Courts serve essential functions in our society, but “curing” family problems is not one of them. While a judge can make decisions about custody and visitation, they cannot make parents and children able to truly communicate nor can they eliminate the underlying tension and mistrust that exists. The dysfunctional family will remain dysfunctional despite the existence of a court order (or multiple court orders).
Correcting the problems requires hard work, not spending a lifetime in litigation. People who “hate” each other have to find a way to work toward a common goal. While courts can order people to go to therapists or to co-parenting counseling, attendance does not lead to progress without personal effort and commitment.
The first step is to recognize that “everything” is not the other person’s fault. Increased self-awareness is key. Often, your actions or remarks serve as a trigger which generates a problematic response. An argument over who started it will lead nowhere, so do not waste time and effort. Instead, put the effort into avoiding the actions and reactions that historically have caused discord.
The second step is to call a truce. No one can erase the memory of past wrongs completely, but you can agree to live in the present. Present actions will help create the trust that was damaged in the past. Someone has to make the first positive move, let it be you.
The third step is to be committed personally to work toward creating a functioning family, even if the family is not under the same roof. Mothers, fathers, and children remain a family. Separation, divorce, or remarriage do not change this basic fact. They do change how the family functions and that requires the work.
The fourth step is to recognize the importance of the parent-child relationship. You are not the only parent. Children benefit from having a relationship with both parents. The other parent is not replaced by your new spouse or significant other. The other parent may not be perfect, but no one is.
Families may require the assistance of therapists, co-parenting counselors, or other outside experts. These may not always be essential, as there are many resources available to the public that are easily accessed.
This may sound more like Dr. Phil than a blog post from a lawyer. The reality is that Family Law is more about personalities, parenting styles, mental health, communication skills, and ability to work together than it is about the law.
Please put in the necessary work! Go to court if you must, but do not expect a judge to cure what ails your family.