Thursday, September 17, 2015

Is custody of children generally taken away or relinquished?

This may seem like a simple question which can be answered through a statistical analysis of juvenile and family court records. However, this may only provide an outcome measurement rather than a symptomatic assessment that identifies causation.

For most people, especially those assessing their culpability, the answer is a resounding “taken” which is apparent in the language used to describe their predicament. While this reality may be accurate, often times the actuality of the situation remains obscured and truth shrouded. Ultimately, truth provides the needed antidote to the behaviours and conditions which sabotage the custodial desires of parents and providers.

Assessing blame to third parties or outside agency is not a trait limited to child custody matters. In False Attributions, Groupthink and other Methods of Avoiding Responsibility that lead to Adverse Child Custody Decisions I wrote specifically about the psychological factor as applied to parental behaviours.

I suggest reading that in its entirety if you feel that you are on the losing end of a child custody action. The following excerpt provides a brief example of attribution;
It is at this time of year that we can see such fallacies expressed in the utterances about automobile wrecks when roads are icy. The ice gets blamed for the wrecks. This is logically inconsistent as it presumes the ice to be a sentient being capable of selecting which cars it wishes to cause to crash as not all cars that encounter the ice crash.
To prescind the mindsets which inaccurately attribute blame allows for exploration of concepts and actions that can improve parent-child relationships regardless of court’s custody decisions.

In this rationation I move beyond identifying attribution properly and examine deliberate actions more closely. Much of the psychotherapy that I have been providing lately has involved assisting parents to identify the differences between intentions and deliberate acts. Tantamount to this distinction is also an understanding of how culture affects intention. Through understanding this impact and being mindful of all actions parents are able to shift from habitual reflexes into thoughtful responses.

Thus, to achieve a positive child custody outcome these parents are able to align their intentions with that which is perceived as being favourable to the child. Then these parents are able to be mindful of whether their deliberate acts are aiding in achieving their intentions.

While it may appear that a court foists its beliefs or governmental strictures upon parents the behaviours desired by the court are likely beneficial to both parent and child.

Instead of custody being taken from parents it is likely that parents acquiesce rather than consent to such action. The animus which may be felt by a disgruntled parent, when properly channeled, can be a positive emotional reaction. While such resentment needs to be ameliorated it is a disservice to placate the person feeling that way.

People in a parent’s social or support network may, with good intention, provide solace and words of comfort which may reinforce the perception that outside agency is responsible for the outcome. While few may recognize a conflict existing between acts and intent or intent and the child’s best interest those who do so should not remain quiet on such matters in place of soothing emotional wounds or mollifying the hostile parent.

Instead, provoking and allowing a parent to achieve a catharsis provides him or her the freedom to act without the restraint of unresolved emotional baggage. It may be these past experiences which burden a parent with anxiety about challenging a current child custody decision. To bring about serenity it will be necessary to first resolve the underlying attributes that lead to the disquietude.

I contend that anxiety is the impediment to progress. We hear it either internally or through others -- the “what ifs” of which only those that lead to great calamity or failure are expressed. Thus, the resulting anxiety freezes one in a state of fear.

Upon realizing and accepting that we as individuals are ultimately responsible for our parent-child relationships it becomes easier to be mindful of our actions. These parents who accept that their actions have consequence are better able to properly align their goals and subsequent actions to more positive child custody outcomes.

The insouciant parent is able to maintain a mental focus that facilitates more rational and effective thinking processes but this must be stimulated in a manner to avoid the appearance of apathy. Conversely, the recalcitrant parent will find himself or herself in the position of being displaced from the desired custodial outcome. The active, yet not aggressive, parent stands in a position of being perceived as the best candidate. This parent’s pursuit of custody must be genuine in seeking the child’s best interest as affectations, when identified by judicial officers, are not well received.

While personality types may remain static their expressions can be modified. Achieving equanimity in the face of the potential custody outcome is the goal of coaching and the basis for the underlying cognitive behavioural therapy. My wisdom has been challenged as has the basis for my counseling. That often being, “What business does a court have in telling me how to raise my child?”

I don’t seek to obtrude. My suggestions and guidance are welcomed to be dismissed without infliction of emotional duress upon me. My sagacity is the result of experiences and observations but may, admittedly, miss the mark on any particular individual. Especially if I overestimate one’s ability to act or am not afforded sufficient time for evaluation.

For so long as a child remains under the jurisdiction of the family law court then it is the business of the presiding judicial officer to determine the custodial arrangements for the child. Likewise, it is the business of those of us who provide counsel to the parents and evidence to the court to attempt to ensure that we are acting in the best interest of the child.

Our acts may go against the beliefs of parents and appear as a hostile indictment of their parenting behaviours. They may be embraced as welcomed guidance or wholly rejected as an intrusion into the sanctity of the parent-child relationship. However, rejection may be accompanied by great peril.

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Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

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©2008, 2015 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.