TOOL OF THE DAY: Exercising Your Parental Authority After Divorce

CATEGORY: Family Law Culture

Have you ever wondered why people run to an attorney when their marriage is on the rocks in the first place? I think that most people’s thoughts are that they want protection. I’m not talking about protection from violent attacks. Usually people run to the police or a shelter for that first.

When people run to lawyers they are looking for legal protection. What you get is a whole other story.

Nobody hangs a list out there and says here is what you are really going to get, so I’m going to attempt to do that here. I feel that it is only right for you to go into this with your eyes wide open.

What is the family court process anyway? When you are having difficulty coming to agreement with the other parent what can you expect if you get attorneys involved?

An attorney is going to ask you for a retainer. Sometimes it is only $1500, $2500, or $5000 when you first get started. Most attorneys now though start you off with $10,000 retainer. And depending on what their hourly rate is that might only last you a couple of weeks!

You will fill out an intake form asking you all about your relationship and financials, and what you want out of the divorce.

Then you will have a consultation with the attorney. During this consultation the attorney will look for whether there is any domestic violence, abuse of you or the children. The attorney will ask you whose side the children are on if they are of an age that can voice an opinion. Then the attorney will find out if the other side has already filed or if you are initiating the divorce. You will be encouraged to be the first one to file if nothing has been started yet so you can remain in the marital home and get the temporary restraining order on the other side from making any changes to the financials and have the temporary primary custody, child support, and sometimes alimony awarded to you right away and the other parent only getting visitation. The attorney will tell you that usually whatever is ordered in the temporary orders hearing that is how it usually remains.

Wow, you might think. It’s that easy? Only if you catch the other person off guard and they don’t fight you. But if the other side fights back, you have an entirely different story on your hands.

Estimated Costs

Now you better start thinking about adding the following possible things that the attorney or the court could start asking for:

  • psychiatric evaluations $3,000
  • social studies $3,000 – $15,000
  • guardian ad litems $3000+
  • judge to confer with the children
  • parenting facilitator
  • parenting coordinator
  • co-parenting counseling $150- $200 per hour
  • counseling for the children $150-$200 per hour
  • supervised visitation $50-$150 per session
  • mediation – $300+ (plus the cost of your attorney)

All of these will be at your cost. Usually you are splitting the cost with the other parent. (all of the costs below are averages)

And also there could be long delays between hearings. And every hearing you go to could cost you anywhere from $1500 for one hearing if your attorney is on the inexpensive side like $200 or $250 an hour and up. This doesn’t include the preparation for the hearing and the filing and coordinating with the court and the other side.

Then there is discovery which can include depositions, interoggatories, production of documents, investigators, audio recordings, video recordings, CPS, and involvement of your work, neighbors, other family members, etc.

Your entire life is combed through and turned upside down.

Your children are influenced and dragged into the middle of everything, not because the parents want to, but because the process requires this if you want to hang on to your time with them. The attorneys, therapists, and judge will blame the parents and try to make it look like the parents are the cause of the children being involved. But reality is that the judges often require that the children see a therapist at the request of one or both of the attorneys. And you thought that the attorney you hired was going to protect you right? Think again, they try to get everyone else to dig through as much of your life as possible and then look for things to use to tear the other person down.

Because neither of you are probably criminals, they have to do this in order to operate within the same process that they are accustomed to seeing in litigation. There is usually a crime that has been committed, at least someone accused of something, and then they try to prove it or defend that person, and the judge decides who did the better job of proving their case.

You probably figure since you’ve done nothing wrong that you’ll be protected and have nothing to fear. You probably didn’t know to fear that you might run out of money and not be able to afford the attorney any more. Then you won’t know what to do with all of that expensive paperwork and studies you just paid for.

You will be questioned for questioning anyone in the process. You will be admonished if you disagree with any of them. If you think something else is best for your children, you will be labeled as unable to understand what is best for your children or as being difficult.

Before you know it, you are being attacked and are alone to fend for yourself. What started out as you thinking you were going to protect yourself and your rights and time with your children has now become a nightmare.

One time I was asked by opposing counsel: “Just who do you think you are anyway?” I thought this question to be extremely odd. Of course, I responded with “I’m their mother.” I didn’t know that they weren’t really asking literally, but that they were saying stand down and do as you’re told.

And we haven’t even gotten to the real “family court process!” The family court process is to run one of you out of money before anyone has to make any final decisions. It is a process of bullying and placing you under as much pressure as possible to see which of you will snap or make a mistake that they can hold against you. It is a process where they try to do as much damage as possible to your relationship with the children and see who the children will choose.

The entire time all of the actors in this process will pretend to be protecting your children. It feels a whole lot like they are hurting your children, because they usually are. And it feels a whole lot like they are attacking you, because they are.

The other part of this is something else most are not prepared for.

If you thought it was tough during the marriage. Just wait until you aren’t with the other parent. You won’t know the children’s day-to-day now. You won’t know what they are being exposed to or what they might be going through and experiencing. Because if you try to talk to them often, you’ll be told you are too controlling and interfering with the other parent’s time.

You might even be told that you are stalking or harassing when you try to participate in their school activities now.

So when you ran to that attorney and thought that life was going to get easier because you had someone protecting you so that you can go on with your life…think again before you give up on your relationship. Think again before you think that it is going to be easier after you get away from the other parent. That other parent just might get your children and you might be cut out forever, even if the court doesn’t order that you are cut out. Once the court gives power and control to one parent you will be treated as if you don’t matter much anymore.

I completely understand if there was nothing you could do to save your marriage. But if you knew that it was going to be this way even after you hired an attorney, would you have still hired that attorney?

Bottom line is you are the children’s parent, both of you are. You both have flaws and the people you go to in divorce are not going to be able to change that. Be careful what you ask for. Know the consequences of what you are asking the court to do.

I recommend that you find a reconciliation specialist and try to find ways to work through your relationship first if you have not filed for divorce yet. If things have escalated and gotten violent then you would be safer getting a separation and then determining if some distance calms things down then perhaps looking at whether or not things can be worked on.

If that is not going to work, then I recommend that you prepare yourself for the battle of your life. Prepare yourself as best you can to limit your expense and do not rely on someone else to tell you what to do.

Simplify the process by getting your head around this differently. If you ask to control the other person you are opening  yourself up to being controlled. If you beat the other person up for shortcomings, they are going to do the same to you. If you don’t want the court to treat your case like this, you are going to have to be clear to the court about what you are asking them to do and not asking them to do.

We are glad you found this website and welcome you to explore all of the tools to help you make the best decisions for yourself.