I’ll admit, I have a crush on Kate Hudson, so bare with me for this post, it really has more to do with child custody, than the beautiful perky happy go lucky blonde. As an aside, a smile like Ms. Hudson’s must truly come from the inside, beauty is only skin deep as the saying goes, but whenever Ms. Hudson is in front of a camera, she has a smile that I believe is an incredible window into her personality – let me have this one, okay.
Now, if you can keep a genuine smile on your child’s face (what parent does not want that) during a divorce, you can walk away from the fight, regardless the outcome and say that you really did put the children’s interest first.
By now you may be asking, how is this guy going to talk about a movie put out in 2003 and somehow discuss child custody in Texas? In the movie, a pretty blonde journalist (played by Kate Hudson) sets about a scheme to do everything wrong in a relationship so as to drive her beau (Matthew McConaughey) out of the relationship in 10 days so she can write an advice column on what girls should NOT do in a relationship. In real life, I am asked at least a few times a week “How do I win custody?” The simple answer is “present yourself to the Judge as the parent who always puts the children’s best interest first.” This of course brings about a series of questions.
Accordingly, today I am going to define “Best Interest of the Child” in the context of a Hollywood story. Rather than tell parents “What to do to win custody” I am going to tell you what NOT to do – or stated from the opposing view, this is HOW TO LOOSE CUSTODY OF YOUR KIDS, IN 10 DAYS OR LESS.
Divorce is hard. Anyone who says it is easy, has not been through one, or at the very least was never committed to the marriage in the first place. Divorce is the death of a relationship. In Texas, that relationship is called “the community” and it is considered to be an entity unto itself. A community cannot exist outside the marriage, so it is a legal fiction, similar to a corporation, whose existence is the marriage. When the gavel comes down and the divorce is granted, it is akin to the Doctor pronouncing a patient deceased. In a divorce where there are no kids, it may be easier, but if there are kids, the death of the marriage affects the parents and kids equally.
There is hope. A divorce does not have to devastate you or your children. You and your spouse can make it harder than it has to be, and if you’re looking for ways to screw up your kids during the divorce process, then look no further. Here is a handy how-to guide for ensuring that your kids will one day end up in therapy.
1. Share too much.
One of the benefits of a relationship is a partner to share things with. However, when you go through divorce, you loose that confidante. DO NOT put your kid in the role of being your primary sounding board. If you are having a bad day, call your best friend outside the hearing of the kids. If you are angry at your boss or the other parent, DO NOT ask your kids for advice. If you are worried about your future, TALK TO YOUR MINISTER not your kids. Finally, always remember, your kids have worries and concerns of their own, DO NOT add to your child’s insecurities by dumping your insecurities and feelings of angst on them unless you have enough income to pay child support and a child psychologist.
2. Speak badly about your ex.
One of the few items enumerated by the legislature that the Judge MUST look at when deciding custody is whether each parent can encourage and accept a positive relationship between the child and the other parent – stated another way, the Judge must give credit to the party who can do this. Want to blow your chances of winning custody clear out of the water, talk bad about the other parent in front of the kids. This is very closely aligned with a common scenario – making your child your new best friend. If your child is your best friend during a divorce, go get a new best friend, or therapist – your child should never fulfill those roles in your life. Finally, don’t try to fool yourself into believing that you can’t hurt if your kid hears the truth. True or not, it is a one way ticket to a very empty house, then what will you do for friendship. Would you be inclined to be friends with someone who cannot see his/her kids without a therapist or social worker present? Other people will make the same judgement about you.
3. Use guilt.
A child who is at least 12 years old can talk to the Judge in private. What will the child say? Does Mommy make him/her feel guilty for wanting to spend time with Dad? Does Dad make the child feel guilty for taking money from Daddy and giving it to Mommy? Is either parent accusing the child of picking favorites or liking the new boyfriend/girlfriend of the other parent? Guilt is NOT discipline unless your goal is to simply torture rather than correct. NEVER discuss or remind your kids how hard divorce is on you. You are the adult, you are the one that was a party to the act, the child is the innocent who had nothing to do with your decision, so don’t dump blame on the child.
4. The Inquisition.
When your child learns about the Spanish Inquisitions, will he or she relate? If so, STOP! Do not ask your kids all about everything that happens when they’re with the other parent. It is okay to ask generally, did you have fun, what did you do and listen and then move onto another topic. What the child had for dinner is none of your business. If the other parent failed to feed the child, you will be told without asking. Children who feel safe will tell you when they are not safe. Children who feel anxiety, no so much. Your job is to ensure your child’s well being, physically and emotionally, when they are with you. Remember, if the other parent is screwing up, just hand them a new rope and wait, better to let them self-destruct than to be accused of lynching. However, if you want to ignore this advice, make extra sure you insert a disapproving comment or passive-aggressive remark when the child answers – you child’s therapist wants new sports car.
5. Put the kids in the middle.
in the realm of mutually assured destruction, using your child as a messenger is the nuclear option. If you want to ensure your child grows up to have a dysfunctional marriage that terminates in divorce, put them in the midd.e, tell them everything, use them as messengers, and make sure they know everything happening between you and your ex. Misery loves company, so why not make sure your child’s future marriage is a failure, after all it is so easy; just make sure your children feel like they are required to choose sides and pick loyalties.
Okay, so I have no advice on how to get Kate Hudson to fall in love with you and say “I love you” in a week, and maybe the above is not a roadmap to loosing custody in 10 days, but it is definitely a way to ruin your child’s future in five easy steps. I think we can all agree, the parent who is acting in a manner so as to destroy the child’s future is NOT acting in the child’s best interest and Judges did not complete law school, try cases, and get awarded the privilege of wearing a robe because they are “poor judges of character”. What you do during a divorce will haunt your kids for the rest of their lives, it will affect their own marriages, and it will affect your grandkids.
Your children depend upon you to protect them, to check for monster’s in the closet and under the bed. Don’t become the very monster they are afraid of and don’t let your anger towards the other parent cloud your perception. Do this, and your kids win in the custody battle. Isn’t that what really matters?