some good ol’ fashion parental integrity.

It didn’t happen overnight, but that’s where I’m at now. And, quite honestly, I didn’t find it difficult to do. It was time consuming, yes. And on many occasions I needed to choose my previous partner as the Mother of my Child, and not my ex-girlfriend or the woman that didn’t want to marry me.

I know that may sound strange, but if you haven’t listed to Episode 1, you really should because it sets to the context for what I just said when it comes to Choice.

Like I said, I’m not saying that it was “easy” by any stretch of the imagination. However, with the right mindset and the right language, you are more opt to get the amount of custody that you want and the parameters that are right for you and your family.

To be totally clear, and one thing that may have worked in favor of avoiding the court system, is that me and my kids Mother weren’t married. Had we been married and had she gone after some sort of alimony, things might have been different.

I know that at the time, I wouldn’t have considered myself “lucky”, because oh man, did it emotionally hurt. The breakup was all I thought about it. It was months of sleepless, stressful nights. If it wasn’t for the mother of my child leaving, it was wondering how I was going to maintain what we’d built together but on my own.

This blog post, that I’ve aptly dubbed “Custody without courts”, is really more about integrity with your Partarent then it is legality. With the idea being that courts are optional and only a last means to settle a disagreement. They are not the first “go to” your place to get Custody handled.

Most of this can be done through clear communication in an open and comfortable space.

Ask For What You Want

Remember in my first Podcast where I said “rather than thinking about it as a challenge, I chose to think about it as an opportunity”?

Keep that in mind as we talk because when it comes to the custody of your child, we’re going ask for what we really want.

Also from the first episode, we came up with a term together that I am going to use in this segment as well. This is the term “partarent” and, in a nutshell, it’s referring to the person with whom you co-parent your child. It’s basically a word that is just the combination of “part-time parent” and “ex-partner”. The intention is that this term transcends gender is just simply a shortcut term for the person you co-parent with.

Now, there are going to be two schools of thought on this one. The first one is going to say ask for everything and then settle for what you get. This isn’t a bad way to operate, but remember that we’re dealing with kids here and not some monetary transaction or a stock purchase.

The second is to start off with something fair, but split things up on different levels.

So, things to consider when you make your request are all the things that go along with having children: Obviously time with them is important and you’ll want to request as much time as possible. Sometimes things like Work and School (if you are, say, going to college) are going to be barriers to spending more time with your kids.

Other things to consider are holidays and taxes.

I do have to admit that I feel a bit weird even framing it like this, but the reality is that these are concerns for all parents.

Or maybe it’s just me with a weird story around it.

Yes, we also want to create the culture of warmth and security that we talked about in the last Podcast within our agreement with our Partarent. At the same time the last thing we want to do is bristle when we race our son out of the door on Christmas morning to get him to his Father’s house in time to open presents or miss an extended family dinner waiting for our Partarent to drop off our child.

On the other hand, things like money and missing holidays are things that both you and your partarent can build up animosity and hostility over. In other words, it’s something that unless you know your Partarent really well, I would take very seriously. After all, plans change and sometimes the best way to be accommodating is to be flexible.

Be direct and ask for what you want.

I would suggest having a meeting and being prepared, but not in a 'business' type way. Yes, you mean business, but it's all about presentation. Be cool and remain collected when you have the discussion about custody and what it means for you. Yes, you are going to ask directly for what you want but in a way that is something relatable to your partarent.

Choose a public place that has low foot traffic and low noise. Choose a place that you didn't go to as a family, so that no last memories or emotions come up for you.

Taking Off The Ear-Muffs

After you are clear with your partarent, make sure that you then very explicitly take off your ear-muffs and listen to what they have to say.

This is advice that I wish someone had given me in the past.

Really listen and be super present to what they are saying. Even if it conflicts with your request, deeply and intently listen. Remember, it doesn’t mean that you need to agree with them. Listen.

You see, at least for me, when someone is asking for something that I don’t agree with, my mind almost automatically starts painting that picture in my head. Like I can see my young daughter hunting for Easter Eggs with a strange new boyfriend or I can see her having Christmas with another family and my mind starts to get polluted with negative thoughts around this.

But the reality is that it’s not negative from your Child’s standpoint, or from the Partarent’s view either. Partarent’s are just humans, and humans want to be heard. By listening to them, you are at least honoring what they say, even if you don’t agree to anything, and you shouldn’t agree in the moment.

And chances are they want the same things that you do.

When You Want The Same Things

When you both want the same things and there is a finite amount of time with a child it can feel very distracting and frustrating in the moment, but it’s actually a good thing.

It’s a really good thing.

It’s good because you both share the same desires for your kids, meaning that you both want what’s best for them and it will literally force you into making an agreement that will work. Even if you are agreeing through gritted teeth, you know deep down inside that you want to make it work. No one ever said that it was going to be easy and no one has a time machine to see how things are going to eventually work out.

But you know they do.

Obviously this isn’t a Podcast on negotiation skills or how to screw someone over. That’s the wrong attitude to have in this situation - even if you feel like your Pararent is attempting to get the “better end” of the deal.

The Emotional Moment

As humans, we’re driven by three brains: The Reptile, The Mammal and the Human brain. This is the Triune Brain theory that Paul D. MacLean came up with in probably the 60’s. When we are in a very emotional moment, the reptilian brain kicks in and we feel it. Blood starts to flow and our “survival” instincts start to kick in.

In our modern society what does this mean? Well, it can mean alot. On one level, society has evolved faster than our human brains have. This means that we have old remnants left over from the past, and while we’re not deep in the jungle in real fear of a Tiger jumping out and having us for lunch, we do get triggered unexpectedly for things that might, on the surface, seem like petty things.

As it relates to the context of what we’re talking about it could be your routine. You get threatened when your Partarent asks for that extra Friday evening that was set aside for you and your Son ordering Pizza and playing video games.

It’s that emotional moment when it kicks in for you. You suddenly get stuck in a conversation with yourself about right and wrong, or justice and injustice.

Let’s take a look at that briefly:

You had expectations, like that you were going to get some free time with your Son. Time away where it was just going to be you and him. That expectation got stopped. It was obstructed and sometimes it is obstructed by the “rules” that you’ve setup.

This is where being flexible meets setting the proper expectations.

So, when you look at what REALLY just happened, it was simply that your Partarent asked for another day. You could have simply said “no” or “that doesn’t work for me” instead of the emotional diatribe that just occurred.

Let's review what we talked about:

  • In order to avoid the court system, you want to ask for what you want. Make it super clear as to what your expectations are and do you best, like really do your best, to work that out with your Partarent.

  • Make sure that there are checks and balances with each other - This idea will only work if both adults are mature enough to be flexible and have integrity around the agreement.

  • In doing so and stating your expectations, it's just as important that take off the ear-muffs and listen to your Partarent. They want to be heard as much as you do.

  • When you want the same things, try to compromise in a way such that you both get a little bit of what you want.

  • And finally, when those emotions come up... those emotions that seem out of context or misunderstood, just remember that it’s an “old brain” talking and lashing out. Don’t make any decisions during the time that brain is speaking for you.

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