Sometimes people laugh when I mention Dr. Phil.
Yes, television is sensational, but he really is good at reading a situation and understanding what needs to happen. He spends weeks evaluating questionaires and having a team of experts look at the situation. Then when the show is over he provides expert help for the show guests.
A dozen years ago I was talking about Dr. Phil in my grad program. One of my professors started laughing and mocking him. A few days later he came back in and apologized. He said, “I watched him . . . he is good!” I said, “I know. I told you.”
Dr. Phil didn’t earn a PhD in clinical psychology, become Oprah’s counselor when she got in trouble with The Cattlemen’s Association, run a successful company that helped attorneys with jury selection, and get his own TV show by being stupid. His style (Reality Therapy) is not everyone’s but he does know what he’s doing.
One of the topics he’s most passionate about is how parents act when they are in a child custody battle. That’s because he worked in this arena and knows what the courts are looking for when deciding which parent to grant custody to.
I’ve heard him give this advice so many times: “The courts are going to look for the hero or the peacemaker. They are going to look for the parent that rises above the fray—the one who extends an olive branch—and who focuses on the child’s best interests rather than trying to be a right-fighter.”
He says judges will see attempts by one partner, to demonize the other, as a huge red flag. For instance, if a woman slept with a man, had his child, and then decided to call him a rapist and globally paint him as a monster, the judge will see that as a caution NOT to grant custody to the woman.
The one super caution Dr. Phil gives is this: “I’m telling you . . . you do NOT want the government to decide what happens to your family.” You could get a lady judge who hates men or you could get a short tempered judge who sees both parents as inept. Children can be placed in foster homes or even put up for adoption and there is not a darn thing you can do when that happens.
His biggest piece of advice for parents involved in custody battles is to find a mediator, then negotiate something agreeable that both parties can live with.
Keep your family out of the courts!
Also, before meeting with a mediator try to think about your child, not your anger towards the child’s other parent. Consider what he or she needs in order to grow up healthy and happy. Where do you want them to attend school? Which siblings do you want them to grow up with?
Do you have any advice for parents involved in a custody battle?
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."