10 Ways to Mentally & Physically Prepare for Your Child Custody Case

Custody cases are extremely stressful to say the least.  Many people experience depression and anxiety.  This is normal, but it can really affect your mental and physical health, and potentially harm your case.  I have made a list of ways that helped me to deal with the stress that comes from having to go through a custody case.

1. Make your health your first priority.

    It is immensely important to stay strong to deal with the constant high stress.  Make a decision to not allow your opponent mentally defeat you.  And your health is part of it.

2. Depression is from a chemical imbalance that is caused by a cycle of poor health maintenance. 

    Stress and worry lead to not eating or eating the wrong things.  This weakens you.  Stress and worry lead to not sleeping, which weakens you.  If you don't eat or sleep you punish yourself and your body.  You go into a downward spiral.  You have no energy left for anything or anyone.  Don't allow yourself to go down this path.  It's hard.

3. Make yourself eat.

    Something. Anything. Whatever it takes.  Don't have energy to cook?  That's fine.  Eat something healthy.  Carrots, string cheese, crackers, smoothies.  Whatever is easy and you can force down.  Smoothies are especially good because they're tasty, they have nutritional value, and go down easy.  Take your vitamins.  B6 is said to be good for stress.

4. Try every naturally soothing behavior that can help you sleep.

    Warm baths before bed, milk, a snack, reading a calming book.  Get rid of anything stressful from the bedroom.  No bill paying.  No legal documents.  DON'T DO IT. Some people swear by melatonin.  Always check with your doctor in regards to supplements and medications.  If lack of sleep is becoming incapacitating and natural solutions aren't doing the trick, talk to your doctor.

5. Exercise.

    Even just a short walk can reduce stress levels.  Sweaty aerobic exercise will go much further to help with stress, but don't get upset if you just don't have the strength to do it right away.  Put on some calming music, turn on YouTube, and do a relaxing Yoga workout.

6. Eliminate negative energy from your life as much as you can.

    This is about negative people.  You don't have to cut them off completely, but you can put them at arms lengths.  If you have any friends and family that are negative, just quietly and conveniently be "busy" when the call or try to contact or see you.  Be very careful about admissions of PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, etc.  Your ex's friends, poorly trained court personnel, and even well meaning friends/family could use this to harm your case.  If you are past the point of natural methods to help yourself and are feeling suicidal, PLEASE SEEK IMMEDIATE HELP.  You have to be healthy for yourself and your children.

7. Vent to a trusted family member or friend

    You must be extremely careful about this though.  Even a doctor or therapist can be subpoenaed.  This is a very risky situation.  If you can't find anyone trusted enough to talk to about your situation, at least find one that can support your healthy habits.

8.  Counseling/advocacy 

That leads us into the subject of getting counseling.  A good therapist with experience in domestic violence and child abuse can be a tremendous help and support, especially if they are willing to testify for you in court.  A bad one can sink you..  Remember that in general, your therapy records can be accessed in custody litigation.  You must assess your own risks and benefits in this area.  There really is no such thing as confidentiality during custody litigation.  

If you choose to or are court-ordered to obtain therapy, interview well and ask for references and credentials before using them.  Realize that very few mental health professionals get any substantive training in domestic violence, child abuse/child sexual abuse.  You might also consider having your attorney interview them.  I have known of therapists that turn from trusted advocates and supports into nervous, back-pedalers when  realizing how long and nasty custody litigation was becoming and that they would be called upon to testify.  I have known of children's therapists initially identify that the children had been abused by their father, yet refuse to report it to child protective services or become enamored with the father's charm.  In one case we are aware of the therapist eventually confessed that she was a fan of Richard Gardner's work and thought joint physical custody was the only way to go for kids, regardless of abuse issues.  She thought she could "fix" the family.  She placed the child in reintegration "therapy" with her abuser and eventually the two of them pressured her to recant.  A co-parenting therapist we know of decided to go get more training because she admitted she did not know how to run such sessions.  When she came back from the training, it was discovered she had learned how to conduct Richard Gardner's Threat Therapy and planned on using those techniques on the family.  The good news is, the mother eventually found a wonderful mental health professional who had excellent credentials in domestic violence and trauma who was a willing expert witness.  Use extreme caution when using court-appointed therapists. 9. Keep busy

See "Getting Healthy, Strong & Independent" below. Being a shut in only increases feelings of isolation, despair, loneliness. Force yourself to get out the door.

10. Positive self-talk

Practice sending positive messages to yourself.  Negative self-talk is a destructive habit and part of an essential defense mechanism that we often develop to protect ourselves. Women who have been abused have experienced long term negativity and often come to believe the slander intrinsically, whether they believe it intellectually or not.  Empowering "I"-statements like, "I refuse to allow him to ruin any more aspects of my life" can help you find your inner strength again when you're feeling low.  "I can't do this" is really just a way of saying "I don't want to deal with this experience." We are all strongly influenced by our feelings, often determining how and what action we ultimately take. If the feeling is uncomfortable, negative self-talk results; then we often decide not to take any action at all.  In order to become successful at making healthy choices, you must avoid negative self-talk and start practicing positive thinking.

It is very important to practice positive thinking and to remind yourself that you're a worthwhile person whatever you do. Try to consistently acknowledge that you are making positive changes to improve your life. You should be proud of yourself. Visualize yourself as safe, capable, happy, and confident. These positive feelings will help the process of change. Remember, there are bound to be times when you're feeling frightened, angry, frustrated or depressed. Positive thinkers know that these feelings are valid, and they don't try to ignore them. Positive thinkers acknowledge and try to understand them, but they don't blame themselves for the conditions that lead to these feelings.

We must stress:  If none of the above methods of self-care are working for you, please seek professional attention from a reputable mental health professional or doctor.  Your health and safety is of utmost important. 

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