Dear Protective Parent,
The court system is not the forum you envision taking something so personal as your children and having one person decide their fate. The paradox with Family Court is that you need to file with them for relief due to conflict but quickly find out that you will be punished for the very conflict that landed you there in the first place. Conflict that you did not create.
The court system expects perfect co-parents and may punish you if you and your co-parent cannot get along. However, the court system itself often exacerbates the conflict. There are court professionals who profit from the conflict and who may make something as simple as arranging swim lessons into a major conflict. If you want to file for full custody because you believe the other parent is unfit, you may be punished for even filing if you don't have an overwhelming amount of evidence and money to prove your case. You may even be labeled an "alienator."
As a protective parent, every decision you make needs to be carefully planned and presented in a way that does not make you appear troublesome. Judges may roll their eyes at seemingly small issues such as a co-parent being chronically late for exchanges or making excessive phone calls. However, you are trying to prove a pattern of post-separation abuse, which can be difficult to convey to the court.
You may not be able to tell the judge about the full extent of the abuse you experienced at the hands of your co-parent, such as threatening calls or physical violence, if you don't have evidence that is admissible in court. It can be especially challenging if you are in a state like Florida, which requires two-party consent for recording conversations. Furthermore, the co-parent you are facing in court may be scarier than the person you knew before, as they will go to great lengths to win the case, even if it means destroying you in the process.
The court system is like a war zone that you were not prepared for. You may encounter terms like Yellow Rocking, GALs, psych evals, and parenting message apps, and you may have to deal with hearings being cancelled last minute, midnight filings, lost jobs, and court therapists gaslighting your children. You may fear your judge and hope for an attorney who understands what you are going through and a GAL who will protect your children.
Florida Protective Parents Association is working to build a community and a collective wisdom for parents who have no choice but to be involved in a high conflict custody battle. The association recognizes that it only takes one person to create conflict and that the healthy parent is just trying to help their children withstand the abuse. The organization hopes to see early prevention of high conflict cases, education for litigants on their rights and how the Florida law works, unclogged dockets, better laws for DV survivors, and public organizations providing aid to children in crisis.
Divorce and custody battles are hard, and they should not be treated like transactions that are exploited for a payday. We believe that generational cycles of abuse can be broken, and we remain committed to fighting for the rights of protective parents and their children.
With all the Love in the world,
VP Florida Protective Parents