Emotional reactivity on the part of parents is the number one reason child custody negotiations fail. When your brain is hijacked by anger and grief, it’s hard to listen to your ex and consider that they may have a valid point of view. Are your emotions fueling your custody battle? Here are three things you can do to keep your emotions in check so you can focus on what’s truly important: the best interests of your children.
Think in “grey,” not black and white. Focusing on the other person’s flaws gives you a distorted picture of who they are. Everyone has room for improvement – even you! A man who wasn’t a great husband can still be a great dad. A mother with less than perfect organizational skills is probably still a good mom. When you stop seeing the other person as The Devil, you can begin to accept them as a good-enough co-parent, and the urge to destroy them will subside. As you learn to think more flexibly about your ex, you will also start to realize there is more than one solution to a problem. Learn to develop flexible thinking; it’s the key to successful negotiation.
Focus on your child’s needs, not your own. A parent’s fear of losing their relationship with their child, or their fantasy of what parenting is “supposed” to look like, can keep them from negotiating a custody agreement that’s in the child’s best interest. This may mean seeing your child less than you had hoped, or trading off holidays. It may also mean modifying custody in the future as children’s needs change. For instance, it is not uncommon for an older child to ask to modify the existing custody order so they can spend more time with the other parent. Even children from in tact families go through periods where they prefer being with one parent over the other. This is a developmental process, not a rejection of you, so don’t take it personally! The more you learn to check your ego, the more you will be able to minimize conflict during custody negotiations.
Detach from the outcome. This doesn’t mean you toss your goals by the wayside. But there’s an important difference between setting an intention – say, settling on a 50-50 timeshare split – and clinging to that outcome. The fear and anger that consumes you when you feel unable to bear not getting what you want will keep you from being flexible. It will also send you into a perpetual state of inner turmoil should you not get your desired result. The more energy you spend being angry, the less you will be able to focus on your children and enjoy the time you have with them. So how do you balance desire and detachment? Read mindfulness books. Meditate. Get support from a therapist, preferably one with experience in the treatment of divorce. If find yourself unable to function at work or at home, consult with a psychiatrist for a possible trial of medication.
Remember: the problem in custody negotiations is not your ex, or not getting what you want. The problem is the way you react to other people and circumstances. Learning to control how you think and act may not get you the custody arrangement you think you deserve; but it will create an environment where a positive outcome is possible.
Child custody negotiations at a standstill? We can help. To schedule your free confidential consultation with one of our skilled family law attorneys, please contact us today.