15: Navigating Your Custody Battle
About the Guest
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How do you sift through the murky waters of lawyers, legalities and loss while parenting your children? Ron Deal talks with Willie and Rachel Scott about their perspective and how God walked them through their individual stories of custody matters.
15: Navigating Your Custody Battle
Rachel: Because of the parade downtown I couldn’t even talk to my attorney because all the cell phone towers were being used up. That was my only point to go to was my attorney. He was unavailable at the time but when I did get on the phone with him it was just a real short conversation. He was like, “I’m surprised. I’m shocked. This is going to cost a lot of money.” Then the phone died.
Ron: From the FamilyLife Podcast Network this is FamilyLife Blended®. I’m Ron Deal.
This podcast brings together timeless wisdom, practical help and hope to blended families, and those who love them.
Before we jump into my conversation with guests, Willie and Rachel Scott, I’ll mention that we just released the 10th anniversary edition of the video curriculum The Smart Stepfamily. It’s do-it-yourself practical help for your family. For those are you helping others, let me invite you to the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry, October 23 to 25, 2019, in Chesapeake, Virginia.
I'll tell you about these and other opportunities a little later but you can always just go to FamilyLife.com/blended for more information.
Now if you're going through a custody battle I don't have to tell you it is a very stressful experience. In part because it requires so much of you: your time, your money, the emotional energy, you're worried all the time.
One of your worries is you’re wondering about your child; how they're doing, and if this is going to hurt your relationship with them.
My guests today, Willie and Rachel Scott, are the founders of Better Than Blended, LLC. They've created several books and resources for blended families and they have experienced two custody disputes. Willie and Rachel both grew up in a blended family so when they married they wanted their children to experience unity and oneness. Willie was widowed with three children, and Rachel divorced with two children.
They added a couple more kids so altogether they have seven children ranging from toddler to adult. You can learn more about them at BetterThanBlended.com.
The Scott’s most recent resource is called Having Courage in Your Custody Battle. I asked them to take us inside their battles and the stress they experienced.
The custody battles are so stressful. Willie, Rachel with the couples that I’ve worked with in the past and the stories that I’ve watched from a close distance I know it can be an extremely stressful journey for people. We’re not giving legal advice today; we’re not attorneys. We’re going to point everybody listening back to a local attorney. We want to encourage you to do that, you need that as it relates to a custody battle.
But we want to talk about the stress emotionally, relationally on your family. How you position your heart in such a way that you're ready to endure the battle, get through the battle. Come through on the other side of the battle.
I want to start with this quote, Rachel, in your book, Having Courage in Your Custody Battle, you say, “One of the most mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting experiences I have had was going to court and fighting for custody of two of my seven children.”
Would you just unpack that for us? That's quite a statement.
Rachel: You know they are a lot of things that we experience in life and we -- the fight for something that you honestly feel totally belongs to you and you go into the situation thinking one thing: that we're going to work together, we're going to work this thing out. It’s a simple fix, it’s going to be something really simple, and you find out that now you're fighting for something that should be able to be easily worked out between two adults.
Now you're living with this battle going on. You’re still having to live through everyday life until that court date or until that next encounter experience happens; it is a lot.
Ron: It sounds like you're saying it’s just all consuming. It's with you all the time.
Rachel: Very. Very. It’s with you all the time. You’re looking at your phone. Checking emails. Then you have to respond to every email. You're walking on eggshells in conversations, trying it continue to consider the motives behind engagements in conversation and interactions that happen.
You almost feel as if you can't live until the process is over.
Ron: Wow. Wow. Okay, we’re going to get into some of the details of your story in just a minute. Willie, I want to turn to you because you've walked through your own battle. Did it feel all-consuming to you as well?
Willie: I will say my situation was a little different. I mean it was definitely a stressful situation just because of the stresses that it actually put on the kids. My kids, of course, our older; situation, of course, was different where I'm widowed so my first wife was passed so their mother was not here.
So the custody battle I experienced was dealing with other outside influences--other family members--from my previous wife’s side. That was just challenging going through that trying to figure out how do I navigate it? How do I navigate the relationship at the time with them just because there was so many divisive conversations that were going on.
So I felt I had to kind of step in and separate do a separation temporarily while we were going through that process and that part of it was really stressful.
Ron: Okay, so tell us a little bit of the background there. So you were widowed and your former in-laws were suing for custody. Is that right?
Willie: Yes, yes. Yes. So there was a little stressful relationship there but before I actually got the summons in the mail we were literally on the phone laughing, talking and I got a summons maybe like three weeks later. There was no heads up like, hey --
I didn't know why I got a summons. I didn’t know that there was some opinions there that wasn’t similar to our household; that they that there were some things that wasn't that they thought were--they didn't like basically if I can put it in that, in a simple way.
So the conversations that was going on between them and the children was again it was divisive. There was a lot of division being sold there. We would have different conversations with the kids and as I saw that I had to separate the relationship to a certain extent. I didn't want to cut it off but I got blindsided. I got caught totally off guard.
I was upset about that part of it because I knew our relationship was better than that, well I thought it was. So when I got the summons in the mail, the reason mine wasn't as all consuming as because it was a simpler process.
It’s harder to take a biological parent’s children from them if you're not another biological parent. So with that being said I was able to get an attorney and go through the process of it.
The magistrate, she actually talked to my in-laws and said, “Hey what‘s going on here? Is this something you couldn't talk to him about? Why are you doing this and was the process?” And asked a ton of questions and said, “You know you’re going to have to jump through all these hoops. Do you want to move forward with this?” They gracefully bowed out and said, “You know this is why I did it and I don't want to continue.”
But it still took time. It took money; had to hire an attorney. It was unnecessary.
Ron: Yes, and it sounds like there was definitely some mystery in it for you especially when you first found out about it. Here you go from--
Ron: --we’re having good communication to where’s this coming from? I don't know what's behind this.
Ron: That certainly adds stress to the equation. Same thing with you, Rachel. I mean there was a mystery behind yours. You write about in your book how you go to court one day thinking you're going to fine tune the parenting plan and then discover there's no agreements to the parenting plan we've got a full out battle on our hands.
Rachel: Exactly. Honestly what I felt like made it so challenging was that I didn't know anyone else that had ever been through it. So where some life challenges you can call someone who's been through the situation before, kind of give you some wisdom. I knew no one and I didn't even know where to begin. I had no clue where to begin.
As I share in the book, I was in the middle of downtown Cleveland there was a cab, I was literally stuck downtown for like six hours. It was probably close to one of the worst days because I didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't have anyone to go to because of the parade downtown I couldn’t even talk to my attorney because all the cell phone towers were being used up.
It was very, very difficult. That was my only point to go to was my attorney. He was unavailable at the time but when I did get on the phone with him it was just a real short conversation. He was like, “I'm surprised. I'm shocked. This is going to cost a lot of money.” Then the phone died.
Ron: [Laughs] Wow. So the process is intimidating and here you are stuck not being able to get good communication or know what to do about it.
Ron: Okay so we started off talking about the stress that's involved with this. I want us to just walk through a little list here of things that I can imagine are stressful, not in every situation for people that are listening to us right now, but these may be things that you can relate to on some level.
So, at the top of the list I would imagine our listener is going, “Yes, I’m worried about my kids. I'm worried about their well-being. I'm worried about--” there's a reason for both of you it was the other who came and initiated the custody battle. We may have listeners who it was their decision to initiate the change or go back to court for whatever reason. But even then no matter who initiated it, you're thinking about your children.
There's a reason this is happening and you want to try to protect them and be with them and there's an outcome you're looking for in this process or you're hoping to guard their hearts during the process of court. Just talk around that a little bit. What were some of the stressors for you guys that you faced regarding your kids?
Rachel: For me it was really knowing how much information to share and how much not to share. There came a point where a GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) did have to get involved which my preference was, “Okay we can just deal with this between the two of us,” but when it got to that point it almost had to be something that they had become aware of but even in that dynamic you still can't give a lot of opinion, you still can't share a lot.
So it was really trying to put them at ease through the process as much as possible.
Ron: Yes. How do you do that when you really can’t be completely honest about facts and details, and you’re trying to guard them from some things? I imagine you—
Ron: --feel divided.
Rachel: You definitely do. I think for me it was trying to give them permission to be kids through the process. So one of the things I let them know and I would say is, “You know what, today we're just going to focus on today. Go play outside. You don't have -- there are some things that you don't have to worry about.”
Trying to release them from the pressure of some of the things that may have been being said, or questions that they were being asked. When it did come time for them, I really just encouraged them to speak truth. “That's your only responsibility is to speak truth, that's it.”
I think one of the key things was really being that place of rest for them and giving them permission to live their life however that was for them and not to feel that they couldn’t love me fully, and they couldn't love my ex fully is just allowing them to live their life fully.
Willie: Ron, one of the things that Rachel would say to the kids is even if there was things that she didn't want to fully talk to them about she would just let them know, she would say, “Hey I just need you to trust me. I need you to trust me. Have I let you down? I need you to trust me in this.”
I'm not--and it wasn't that she would not be honest with them she would just tell them, “Hey, there are certain things that at this point you don't need to be aware of. Until I have all the details, until I'm fully aware and I know that you need to know, then I’ll share that with you. I just need to trust me through the process.”
Ron: Approximately how old were your children when you are going through this?
Rachel: I want to say they were maybe seven or eight and ten.
Rachel: So around that.
Ron: So they were still relatively young. I just want to commend you for making that decision to say, “I'm going to guard them from details,” because I've seen so many people especially when they're in your shoes the other parent initiated the battle.
Sometimes people feel this right or privilege to say, “Well you brought this on so I'm telling the kids what you're doing. I have the moral high ground here so therefore I get to gossip about you behind your back to your own children.” That is not the way to go is it?
Rachel: Right, I'm always very sensitive to be mindful of the conversation that I have with my kids and how I approach that situation. Because at the end of the day, the way that I feel about the person I don't want to force that feeling on them.
I want them to always have the best perspective I'm able to give them no matter what's going on here. Whatever needs to be found out they’ll learn in due time as it’s time for them to know that information. So I’m always sensitive with that.
Ron: Yes. One of my little tips that I would add in for listener is imagine your former spouse sitting right beside your kids as you talk to them about what’s going on.
If you do that, it we will help you to measure your words and number one keeps in mind the fact that the kids may go tell your former spouse everything you're about to say, so you better say it in a way that the other spouse can hear it and not be completely angered by it or feel like you're undercutting them with the children. That's a good way to help you measure your words.
Rachel: Can I say this? I feel like what tends to happen is that there's one spouse that’s trying to be mindful of the words and another that's not.
You can almost get sucked into that process if you're not careful and know your level of maturity and the standard that you’re held to versus the other person. You’ll easily get drawn into those conversations if you're not mindful and aware that this can happen, and how you're going to be proactive in responding to it.
Ron: Right. It’s almost like there's a big black hole and just suck the worst of you right into that whole thing and you can be taken under by it.
Okay so worried about your kids, of course, time with your child so the whole point of the custody battle has to do with parenting and visitation schedules and who's going to spend time with the kids and certainly there's an outcome that you would like to see happen there. What were some of the concerns that you guys had while you were going through the process, and you weren't sure how your time with your kids would end up?
Rachel: Well first let me say I think that that in itself is very scary, you know, when you’re looking at everything that’s laid out in front of you what the potential is but you have to find that place of peace which is what I had to do.
I had to really find the place of peace that whatever the outcome was and I share this in the book is something I would share with my kids when the conversation did come up and for myself. Whatever the outcome may be it was all going to be okay.
You know as parents I think that in our minds we tend to think of the worst possible outcome and we see in front of us this paperwork this documentation that's really presenting that to us but really we had to position ourselves to say, “Okay, how would I navigate this specific thing if/then?” Then gauge that conversation with our children.
Ron: So one of the things you’ve got to do is manage your anxiety about that, your worry, and not let it get the best of you. Because if it gets the best of you then you're going to pass that worry right on to your kids.
Rachel: Exactly, that's exactly what’ll happen. Your kids are just so smart and they really, really pay attention to each child and each parent and when they're looking they can tell when there’s something off. So we just have to be mindful and what I had to do was be mindful of how I was presenting myself, how I was preparing my day to still parent well, parenting well through the process.
Willie: I think that’s one of the most challenging parts though. That’s one of the most challenging things to do is to let go of the stress. Because even when you think you've let it go there's that little bit of stress in the background subconsciously, while you're doing something triggers it, while you’re cooking, while you’re cleaning, anything, and then an email comes in and it triggers. You, like, “Ah I thought I gave this over. I thought I set this down and not worry about it.
So one thing that my wife would say, she got to a point where she’d say, “Okay I need to go with the 80/20 rule. I need to spend 80% of my time focused on the things that I need to focus on for today, and I'm going to commit 20% of my time to focus on the custody issues, whether it’s reading an email, sending an email, whatever it is. I’ve got 20% of my time can go to that and the other 80% I need to focus on my family and everything else.”
Ron: So you are regulating yourself--
Ron: --so that you wouldn't get obsessive about this.
Rachel: Exactly. I absolutely had to because what would happen is my day would be going smooth, everything was fine and then I would get an email. The email would throw my entire day off. My stomach would start turning and the shift in the house that would take place just from that so I had to say, “Okay out of 24 hours and however many hours I’m woke 80% goes to my family, goes to life-to living life and 20% whether it's an email response, reading something over and over-” because everyone has done it.
They read something; they read it and they read it and they read it. Or if it’s having a conversation with a friend on the phone all that's lumped into my 20% that's all that I can do once my 20% is over it’s done.
Ron: I know one of the other tools you fell back on and you write about in your book Having Courage In Your Custody Battle is prayer and just your conversation and relationship with the Lord, to constantly be putting it before Him and trying to lay it down.
Rachel: Absolutely. One of the strongest things I did was I started reading Psalms. I allowed those to be the words of prayer that were spoken on my behalf and so I would put my name in there, I would put my ex's name there. I would put anyone that was involved in the process, and I literally read the Psalm 1 all the way through until I felt my transformation happen.
One of the biggest transformations that happened was I felt allowed to be frustrated angry and still know how to honor God. So if you know all about the Psalms we know that they will be frustrated angry but say, “Still I worship you, still I praise you. You are still yet faithful.” But he would still verbalize, “Why is my enemy getting away with this? Why is he able to do this?”
It taught me how to go before the throne and really speak my heart to God but also recognize that even though I’m feeling this way You are all sovereign, You know everything that's going to take place and go to Him from that place.
Ron: We’re walking through some of the stressors that people experience in custody battles. I’ve got to mention a couple more, the financial one. Attorneys are not cheap.
Rachel: You're right. Just like I said at the beginning, the first thing he told me was, “This is going to be expensive.”
Rachel: It definitely was. That honestly is, I think, one of the greatest challenges because you're trying to balance that. You never know what the fees are going to be, if you have a GAL that gets involved you're paying for 2-3 attorneys and still not knowing the outcome.
Willie: Then you go through the process of not knowing if on the other end the other attorney is fighting you and of course in a lot of cases--and we've heard this from a lot of other couples that are going to this—is the attorney that’s for the ex wants their fees paid by you. “Oh, you’re going to cover - we’re going to motion for you to cover our fees.”
You’ve got to cover your fees now have somebody saying I need cover their fees and then we may go through multiple attorneys just depending on the circumstances and you going back-and-forth so yes it can be very stressful.
Ron: Extremely at court demands time away from work, you got to go for this, you’ve got appear for that, you’ve got to be a part of this meeting, got to show up, you know, this place, this time. All of that pulls on your time demands and influences work, and depending on the work environment your income.
Rachel: Right. Absolutely. One of things I had to remind myself often through the process, I would listen to songs about it, is this too shall pass. I would intentionally, have through the process of just finding community, I was able to engage with someone that had been through it.
So I was able to see myself through it and then I actually became friends with someone that was going through it so we walked through it together. Those two things were just amazing because it helped me to know that I wasn’t alone and that there was life on the other side of it. So that was definitely helpful.
They had experienced the financial aspect of it and all of those things and we were walking—I was either walking through it with a person that was going through the financial aspect of it or I had—I would call my friend who have been through it and she would be able to speak encouraging words to me for that.
Ron: Yes, that’s great to have somebody as support outside of the equation a little bit but trying to come along and stand beside you. I want to come back to that later in our conversation because I think that's really important.
One of the things that I'm mindful of is parent and step parent maybe having disagreements about how to handle the whole process. Now you guys are in a unique situation in that each of you as a parent, went through a custody battle and a step parent to the other's kids while they were going through a custody battle.
Ron: So let’s talk around that for a minute. What if the biological parent has got a path and they are fighting for their kids or they’re highly motivated in a particular direction but the step parent maybe doesn’t see it the same or thinks that maybe it should be handled a little differently. That's now adding stress on your “usness.”
Willie: It’s adding stress on the marriage so, yes, that's a good one Ron.
Ron: I see you guys smiling a little bit. Something tells me this hits home.
Willie: That’s a reality for us right there. Especially--and it is different factors--I know discipline is a major factor that can take place. We talk about that in the How to Support Your Spouse Through a Custody Battle book where the parent that’s going through the custody battle is walking on eggshells, to a certain extent.
In our situation for me, Rachel's walking on eggshells. I was feeling that my house was being controlled by a circumstance because as I—if the children were out of line and I felt a firmer discipline with needed. She’d take it into perspective-all the factors-and the fact that she had a go to court the next week, or that they were going for a visitation the next week or something like that.
She wanted me to respond differently and at one point I didn’t understand all that. I just got frustrated and I’m like, “This is not-that’s not okay for them to be running my house, because I'm the head of the house. I need to set the discipline that needs to be set.
Over time after I took it to God, I had to pray through this process because it was hard. It was very challenging and there was even a moment where we talked literally talked, maybe the day before/a couple days before, about taking new steps towards discipline or whatever, and then I still reverted back to the old discipline of yelling and saying, “Hey,” giving the consequence that really didn't match up with the action but, “Hey, just got to your room.” Or “No more basketball. No put that up, Playstation.”
I would take five things away. So she would get upset. I would get upset. So now we have the kids that are caught in the middle. Then we have our marriage is kind of getting torn apart by this custody battle as well.
Ron: It’s one thing to have a disagreement about how you should handle a parenting situation it's another thing to add to it this has implication for the custody thing that we're having to do--
Ron: --next week.
Ron: All of a sudden it feels a whole lot heavier than just about what's going on with the two of you.
Rachel: Right because then it could seem like, oh it’s just a minor response but then in the back of my head it’s like but then what if this is said that, “Oh you took this away and this, that, and the other,” and it almost is like what if that creates more fuel and gives more incentive. So it’s really about being sensitive to the parenting hesitancies--
Rachel: --that that person is going through. But even more so, you know, we always talk about discipline as discipleship.
Rachel: So really that is like a critical time to understand the importance of discipling through the process because whether you're going through a custody battle or not that should always be the structure that--well we feel that it should always be the structure that you kind of discipline from is from a discipleship aspect. Where you’re really thinking through the process of it. But just in those moments it really intensifies.
Rachel: So even if he were to be doing it that way because of how eggshells I felt, like, “No, no that’s not it.” But just being sensitive to those parenting hesitancies.
Ron: Okay, so Willie, I cut you off.
Willie: No, no, no.
Ron: I’m going to have you go back and finish that so you didn’t see it the way she saw it at first. You didn’t quite feel the weight of that.
Willie: I didn’t, no.
Ron: So what had to change for you? What shifted inside you? What was that process like?
Willie: It was a combination of me going to God in reference to just how do I handle this? I would find myself getting really frustrated. I didn't want to get frustrated about it. I wanted to be the hero for her in any situation that there was but also find myself being frustrated when we didn't agree, or maybe when she didn't agree with me. It was more of a pride thing. So I had to die to flesh in that sense.
But also even having a conversation with her and her saying, “Hey listen,” and this is us having a conversation not when we’re heated - we call it “heated fellowship” we don’t call it arguing.
Willie: So when we’re not having heated fellowship, we would maybe out to dinner or maybe sitting down just talking. She said to me one day, “You're not the one that has to go in the courtroom. I have to go in that courtroom by myself, and then you know what I have to do? I have to explain to them why I made a decision but also why you made a decision. So I have to defend both me and you and you’re not in the courtroom with me to help me do that.”
When I had thought about it from that perspective why do I want to keep put her in a position to have to do that? I want to be the hero, so I don't want to put her in a position where she has to defend both me and her by herself.
Ron: That’s good. I appreciate you kind of wrestling with that part of you that wanted to be right.
And seeing it from a little bit different perspective. I think that's an awesome moment. We all have our point of view about how things should go and sometimes we need to take in a little bit more information and see it from a different point of view. Sometimes that's just going to call for some change within us. If we're not willing to do that--
Willie: It’s not going to happen overnight either, Ron. That sometime that it took me, it took me a long time. When it came to us and having disagreements and we didn't have them a lot, we didn’t have them often but still it took me a while, took me some years to get past the pride thing and the discipline thing. I was looking back, I was like man that took at least like two or three years just working through it.
But God was working on my heart through the whole process. I just don’t want people to feel like they’ve got to do it immediately.
Ron: I think Rachel’s saying maybe it took three or four years, or five years or six years.
Way too long, right?
Willie: Multiply that times two.
Ron: So what we’re saying to the listener here is yes there’s going to be some adjustments in your marriage relationship even as you face this custody battle, like you’ve got to strive for oneness in the midst of it.
Ron: Because if you’re not careful that stress that started with the custody battle becomes something that divides and conquers the two of you.
Ron: You know, one of the other items that I had on my list, Rachel, about stressors was parenting and we've just already stumbled down that road to talk about how parenting changes and you know one of the sensitivities that I think we have is in the midst of stress in particular if a parenting moment you think has implications for the outcome of the custody battle it changes the way you parent.
Ron: You can get paralyzed. You can get--you could modify yourself. You can maybe get picky on each other about how the other is parenting.
Ron: Yes, I mean, those things you can relate to?
Rachel: Absolutely and I think going back to what Willie said is it’s about that communication aspect of it and just being honest and upfront and knowing you know where you may have more of a challenge with it, being sensitive to the other person and where they're at with the parenting.
I know for me I found that I wanted to constantly be mindful of how I parented even to an even greater degree not necessarily just from the negative but also from the positive where I would find myself pulling back from parenting because of the stressors so trying to re-engage myself in the parenting process because when you feel like everything can and will be used against you, it’s hard to parent.
It’s really hard to parent you’re like, “Okay this person didn’t do what they needed to do in school. I’m going to put them on punishment, but they’re children, so children sometimes like to manipulate the situation--”
Ron: Really? Wait, wait. I’ve got to stop you right there. This is really? Does this happen?
Rachel: It absolutely.
Ron: Yes it does happen. I’m being so sarcastic right now. The reason I’m being sarcastic is because sometimes we think our precious little ones will never do this sort of stuff and everybody listening right now needs to know better. [Laughs]
Rachel: Right. Absolutely.
Ron: Okay go on.
Rachel: They see a situation that they can't find some kind of wiggle room in and they’ll utilize that situation so a simple, “Okay you're going to be in your room because you didn't do X,Y, and Z,” can become, “I hate living in this house.” It can totally shift everything and words are being used against you and things like that.
So just parenting from that perspective and knowing that can be challenging for however long you're going through it because you’re constantly parenting from this place of anything can and will be used against you. When I think I'm doing well I can later find out that I wasn’t or what I think I did right they may not think is right so it’s a very uncomfortable season of parenting.
Ron: Yes so you're putting pressure on yourself to get it right because everything seems to have implications for the custody battle and kids--
Ron: --will take advantage of that. Could the two of you speak to that person who’s listening right now who has a child who is totally using this added power in their family to have one up on Mom and Dad. Like they, you know, and kids will learn this too, or at least somebody in the home will figure out, “I can get away with stuff. All I have to do is threaten to tell the other house or something, and now I've got one up on my parent.”
What should somebody do if that's their situation?
Rachel: One of the things I would consider is really having conversations with your children about basically your moral compass, “What is guiding you?” Having that conversation with them about really understanding their character. “Do you want to have a character where you're not being honest? Do you want that to be a part of who you become and who people say that you are?”
One of the examples I use when I was a teacher was the concept of respect because people will say, “Well if this person respects me, I’ll respect them.” I’m like, “Well that means that you’re not a respectful person because that shouldn’t change just because you go from one place to the other.”
If I’m a respectful person-even if I am not being respected-what's in me is respect so that's what's always going to come out of me. It’s about having that conversation with them where you literally take time to talk about, “Who do you want to be known as? How do you want people to see you?”
Because when you go from one place to the other is seems to shift a little bit you’re not being honest, your words are, you know, seeming like they're not to help to build of course in a childlike way you have this conversation with them.
I had to do this even with my own children over time with different scenarios to really help them learn who you are is who you will become and let’s work on that character so that when the rules change you don't feel like you have to change because the rules change because what’s ingrained in you is who you want to be known as.
Ron: That is a good word. That's a long-term journey for us in parenting.
Ron: Nothing quick and fast and easy about that one but to maintain that sort of approach throughout the process would be good.
Rachel: Right and the thing about the process is that it highlights what may need to be worked on. So if you see that going all with your child all it is is highlighting a character flaw that as parents we’re supposed to speak into and teach them the right way.
I've had that-we've had that conversation with our children. We saw a character flaw and the best way I can say it is, “You’re being two faced and we need to work on that.” What you say, you don't want to say one thing about a person one place and one thing about a person another place.
So we had that conversation. It really helped to transform it because we let them know that it’s not just affecting what you're doing in the home, you’ll become that way with your friends. Your friends aren’t going to like that too much. So when they see how it affects the whole it’s a little bit easier to have that conversation.
Willie: Yes, and Ron I think one other thing to add to that is as a couple you guys have to communicate with each other because again that process does take time. So when you're in the fire you guys have to communicate to know how to respond, how you’re going to parent in the immediacy of things.
So if there's a custody battle going on then you have that communication so you can say, “Okay well yes, we’re not going to yell, we’re not going to do this. We’re not going to discipline in this way,” because I don't want to open up the opportunity for them to be able to say, ‘Well this X-Y-Z happened.’”
So if you guys have that communication you can strategizing if that makes any sense so that you can protect your marriage, you can protect your household and then you also have a conversation too because there were times where we were looking at even when the two-faced thing was going on to a certain extent we were looking at it as, “Oh this is what this person is thinking about me or we don't want this person thinking this about I don’t want this person thinking this about my wife.” She doesn’t want them thinking about her.
But we had to get to a place also where we communicated with each other. We set a standard for our household and we know that those that are close to us those that know our dynamic, know our characteristics that they know that some of that outside stuff or that jargon that’s being said, or whatever's being said about us is not true.
So the ones that choose to believe it they're going to choose to believe it because that’s what they want to believe. Because they have a different perspective of us and their perspective may not be true. Their perspective is their reality but it’s not what’s going on in our household necessarily.
Ron: That’s a good word. You know another stressor that I’m mindful of is the hit--I'll say it this way--the hit that the stepparent/stepchild relationship can take through the custody battle. I’m imagining a situation where the biological father in the other household is pulling on the heartstrings of the children. He’s saying things, making comments about Mom and also stepdad.
The kids are carrying that with them when they come over and they’re in stepdad's house, and it's just getting in the way. It's holding their heart from being able to be open to him and maybe things were pretty good and now they've kind of backed up and they get a lot more withdrawn and they're not engaging with him like they used to.
He’s feeling that rejection; he doesn't know how to make sense of it. I can just see how that becomes more delicate through a custody battle situation.
Did you guys go through that and even if you didn't, what words would you offer, what encouragement would you offer a step parent going through that?
Willie: I will say that that is a delicate situation so you have to--delicate things you have to handle them in a delicate manner. So with that being said it’s all about relationship building. The way you respond to a situation is how you’re going to teach the children to respond. Or you’re either going to confirm something that they’re already thinking or something they’re being told.
So if they’re being told these bad things then you don't want to come off in a defensive manner to where they don't want to share things with you. You want to say, “Hey,” you want them to feel open to share with you just free handedly and you could say, “Hey that's okay. I understand that.”
Then you don't necessarily want to respond back by saying, “Well they said that, well this is what’s going on. This is the truth of the matter.” Like no. What we do is respond in love and we tell them, “Okay that's okay I think they are probably saying that because there could be some hurt. There could be some anger. I understand they’re upset but I want you to know that that's not necessarily true. That’s not the full story.”
You either can share some of the story with them in love and in truth or you can say, “Hey again at this point in time it's not a really good time. You're too young for me to explain all this stuff to you, but I will explain it to you one day but for right now I just want you to trust me and keep building relationship with him.”
Rachel: I would definitely say one of the things that came to my mind was consistency.
Rachel: As challenging as it can be when you may be being mistreated or you're not shown any appreciation for things or you're just dismissed still being consistent in areas that you know the child still needs you is key. So when the child is wrestling through these different emotions because really what it is it is about loyalty. The child feels they need to be loyal to this parent.
Rachel: In order for them to be loyal to this parent they have to not accept this other parent. But really when it all boils down to it as the child becomes older what they will appreciate is the consistency even in their wavering place.
Rachel: So while this custody battle was going on just remaining consistent with those things that may be a little bit challenging to process through.
Ron: You know, in my experience one of the things that’s going on with kids, in addition to what you guys have just said—which is absolutely correct—is they’re confused like they know what's going on and they know what's at stake and there’s something inside them that doesn't want to make it worse.
So it's kind of like of all the possibilities I'm just going to take the path of least resistance. I don’t want to stir the waters. I don’t want to make it worse and that can appear to parent and step parent as being rejection or withdrawn or, “Oh they're siding with the other household in the battle against us.”
More often than not, my experience is that is not what the kids are doing. They're just trying to lay low.
Rachel: Right and honestly what I found, too, with the children, and this is in all areas that I've noticed, not just with custody battles but period, they tend to flock toward the parent that they're a little bit more, I guess the word is intimidated, or just a little bit more like, “This parent may not accept me later if I don’t give in to this process. But there's always a parent I feel that is like, “No matter what I'm still going to love you.” The child is paying attention to the potential rejection that can take place.
Rachel: They’re paying attention to what parent is going to be present no matter what. Unfortunately that parent that’s going to be present no matter what, they have a safety zone there. So they're like, “Okay I can push back a little bit there, give them all that because even when I'm ready to return fully they’ll be there.” That hurts to be that parent but that's how a child processes things to not have to feel rejection.
Ron: In other words, it’s a backwards compliment sometimes when you get more stuff from the kids. It's kind of like their way of saying, “I trust you. I’m safe with you. I can dish this out.” So while it may not be fun to experience it is a little bit of a testimony to your relationship with them.
Rachel: Exactly, yes.
Ron: So let’s talk a little bit about coping now. We've laid out a bunch of stressors and we've talked around coping a little bit. We've already talked about the importance of prayer and guarding your heart, constantly taking your anxiety in this whole process to the Lord. There’s something else that you talk about, Rachel, in your book and it’s— you talk about listening to God in the battle. I remember you talking about check your heart, check your heart. Do you mind talking around that? What does that mean?
Rachel: So in order for us to really hear what God is saying and to get inside and honestly just experience His peace we really have to have a heart that is not bitter towards the process and toward the person. That is, a pure heart is where He can come in and He can allow His peace to come in and he can all allow our ears to be open to hearing His voice and hearing what He may be saying in the situation.
It’s so easy when people are saying negative things about us when they’re spewing out lies or spewing out deception they’re doing whatever it takes for them to get what they want to go to this place of just bitterness and anger and hatred that this is even happening. “Why would you do such a thing? You've already done enough, and now you're putting the cherry on top with trying to take me to court.”
We have to allow ourselves to walk in forgiveness because we don't have room for bitterness when we’re really trying to pursue the victories so to speak. I talk a little bit about what victory is in my book and it's not always what we think and what we see it as but victory nonetheless where God is being glorified in the situation He can only be glorified when bitter roots aren’t present because then we’re open to hear what it looks like for Him to be glorified through the situation.
It’s challenging and I'm not going to say that it's easy because it's not and there are days that you may succeed at it more than others but there's always that laying down of self and laying down of my right to be angry and my right to be upset in this situation to pick up what He wants to do the exchange for.
Ron: You know as I read that part of your book and as I was listening to you talk right now I just thinking about Matthew chapter 5 in the Sermon on the Mount. There's a passage there where Jesus is talking about, “You have heard that it was said...but I say to you…” He’s talking around these themes.
It's interesting to me that divorce is one of the things He talks about and people's attitudes towards their spouse and how people were putting away their wives and their husbands far too easily and He’s calling them back to keep their promises. But what's around that little section about divorce is anger. Guard your heart against anger and breaking a promise, right?
Then He’s talking about retaliation: “You've heard that it was said an eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth but I say to you don't resist one who is evil but, you know, someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
In other words be long suffering in difficult circumstances. Then He culminates that whole process by saying by talking about love: “You've heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” and wouldn’t that be a great mantra when you’re going through a court battle?
Rachel: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Ron: You have permission to hate your former spouse in this situation but then He says, “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Ron: It's like this culmination of this passage on anger and divorce and breaking promises and retaliation is love.
Ron: Even the people that are the most difficult to love. What I hear you saying is what a challenge in the midst of highly stressful difficult circumstances but to check your heart, to constantly be going back to Lord and saying, “All right how do I love in this situation?”
Doesn’t mean I'm a doormat. It doesn't mean I don't fight if there something serious to fight about in this situation. It doesn't mean we don't stand up for what's right. It doesn’t mean any of that but I do so with a measure of grace and mercy and godliness and fairness. I need to be looking out for what's best for the kids not just what's best for me.
Ron: I don't just do something negative towards my former spouse just because this whole court thing has happened or because of the past of our relation—like I’ve got to set all that aside and be decent.
Rachel: Exactly. It’s so interesting because I mentor people that have gone through this process and one of the things I tell them to do is check their motives and what they’re asking for. Sometimes we ask for things in this court thing just because, “Well you laid all this out for me and so now I want this, this, this, and this.”
And we're fighting, and we’re fighting, and we’re tiring ourselves out when really when we check our motive, we ask God, “What is really -- what is it really that I need? What are You really requiring me? Because these are your children who you have called me to disciple. What does that look like for me to do that for You?”
When we begin to do that we actually start to realize you know what, maybe everything that I'm trying to pursue part of the reason that I'm getting such kick back is maybe it’s not God's intention for me to go for it ABCDEF and G. Maybe I’m just supposed to ask for AB and C, and the rest of it is me just feeling entitled to it.
Rachel: A lot of entitlement tends to go into the process. When entitlement is present love can't be. We have to do that exchange. I always talk about the exchange to go and do that exchange when it comes to, “I’m feeling entitled.” Versus, “I’m feeling like I want to pursue love.” One of the most difficult things to do is to speak blessings over that person through the process.
Rachel: It’s challenging. I’m not going to lie, it’s challenging. But it’s transformational to your heart motives because when you're doing that what can happen over time is you begin to see, “Well maybe this is the reason why they're doing that. Maybe this is it and maybe they're still in this place,” and it shifts your perspective and your view of things.
Ron: This goes back to something you said earlier that I wrote down: “Bitterness closes your heart,” and you’re saying it closes your perspective. It closes your posture about what you're trying to accomplish objectively in this court battle or responding to what has been thrust upon you.
Bitterness will skew you to the point where you’re now retaliating. You’re now entitled. You’re now trying to get what you can get out of this whole thing rather than having that objective point of view that says, “Well what’s best for the kids? What’s fair? Decent?” Even if the other person is not being decent, how do I maintain civility in the midst of this battle?
Rachel: Exactly. I tell people we’re Christians, we’re not cowards.
Rachel: So we have access to God who’s all seeing, all knowing, He’s the king of kings and the Lord of lords and he will fight our battles for us but ultimately the outcome that He has is not one where we will look and say, “Yes, I felt victory as the world would see it,” but victory so often---in Christ—almost looks like a defeat to other people.
Rachel: But because He knows the end from the beginning then sometimes us saying yes to something is because later on - and we feel this nudge and I’ve had people tell me, “Well everyone told me that I should do this, but I feel like I should do that.”
Well what is your heart telling you? What is the truth of God speaking into you? That is victory for you. When you have followed what God has orchestrated and told you to do and He is glorified in it through you through this situation it’s not always about I got everything I want out of this.
Rachel: But did I walk away with a pure heart. Did I walk away showing love? Did I stand in a position of peace and calm in the courtroom? How did I represent Christ in that moment?
Willie: Yes, and I’d want to add just a prerequisite to that. The key to that is also just being intimate with God. We can say, like, “Well, my heart is telling me this,” but is your heart pure? You won’t know because your heart as you get intimate with God our hearts align with his and then His desires become our desires. Then we see the fruit of what comes out of it which is goodness.
Unless we are to being intimate with Him then we may not know what our heart—we may not know our true heart motives, if that makes any sense. Or our hearts made not have pure motives if that makes any sense. So we don't want to say, “Oh yes my heart says that I should have the custody and he shouldn’t or she shouldn’t.” So I just want to put that prerequisite out there.
Ron: Yes. Yes. No that's excellent. I think the beauty of that is you're caring well for your children if you have God's desires in your heart.
Willie and Rachel: Right.
Ron: Because His desires for your situation will lead you to a place where ultimately your kids win. Like here’s an incredible challenge for anybody going through a custody battle: do whatever you can throughout this process so that your co-parenting relationship with your former spouse is better on the back end not worse.
Ron: That's the challenge keep that perspective in mind as you go through. I'm trying to work towards a better relationship, not a worse one. By the way, Rachel, when you were talking about people say, “Well somebody told me to do this or ask for that or demand this,” often that's an attorney who is trying to help you be more adversarial. Sometimes I think we encourage/have to say to the attorney, “No, that's not decent and fair. That's not reasonable. That's not helpful for my kids long term. We're going for this, not that.”
Willie and Rachel: Right.
Ron: So even dialing back your attorney is a process. I know that's what they get paid to do. You know the whole judicial system is adversarial in nature and it pulls the worst out of people.
Ron: To go in there with that heart that you talked about so beautifully I think is just fantastic. Do you have any thoughts on kids and testifying in court? Well, I want to believe-that judges are really apprehensive about putting kids on the stand. I want to believe that they won't do that unless there's compelling reason to do that, but I know that's not always the case.
What kind of things should people think through before putting their kids on the stand?
Willie: I think you want to think through the effect of that because you’re putting your kids in a position where they have to basically choose between if--depending on how you present it but if you’re put them in the position where they have to choose between one parent or the other or they feel they have to choose between one parent or the other.
I think if they’re in that situation because of the other parent is just demanding it and the magistrate or the judge feels that that needs to happen then as the parent that wants the best for the child, you should be cautious in how you just engage them.
It is really just telling them, “Hey when you go up there you speak truth.” Try and take that burden off of them. Trying to take that burden off and say, “Hey whatever you feel--” and even have a conversation with them.
My thought process through it is that as you have built relationship over time that they’re going to share some of that stuff with you anyway like you'll have the relationship to the point where you are able to say, “Hey, how are you feeling through this? I don't want you to feel pressured to say anything for me that you feel that you have to defend me or you feel like you have to defend your mom or your dad or the other parent. You go up there and you say what’s on your heart. You say what’s true. You say what you feel.”
Rachel: Right. That's what I was going to say. With some people that I've talked to is release the child from feeling like they have to defend you.
Rachel: Encourage them to speak truth. The truth you can't go wrong with, so anytime whether they are going in front of a judge or the magistrate or they have to go talk to a GAL just answer the question truthfully, listen to that little gut feeling that you get and allow that to guide you because at the end of the day you don't want to walk away feeling the yucky feeling--I call it the “yucky feelings” to my kids so that they’ll know because they know what the yucky feeling feels like.
We know that this is the Holy Spirit; that just discernment, that’s all of that going on, but for them is the yucky feeling. I just encouraged them, like pay attention to that yucky feeling and you don't want to feel that when you walk away. So whatever the truth is just tell the truth.”
Ron: Yes, I think that is a good, good word. You're supporting them in that sense. Speaking of support, let's land the plane here. I think anybody going through a custody battle needs as many support systems as they can get.
Ron: So let’s talk around this: I'm thinking how does the stepparent support the biological parent? I'm wondering about support systems outside your home, maybe extended family. Then I'm also specifically wondering about the church. How can churches support families going through this?
So step parents how can they be supportive? How can you line up a support system of friends or extended family? What might that look like? Then what can churches do?
Willie: I think as far as for stepparents the biggest thing, again, goes back to communication and to like in my situation dying to pride being willing to lay down my desires and my wants for hers.
So if there’s something that she said, “Hey I think we should--can we try it this way?” Then we can have a conversation about that but even me if is not going against anything which she wouldn’t ask me to go against anything God is saying or if is nothing that’s crazy then yes let’s try that. Why not? I mean because what’s the harm in it?
So that she feels comfortable and so that we can move forward and she doesn't feel that she has to go into her custody battle and she has to yet again defend me or defend herself because of a decision that I made as a stepparent.
Ron: It just occurred to me as you're saying that, the last thing you want to put your wife in a situation where she's not only battling with her former husband but she's battling with the current husband.
Rachel: Exactly. That’s what I was going to say is this making sure that you're positioning yourself number one, being slow to speak and quick to listen because a lot of times when your spouse is going through that they really need a listening ear.
Rachel: Not necessarily all the answers because they're processing through the answers and often times we talk ourselves into the answers but also not feeling like, “Okay, I'm going to have to go here about this,” but when I make this decision that I feel like is best for my children. I’m going to have to go and defend myself to my spouse.”
Rachel: Really having that good communication and understanding of why I need to make that decision but allowing yourself as the spouse I need to be comfortable coming to you with what may not make sense to you in the moment will makes total sense to me based off of all the information that I know from being in the courtroom, talking to the attorney, hearing all the details because even though you're the spouse you’re still somewhat on the outside looking in.
It’s hard to see yourself in that because it just as much affects you, it affects the whole household, when unfortunately the decision and the person in the room is who has to live with the decision moving forward.
Willie: Sometimes, another thing too, as a spouse is you can become the mediator in between. There was a time where I had to step in and be the mediator where calls or emails or anything could have come in that she was extra sensitive to or they may have triggered something that I would step in and be the mediator and review those first.
I would process them and then I would say, “Okay. Hey this is something you need to look at, no this is not something you need to look at right now.”
Rachel: That was so helpful.
Rachel: It helped relieve the stress so much because he would look and he would hear the tone and the tone wouldn’t offend him. The tone of the e-mails wouldn’t offend him. They wouldn’t bother him. He could read it and not read into it and just bullet point the important points. When I would read it, it was like an attack, like, “Grrr!”
Ron: Yes. He doesn’t have the same bruises that you have.
Ron: He didn’t read it with the same eyes and the same heart and can respond very differently. I get that. That's a wonderful idea.
How about extended family and friends? What are the do's and don’ts because I would think sometimes you want to pull those people and go, “Hey look can I just get together with you once every couple weeks and just bleed all over the place because I just need to vent and then I can go home and not have to take that out I'm on my spouse or my kids.”
But at the same time you may not want to do that with certain people, so what are your thoughts there?
Rachel: So one thing that I would say is just being mindful of the people who haven't been through it. Because it’s just like with anything else people have a lot of opinions to something they haven’t experienced. So they don't know how it’ll affect you, you know. I like to say that people that tend to go through a custody battle they don't have that much experience.
For me, like, I hadn’t had any experience with court except what I saw on T.V. on Divorce Court or through those little, those shows. So I was terrified. Most people don't have a lot of experience with the court system in that capacity when they're presented with this.
So when you’re having that conversation it’s really a limited conversation that you're having. So one of things I will look for are people that can encourage you where you're at, but most importantly encourage you in your relationship with God because that's where you're really going to get built up at.
If you don't have that boundary set then what will happen is you'll find yourself spewing on everyone and every single relationship and people will back away because it's like, “Okay, I want to support her but I'm kind of tired of talking about this,” because they don't understand how life consuming it is.
Going to a counselor and allowing that to be like you're venting place and then will you leave there you can just be--I don't wanna say “normal”--but you can engage everyone in more of a normal capacity because you have your “once a week I'm going to go, I'm going to sit with this person. I’m going to talk to them and I’m going to leave it there.”
Ron: You’ve been listening to my conversation with Willie and Rachel Scott. I’m Ron Deal and this is FamilyLife Blended.
We’ll hear one last thought from Willie and Rachel in just a minute, but before that if this has been helpful to you would you rate it, right now? Why would I ask you to do that? Because it pays it forward, it helps others get the same benefit that you just received. I appreciate it.
You know at one point in our conversation we talked about how parents are responsible to direct their attorney--that is how their attorney acts during the custody negotiations--I just want to return to that for a minute because in my experience I think people, especially if you’re new to the custody battle situation, most people underestimate the hostile nature of litigation.
Attorneys are by nature adversarial, no offense if you are an attorney. It is their job to look out for you, to fight for you but that doesn’t always result in a balanced perspective, a cordial tone outside the courtroom or listening ears to the other side. So please hear me on this, Parents, it’s your job to direct their steps even as the Lord is directing your steps. I’ve heard attorneys say things like, “You know you have the right to get more than that, you really ought to go back and fight a little bit harder.”
You know, I’m concerned about where that leads. I’m concerned as to whether or not that even blesses your child. They say things that are about blessing you, well you need to keep the perspective, “Is this a blessing to my child? I may have the right to it but is it a blessing?” If you make that your ultimate filter I think you’re going to make better decisions.
A quick little note here I’m not talking about abusive situations. That is in a different category and there are other things you need to consider there. In general, the lens I want you to look through is--well, do you remember in Matthew 22 and the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus so they ask him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes?” And He says, “Hey look at this coin. Whose likeness do you see on it?” And they said, “Well it’s Caesar’s.” Then He says, “Okay then render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God’s.”
Alright here’s what I want you to do: take a good look at your child. I bet you see some likeness of you and their other parent. Do not hoard that child’s heart or life in selfishness. Render to your child what each parent is due so that your child may fully reflect the love of both of you. Make that your first filter, what’s best for them, and other details will follow. Direct your attorney accordingly.
If you’d like more information about Willie and Rachel, or their resource Having Courage in Your Custody Battle, you’ll find it in our show notes and on the FamilyLife Blended page at FamilyLife.com/podcast.
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You know at FamilyLife we’re always trying to help provide resources for you. Maybe you’ve heard that we have a new version of our video curriculum The Smart Stepfamily along with an updated participant’s guide for small groups. It’s an all-new, eight session study. Great for groups or do-it-yourself enrichment program for your blended family. You can use it either way. It’s available for streaming on RightNow Media or you can get the DVD at Amazon or at FamilyLife.com.
In addition to that, this month, I’m releasing another book in our Smart Stepfamilies Series from Bethany House Publishers, along with my co-authors Greg Pettys and David Edwards we’ve written the Smart Stepfamily Guide to Financial Planning: Money Management Before and After You Blend a Family. Money matters divide a lot of stepfamilies. We want to help you finance togetherness. It’s available wherever you buy your books.
For those of you that are interested in ministry: ministry leaders, church leaders, maybe you’re a couple that just wants to pour into other couples, I want to encourage you to join us for the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry, October 23 to 25, 2019, in Chesapeake, Virginia. We’ve been doing these events for many, many years now and we know what it does for people. It brings together like-minded people who want to know more about blessing blended family couples and helping their marriage to go the journey.
We’re going to help you start a ministry if you’ve never started one. We’re going to try to help you grow your ministry if you’ve got one going. And you’re going to network with lots of people. My guests today Willie and Rachel Scott will be speaking for us and many other leaders. Again that’s October 23 to 25, 2019. You can learn more about the Summit on Stepfamily Ministry at SummitOnStepfamilies.com or always feel free to go to FamilyLife.com.
Now before we’re done I asked Willie and Rachel what the church community can do to help couples going through a custody battle.
Rachel: One of things I would encourage them to do is to find someone that they can direct the person to, whether it be maybe another pastor that they're connected to or just someone that they trust. It could be a friend that you know they can say here this is someone that I know of that can walk through the process with you. Maybe have that person on standby or an organization or community that they trust.
What tends to happen is that people go to their pastor and the pastor honestly they don't know what to do to help in those situations, most people don't know what to do to help. They’ll go to them and they want to be able to be more of a resource but they have no idea how to be that.
So one of the things I would encourage them to do is to not leave that as an undone place, where is like okay well since it only happens every once in a while I’m going to just leave it alone. Really have something readily available for when that time does come. They can say, “Here goes a resource. Here goes someone I can connect you to in the event that it does happen.” Then helping to create a community or finding a community that can support them in the capacity of that person may need.
Willie: Right. I think the biggest thing is remembering that we’re not necessarily supporting someone's divorce, but we’re actually supporting a person that's going through a brokenness or a broken state and we're trying to help them to view those things because they have a filter from all the brokenness that they've been through and everything. There’s a filter there so they--their perspective is skewed like we talked earlier.
So we're trying to help them see this through a godly lens so they can handle the situation in a godly way. If we look at it from that perspective versus I don't support this divorce thing that’s going on then I think we could be more helpful in that way.
Ron: Next time on FamilyLife Blended we’ll hear from my good friend Laura Petherbridge about the challenges of being a stepmom, the unique aspects of being a childless stepmom and how it affects a stepmom when her husband doesn’t do his part.
Laura: When he was not setting those boundaries for his children, it made me feel like he was being wimpy. Step up and be the dad.
Ron: That’s author and stepmom Laura Petherbridge, next time on FamilyLife Blended.
I’m Ron Deal, thanks for listening. Thanks to our FamilyLife Legacy Partners for making this podcast possible. Our chief audio engineer is Keith Lynch. Bruce Goff, our producer. Mastering engineer is Justin Adams. And theme music provided by Braden Deal.
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