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Dirty Tricks in Divorce Mediation - Parenting Plans

When it comes to divorce and mediation, the good news is most parents can put their differences aside. But what do you do when one party tries to use the children as pawns to their advantage? Some of the tricks I've seen clients attempt to use in order to gain advantage over the other party in mediation include:

  • Trading access to the children in exchange for financial compensation - in this situation one party will tell the other party they will "allow" them to see the children more frequently if there is some sort of adjustment to the equitable distribution (e.g. give up your share of the house for access to the kids). This is always a non-starter. As you will see in the next article, equitable distribution (which discusses the distribution of your assets and liabilities) is an entirely separate conversation from the parenting plan. You as a parent have equal rights to see the children (your children) as the other parent. Remind the other party these are two separate issues and they should be treated as such.

  • Stating that having physical custody gives one party more legal rights than the other - just because the children live with one parent more than the other, it doesn't mean they get to make life-altering decisions without consulting the other parent. Even though the physical custody may be one-sided, it doesn't mean the legal custody has to be and in most cases legal custody is joint and equal.

  • Threatening to take the children out of the country - If you haven't seen the news story about the father who's son is now living in South America because his ex-wife moved away and took him with her, let this be a lesson that you can never take this threat serious enough. While moving out of state is more common, at when dealing in the US, legal proceedings can be initiated but when dealing internationally, it's a different story. To reduce this threat, agree to place the children's passports in a safe deposit box at a local bank that requires both of you to be present with each of your unique keys to open. This way, you will both have to go to the bank together to get the passports. And while yes, they could still go away with your permission and never come back, this may cut down on the "flight risk."
For less specific issues such as general disagreement between the parties, pull out one of the only dirty tricks I condone: a photograph of your children. It's easy to argue over someone who isn't in the room but I've seen something as small yet powerful as a photograph of that smiling face starring back at you is enough to bring even the most heated debates to a screeching halt. And that's a good thing.

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