Custody battle takes a toll


Custody battle takes a toll


your avatar   Frazzled, 47-year-old woman

My ex-husband left one year ago. We went through a prolonged custody battle. There were horrible, false accusations about my parenting (he previously said I was the best mother ever!). There were lies, fabrications, and editing, and he even lied to the judge, the assessor, and the child psychologist. I am worn out and tired of the expense.

I am also feeling a bit lonely. Is this normal, and if so, what do I do? I certainly have no trust left or any desire to reconnect with the male gender! I feel burnt-out. My friends have been wonderful but have their own lives and after two and a half years they are tired of the battle too. I just want it to be over and with a good outcome.

I'm looking for some come coping mechanisms please. What do I tell the kids, when all I really want to do is rat on their father about the infidelity and the vile proceedings? I need some ways to engender some hope in my soul that this will be over and life will be REAL again. Thanks so much.


    Susan Maroto,

Dear Frazzled,

Have you considered mediation? Unlike a bitter custody battle in which no one wins and the biggest losers of all are usually the children, mediation strives to resolve things on an amicable level without going to court. Contact a mediation center for more information. I know of one in Baltimore [tel (410) 467-9165], and perhaps you could call them for a recommendation of a good mediation center near you.

About the kids: it's hard to be more specific without knowing the ages of your children, but it is vitally important that you NOT "rat" on their father. Listening to both parents "trash" the other is quite damaging for children. It is extremely difficult and painful for children to be put in the middle of their parents' conflict and to feel that any positive feeling they have about one parent is perceived as a betrayal or lack of loyalty by the other. Children need and are entitled to maintain a positive image of both of their parents. They will come to their own conclusions as adults about each parent's behavior; for now, let them hang on to what's good about their father. They also need someone to talk to about what they're going through. If you can't be objective, which it sounds like you can't, then take them to a child or adolescent therapist who can.

As to what to tell them, there are some great books about divorce for kids, and you can select according to the right age level. Talk with your children honestly, but without telling them more than they need to know (again, according to their age and maturity level). They need to know that you will always be their Mommy, and he will always be their Daddy. They will still spend time with each of you, but not all together. It's a grown up problem between Mommy and Daddy, and above all else, IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT and has nothing to do with them. This needs to be repeated over and over because children, being egocentric by nature, tend to believe that they are the center of the universe, more or less, and therefore must have somehow caused these things to happen. It's also OK for you to set limits and tell them that the problems between you are private, grown-up problems that you aren't comfortable discussing with them. They don't have to know everything, and it is better to err on the side of telling them less rather than dumping too much on them.

It's also important that you get some support to help you through this - the more frazzled you are, the less you have to offer the kids, who certainly need support from you right now. You are wise to recognize that friends have their limits when playing therapist. Now is a good time for you to begin to see a therapist or attend a support group for newly single people or women in transition so that you can get the support you need. It's also a good time to do something that will give you a lift, something that's fun for you. It might be time spent on an interest or hobby or a new purchase or simply some time to yourself to soak in the tub and read a good book, but you're worn out and need to recharge your battery in some way.

A very important thing for you to consider is this: as bad as your soon-to-be-ex husband may be, he is not the only one responsible for this mess. Certainly you chose to be with him, so perhaps your judgment was not sound when you did so. Or maybe you recognized the warning signs that there might be trouble but chose to ignore them. Usually when there is trouble between two people, both people contributed. At some point, you need to examine your role in all of this. It's an important part of the healing process and will allow you to get to a better place so that you are able to create more positive, rewarding relationships and situations in the future. Again, a good therapist or counselor could provide you with a lot of support and assistance as you reflect on your marriage and the lessons to be derived from it.

This will come to an end, eventually. You will make it through. While it's not an enjoyable process, it is an opening for you to begin to think about where you went wrong and how you want to shape and direct your life from this point forward. Good luck.


Susan Maroto, LCSW

This question has been answered by Susan Maroto. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She uses an eclectic approach to holistic healing, mind-body relationships, life transitions, depression, and anxiety.For more information visit:


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