Live and Let Live
What do you do when one parent doesn’t want to work with the other parent, post-divorce? As the lawyer, I try to explain to my client that the other parent is going to make their own choices and neither the divorce process nor the divorce itself is necessarily going to change that person. They are who they are.
It’s imperative to have realistic expectations for other people, especially your former spouse, to know how they will act and then not be surprised when that is exactly what they do. There’s a lot that a client has to let go of because we can’t change people. I had this happen just recently with a client whose soon-to-be ex lives on the other side of the state. Every time he gets mad at the mom, he takes it out “on her” by not seeing their children.
The mom gets frustrated because she wants her sons to have time with their father. She asked me if we could do something in the legal arena to prevent the father from blowing off his parenting time. Sure, we can file motions and make the judge and the Friend of the Court aware that father is blowing off his parenting time. When it’s written into a court order, if he does this, he’s in violation of a court order. So we go back to court and what are father’s consequences? Maybe he loses time with the children or some other penalty. But that doesn’t really solve the problem of the father not seeing his children, and the boys being disappointed by his absence. Nor does it support the mother’s true desire, to ensure that her children will have a relationship with their father. Ultimately, there is nothing in my lawyer “bag of tricks” that will change who this father is or how he handles anger. Legally, we can write details into an order or the Judgment of Divorce for the purpose of ensuring that things go smoothly. But that doesn’t mean they will. And then it’s up to each person to respond accordingly – not out of whack, not in extreme, just accordingly, based on the nature of the other person. To know what to expect and when it happens, accept it as customary, even if disappointing or frustrating. We always hope divorced parents will treat one another courteously, and when they don’t, we have legal avenues through which to build rules and parameters. In the end, though, we are only responsible for our own actions and reactions. We can’t control another person. And we really shouldn’t want to.