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For litigating parents and caregivers

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About Dr. Garber
Keeping Kids Out Of The Middle
 Keeping families
                        out of court
How do you take care of yourself?

“The law’s concept of the family
rests on a presumption that parents possess
what a child lacks in maturity, experience,
and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions.”

Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. Supreme Ct 584,602 (1979)

Parenting vs. co-parenting?
Do you love your children more than you
                        hate your co-parent?
"Take the high road"?
What to tell the kids?
What NOT to tell the kids
But my co-parent is a jerk!
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Reda more here
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Parenting versus Co-parenting?

"The nature and quality of parents’ post-divorce relationships
are linked with children’s emotional and behavioral well-being.
As such, many states require that divorcing parents participate in
co-parenting education designed to decrease parental conflict and increase cooperation..."

Ferraro, A.J.; Malespin, T.; Oehme, K.; Bruker, M. &Opel, A. (2016).
Advancing co-parenting education: Toward a foundation for supporting
positive post-divorce adjustment.Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal.

Parenting is the creation and maintenance of structures (limits and consequences; boundaries that define space; routines and rituals that define time) intended to guide one or more children through the lifetime course of development. It's important to understand that (1) parenting continues even when caregiver and child are apart, and (2) that parenting occurs regardless of the genetic or legal relationship between caregiver and child.

Co-parenting is entirely distinct from parenting. Co-parenting refers to the effort that two or more caregivers make to communicate, cooperate and establish consistency among their parenting practices.

Together, the quality of each caregiver's parenting and all caregivers' mutual co-parenting make up a very large portion of the "best interests of the child" formula.

Many jurisdictions require that divorcing parents complete a parenting and/or co-parenting course as part of the divorce process. These brief courses intend to help caregivers navigate adult separation and divorce while keeping the child out of the middle Read
                              more here

Read more here:
    • The Cooperative Parenting Institute    Read mlore here
    • Cooperative parenting and divorce      Read more here
    • Child of Divorce Intervention Program Read more here

Relevant professional literature includes:

    • Salem, P., Sandler, I. and Wolchik, S. (2013), Taking Stock of Parent Education in the Family Courts: Envisioning a Public Health Approach. Family Court Review, 51: 131–148.
    • Sigal, A., Sandler, I., Wolchik, S. and Braver, S. (2011). Do parent education programs promote healthy post-divorce parenting? Critical distinctions and a review of the evidence.Family Court Review, 49: 120–139.
    • Hardesty, J.L.; Crossman, K.A.; Khaw, L. & Raffaelli, M.  (2016). Marital violence and co-parenting quality after separation. Journal of Family Psychology, Vol 30(3), Apr 2016, 320-330.

The Parenting Plan is the legal document that details the post-divorce allocation of parenting and co-parenting rights and responsibilities. The adequacy of the parenting plan will in part determine the stresses that your child has to endure day-to-day and the likelihood that you and your co-parent will have to return to court.

Does your parenting plan meet your needs or your child's needs?

Does your parenting plan grow with your child?

Family Law Consulting, PLLC, and Dr. Ben Garber provide expert insights into the development of child-centered parenting plans .

Read more here
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Do you love your children more than you hate your co-parent?
Wait ...! Before you say "of course!" think again:

  1. Do you pick your battles with your co-parent, letting the small stuff go because you know that adult conflict harms your child?
  2. Can you put aside your ego and defensiveness so that your co-parent can't push your buttons?
  3. Do you "take the high road" every time? Read
                                          more here
  4. Are you careful never to expose your child to your strong negative feelings about his or her other parent even accidentally?
  5. Do you actually encourage and support your child's relationship with his or her other parent despite how you feel about him or her?
  6. Do you compromise with your co-parent in a way that benefits your child with no expectation of pay-back?
  7. Do you recognize that the parenting plan determines the child's time in your care, NOT your time with the child?
  8. Do you sidestep conflicts with your co-parent because you know that no matter which adult "wins," your child loses?
Read more here

Read more here
Take the high road?
"Take the high road" means making the best choices you can, no matter what your co-parent does. It means putting the child's needs first, before your own needs -including your need to win, your need prove that you are the better parent, your need to show the world that your co-parent is a jerk, and your need to justify getting divorced.

"Take the high road" means never lowering yourself to your co-parent's level. He or she might play dirty, might sling mud or call names or try to humiliate you, but you will not.He or she might use your child for leverage, demanding hour-by-hour compensation for time away from the child, but you will not.

Your co-parent may even stoop to the level of damning you and your family and your new intimate partner to and around your child. This is alienation and tantamount to abuse Read more here. You would never stoop to this level because you know that your child's needs come first.

Most painfully, you know that no one can ever win a bidding war over your child's affections. You will remain firm and caring and consistent. You will maintain the healthy structures that make you a good parent even if your co-parent undermines you, even if your child resents you because you have rules and his other parent does not.

"Take the high road" does not mean that you stand by helplessly, allowing yourself to be bullied or beaten. It means that when you must respond, you do so assertively without lowering yourself to calling names, and you do so far away from the child.

"Take the high road" means that you are a healthy parent. You are your child's emotional anchor and a model that you'd be proud to have your child someday copy.
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What should I tell the kids?

Read more here
  • That they will be okay.
  • That they are always loved.
  • That its okay to feel mad or sad or scared or even relieved, what matters is how they express these feelings.
  • That even though the love between mom and dad has stopped, the love between mom and the children and the love between dad and the children will not.
  • That they will get to hockey practice and tuba rehearsal and dance and drama and the neighbor's birthday party, like always.
  • That they never need to choose between their parents; they can love them both

Read more here Read more here

What should I NOT tell the kids?
  • That their other parent is an ogre of any kid for any reason.
  • That the family transition is anyone's fault or that anyone is to be blamed.
  • That they must choose between parents (rationalizing that the child is mature enough to choose doesn't help)
  • That you're filing a motion, hiring a private detective, or spending their college funds on the divorce.
  • That you're ready to fall apart, run away, kill yourself or otherwise become unable to care for them.
  • That they must carry messages, deliver the support check or otherwise play go-between.
  • That they must spy on the other parent, report what happens there or otherwise serve your needs.
  • That your son is now "the man of the house" or that your daughter needs to be your "big helper" or her little sister's "other mother."
  • That loving their other parent means betraying you.
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But s/he's a jerk!
Maybe so. But the kids don't need to hear that from you, even by accident.

As long as the kids are safe in your co-parent's care, your responsibility is to support their relationship one hundred percent in your words, in your actions and with your feelings. That last part -your genuine emotional support-  is critically important. Your kids read your emotions long before and more powerfully than they understand your words.

The fact that you're mad at your co-parent exists in the adult-adult relationship. If you allow it to contaminate the parent-child relationship, you're being selfish and doing your kids harm read
                              more here

And if you believe that the kids are not safe with their other parent? Safety always comes first. Work out the safety concern directly among adults as best as you're able. In the worst case, work with a lawyer and/or a child psychologist to figure out how to keep the kids safe without undermining their relationship with their other parent.

Bottom line? If your co-parent really is a jerk, let your kids figure that out on their own.

"But the kids get it!"
This is many parents' rationalization for promoting a child into the role of ally, helper, best friend or even co-parent. The reasoning goes like this:
"My son knows that his father's a jerk. Even though he's only X years old, he gets it. He's mature. He's 'an old soul.' So why shouldn't I tell him? Besides, he wants to help me. He feels better when he knows what's going on."
And then the lawyers or the GAL or the court complicate things by talking about your child as "a mature minor" FRead more here

Its true: Kids generally feel good about being trusted by mom or dad. Being invited into the adult world. First-born and socially precocious and smart, verbal kids may be most likely to be adultified in this way. The problem is that being promoted into premature adulthood costs children their childhoods. Important opportunities for learning and growth are lost. Anger and anxiety bloom. Your son or daughter may seem ready and eager to take sides in the adult war, but they're not emotionally prepared to accept that burden.

Does the GAL or the custody evaluator understand this reality? Do their reports for the court adequately capture the way that the child has been triangulated into the adult conflict? Family Law Consulting, PLLC, and Dr. Garber will review and critique their work product, paying special attention to each child's need and right to remain a child as long as possible.

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The pro se or self-represented litigant
Managing the legal system without a lawyer is worse than managing a foreign country without a translator. Not only don't you speak the language or know the customs, your emotions are super-charged.

As emotion increases, thinking decreases. The decisions that you make while you're lost and scared and enraged and embarrassed in this foreign country will be short-sighted and inadequate. You'll regret them but you'll be forced to live with them and -worse still- your kids will be forced to live by them, too.

Better to hire a lawyer at least for advice, if not representation. Once you do, start by asking about ways to stay out of court Read more here

Family Law Consulting PLLC can help. Dr. Garber is not a lawyer and will not provide legal advice, but he will provide a breadth and depth of experience with child development, family functioning, the divorce process and parenting plans that will help you to get your feet back on the ground. To make better decisions. To better understand and fight for your children's genuine needs.

Read more here:
  • Greacen, J. M. (2014), Self-Represented Litigants, The Courts, and the Legal Profession: Myths and Realities. Family Court Review, 52: 662–669. Read more here

  Expert consultation to litigants
Family Law Consulting, PLLC, and Dr. Ben Garber are prepared to work directly with parents to assure that the planned mediation, collaborative law, and/or litigation genuinely serves your child's needs. This includes interpretation and critique of existing academic and psychological records and evaluations, review and critique of proposed parenting plans, and assistance in assuring that GAL investigations and forensic family evaluations (a.k.a. "custody evaluations) meet relevant guidelines, standards, ethics and -most critically- the child's needs.

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