Category Archives: joint custody

25 Ways to Intentionally Create Conflict in A Coparenting Relationship

By Casey Wilson

There is a presumption by many family law professionals that if there is moderate to high conflict it is impossible parents share parental duties including time sharing as well as decision making. This seems reasonable, but these professionals really need to look more closely at WHY these parents are not getting along. Custodial Parents as well as their attorneys often perpetuate conflict by using a certain set of behaviors which actually create conflict in the coparenting relationship and due to the presumption of conflict in the coparenting relationship, can keep the noncustodial parent from having more time and decision making.

Some have termed this Hostile Aggressive Parenting:

Many of these behaviors that intentionally create conflict are:

1) Refuse to promote the most effective communication between parents. Hostile parents will often not talk to their former spouse and try to find ways to thwart any means of communication. Such parents may refuse to get fax machines (even when they can afford it) or divulge their E mail address. Hostile parents generally do not want to have a paper trail which may show that they are being uncooperative with the other parent.

2)Always wait until the last minute to settle summer vacation or holiday periods. Hostile parents always are trying to find ways to frustrate the other parent. Often the only time that a hostile parent may cooperate is when they are threatened with imminent court
action or other third party intervention.

3) Not inform the other parent of upcoming school activities, events, or holidays when the child may be off from school.

4) Keep the other parent off the school emergency contact list or advise the school that the other parent should be the last one called, even though that parent may be the one most available to come to the school in the event of an emergency.

5) Choose daycare providers who are their own friends and know will side with them or bend the truth in their favor to help them make things difficult for the other parent.

6) Choose daycare workers who they know will not get “involved” to help resolve problems or to keep silent about irregularities involving the children. When a daycare provider does try to do what is right or to expose problem, then the hostile parent will switch to another babysitter without notice to the other parent.

7) Select daycare providers that only they have had the chance to talk to without any consultation or involvement with the other parent.

8) Not ask the other parent to care for the child when the child is sick but instead prefer to take the child to daycare providers outside of the children’s own family members.

9) Not giving the other parent the chance to provide care for the child when the other parent is more than willing and able.

10) Tell the other parent that the children are too sick to come for their regularly scheduled access visit or to be late because of illness.

11) Create difficulties for the children to see the other parent on special occasions such as birthdays, father’s or mother’s day, special family gatherings, etc.

12) Make the children feel guilty about seeing the other parent.

13) Insist that the non-custodial parent return the children precisely on time while the custodial parent enjoy flexibility and is able to set their own times.

14) Refuse to have a third party act as a mediator, coordinator, or have any other professional involved in helping the parents co-parent effectively.

15) Take the children to counselors or other professionals to get letters of support in a custody dispute but do not want those counselors to meet or to obtain any input from the other parent. (Referred to in the industry as recommendation letters for sale)

16) Refuse to participate in mediation or any kind of assessment program, which involves the participation of all the members of the family.

17) Unwilling to consider any kind of fair and equal parenting arrangement for the children when such an arrangement is desired by the other parent and were circumstances would permit such an arrangement.

18) Always exhibiting anger towards the other parent, months or years after the separation.

19) Practice parental alienation techniques designed to keep the children and step children from seeing the other parent.

20) Afraid to permit the non custodial parent to take the child to any kind of counseling or other third party professional in case the child may reveal something that they do not want the non custodial parent to find out about.

21) Refuse to disclose important and relevant information from the non custodial parent which may be relevant to effective parenting of the child, such as refusing to disclose place of employment, phone numbers, contact numbers, health card information, etc., when there is no valid reason to keep this information secret.

22) Make it difficult for the non-custodial parent to communicate with such as having the answering machine always on or having others pick up and screen calls, etc., etc.

23) Encourage the children to lie and to hide about what is happening in their home.

24) change an agreement without the other parents knowledge

25) refuse to answer phone calls from the other parent

The answer to these problems is to remove the leverage position one parent is in regards to the other parent. The children are harmed in this scenario. Shared and equal parenting should be implemented immediately if any of these behaviors are exhibited. There should be tools established within the order to decrease conflict. These may include but are not limited to:

1) mandatory email contact only
2) web based parenting program such as Our Family Wizard for scheduling
3) the use of EFFECTIVE parenting coordinators and sometimes mediation in any case with moderate to high conflict
4) the use of Parallel Parenting Plans
5) minimize parental contact and exchanges
6) reduce leverage by putting both parents on equal ground at the onset of divorce and separation thus reducing leverage

Both parents and children have a right to be equally involved in each other’s lives. One parent creating conflict because he or she abuses their position should not be a reason to minimize the other parent. But that is the current arrangement

Sources are quoted as well as Family Assistance And Parenting Program

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And So We Fight

By Jodi Johnson

I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.

~Sigmund Freud

And so we fight.

We fight to be a part of the lives he brought into the world. The lives that were created because he exists. We fight to retain something that is indelibly, rightfully, biologically his. We fight to protect these children from being divided in two by the people who are supposed to be caring for them.
It begs the question WHY? Why must he fight to be in his children’s lives? Why must he prove over and over and over again that he belongs in their lives when he was put there in the beginning by virtue of nature alone?

Married couples don’t have to prove their worth and battle in the courtroom year after year to see their children, to go to their school events or birthday parties or simply have a conversation with them. It’s just what parents do and it’s never questioned…when those parents are together that is. Yet when those parents can no longer co-exist, by no fault of the child’s, one parent is instantly demoted to “visitor;” and in many ways also, “victim.” They are victimized by the court system who makes decisions on the lives of people they don’t know based on one hour’s worth of testimony by whoever is the more believable. They are victimized by the other parent who now sees them as a paycheck instead of a person. They are victimized by society who judges them for not being the constant presence in their children’s lives they truly wish they could be. They are told when and where and for how long they can see their own children. They are told when and how long they can speak to them. They are told they can’t make decisions about the lives they created. And they are told how they feel about it doesn’t apply; that someone else has determined what is in their own child’s best interest and they must comply. And all because mom and dad can’t be married to one another.

And so we fight.

Albeit slowly changing, our society and our court system has long-held, archaic beliefs that women rear the children while the father provides for the family. Particularly in our very conservative corner of the world the notion of the father raising the children is frankly scoffed upon.

It brings to mind the June and Ward Cleaver version of Americana wherein the mother is packing the children’s lunchboxes every morning wearing her ubiquitous apron and has dinner on the table, hot and ready, every evening when Ward comes home from work. A pleasant, slow lifestyle. Well what if June and Ward split up? Naturally June would continue to take care of the kids while Ward provided, right? That scenario made sense in that era because far fewer women worked and they relied on their husbands for support while the men relied on their wives to take care of the domestic end of things.

Fast forward to 2014. June had an affair with the 26 year old neighbor which led to the demise of her marriage with Ward. Ward still works his 8 – 5, home at the same time every night, alone in his cramped one bedroom apartment because half his income still goes to June and he’s sitting there bored, missing his kids. June is working 65 hours a week. She and the kids are running frantic every morning trying to get out the door in time for them to be dropped off ½ an hour early to school because June has a morning meeting. They get a ride home on the bus and let themselves in the house and are there from 5:00 – 7:00 unsupervised. She leaves work at 6:00 to go to the gym for an hour and then goes home to feed them a pre-packaged dinner, check the kids got their homework done and have them get ready for bed by 8:00. And let’s not forget about the weekends when she’s out with boyfriend #4 that year while the kids are home with the Wii.

Meanwhile Ward, the “visitor,” is just wishing he could see them and would sacrifice whatever he could to just spend time with them. But the judge said no. He’s not the better parent. And he can only talk to the kids once a week. And he can only see them for 40 whole hours a month. Despite June never being fully present for the kids, in the court’s firmly held beliefs, June is still the best choice for the kids’ primary caretaker because she bore that child during infancy.

This is a true and clear depiction of the modern day custody situation. No, it’s not every family’s story. But I can tell you undeniably, it’s what we’re living, my husband and I; and it’s true of millions of other broken families world-wide.
We can simply not hold steady to the beliefs, stereotypes, and even laws of the past. They’re antiquated and not representative of the way life is now. In some cases, yes, mom is the better choice. But absolutely in no way should that be the pre-determined presumption. That child was created 50/50 and clearly the mom had, at one point, determined that this man was a qualified candidate to be a father to their child and only now because emotion and jealousy has clouded her judgment and ill-placed resentment has hardened her heart, this child’s father is precluded from being a caring, beneficial presence in the child’s life. And it certainly doesn’t benefit the child, being forced into accepting which half of themselves they get to spend time with more.

The tide is now starting to turn, ever so slowly, because dads are just plain fed up with the discrimination and are speaking out in growing numbers and the women who support them are using their voices to create a necessary balance and get the needed attention. And people, the government and court system included, are starting to listen. We are on the precipice of major change in family law and the view of the parental role in fatherhood in cases of unmarried parents and need those voices to continue to speak; and speak to the people who can effect change as there is still a long and arduous road ahead for these pioneers of father’s rights.

And so we fight.

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What the New “Shared Parenting ” Bill in South Dakota Will/Won’t Do

By Casey Wilson

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Many are asking what will this years “shared parenting” bill that is being brought forth in the South Dakota Legislature will actually do to help kids and parents? South Dakota Shared Parenting and it’s members have been split in their support of this bill, and many are wondering what it will actually do, after all it has been brought forth as a compromise between the South Dakota State Bar and South Dakota Shared Parenting. Here is a copy of the bill in its current form.

We can break this bill down and tell you what it will do and what it won’t do.

What the bill will do if passed:

1) It will give judges a standardized set of guidelines to follow to make joint physical custody decisions, those factors include:

-whether a parent has been convicted of domestic violence
-whether a person has alienated or interfered with the other parents parenting time
-whether parents can communicate effectively
-whether parents can agree on how to generally raise their child
-whether one party is leaving child unsupervised with a sex offender
-whether one party has falsely accused another of child abuse
-whether one or both parties are opposed to shared custody
-whether child will suffer if shared custody is not awarded
-whether both parents have actively cared for the child
-whether a child is strongly opposed to shared parenting
-the geographic proximity of the parents

Now these are just considerations a court must take into consideration, not a one check mark and your out type thing. Why are these important? That leads use to our next point

2) We now know the rules to gaining joint physical custody, this is huge, prior to this, no one knew the rules, only the particular judge in which you were assigned.

3) It will help keep vindictive and higher conflict parents in check (if that’s possible)

4) It mentions joint physical custody many times, a term only used one time within statute prior

5) It shows that the State Bar Association is acknowledging shared parenting as a viable option

6) it begins to finally progress the movement of shared and equal parenting in South Dakota, which has never progressed despite many efforts

7) It factors parental fitness before custody is awarded keeping children safe from truly unfit parents

8) Judges need to give findings of fact and conclusions (reasons why) if joint physical custody is not awarded

9) It will give a little more standardization to this process, it is an injustice to the system if the same case was to be heard in two different circuits and entirely different custody outcomes could occur. This bill if in law would help that.

10) It will allow current orders to be modified using the criteria if a significant change of circumstances are satisfied. An enactment of the bill to law does not constitute a significant change of circumstances. Meaning you can use this law in a modification hearing.

11) There is no mention of a custodial or a non custodial parent in the entire bill

12) There is no presumption of a sole physical custodian

13) The court will continue to rule in what it currently calls “the best interest of the child”. It is fair to say the “best interest of the child” standard is based on a decision of one parent winning custody rather than the true “best interest of the child”, which has been proven in research to be as close to significantly equal time with both parents, this is currently not a factor in our so called Fuerstenberg factors which judges use to define the “best interest of the child”

14) in ALL custody determinations the court shall consider joint physical custody as an option.

What does this bill not do:

1) Once the factors have been satisfied it still does not ensure that the judge must award a joint physical custody order

2) One party can still refuse to agree to shared parenting, and this is a factor for a court to consider, but a refusal does not provide enough cause not to grant a shared custody order

3) False domestic violence and falsely filed protection orders are not included in the false accusations section. This is often how lawyers get one parent (usually the father) out of the house or to gain temporary custody in proceedings and is incredibly damaging to the future coparenting relationship, and could possibly be considered as a a factor to consider in alienation

4) Although it does take alienation and interference into consideration, it does not take one parent intentionally causing conflict (another lawyer tactic) into consideration. The simple fact of refusing to communicate can create a vast amount of conflict and this should be considered.

5) It does not automatically grant any parent shared placement

6) the current starting point (presumption)is still minimal parenting time established in the SD Parenting Guidelines

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I think many in the group are upset as it is not a true equal custody presumption bill, which we have submitted in the past. The truth is it is time to start chipping away at the stone if you will, bit by bit rather than trying to take the entire thing at once. We need to begin making this process more fair one, two, and three steps at a time.

Honestly this is a firm step in the right direction, our group will continue to push for substantial change until equal parenting is the standard in South Dakota.

I think it’s a good sign the State Bar of South Dakota asked our input here, it has never happened before and perhaps it will mean we can work together in the future to make real progress for the kids and families of South Dakota.

In closing, I think it’s fair to point out that contested custody battles occur between two good parents. “Bad” parents usually do not fight for shared or equal custody, they leave or settle for minimal time. Outside of excessive distance between parents’ homes, there is no real justifiable reason a parent should refuse to agree to a shared parenting arrangement if both parents are fit. If they do refuse it should prove that parent to be an alienating parent, as he or she is trying to minimally involve the other parent, and this has been proven in research to be highly detrimental to a child’s well being.

20 Tips to Maximize Your Chance of Equal or Shared Child Placement During Your Divorce

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By Casey Wilson

Doing things correctly during your divorce, may be the most important thing you can do to ensure a joint physical custody order. This list does not guarantee joint physical custody, but will maximize your chances.

1) Do not move out of the marital home, unless a court orders you to do so. If this is too strange offer to take turns with your soon to be ex taking care of the children in the marital home.

2) Do not agree to any temporary custody agreement unless you feel comfortable with it being a permanent custody order. Never, never rely on verbal agreements. Every agreement needs to be signed by both parties, by a judge and filed with the court to be binding.

3) Get involved in activities for your child. Get involved at your child’s school ie volunteer in the classroom. Try to do this before you are getting divorced as well. Be able to provide proof of this.

4) Say nothing that could be used against you in court. Mention no emotional problems, medication, or mental health issues unless a court requires you.

5) Cooperate with your soon to be ex as much as possible. Yet have boundaries when they are intruding or violating court orders. Handle violations swiftly.

6) If your ex is volatile and attempting to draw you into an argument…..leave immediately

7) Tell the truth, it is much easier to remember.

8) Record conversations if it is legal to do so in your state.

9) Attend counselling and take a personality test

10) Take your child to counselling

11) Study your states custody laws. Do not rely on your attorney to inform you on state law. They DO NOT always have your best interest in mind. Their business depends upon how much you use their services. They want you uneducated and not communicating with ex spouse unless it is through them. Do not rely on your friends’ advice, either.

12) Never bad mouth your ex in front of the child

13) Go to church with your child

14) Do not change jobs unless it provides you with more liberal time with your children, it is important to show stability

15) Document everything. Keep your documentation in a safe place where ex will never find, work is best, a locked computer or phone.

16) Show your ex studies on equal parenting. Nearly all recent studies show that equal parenting leads to better child outcomes. Try to get him or her to agree before litigating.

16) Communicate by written means. Get a new email address with an online server and use it for communication, save all emails in separate folders. Give no one the password.

17) Take a parenting class

18) Attempt to use a parenting coordinator as much as possible, have it in your divorce decree. Use mediation as well. What is said in parent coordination can be used in court. What is said in mediation cannot be used in court.

19) It is imperative you have a very, very specific divorce decree. It should mention exact times for exchanges, communication frequency and times, who will claim children on taxes, holidays, religion, activities. These cannot be too specific. An airtight divorce decree will decrease the chance of going to court more often. Attorneys are often intentionally vague in drawing up divorce decrees to ensure relitigation.

20) Cook meals. Tuck children into bed. Give baths. Give hugs. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. Tell them it’s not their fault. Do this before divorce as well.

Disclaimer: Under no circumstances do these recommendation guarantee an equal parenting order by a court. These recommendations are not legal advice but advice gathered from hundreds of divorced parents.
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Ten Arguments for Shared Parenting

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Shared Parenting in South Dakota just makes sense.  Here are ten arguments for shared parenting:

1.        This issue is about fit parents.  This issue is about fit parents.  The statement needs to be repeated because opponents continually equate this issue with protecting children against unfit parents.  Shared parenting advocates are not talking about those parents who are guilty of domestic or child abuse.  Shared Parenting advocates are talking about two people who are innocent and therefore entitled to the privileges of an innocent person.  It is important to not get caught up in the argument that in order to protect our children we need to keep the current system in place.  All of the current safeguards against abusive parents do not go away with shared parenting. 

2.       Every single parent with “standard visitation” in South Dakota also has a 50/50 schedule.  The schedule is for only 3 months out of the year:  Summer Vacation.  Every fall, a child who was with their parent for half time during the summer goes back to 4 days a month during the school year.  It is clear that the current system has no problem “allowing” shared parenting; it is clear that there is some sort of belief that NCPs (noncustodial parent) can’t parent effectively during the school year.  Proponents of Shared Parenting want to be more than vacation parents. 

3.       There is data out there that shows that the more contact that feuding parents have, the poorer the outcomes for children.  There is almost no schedule with greater contact for feuding parents than minimum South Dakota guidelines.  There are 20 points of contact for feuding parents a month with minimum guidelines.  There is absolutely no correlation between greater time spent with NCPs and negative outcomes for children.  There is only a correlation with negative outcomes for children with greater points of contact between feuding parents. Simple changes in a schedule can minimize contact between feuding parents

4.        Opponents to shared parenting make one point again and again:  men are abusive.  Men are not good or equal parents.  They assert that legislators need to assume that they are guilty to protect our children.  Opponents state that if they are good fathers and because men are financially privileged as gender that there is a cheap, fairly straight forward process of getting a lawyer and providing proof that they can co-parent.   I have spent 5000 dollars to get “minimum recommended guidelines” with my child.   None of the “cheap or easy” argument  is true. 

5.       If our state wants to guarantee child support payments then it needs to guarantee greater visitation.  Numerous studies show how increased fatherhood participation increases payments.  Greater visitation does not take away any support for children.  Abated funds are used to support the child in the non-custodial parent’s home. Zero money is taken away from support to a child.  Two homes need the resources (money) to support a child, not just one.

6.       We are talking about fit parents.  We are talking about fit parents.  Not one part of the proposed South Dakota  legislation for Shared Parenting is for children being in homes with unfit parents.  Parents with documented issues do not have the right that fit parents have.   We are upholding a standard of innocent until proven guilty—not the current standard of I don’t like you and so you can’t see your child.   

7.       I am a counselor.  I’ve done marriage counseling and family systems counseling.   This system creates leverage with two things:  money and visitation.  Children are being put in the middle.  Our laws need to take away that leverage from both parties.  There should not be an option for leverage.   Divorce can turn two people into ugly people.  The best” interests of the child” is about creating an environment that encourages the most time, love, and support from both parents.   When a parent wins in our current system, a child loses. 

8.       Parenting plans are part of the new legislation.  If one parent needs to be put in primary charge of medical, religion, and school decisions then that can be part of the plan.  Laws should not give one parent the only ability to make choices—power from the outset.  

9.       This system supports misogynist and outdated ideas about parenting.  There is no longer a “tender years doctrine” because the courts acknowledged that both sexes can care for a child.  Current stats show men and women both care for their children more than they ever have before.  Women don’t rely on men to take care of them.  Despite a lower average wage for women, women’s wages are getting better.  Here are some other points to consider before listening to how poorly women are coping in our modern world.  Six out of every ten persons entering higher education last year were women.  There are more female doctors and lawyers graduating than men.  The unemployment rate is also higher for men.  It’s new world for both sexes.  As much as I know this issue impacts more men, we should not make it a women’s rights issue on the other side.  This issue is about our children’s rights and access to two fit parents.

10.   The best childhood outcomes are from two parent families.  Children need active and engaged parents.  They do not need single mothers and visiting fathers.  As a counselor, I have counseled depressed fathers because they have lost their kids and helped young adults with scars dating back 20 years because of these laws.  These laws are failing South Dakota’s families and children.  The heart wrenching stories from women and men should compel us to do something—not acting is not an option.   The composition of the South Dakota Shared Parenting Coalition is parents:  men and women.  Good people.  The primary stakeholders in this case should not be the lawyers who profit from conflict but the parents and children who are directly impacted by this legislation.  Shared parenting is about two fit parents supporting their children and represents the “best interests of children.” 

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