In criminal cases, a person is either found guilty or not guilty. In a lawsuit, there is typically a winner and a loser. In family law, oftentimes everyone loses.
However, sometimes a family law case comes out much more favorably for one side than the other. The Court orders one of the parents to have majority time instead of a 50/50 shared custody split; The Court orders a child to relocate to another state with the other parent; the Court orders you are only allowed supervised time with your children; the court gives all decision making authority to the other parent. In these cases, one side may feel like the winner. And that parent may even be tempted to gloat, smirk or abuse this newly perceived power. They stop encouraging the kids to call the other parent; they stop communicating with the other parent about important decisions; they insult them and kick them while they’re down.
I’m writing this post for the prevailing parent. Please don’t do this.
Have compassion for the other side. No, seriously – hear me out. When a party loses a family case, it’s devastating and life changing. You, the winner, may feel you earned this outcome or the other side got what they deserved. I’m asking you to take a different look.
Look at your case through the eyes of the loser, and take a moment to feel what they are feeling. Put aside your animosity. Empathize with what they’re going through. Use your imagination – pretend you are the other parent, and you don’t believe you deserve this outcome. Feel the pain in your chest they are feeling. Feel the lump in your throat and the pressure behind your eyes. And the hopelessness. You’re crushed and broken and completely vulnerable. You feel like your life is over. You don’t know how you’re going to pick up the pieces and go on.
Really let that feeling marinade for a while.
Don’t you feel differently? No? Then consider this. If you had had a different judge, you may have lost. You probably don’t realize that you may have just won by the skin of your teeth. You pretty much lucked out. Trust me- I’ve won and lost cases that I would have staked my life on the opposite outcome. When you put your fate in the hands of a third party, you can’t ever really know what will happen.
Remember that the other parent is someone you once really care about, A LOT, and wanted to protect. You may not care for that parent now, but you should still respect that parent as a fellow human being.
Why am I asking you to do this? Simple. It’s for your kids. You know how much your kids love the other parent. Why would you want to hurt someone your kids love so much? When there is animosity and tension between you and the other parent, your kids feel it. You may think you’re hiding it well, but you aren’t and you cannot possibly ever hide it from them. They hear it in your voice, they notice how little you and other parent talk, and the tone when you do talk. They pay attention, and they don’t see things your way. They see you being an asshole to the someone they love, and it’s going to hurt your relationship with them in the long run. If you hate the other parent so much that you can’t even fake being nice, I strongly suggest you consider therapy to help you work through the grudge. Do it for your kids.
Bottom line: Don’t kick the other parent while they’re down. Take the high road by showing compassion. And be a team for your kid. Give the other parent extra time with the kids. Be flexible in the parenting time schedule. Encourage the kids to call every day. Keep pictures of the parent out around your house – to the kids, you and the other parent are that kid’s family. Look at things through your kids’ eyes and stop looking down on the other parent, and instead help them up.