Your best strategy for official custody and child welfare appointments
Here it comes – the dreaded event of all: the joint appointment before the youth welfare office or in court, when a decision is to be made about which access model is to be chosen or how custody is to be decided.
A nightmare for all mothers who, before the separation, mainly took care of the children, while the husband was usually absent and did his own thing. But after the separation, the man surprisingly realizes that he cares a lot about the children and wants to take over half of the care in any case.
Years of relationship talks, in which you wished that the man would be there more for the family, did nothing, but half an hour of intensive conversation with the lawyer and suddenly – a miracle!!!!
The man has reformed! And he’s sooo repentant.
Of course, it could also be that he has to choose between 400 or 800 or 1000 Euro alimony payments for the children – or he has to pay nothing at all, if he thinks about the alternating residency model.
And – stop! – isn’t there still the dear mom who is happy about one or two extra days with the grandchildren?
He can handle that! The kids aren’t babies anymore anyway, a little more independence will do them good! This perpetual hanging on the mother’s skirt only exasperates excessively.
And – isn’t it also important for the mother’s career that she can soon work full time again? He’s going to see to it that the right solution is found for everyone.
He can do that. After all, he has the competence to find solutions, as he proves every day on the job.
And then he really puts his back into it.
His lawyer is rhetorically good. Very good. Frighteningly good, even. And he himself is no slouch either. Years of presentations in front of customers and managing directors pay off at some point in his private life.
And so it happens that he inundates the mother of his children with youth welfare office and court appointments.
There are arguments for the mother’s psychological instability, because the children naturally notice that she cries a lot at home and unabashedly tell their father.
There are pigeonhole arguments for the unspeakable and never scientifically proven Parental Alienation Syndrome (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation), which is simply not to get out of the heads of unverified experts. A modern fairy tale, which is mainly used to weaken the main caring parent – the mother – in front of official authorities.
Then you sit at home as a single mother, in front of the ruins of the family happiness you once dreamed of together, and ask yourself in deep horror what has become of this dream man.
Who wouldn’t be worn down by all this together?
This hatred. This anger. This determination. The threat to take the kids away completely – after all, the new one is already waiting in the wings.
And you get scared shitless.
Depending on what kind of guy you are, you’re already completely intimidated by this point at the latest. But even if you used to be a strong woman before this unspeakable relationship with a suspected narcissist (and believe me, you’re not alone!), you feel very small and with your back against the wall.
After all, you want your children to have contact with their dad! You know that they need him and also want to go to him! Sure, it’s annoying when the childless new girl at your Ex’s side gives you smart advice on how to raise your kids – but hey, you can handle that. You know that.
But you also know that an alternating residency model with a narcissist is a no-go, because then your family doesn’t get any peace. You and your children are constantly on the go.
So – how is this going to go well in front of official bodies?
I’m nowhere near as eloquent as he is. My head is in chaos, how do I get my arguments across so that people believe me?
Doesn’t anyone see that he is narcissistically disturbed?
Doesn’t anybody see what’s happening right now?
Everyone else is more powerful than me. I am the victim of this evil devil!
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At this point at the latest, you are exactly where he wanted you to be.
Because a fainting, desperate and panicked mother is anything but credible. Then he has an easy game.
So you absolutely have to stay calm, as calm as possible and factual, that’s your number one rule!
Never ever mention in court or at joint youth welfare office meetings that the Ex has a narcissistic personality disorder. Because:
You don’t know 100% what disorder he has anyway, unless you are a psychologist.
- It is not your job to train judges and caseworkers in child welfare.
- It will always (!) fall back on you and be a serious disadvantage for you. The term is already too worn out for that.
I can’t repeat it enough, but you need a good lawyer to do the main speaking part in court for you. You should work out a strategy with her on how she should appear rhetorically and how she can best protect you.
With her, of course, you will talk turkey – she should already know that presumed narcissism is the issue in this high-conflict custody matter – and hopefully you have chosen a lawyer who is familiar with such adversaries.
If you are asked and have to take the stand, be sure to remain factual and confine yourself to the facts.
So no emotions about the unbelievable email from yesterday, which the Ex thought he had to send you quickly.
Always argue from the children’s point of view. Make it clear that you see a big difference between your children’s relationship with the Ex as dad and your relationship with the Ex as former partner and that you consider the importance of contact with the other parent important.
With one caveat: If the father used to beat the children, your strategy will of course be different!
Victim protection must go before right of contact with the child, not that we misunderstand each other there!
But this is, as I said, something you have to discuss with your lawyer.
As a rule, the reasons for or against alternating residency model should always be presented by your lawyer, because as an outsider, she can most credibly justify that alternating residency model does not work in a highly contentious parenthood.
At the youth welfare office
If you’ve been reading along with me for a while, you know I recommend avoiding joint meetings or even mediations where possible.
But sometimes that doesn’t work out, and you’re forced to do it.
Then it means for you:
- Prepare yourself. Thoroughly. Objectively. Limit yourself to facts.
- If at all possible, take someone with you to wait for you before and after the appointment so that your ex gets as little opportunity as possible for direct verbal attacks.
- No “Look here what an incredible email he sent me!” or “You’re such a narcissist, yo!” in conversation in front of third parties.
- No justification of any kind. Please pay attention to that. I like to repeat it again because it’s so damn important: No justification!
- Always emphasize and argue from your children’s point of view.
- Let direct, unfair attacks from your Ex go nowhere. “Uh-huh.” “Oh, that’s how you see it.” Or even “Hmmm.”
- Consider suggestions and compromises you would make. Show a willingness to cooperate with the office. But not at any cost.
- If necessary, return the question to the caseworker, “How would you decide if you were me?”
Maybe it’s a good idea to practice the conversation with your best friend beforehand. Have her play the nightmare caseworker at the youth welfare office who pours you a drink.
When you’re sitting across from a sympathetic person, you’ll feel a lot easier.
Also, trust that the Ex will reveal himself to third parties through his language and attitude towards you. In the meantime, experienced administrators are becoming more and more sensitive and sensitive.
Do you want to feel confident about managing child hand-offs with your toxic ex?
Yes, it can go like shit. You are not in it, which prejudices and convictions your responsible judge or the youth welfare office clerk can have.
Concentrate solely on what you yourself can influence, and that is quite a lot
- On your behavior, which should be as objective as possible.
- On your attitude towards the other participants in the proceedings, who also only want to do their job.
- On your preparation.
- On your reactions.
- On your own proposed solutions, which you find good and which you would support.
Everything else is out of your hands.
All the rest – the expert, the parties involved in the proceedings, a possible change of responsibility in the youth welfare office etc. pp. – you cannot influence.
But you can tell yourself that you did your best. Don’t be angry with yourself if, in retrospect, you think you said or did something wrong here or there.
You are human and you are allowed to make mistakes! And even more so in such a stressful situation, where it’s all about the fate of your children.
Just one last thing: Please consider it possible that the judge and those involved in the proceedings have sufficient knowledge of human nature and do not comply with the insane demands of a father who is obviously narcissistically disturbed. He only wants to assert his own interests and not those of the children.
And: Leave the victim role to the Ex. He can do it better than you.
Oh, and one more thing: I haven’t had to go to court myself yet, but I know about joint youth welfare office appointments and especially the psychological pressure. So if you think that I don’t have the competence to write about what the optimal strategy for this should look like, feel free to share your opinion below in the comments – as long as it differs from my strategy recommendation above.
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