Relationship Recovery Podcast

Post Separation Abuse and the Family Court System {Interview with Tina Swithin}

November 09, 2022 Jessica Knight Episode 43
Relationship Recovery Podcast
Post Separation Abuse and the Family Court System {Interview with Tina Swithin}
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Show Notes Transcript

Tina Swithin, the founder of One Moms Battle and Advocate in the Family Court System, discusses her story, post-separation abuse, strategies a safe parent can employ to cope, and some of the current issues in the Family Court System.

Tina survived a “Category Five Divorce Hurricane” while acting as her own attorney in a high-conflict custody battle that turned her family’s life upside down for over a decade. While divorces are never easy, Tina quickly learned that divorcing a narcissist or another high-conflict individual escalates family law cases to levels few can comprehend.

This episode is beneficial to anyone navigating the Family Court System. It will help you feel seen, heard and validated.



Tina's website: https://www.onemomsbattle.com/

Additional Resources: https://www.onemomsbattle.com/resources

National Safe Parents Organization: https://www.nationalsafeparents.org/


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Website: Emotional Abuse Coach
Instagram: @emotionalabusecoach
Email: jessica@jessicaknightcoaching.com

{Course} Identify Signs of Abuse and Begin to Heal
{Free Resource} Canned Responses for Engaging with an Abusive Partner

Welcome to the Relationship Recovery Podcast, hosted by Jessica Knight, a certified life coach who specializes in narcissistic and emotional abuse. This podcast is intended to help you identify manipulative and abusive behavior, set boundaries with yourself and others, and heal the relationship with your.

So you can learn to love in a healthy way.

I have a very special guest today, Tina Wien, author and founder of One Mom's Battle. Tina authored the book Divorcing a Narcissist, which is a series and founded the website, won a mom's battle. The website started. As a blog where she chaired her personal experience and now is a resource for anybody going through a high conflict divorce with a narcissist.

Tina continues to champion children's rights through her family and court advocacy, and she is still working to raise awareness on the issues of the family court system, which she touches on. Podcast in detail. All of the resources discussed in the podcast will be in the show notes. So if you're listening to this and you're feeling pressured to jot some things down, just feel free to listen, to take it in, and to see how it relates to your experience.

I really hope that this is helpful.

Hi Tina. Thank you for being with me. Hi, I'm honored to be here. I know that there is so much that you do. Can you give me a quick introduction? I don't know if it can be quick cause I, I know you have a lot going on about what you do and who you support. Absolutely. I run a platform called One Mom's Battle.

That is my main platform, and it's very much awareness of the issues within the family court system when someone leaves a, a toxic and abusive or a narciss. Partners. So it's very much about support and community, but also the unfortunate reality of needing strategy in the family court system, which doesn't come naturally to survivors.

So it's a lot of education. Yeah. Yeah. What brought you into this work? I refer to myself as the accidental author and advocate. I don't know that anyone who would've willingly signed up  to take on this mission, but I found myself in the family court system back in 2009 before anyone was talking about these issues.

Now, Everyday conversation we're, we're reading about it in the media Daily, which I'm grateful for, but back then it was an even more isolating journey than it is now. And so it was about two years into my custody battle and I was self-represented, meaning I could not afford to hire an attorney. So I was trying to navigate this system on my own and.

Nothing made sense. Common sense seemed to escape the family court system. And I was watching my children's safety constantly being trumped by my ex-husband's parental rights. Mm-hmm. . And so out of frustration, I started a blog titled One Mom's Battle. And just with the goal of allowing my friends and family to follow my story because you know, I found that even the well-meaning people in my life when I was trying to explain to them what was happening in court, they were looking at me sideways and, and I could tell some people were questioning, you know, there has to be more to the story.

This doesn't make sense. And I agree. It doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense about this. And so I started the blog just in an effort to share what was my day to day journey. I remember at one point my dad said to me, You march into that courtroom. You tell the judge X, Y, and Z, that you are not putting those little girls in his car next weekend.

And I thought, that's not the way it works, Dad. You know? I know you mean well, and I feel like I wish it was that easy. Yeah, right. I, I would love to do that. Um, I do it in my mind all the time. I tell the judge what I think , but you can't actually say that. And so I started this blog and then, About six months into sharing my journey, um, I was somewhat, you could say, discovered by Christie Brinkley, who at the time I did not realize was following my blog because it was really the only thing out there talking about narcissistic abuse and the reality of what.

In the court system. So she got a huge media spotlight put on her as a result of her own divorce and custody battle. And then she started directing people to my blog and sharing excerpts from my blog. And so it kind of blew up and. I went from just writing for friends and family to, you know, having this international audience.

And what I found was that, you know, when I started it, I thought I was the only person in the world going through this, which is why I titled it one Mom's Battle. But I quickly found that there were people all over the world, um, going through the exact same journey. It was almost playbook. Yeah. Yeah. And when, um, I remember first discovering your website and reading it and feeling like it was written for me, like reading, like each word felt like it was written, like for exactly what I was going through and was touching on a lot of the issues of, of the struggles I was having or the things that didn't make sense.

And I remember downloading your canned responses. Which is a resource that's on, um, one mom's battle.com. And I started to use them because it, and I would like take them toge, like put two together and like move them around a little bit. But it felt like for the first time I had a tool, you know, to use for these very specific situations that I don't think a lot of people.

Understand. Absolutely not. And, and what I find is that, you know, even well-meaning people in the realm of domestic violence, advocacy coalitions, they don't even truly understand what's happening to people once they move from, you know, feeling so brave that they left this toxic situation to the reality.

You can't protect your kids. You know, so many of us leave these situations regardless of what type of abuse it is, you know, to give our kids a better life and to secure peace. And what we find is that, you know, I have people all the time who reach out and say, I've read your story, or I'm reading these stories and I'm not leaving.

I would rather stay and be abused than put my children through. This new reality and, and that is heartbreaking. Yeah. When we have domestic violence victims, abuse victims deciding to stay because they feel they can protect their children better, you know, we have a, it's a crisis. Yeah. When you said that, like I felt that in my chest because I have clients who say, That I'm going to stay because the reality of if I leave, of what my partner will do and what my par, how my partner's parents might treat me and how what the effect that will have on the children is far more painful and scary than me staying in this environment, which is heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking and I, I try to explain to people, even knowing what I know about the system, I would've still made the decision to leave because yes, you do feel when you're in that that you can protect them better, shelter them better. Then once you walk into family court and your hands are. But I still believe from, you know, a, a cellular level that leaving is the right thing to do because then we have the opportunity to show our kids what healthy looks like.

Even if it's 30% of the time, even if it's 50% of the time, whatever. You know, the court talks about children in terms of percentages as if they were a retirement account or. Met property and you know, so I cringe when, when we talk about human life in terms of, but you know, regardless of what your timeshare is with your child, having the opportunity to show them and model what healthy looks like.

Otherwise they're growing up with their foundation that this is what marriage or what a relationship looks like and. The most heartbreaking emails I receive on any given day are from the women who did stay, because back when they were going through this, there were no resources. No one was talking about this.

And so they stayed believing that was the right thing to do, and now their children are either victims of domestic abuse or they're the abuser. Mm-hmm. . And so, you know, It's keeping the cycle going if we don't leave and, and that's, you know, but I understand why people would struggle with that decision.

Yeah, yeah. In retrospect, I think that when I left, My situation, I think this is true for a lot of my clients. They, you know, you left and you kind of thought like, Okay, I'm, I'm out, we're divorced. It's done, and then it's not done. You know, and I know from reading about your story, you had, you spent a lot of time back in court.

Can you talk a little bit about that? And I, I, you know, I think that goes kind of hand in hand with post separation abuse, a concept that not many people underst. Right. So what we know about domestic violence, it's about power and control, and that power and control doesn't just vanish when the relationship ends or when the ink on the divorce decree is dry.

Mm-hmm. , you know, it. The, the need for for control just transitions into the family court system. That becomes the new platform. And most of the time, the children become the pawns or the weapons to the abuser because they know that is the way to go for our jugular. You know, they know that is the way to hurt.

The most. And so I, I know I can, you know, from my own personal journey, but also in talking to thousands of people over the years, I went into it very naive, believing that because he had never expressed interest in the kids during the relationship, never changed a diaper, never got up with them at night.

Um, you know, unless there was a camera on or an audience present, he was completely Mia. And my, you know, who I thought of as my co-parent during my marriage was my nanny . And so I just naively believed that when the divorce, you know, started unfolding, that he would maintain what had already been established.

And that's not the way it works. I had a, a very rude awakening and. Because he knows that the children are the way to hurt me or control me. You know, the most of these individuals either come for 50 50 custody or full custody. Um, I've always maintained he would've rather had a nanny raise them than me just because he knew how to hurt me.

The deepest. Yeah. Yeah. What was the most frustrating part of having to advocate for yourself in the court system? I think the realization that to the court, this was just a business transaction, but to me, this was my life and my children and the inability on their part to recognize what he was doing and that his motivation did not come from truly wanting to be a part of my kids' lives and, and the realization.

No matter what they were being subjected to, um, abuse, trauma, his parental rights continue to trump their right to safety and, and that you both get lumped into the high conflict category. Even though research shows, it only takes one person to create a a high conflict, um, situation. There's a study outta Santa Clara University, which is really the first of its kind, and it talks about the high conflict.

Person in the family court realm and um, you know, even if they have a perceived win, even if you give them everything they're asking for, it's still not going to be enough. And so, you know, it is a very uneven playing field. Um, and, and a very unfair one where abusers seem to win. You know, they seem to be prioritized because they, they are louder.

They are, and they present better than abuse victims most of the time. So we're in a family court system that. You know, they're not even trained on the 1 0 1 of domestic violence, let alone the intricacies of these, you know, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, course of control. All of these, um, issue, you know, post separation abuse.

There is literally a playbook. You know, we, we developed the post separation abuse wheel, It's post separation abuse.com and it was very much modeled after my experience, but it is the experience of thousands of people around the world. Yeah. You actually, you touched on something important, which is, was chorus of control.

Can you define chorus of control? It is a way to maintain control. You know, without using physical force, it's making someone financially dependent on you, which was a huge theme in my relationship. It is making someone doubt their own ability to go out into the world and thrive. And it can be, you know, more direct threats.

However, some, most of it is so subconscious, subliminal, you know, that it's not what we would recognize as overt abuse. It's very, You don't even realize what's happening to you until you leave the situation and are able to leave the fog and look back and, and see the playbook from isolation to financial control.

Um, you know, keeping you from friends and family because they're not good enough. They're this, they're that. The other, you know, it's this slow build towards isolation and dependency on. Yeah. Why do you think the court is so blind to post-separation abuse? We have hair stylists in Tennessee who have more training on domestic violence than family court judges.

That is a fact. And you know, I cringe when I watch these, you know, the, these media stories about how wonderful it is that we're training hair stylists and beauticians to recognize domestic violence. And I'm thinking, Great, well that's wonderful. But then who, who's going to help this person? Because most family court judges can literally take the bench with zero training on domestic violence and if they have any training at all, it is so 1 0 1 that my 15 year old could do a better job of educating someone.

So, you know, I, and I believe there's a huge victim blaming mentality in the family. System. My judge said to me verbally out loud, You married this person, you had two children with him. This isn't my problem to fix. And even if they don't, you know, and that was a huge gut punch to hear. Even if they don't verbally say that, I believe most of them believe that, that, you know, the, you, you chose this path and that is so.

Barbaric and archaic and victim blaming, but it is what's happening so. And so much of the post separation abuse is hard to prove. It's not what you know, it's what you can prove in family court. And a lot of it is so covert and hearsay because so much of it is you're hearing from the kids what's happening and then that, you know, doesn't fly in court.

It, they, they need, their hands are tied by the law and they need solid proof and evidence and. That is hard to produce in these situations. Yeah, I totally agree. And while, while you were speaking the idea of child's best interests popped up in my head. You know something, we hear a lot in the court system and in these legal battles and it see, it feels to me that.

The, you know, whether it is custodial parent or safe parent or healthy parent is prob probably knows very well what those child's best interests are. But it gets so convoluted in the court system where, and I, I've always had a big issue with this idea of the, the judge is taking the stance of the child's best interest, but they don't know the.

And these are in situations where we bring the child in, you know, in a lot of cases, I have a few clients with older kids, um, that they, you know, they're old enough to speak for themselves. They're old enough to have a preference. They're old enough to even advocate to what they want, for what they want, and they'll tell their safe parent.

The safe parent tries to deliver it to the other parent or the court system, and they get shot down and they, they actually get more abuse in my opinion, because they're being told they're wrong and it's costing time and money and sleep and health to get there. Right. And you're accused of, of coaching your child to say these things and not encouraging the relationship.

And it's like, you know, I remember going back to the beginning and, and my daughters were two and four. And they had zero bond with this person because he had never been a part of their lives, even though technically we all lived under the same roof. But now because they aren't running to him and jumping into his arms, you know, it's being pinned on me that I'm not doing enough to encourage the relationship and I'm thinking.

I'm doing everything in my power, but this person is very much a virtual stranger. Put their nanny out there, put their aunt out there. Anybody else in our family, they will go running and leap into that person's arm because they have an authentic bond. Mm-hmm.  and, and when the family court system. You know, and I think a huge part of the problem is there are some parents, maybe it's two healthy parents, maybe one of them prioritize work or whatever in life.

And divorce can be a wake up call. So maybe they weren't actively participating in the child rearing, and then divorce happens and it's a wake up call that, hey, I need to step up to the plate and have a relationship with my kids. And they're a. Trying the court gives the benefit of the doubt that everybody falls into that category.

So you know that that is, we're all lumped under this same umbrella and that's not always the case. You know, I applaud if, if, you know, I do believe that if both parents are healthy, they should be a part of their child's life. But for many kids, I don't believe they need two parents in their lives. Yeah.

Are you seeing any change in the family court system? Well, it's a slow process. You know, we just recently this year, um, Vala was passed Violence Against Women's Act finally, after quite a, quite a while, And with that King Caden's law, which is the federal government for the very first. Time recognizing that we have a problem in the family court system.

And, and Caden's law was named after Caden Mancuso, um, who was a little girl, seven years old out of Pennsylvania, brutally murdered by her father, um, despite her mother's ongoing plea with the court to protect her. And so now they're a huge. Super Highway has been paved in the world of advocacy, but now it needs to be brought to each state.

And um, this past year, the National Safe Parents Organization was launched and it's a group of the top advocates in the country. Who have come together under one, one roof to basically mobilize people into their own states to bring Caden's Law. So we've got a lot of work to do, and it's, um, you know, it's chipping away at a huge problem.

Yeah. Yeah. But it gives me hope. It, you know, it does. It's again, with it, with the federal government finally recognizing that we have a crisis, um, it, it sets a, a different tone and foundation. Yeah. Yeah. And I believe it's November, that's National Safe Parents Awareness Month. Is that right? So yes. October is, um, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and then November we, um, have claimed as Family Court Awareness Month.

Yeah. And like court awareness? Yeah. Yeah. And it, so those dovetail together of, as we've talked about here, um, because domestic violence just transfers to the family court system. So it's a, a. Segue and last year was our second year and we had almost 225 cities, counties, and states across the country who proclaimed November as family court awareness month.

So this is our third year. We have billboards going up all across the country. Um, it's being led. Sandra Ross from California Protective Parents Association and Annie Kenny, who is an inspirational child advocate. And, um, it's in good hands and we are, um, moving mountains when it comes to awareness because the reality is, like most of us, the.

Community members, the people our neighbors are, are, you know, PTA presidents. They don't know that we even have a problem in the family court system. So it's a way for survivors to raise awareness within their own communities. Which we all know this is such an isolating journey. It's a way for them to be seen and heard in their community.

And what we're finding is that when we're going to city council meetings, board of supervise their meetings and talking about this and accepting these proclamations, they're all looking at us going, Wait, what do you mean kids aren't being prioritized in family court? You know, what can we do to link arms with you and and change this?

So we're developing. Allies all over the country and it's been an amazing thing. Yeah. Um, how would somebody get involved with advocacy if they wanted? So I would encourage them to go to national safe parents.org and join the community and then it's within that community. It's organized by state, so we're mobilizing state by state and and giving people the tools and the language that they need to start reaching out to their representatives, get on their radar, get meetings set up, and start talking about getting Caden law implemented.

Awesome. I'll put the link in the show notes of this podcast if anybody wants to follow it. I'm gonna take a little bit of a right turn and talk about the dynamic like parenting within the dynamic, the narcissistic dynamic. And I work with a lot of clients who experience counter parenting, right? Can you talk a little bit about some of the common signs that somebody is counter parenting?

Yeah. So, you know, the way I like to describe it is that the family court system expects us to co-parent and meanwhile you've got the other side counter parenting. They're undermining the safe parents, um, parenting abilities, decisions. If I make sure my kids are in bed at nine o'clock at night, We know that the other parent is going to allow them to stay up till 11 o'clock at night just to spite me.

If there is a decision that needs to be made about signing little Sally up for soccer in August, I can guarantee you my emails will not be answered. I'm gonna risk, you know, missing the deadline and it gets even more, um, you know, serious than that. It, it can be withholding. Or mismanaging support payments.

It can be, you know, going anything that you. Are passionate about. As a parent, they are going to do the opposite. Just to hurt you. Your rules, if you know a lot of it is going to be at, at safe parent's house, you know, they, we have a lot of rules, we have structure, blah, blah, blah, and, and I am the Disneyland parent and I am going to do everything in my power to ensure that there's conflict between you and the child.

Yeah. In order to be with counter parenting, do you recommend leaning more into parallel parenting? Yes and no. So I think mentally we have to be in the place of parallel parenting. However, and in my opinion, until the court decides that this case, these two people can only parallel parent, um, people make a huge mistake.

Being proactive and going down that path because to the court, it makes them look like they cannot sing kumbaya together on Sundays, it makes them look like, you know, they're just going down, doing their own thing and not communicating really until the court decides that they are not capable of co-parenting.

I work with clients to show up and be the best co-parent that the court has ever seen, regardless of what the other side is doing because, and I have this vantage point from sitting in the court and watching cases that I know nothing about and, and putting myself in the shoes of the judge. And people lose sight of the fact that the judge doesn't know either party and they're painting a picture of who you.

Who the other party is and then the picture in general. And so if somebody just makes a un unilateral decision to start parallel parenting, they can often present as part of the problem. So what would you recommend then as a middle ground? Or like what would be the way to be with someone who is counter parenting?

You know, if we take your example of like the soccer sign up, you know, you email, you tell them the cost. You're supposed to tell them they're supposed to split it. They don't, they don't reply to you. You're gonna miss the deadline your kid is asking every day. If she's gonna play soccer, you sign her up because it's getting close to that deadline.

You don't want her to be impacted. And then you're being told by the other parent, now you're in contempt because you didn't get his approval. Right. If we take that idea of like showing up as the best co-parent for the court system, how would you manage that situation? I would be very strategic in my communication leading up to soccer signups.

And so sometime, you know, the, the amount of energy that we have to extend expend on these issues is, you know, it's a lot. So it's, it's being ahead constantly and thinking ahead of them. So that you're not constantly playing defense. So if I knew that soccer signups are every August, I would probably start communicating in April and I would send an email and just say, Soccer signups are coming up, uh, in in August.

You know, I want to make sure that we are able to get her signed up if I don't hear back from you. July 1st, I'm going to assume we're both in agreement. If you're dealing with someone who is constantly stonewalling or ghosting or whatnot, that's a good way to do it because you've set a deadline and then said, If I don't hear from you, I'm gonna go ahead and make this decision and assume we're both together on this, and that can be successful with certain types.

You know, there's within the, the label of narciss. There's so many different types, and a lot of what I work on with people is profiling who they are specifically up against because the strategy is going to change depending, but in general terms. And then if they come back and say, No, I'm not in agreement, it would be, Okay, well I wanna understand your position, can you.

Can you help me to understand why you don't want Sally to play soccer in August? And usually they have no, you know, they, they cannot come up with any reason. So the difficult part in this is that if they are not in agreement and you share legal custody, if you go forward and do it without their agreement, you are going to be painted poorly in the eyes of the court.

So my kids didn't play soccer. For years and they're now in high school. And I will tell you it's had a huge effect on them because when everybody is on the different teams and whatnot and have been playing since they were four, you know, this is one of the casualty, the, the difficult fallout situations from that.

So. It's documenting those things. So then if, If I knew that this is the type of person I'm up against and they're constantly co-parenting and it's having an effect on my child, I would be building a documentation just on this topic, so then I can go into the court and ask for complete decision making.

When it comes to extracurricular activities, it's really hard to get legal custody across the board. But I would choose. If medical issues aren't ongoing, then I would focus on that, build my case around that. If it's extracurriculars, then that's what I would be building a case. And so it is very much slowly chipping away at the issues.

I like that idea of putting a focus for the documentation on just that issue and allowing your mind just to focus on that one thing and see the pattern. That are coming up there rather than the whole breadth of, you know, the separation agreement. Right. Yeah, yeah. In my experience, documentation didn't go, It didn't, in my specific case, it didn't take me very far.

I had a lot of emails documented of like hypocritical statements and um, issues and I, I didn't feel like the court read it. Is that right? Did you have that experience? Yes. So I'll say, you know, my case didn't really start turning around until about the five year mark. Two years they started, you know, kind of leaning in a little bit more and, and ordering custody evaluations and things like that.

You know, in my ex. Experience the court is not, they don't have the capacity to sit down and really go through and you're, you're put on this distorted scale. You know when, when I sat in court and had to listen to testimony about a three year old who was strangled and is in icu, and then I walk in and I'm upset because I can't get my four year old on the soccer team.

They're gonna look at me like you, you don't even register on our scale of importance. So, you know, because they're not trauma informed, because they don't understand these things, we begin, we get put on this skewed scale and they get so desensitized to the issues. So where I see documentation really help people is if you have really been building for, for years and you have identified.

The areas or the categories that are significant in your case, and then really build your case around that. And then it's not usually the judge, it's somebody else who's been appointed and we hear horror stories about custody evaluators, minors, council. It makes a big difference who it is, and that's where.

Learning your local system so that you know who all of the players are and, and who to avoid and who to move towards. You know, I'll tell you, I had a custody evaluation in 2009. That was pointless. A waste of time and money. But then the one that I had in 2013, because of my documentation, That is what protected my kids.

Yes. So it, it's, and so much of it becomes how you present the information, how you, you know, your own healing journey, your own trauma work, because we know abusers typically present better than survivors. And so there's, you should never have to use strategy in this. It doesn't come naturally. And it shouldn't have to, but unfortunately that there is some realities to that.

Yeah. You said something earlier about profiling the different kinds of narcissists, right? Can you give a very quick description of them? So if someone's listening to this and they're like, Okay, I didn't know there's more than one. How can I learn more about it? That they can identify, but that, I know it's a deep topic, but maybe like a few defining characteristics.

Yeah, I mean if I had a client that came to me and she is divorcing someone who is in law enforcement, you know, we know enough about that profession. Um, and I have law enforcement officers in my family who I love and adore. However, there are characteristics and traits. There does tend to be a high need for control image.

You know, those are my first two profiling. You know, this person probably has control issues. They are likely more covert. Um, sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're the really loud, you know, one. Um, you know, I've dealt with somebody who owned a health food store and he was very much the very covert communal, doing good deeds in the community, hosting domestic violence events at his restaurant.

So, you know, there's so many different types and. You know, and so it's really getting into the trenches with somebody and going, No, let's look at their childhood. Let's look at how they were in high school. You know, what triggers they have, what abuses they've suffered, When do you see their mask drop? You know, and really looking at them almost like the FBI would profile a criminal.

Um, it, it really, because you, you never know. There's going to be an opportunity to say to your attorney, You know, on this topic, this is where this person's mask drops, and so getting them on the stand and poking around this topic, we're likely going to see who they really are behind that mask. Have you come across attorneys that understand narcissism?

You know, the problem right now is that when I first started, no one was using this word. Now it's a search term on people's websites. The buzzword? Yeah, it's a buzzword. They use it for search engine optimization to draw, you know, to their website. I have attorneys tell me all the time, you know, people call my office and say, Have you read Tina Wood's book?

That's what's happening to me. And so do they claim to understand it? Yes. Do. Are they really? Skilled and educated on it. Very few, um, you know, in how it plays out. For example, the most money I see people spend on attorneys is behind the scenes negotiating. And there's an attorney out of Texas that I have connected with and he said, You know, the day I meet someone, I start, uh, preparing for their.

You know, and that's because he truly does understand these things, um, more than most. And so, you know, you've, you've got that to where, and this is, these are case numbers for them. These are business transactions. And so you've got a lot who, you know, they don't really want it to end because that's constant.

Payments for their office. Yeah. So most of 'em claim to at this point. I think very few do. That was definitely my experience is, and I tried to find someone who had narciss, like they had a background in narc. Like I was trying to see like, Oh, did they write a blog? Is there a paper? Like I tried to kind of, you know, like you said about the fbi, like I tried to see how do they prove that they know something.

Um, because I had, I spent a lot of. Almost convincing my lawyer that this wasn't natural. You know, like I found, I remember sending her an email one day saying, I don't even feel like you're on my side sometimes like I am. Like, you are so caught up in not pissing off his lawyer when I don't care about pissing off his lawyer, like right.

I am. This is $20,000 so far, and we're not done. And my da, like, we've been divorced for years and now I can't buy a house for my daughter. And, and I, and I'm arguing with you on the phone about ways to not piss off his lawyer. I was just like, What are we doing? Right. And then there's a, there's another side to that is even if the attorney does get it, like I know of attorneys who have degrees in psychology and they, they truly get this, but then they will say, Our hands are tied by the reality of the system and the lack of knowledge.

And you know, even if you go and get. The other party diagnosed as a narciss, a narcissistic personality disorder. It doesn't even matter in the courtroom because there's no research out there. So I've seen diagnosed antisocial sociopaths and narcissists get 50 50 custody simply because the court doesn't understand.

So even if an attorney gets it, you know, it's. You know, they have to get it enough to help you navigate it behind the scenes, support your need for boundaries, how you communicate and be able to advocate for you. But often their hands are tied by the reality of this system as well. It's, it's, there's so many different challenges.

Yeah. Yeah. In the, in the last round of court stuff that I had to go through, I had a different lawyer and I said, Briefed her on what happened previously and how I felt. And then I said, I understand sometimes things can't change. You know, I understand the court is going to advocate for something, you know, based on what the court does, but I need you to help me see where I like where with where, where I am within my rights because everything is so convoluted and that I found that to be very helpful.

And it also softened our relationship a bit like she knew. She started to see patterns, I think, and so when she got to see patterns in the email communication or even in the way things happened, it almost felt like she could put together those pieces and advocate for me in a different way than it was happening before.

Right. Right. And you, you have to have somebody who isn't afraid of making waves. And that's really, those are the rare unicorns out there because the reality is, um, these are their colleagues, even the judge mm-hmm.  and be opposing counsel. You know, I've, I've. Received emails from people saying, I just saw a photo posted on social media of my attorney and opposing counsel vacationing together in The Bahamas.

Like, What can I do? And I'm like, you know, unfortunately that is what many of us are up against in the system. They're they're colleagues and it's challenging. Yeah. Yeah. So the last thing I wanted to touch on with you was how we can take care of ourselves. The parents, us, we could take care of ourselves when we're so triggered.

I, I reflect back to maybe like 2018. I spent probably that entire summer having arguments in my head, being scared, being on edge, not sleeping, you know, being at the beach with my daughter, but being so stuck in thought rather than engaging with her. And I've come such a long way since then. But What would you, what is the advice that you give.

Someone when they are, when they're losing so much of themselves to the system, who being connected to a trauma informed therapist who really understands these things is critical. Um, learning to compartmentalize it so that it doesn't consume your every waking moment. You know, I run lots of support groups through one mom's battle, and I even tell some of my clients, Stay out of those groups.

If you, if that is how you're spending your free time, you, you have to, to change course because you know you need to have it on your calendar. Where Tuesdays from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM I'm going to work on my documentation. I'll spend a 30 minute section in, in a support group, you know, whatnot. But, If that's what you're laying in bed at 10:00 PM before you go to sleep looking through OMB support groups or whatever it is, uh, shut it off because you know, it's, it's compartmentalizing it so that you can be present in those moments.

And I'll tell you all these years later, my daughter's almost 18 and I look back at photos and. I was there because I'm in the photo, but I don't even remember being there because I was so consumed by all of this. And if you don't feel that way from time to time, I'd wanna check your pulse because you're human.

These are your babies and nature intended for you to protect them, but there is a reality. Not letting this take over every single part. Gratitude journals were huge for me. Um, I did those, I did it with my kids. Um, you know, I'd sit at the table every night and ask my kids, What is your, your high, medium, and low for the day?

You know, getting that. So what, Let's talk about the high of the day and, and focus on the positives wherever you can find them, because otherwise it just all starts to feel dark and it is, you know, they're harsh realities. Yeah. Something I recommend to my clients is that we can work with where you are.

So just because you don't feel ready to go get your nails done or you're not, you don't have the time right now or the money for a massage, why don't we work on what actually makes you feel good? So maybe it is just taking time to blow out your hair or putting on mascara or, you know, putting on a different outfit even if you're at home.

Like, well, little things that can help you feel more. Like you so we can begin to build that muscle of self awareness and the self care. Absolutely, and, and reframing how we think of self care. I mean, it can be that you wake up 10 minutes before everyone else just to enjoy the quiet and sit with a cup of coffee, you know, in anywhere you can refill your tank because we know, you know, this is uphill and we're running.

Fumes a lot of the time. So it's constantly thinking, how can I fill my tank so that no matter what hits I'm equipped to, to navigate it. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you so much for this, Tina. This was so informative. Absolutely. Thank you for having me. And do you mind, um, just closing out where people can reach you?

Yeah. Um, one mom's battle.com is the hub of everything I do. Uh, family court awareness month.org is our November advocacy website. And then I encourage, Everyone for advocacy related things to join us@nationalsafeparents.org. Thank you so much.