How to approach your first family court hearing at your strongest


Now you have already done everything so your case does not have to go to family court. You have left the silverware in the apartment, the new car, which is still in your name but which he mainly drives, you bring him the children and pick them up again.

You may even have granted him visits to your apartment and confirmed his vacation wishes with the children without any ifs and buts. You may have had  to do some re-shuffling at work because he was much too late in notifying you of his vacation plans, but it’s still easier to orchestrate the vacation bookings of five colleagues than to have to experience the impending disaster due to the rage of the Ex, who doesn’t get his way.

Not to mention the many consultations with the youth welfare office and the mediations you have already had with him.

That alone was no walk in the park.

In any case, a tendency was quickly recognizable during the counseling sessions – all counselors gave the impression that you should please make concessions.

Why don’t you grant him overnight contact with his one-and-a-half-year-old son?

“Why don’t you meet him halfway?”

The fact that your smallest child has already gone completely bonkers since the separation and has become extremely stressful and is literally crying out for routines and peace and quiet doesn’t seem to be getting a hearing. Every time after the visitations you have hell at home, and the other two kids also want to be picked up.

After all, the father has rights to the child! So he finally wants to have joint custody and an alternating residency model from the beginning.

In counseling they want to persuade you to at least agree to extended contact. That would be a good compromise!

But the fact that the children are far from being ready – neither to the maximum demand of the alternating residency model nor the step below, i.e. every second weekend from Thursday to Monday evening and in the following week every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon – is not seen.

You talk your head off in the consultations. Sometimes you get bogged down and slide off onto the sideshow bait that the Ex throws out. Which doesn’t necessarily help change the counselor’s preconceived notion either.

You notice this and become more and more insecure. Your self-worth has gotten so grotty in the relationship anyway. And you even understand why the counselor thinks that way.

It is also fair to divide 100% of time by two, so that 50% comes out on the bottom line for everyone!

But the feelings and the developmental stage of a child do not adapt to a given time grid.

Especially if you have been the main caregiver for your child so far, you are the one who can judge that best.

This is not to the liking of the Ex, who probably sees himself on a level below you on the scale of value and importance in the child’s life and therefore has to go crazy.

After all, this should not be!

I can understand every mother who, in the course of the counseling sessions, finally gives in and makes compromises, so that the pressure, which is exerted on her from several sides, finally stops!

But those who tremblingly defy this, because they feel that their child is not yet ready and want to protect its basic need for a safe, stable environment and fixed rituals at all costs, deserve all our respect and a loving embrace!


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If it then goes to family court

If you have a highly toxic Ex, you will indeed have to expect this.

By the way, have you already done the test to get an idea of how toxic your Ex is? Well, catch up on that right now, I’ve been waiting here for you for so long…?

When a parent appeals to the family court, the decision on a custody or access issue is delegated to an outside third party – the judge* – who then has to sort it out for the disputing parent.

Of course, she now has a problem.

She knows neither you, nor your Ex, nor the children involved.

So she first has to get a picture of the persons involved and usually tries to find a solution in the best interest of the children.

But alas, even a judge is not free from the influence of opinion-making press and lobbyists. And she is only human.

Precisely because she knows that her decisions are so important in the lives of the children, she will seek additional opinions on the merits of the case from other people. From a guardian ad litem, for example. Or the case worker at your youth welfare office.

And with each additional person comes another dynamic factor that makes family court proceedings more complex and unpredictable.


So what strategy should you employ now?

Sweetheart, if there’s one thing you’re particularly good at, it’s empathizing with other people, right?

So instead of focusing on what those you’ve already met in this game think of you and could even act against you if necessary, you should rather focus on how you can make it easier for the judge to find a good decision.

She does not have to like you! And she doesn’t have to automatically fall for the rhetorical skills of the Ex either!

But she should be able to understand how the world looks like for your children.

And she should be able to get a good picture of who is sitting in front of her and with what intention.

The first hearing is therefore more about getting to know each other and getting to know each other than finding a final contact or custody arrangement right away. Nor is it a tribunal to determine who is in the right and who is toxic-narcissistic to the contrary!

The more important the decision that is pending, the more time a serious judge at the family court will take for it.

Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?


​My best tips for the first family court hearing

Once you have internalized this, here’s how you can best prepare:

1) Make sure you know what your intention is going into the hearing. The intention is different from your goal – you need both for your clarity.

For example, your goal might be to get the alternating residency model off the table.

Your intention, on the other hand, should be to stay calm, maintain eye contact with the judge, and not let the ex’s lies throw you off your game.

2) Focus on the children, not on the ex’s attacks on you. Easier written than done, I know! Still, this is not about you. The judge will want to focus on the children, not regurgitate your couple squabbles of the past.

3) Stay absolutely on topic and do not mix up any proceedings, should there be several running side by side, e.g. maintenance proceedings, contact and another criminal proceeding because of stalking. Even if the Ex brings up several topics that do not contribute to the clarification of the facts, you may question this.

Last but not least: Your role in the whole circus before the family court is that of the defender of your children, and not that of the ex-wife of Mr. Narz.

Please read this statement again and internalize it. Do you notice the clear shift in perspective?



The time after the separation from a toxic Ex is no walk in the rose garden, that’s for sure.

You will most likely have to reckon with the fact that it will not just remain a court case. A toxic narcissistic Ex is not out for consensus, but for a ruckus and lots of negative energy to go around.

You are not alone in your journey though!

I currently have a limited number of coaching slots open to international clients. Wherever you are in your journey – whether you’re at the start of your separation from your toxic Ex, or in the middle of court proceedings – I am here to support you!


Take heart, sweetheart!

With all the excitement, I’ve learned one thing in the meantime: a court case also offers great opportunities.

On the one hand, it brings clarity for all parties involved, even if this is rarely win-win like mediation is now.

On the other hand, clear rules are defined to which everyone must adhere. Admittedly, this alone is no guarantee that this will then be the case – highly toxic people often do not recognize rules from others and will also try to undermine them again and again.

What I find most exciting about this is the potential for mothers, which has lain dormant within them for years and now must inevitably surface if they don’t want to go under.

For example, coming to terms with themselves:

  • Why am I so triggered by what the guardian ad litem says about me when I shouldn’t care?
  • How can I avoid blacking out in the courtroom – what’s happening?
  • How can I stand to sit in a room with this man again and feel his incredible coldness?
  • Looking away, hunkering down, or the ostrich method won’t help much, quite the opposite.
  • If a mother is finally ready to face up to it and defeat the demon inside her, question her beliefs and learn to trust her strength more and more, then anything is possible.

Mind you, I don’t mean fighting to the death.

But to come closer and closer to yourself and to finally show the quiet, primordial feminine strength and abilities that you have not dared to show so far out of misunderstood consideration for others. You only know what you are really capable of when you have to!

I, for one, stand by as a coach and am gobsmacked with awe and admiration when, after the fear, the tenacity, the courage and the heart show themselves and one pearl after another emerges.


Have you already had your first negotiation? What was your experience with it? Do you have a tip for the other moms who are still facing it? Then please leave your comment below. Thank you very much in advance!



*I’m only writing about the female judge here, but of course the same applies to the family court judge. The gender-neutral spelling is fairer, but reader-unfriendly. I ask for understanding!

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