Kane County Divorce: One Story of Parental Alienation
Recent published articles in the New York Times from Dylan Farrow, and subsequently in rebuttal Woody Allen, have brought into the light allegations that have arisen from what appears to have been a highly dysfunctional family environment. My reading of the articles, some of the trial evidence, as well as third party accounts, does not lead me or others to any conclusions as to whether the then 7 year old Dylan Farrow was sexually abused by Woody Allen, as she alleges.
What is clear is that the relationship between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen was toxic. There is a suggestion that whether Allen committed any acts of abuse, or not, his former partner was highly vindictive toward him, resulting in what appears to be a very toxic parental alienation campaign. The articles state:
"Former nanny Monica Thompson (whose salary was paid by Allen, since three of the brood were also his) swore in a deposition to Allen’s attorneys that she was pressured by Farrow to support the molestation charges, and the pressure led her to resign her position."
"And then there was this quote from Moses Farrow - Dylan's brother, also adopted, and now a 36-year-old family therapist: "My mother drummed it into me to hate my father for tearing apart the family and sexually molesting my sister," Moses Farrow, 36, told People Magazine. "And I hated him for her for years. I see now that this was a vengeful way to pay him back for falling in love with Soon-Yi." He added, "Pleasing my mother was very powerful motivation [for Dylan] because to be on her wrong side was horrible."
A significant part of my practice involves highly charged custody litigation, some of which involve allegations of sexual abuse and parental alienation. I take all of these issues seriously, and utilizing my training, background and experience with psychological disorders and family system issues, I make a real effort to bring to bear strong clinical inputs as well as strategies to investigate and defuse family abuse, dysfunction, and parental alienation campaigns.
Regardless of whether Mia Farrow is truthful, or Woody Allen, the net result is that their children were harmed, and ended up split against each other, and against their parents. A tragedy no matter the causes and origins.
On January 14, a new law went into effect in Illinois that allows judges to order a “right of first refusal” for parents who share joint custody of their children. The right of first refusal (ROFR) means that any time one parent cannot care for the children during his or her scheduled period of possession or custody, that parent must first offer the other parent the right to take the children during that time. “[I]f a party intends to leave the minor child or children with a substitute child-care provider for a significant period of time, that party must first offer the other party an opportunity to personally care for the minor child or children.”
The right to have the possession of one's child or children when the other parent is unable to provide direct care can be important to the noncustodial parent. In many cases, one parent has only alternating weekends and midweek dinners with the children, and the chance to have more parenting time when the custodial parent is away on a trip or at a seminar is invaluable.
Prior to this year's new law, judges had discretion in allowing these rights of first refusal. In my experience, there have been judges that would outright refuse to allow them in parenting agreements, believing that these clauses in agreements only invited more disputes about whether one parent's seminar was long enough, or whether the babysitter hired for a two hour movie was a violation of the ROFR. Some judges just didn't want to open the door to a feature of a Parenting Agreement that would invite more litigation.
The new law is written not to mandate a ROFR, but to give the judge the ability to order it if the particular case ( and the mutually respectful parents) allows for it. Typically, judges will allow for the right once a material period of time, such as four hours of nonpossession of the children, is involved.
In my view, the legislature made a small effort to create an opening for a noncustodial joint parent to have more available parenting time. It would have been better, in my view, for the legislature to have done away with the archaic Illinois custody and visitation statutes that create these situations where parents are literally starved for time with their kids.
This new law is a very small step, but it is hardly a remedy for Illinois' antiquated custody laws that leave so many parents disenfranchised from the weekly lives of their children. I support and advocate for statutory presumptive shared parenting, and do all that I can in my practice to achieve primary custody or shared parenting for the men and women that retain my firm.
The cost of a divorce can be a deterrent to the process for many couples who are already struggling with the expense of maintaining two separate households. The amount of property one owns, child custody and support issues, and the extent to which a couple agrees or disagrees will determine attorney and other professional service fees (like custody evaluators) incurred during a divorce. Whether there is a large or small amount of property, issues with the children or not, or little to no agreement, there are things that you can do to reduce the cost of a divorce.
First off, take care when choosing your divorce attorney. The right attorney for your case is not always the most expensive attorney. Experience, unique technical skills, and positive relationships with the courts make for good lawyers. There are several things you should consider when choosing a lawyer and managing your case:
Attorneys’ fees are based on their experience, expertise, and special skills, but some very experienced lawyers charge reasonable fees, while others charge exorbitant fees. The hourly rates of lawyers should be competitive with their locale and market, but not excessive. A high hourly rate is not an indicator of special experience or skill.
If custody and support are issues upon which you and your spouse disagree, an attorney who does not specialize in custody may be initially less expensive, but not worth the savings in the end. Hiring an inexpensive lawyer who mismanages your child custody case will cause you heartache. Experienced attorneys know how to accomplish client goals without wasting time and money. Good custody lawyers bring good results that maintain positive family environments.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Choosing your battles during a divorce can save you time, frustration, and money. Think about your assets carefully, and listen to your lawyer's advice about equitable division with your assigned judge. For example, don't spend hours litigating the dining set versus the living room furniture.
Be realistic about what you want financially, and what is possible within the facts of your case. No litigant wins each and every issue, and the courts strive to be equitable. Experienced lawyers have a general sense of how certain judges allocate marital estates.
Author's note: The Law Offices of Michael F Roe has established a record of success with complex child custody cases, as well as a high degree of financial acumen with complex property issues. All of this experience is afforded to clients at a reasonable hourly rate. Please contact Michael Roe directly at (630) 232-2400 for to discuss your important case. www.illinois-attorney.net
Is Divorce Mediation for You?
Are you wondering:
• What is the most informed way, at the least expense, to get divorced?
• Would I do better in mediation or in court?
• What are the basic standards on parenting plans, child support, spousal support and property division (based on California law, although other states are often similar)?
• How are substance abuse, restraining orders, child alienation and other problems addressed?
• Could I make reasonable decisions with my spouse sitting in the same room?
• How does divorce mediation work?
This 1-hour nutshell video helps answer all of those questions. This dramatization of issues and controversies from real cases shows how a neutral mediator guides a controlled process and provides information. The parties raise issues, ask questions of the mediator and each other, make proposals and the final decisions. Disagreements, anger, surprise events, tears and significant progress are all highlighted.
60 Minute Video
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Family therapist Diane Shearer says we should look beyond the questions about divorce and get at what kids are really asking for. "When kids ask tough questions, they aren't looking for complicated answers. They are looking for affirmation, not information." This means they want to be assured that you love them no matter what. They want to know that you recognize their turbulent feelings. Here are some tips on three of the most common questions.
1. Why? From "why did you stop loving each other" to "why are you doing this," kids want to know the big-picture reason behind your split. Shearer says the fear behind this question is that if mom and dad can stop loving each other, they might stop loving their kids, too. So you'll need to assure your child that love between parents is very different from a parent's love for their child. Your love for them is permanent and will never change. In most cases, it's not appropriate to get into the details of why you're divorcing. Instead, reassure your child that you are still a family, just a different kind of family.
2. Is this my fault? Young children, especially, are self-centered, so they can't help wondering if they are somehow at fault for your split. Again, the most important thing here is to assure your child that your love for them is unconditional. They need to know their parents' complicated relationship has nothing to do with them -- they are NOT the cause of the divorce. They will always be loved. That will never change.
3. Where will I live? Make sure you have agreed on a parenting plan -- even a temporary one -- before you break the news. Tell them where they will be, when, and for how long. Let them know that they can express their feelings about these arrangements to you any time they need to. And always speak respectfully about your ex in your answers -- don't involve your kids in whatever conflicts you're having with your spouse.
1. "I am thankful for becoming the person that I am. I've learned so much along the way. Even the pain served a purpose." -Amber L.
2. "I'm thankful for my self-respect." -Tom H.
3. "I'm thankful the two of us were able to rebuild our lives. We got out earlier instead of waking up 50 years later and asking, 'what happened to us?'" -Pilar G.
4. "I am most thankful for my divorce because my ex-husband found love in his current wife (we did not have love between us in our marriage) and she has been so wonderful to our sons." -Lori S.
5. "I'm grateful I don't have to look into my son's eyes when he says 'Are you two gonna argue again tonight?' He was 4-year-old when we divorced and four years later we are a happy peaceful family completed by a wonderful woman that talks things through." -Don J.
6. "I am thankful for a peaceful relationship with the ex, great co-parenting and the fact that we can all be adults. We're all having Thanksgiving dinner together this year, with the children, the ex and the new amazing man in my life." -Beth R.
7. "Divorce allowed me to find myself again, to not deal with mental and verbal abuse, to focus on loving myself, to have peace and dignity and to enjoy and appreciate my struggles. Most importantly, divorce has allowed me to show my son that respect and loving yourself is essential in life and that sometimes the actions you take in life are necessary to live a happy life, even if they hurt." -Ronald P.
8. "I'm thankful that God gave me the strength to take my three kids and leave a tough situation. And from that moment on, I grew stronger and stronger and became the kind of mom I never knew I could be." -Christine N.
9. "Instead of suffering day to day, and walking on eggshells every time that I came home from work, I now come home to a peaceful house where my children and I feel peace and emotional safety." Charles W.
10. "I am thankful I lost 30 pounds after the divorce!" -Mike W.
11. "Why am I grateful for my divorce? I have the opportunity to re-find my old, fun self. It got lost because I was the only adult in the marriage." -Mark B.
12. "I was able to reclaim my old self, which I had given up during my marriage in a completely misguided effort to please my spouse." -Maria D.
13. "I am thankful for my divorce because I was able to move away, finish my degree at a university like I had always wanted, made many new friends, and even have an amazing boyfriend now. My divorce has truly changed my life for the better." -Lisa M.
14. "I'm grateful to have the opportunity to have an authentic marriage with my second husband. Marriage is hell with the wrong person, complete heaven with the right one." -Amy G.
15. "I'm thankful because I learned that I can do whatever I set my mind to." -Lynnette B.
16. "I am no longer put down, screamed at, called names, or treated with hostility on a daily basis and for that I am thankful." -Edward B.
17. "I'm thankful for divorce because it showed me the true colors of friends, and even family -- but most importantly, it gave me the opportunity to be the person I've always wanted to become!" -Lisa H.
18. "I was able to start an organization that helps women go through relationship transitions with a support group. I am thankful for meeting new friends and helping others, all because of my divorce!" -Janette V.
19. "I have become a better mother to my daughters without the stress of a dysfunctional marriage on my plate." -Shelli K.
20. "I'm thankful we can both agree that the most important thing is our son so we can focus on him instead of our differences." -Nate C.
What Therapists Don't Tell You About Divorcing A High-Conflict Personality
Therapists are trained to help clients become self-aware and authentic. For people who grew up in invalidating environments, where they learned to suppress their feelings and needs in order to be accepted, therapy can be life-altering.
Competent therapists who provide a corrective emotional experience can make it possible for people who never had a voice to find one. Once self-actualized, people generally find the quality of their lives improve: they find the right career, attract the right mate and extricate themselves from toxic relationships.
Unfortunately, this type of personal growth can be disastrous when divorcing a high-conflict personality. When working with a client who is married to, or separating from a narcissist, therapists need to invert the goal of traditional therapy. Instead of encouraging people to be authentic, they need to counsel people to be strategic. Expressing one's true feelings, admitting vulnerability, and apologizing for one's missteps can bury a person who is trying to dissolve a marriage with a narcissist -- especially when children are involved.
Why Don't More Therapists Understand How to Treat High-Conflict Divorce?
Graduate psychology programs teach future therapists how to facilitate a client's personal growth. Students learn what personality disorders look like, and how they develop. But there are no courses in graduate school that train psychology students how to help clients navigate high-conflict divorce.
When treating a client in individual therapy, a therapist doesn't have the benefit of observing the narcissistic spouse. Even in couples therapy, a therapist might be duped by the high-conflict personality, who often comes across as charming, while the more reasonable spouse, who has spent years being traumatized by crazy-making behavior, can look like the difficult one.
5 Tips for Divorcing a High-Conflict Personality
1. Minimize Contact
High-conflict personalities thrive off of battle. Their agenda, which is often subconscious, is to maintain your relationship by creating drama: bad-mouthing you to everyone under the sun and especially to your children, cyber-bullying, multiple, intrusive phone calls and any other way they can find to keep you from moving on with your life.
While your gut reaction might be to defend yourself, you cannot reason with a terrorist. Anything you say can and will be used against you. To mitigate the chaos caused by a high-conflict personality, you must keep communication to a minimum. Avoid face-to-face contact. Cultivate a "just the facts, ma'am" style of e-mail and text correspondence. When possible, arrange neutral places such as school for the drop-off and pick-up of children.
2. Keep Your Feelings to Yourself
High-conflict personalities are bullies. They like to "win" by making you angry or beating you down. Do not act on your feelings. If you yell, cry, plead, or otherwise tip your emotional hand, you will invite more attacks. Being stuck in the cross-hairs of a narcissist is traumatic, so by all means seek support through safe means: therapy, and online support groups for people with personality-disordered exes are two examples. But whatever you do, don't let a narcissist know how you really feel -- especially if you have a different point-of-view, which will always be interpreted as a threat.
3. Plan for the Worst
Do not listen to conventional wisdom that your ex will "move on" in time. Well-adjusted people move on; high-conflict personalities never quench their thirst for revenge and their desire to feel like "the good one." Anticipate being dragged into court for minor indiscretions, or worse, total fabrications.
Do not say or write anything that might make you look bad. Respond to even the most frivolous accusations with factual, non-defensive e-mails detailing what actually happened. Document everything; save hostile e-mails, take screen shots of abusive texts, note every violation of your court orders.
4. Never Admit a Mistake
You can, and should be, accountable for your part in the end of the marriage. But be accountable in a safe environment: therapy, 12-step groups, or in the company of trusted family and friends.
Do not admit wrongdoing to your high-conflict ex, especially in writing. Apologizing will not create a more amicable relationship. A high-conflict ex will interpret your apology as proof that you are the mentally ill, incompetent, stupid person she says you are. Even admissions of minor mistakes can be twisted into admissions of heinous acts and spur a high-conflict ex to take you to court, or simply broadcast to everyone with whom they come in contact that you are a terrible person.
5. Stop Trying to Co-Parent
I have written before about the one-size-fits-all co-parenting model. Well-meaning, but misinformed therapists do targets of high-conflict personalities a huge disservice by advising them that they can, and should, co-parent. Certainly, an amicable co-parenting relationship is ideal for children. But attempts to co-parent with a narcissist or a borderline will keep you engaged in battle. You will forever be on the receiving end of intrusive, controlling, chaotic behaviors which will make you and your kids crazy.
Parallel parenting is the only paradigm that should be recommended to people with personality-disordered exes. This means that you give up the fantasy that you can have consistency between homes, or appear as a united front. The more high-conflict your ex is, the more you will need to separate yourself and your parenting. This may mean hosting separate birthday parties, scheduling separate parent-teacher conferences and not sharing what goes on in your house.
While you may feel that you are sending a terrible message to your children by limiting contact with their other parent, you are actually protecting them by minimizing the potential for conflict.
Targets of high-conflict personalities need to accept that it isn't wise to be "authentic" with their ex. Strategic, limited disclosures and iron-clad boundaries are essential tools in managing a high-conflict divorce. While it may seem paradoxical, true authenticity comes from holding on to one's sense of self while gracefully disengaging from a narcissist.
Follow Virginia Gilbert, MFT on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@VGilbertMFT
Divorce can feel like a full-time job. It can be all-consuming, affecting every aspect of your life. Between the (sometimes) contentious texts with your ex-partner, phone calls to your attorney and figuring out child custody, where you are going to live and how your new life will look, there is almost always a sense of uncertainty or fear just below the surface. And regardless of how affluent the couple is, there is often a great deal of worry about the financial future.
Once separated or divorced, the informed spouse already has the experience and relationships to transition financially, but the other spouse has to start from scratch. In my experiences as a divorce financial planner who has specialized in working with the "out" spouse, three fears have emerged as most common. While some degree of worry and apprehension is to be expected, with a little work and planning, these three common divorce fears can be eliminated and can help the out spouse feel more confident and secure.
1. Fear of not getting a fair share. If your finances are simple, it can be easy to evenly divide the assets, but if your finances are more complex (e.g., multiple homes, employer stock options, closely held business, illiquid investments, separate property), this can become much more difficult. The solution is to answer these two questions: What do we own and what is it worth? If you are concerned that assets are not being disclosed, discuss this with your attorney and consider hiring a forensic accountant -- basically a financial detective -- to help uncover any undisclosed assets. The next issue is to arrive at a fair value for each asset. This is an area that is ripe for abuse. The valuation of family-owned or other privately held companies is inherently prone to subjectivity and, particularly in the divorce context, manipulation.
2. Fear of not knowing what you'll have. This is a pervasive fear ... and it's completely justified! In a divorce, it is easy to get lost in the details and lose sight of the bigger picture. It's critical to stay focused on what your finances will look like post-divorce. This starts by knowing not only how much you have, but WHAT you have and WHERE you will have it. For example, $600,000 equity in your house is very different from $600,000 of cash in the bank or $600,000 worth of stock in your ex-spouse's business. Get rid of the fear by getting clear on your assets. Work with a financial adviser before the divorce is finalized so you can make sure you are not only getting your fair share, but that you don't get stuck with illiquid assets while your ex gets the cash.
3. Fear of not knowing how your lifestyle will change. This fear comes down to cash flow. After alimony, child support, employment income, investment income and basic living expenses, how much will I have left? How much house can I afford? Can I still take trips twice a year? Do I have to fly coach now? These are real concerns that keep many soon-to-be divorcees up at night. To squash this fear, have a financial adviser create a post-divorce income and expense report for you so you can quickly see how your new finances will affect your lifestyle. Just make sure the adviser factors in all of the new post-divorce expenses such as health insurance, rent, car loans, etc.
It's common and natural to experience a wide range of emotions, from worry to excitement to anger to contentment, when going through a divorce. For the spouse that isn't as financially savvy or who wasn't involved in the couple's finances, fear and uncertainty regarding money are all too common, but with some planning and a few good people to help guide you, you can feel more confident and secure about your future and your finances.
Credit: Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist
Falling in love with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is an emotional roller coaster ride. The relationship involves never-ending emotional blackmails, hurtful criticisms, threats, manipulations, verbal attacks and silent treatments. Borderlines are known to call you at work more than 20 times in a day. Borderlines need constant reassurance. Borderlines feel the need to check up on you all the time. Borderlines also wake you up in the middle of the night because of their concerns.
How can you continue to love a person who will give you the responsibility for anything and everything bad that happens to them? You are accused as the source of all their pains, heartbreaks, anger, frustrations and hardships? The Borderline will emotionally wear you out by their insults and accusations.
Borderlines have a problem with regulating their emotions. They feel real pain and fear of abandonment.
No matter how much a trusted friend will tell you to leave the relationship, you just can't do it. At least for the time being, you want to stay and give it another try.
A person with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is mentally ill. This is one of the reasons you hesitate to leave your loved one. You want to separate the disorder from the person. You believe that there is no other person in this world who can help your BPD loved one except you.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to cure the disorder instantly. However, there are techniques that can help you survive the relationship.
1. Self-esteem Self-Check
You cannot survive a relationship with a Borderline if your self-esteem is shattered. You need to learn to take care of yourself. Your Borderline loved one is incapable of taking care of you. You have to believe that you can commit to your partner's treatment and recovery.
2. The Four (4) Don'ts
There are four things you should not do or say to your Borderline partner. The first is don't defend yourself. The second is don't explain. The third is don't justify. The fourth is don't counter attack. The Borderline loved one may misconstrue the above-mentioned statements and actions. The Borderline thinks you are disagreeing with their reality. The Borderline feels that you are literally screaming at them that they are wrong, bad and stupid. They become defensive and will start to confront you.
3. Practice SET Communication Method (Support, Empathy, Truth)
Erin Johnston, LCSW in About.com explains why SET is effective to handle the Borderline loved one. In SET strategy, S stands for Support. It is very important to give a support statement to reassure a Borderline that you have a desire to help. The E stands for Empathy . It involves making your Borderline partner feel that you understand their feelings. The T stands for truth. This technique entails re-stating reality after the emotional outbursts are diffused.
4. Understand Validation and How, When to Apply It
You can validate the feelings of a Borderline by accepting their right to their feelings. Though you do not necessarily agree with them, acknowledging their feelings will help you identify their current feelings. These emotions circulate as feelings of being sad, frustrated, unheard, misunderstood, lonely, depressed. By validating, you can help them label their feelings and be there for them. The goal of validation is to calm your Borderline loved one. Otherwise, a trivial issue may instead escalate to anger and rage.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries
Sometimes, your Borderline loved one becomes very emotionally deregulated. They become very agitated and angry. If initial attempts to do the 4 steps above do not work, protect yourself from damaging criticisms and verbal abuse. Let your Borderline loved one know that their message is important but you need to set another time to discuss the issue. Boundaries provide structure to the relationship and prevent abuse.
All the best advices in the world will not stop a person from falling in love with a Borderline. After all, Borderlines are human beings with the right to love and be loved. Their mental health issues are very difficult to understand for people without proper training and tools. In fact, many children and spouses of Borderlines are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD). Many lives have been devastated by this disorder.
However, for those who made a choice to be with a Borderline, there are 5 important ways to handle your BPD loved one. First is the commitment to continually check your self-esteem and emotional health. Secondly, clarify and remember statements that do not work with Borderlines. Thirdly, learn appropriate communication tools that will express support, empathy and reality. Fourthly, understand the secrets of implementing validation techniques. Fifth, put boundaries critical to both your emotional health and your Borderline loved one's health.
If you have decided to remain in the relationship with a Borderline, you must be prepared to protect yourself first. Otherwise, each minute unarmed will slowly make you lose the battle. Then, you are useless to help them.
Credit: Joy Campbell, Yahoo! Contributor Network
Erin Johnston, " Support, Empathy, Truth SET for Borderline Personality Disorder", About.Com
"What is Validation?", Validation Training Institute, VFvalidation.org
1. Fight as hard as you can to get the most time possible from the very start. Whether you want the kids to live with you (as primary residential custodial parent) or you simply want to have an "aggressive" visitation access schedule, be clear about your goals and push for what you want. If you want equal time (or any decent amount of time), you need to push for more from the very beginning of the case.
2. Find an attorney who gets it. (Blog Author's Note: Illinois Attorney Michael F. Roe "gets it!") Many divorce lawyers just don't understand why dads want more access time. You are dealing with a system that has historically favored mothers' custody wishes, and is only now very slowly changing.
3. Do not bring child support issues up in custody conversations. Period. Many people -- even some lawyers -- will assume you want more time with your kids because you want to pay less child support, even when faced with facts that you are the more nurturing parent. While some states tie access time to pro rata support (like New Jersey), some, like Illinois, do not.
4. Draw your calendared schedule -- literally. This is a highly effective tool because you might think "alternate weekends and Wednesday night dinner" doesn't sound so bad. Draw it. You'll see that the child will go seven days (twice a month!) without seeing dad at all. That's an eternity to a young child accustomed to having dad around every day. Not only is drawing a persuasive tool for a reluctant "old school" attorney or judge, but many times mom will be persuaded as well. After all that's seven straight days of no help from dad!
5. Cautiously extend the olive branch to your children's mom. At the end of the day, once the lawyers are paid, the court hearings are over and the dust settles, you and your ex will be co-parenting your children. A horrible custody battle can set a toxic model for the rest of this long-term relationship. Be reasonable and even giving on certain issues that are important to her. The long-term payoff might be a positive co-parenting relationship -- and that will directly benefit you and your kids.
Credit: HuffPost Morghan Richardson http://www.twitter.com/morghan