It is not unheard of that parties in divorce or custody have unequal playing fields. In several different family dynamics, one party can assert the decision-making authority or power to dominate the relationship. Whether it be financial, physical, mental, or emotional, when one party has more to lose than the other, chances are there is an imbalance of power. The imbalance of power in custody or divorce can create a nightmare for all involved. Most high-conflict cases stem from some unequal distribution of power or authority within the family. Not to mention, contempt cases tend to happen more in instances. Violating custody orders that came out of these dynamics is bound to happen.
Family Court Legal Terms, Commonly Used & Misused, Explained-PT I
Imbalance of Power Defined
During divorce or custody, an imbalance of power can exist in a few ways. It may be something that pre-exists or that occurred as a result of turmoil associated with their Family Court Custody case. Let’s take a look at situations where an imbalance was a part of the family unit before divorce or custody. Many families have situations where one person is the breadwinner while the other stays home to raise the children. And even though the parties’ contribution to the marriage is considered “equal” in a practical sense they may not be.
The breadwinner usually has the resources to hire a lawyer, move out of the home, give the children things out of the question for the other parent, and so on. Having the means to do these sorts of things certainly puts that party in a more advantageous position concerning their case. This is an example of an imbalance of power in the financial sense. But the imbalance can be mental, emotional, and physical too. Anytime one party has substantially more to lose than the other, unfairly especially, there is an imbalance of power.
In relationships where there is physical, mental, and/or emotional abuse, an imbalance of power most certainly exists. The victim of abuse almost always has no authority in the decision-making process or no power to exert authority in the relationship.
Sometimes an imbalance is created merely by using the children as pawns. In parental alienation cases, for instance, one parent maliciously brainwashes or programs their child, resulting in hatred against the other. This can lead to outcomes that are not based on the merits but on the power or authority one has over the other.
Why is Imbalance of Power Detrimental
Where there is an imbalance in power in divorce or custody, someone will undoubtedly lose. The loss can be short-term or long-term, financial, mental, legal, or even physical. The acquiescent party, for example, can be strong-armed into agreeing to joint custody knowing that that’s not what’s best for their child. And in this case, the child “loses” too. Unequal distribution of power can make negotiation difficult too. In instances where the issues are pretty straightforward and ripe for settlement, an imbalance of power can unfairly shift things in the empowered party’s favor.
This happens often in Family Court and is major reason cases end catastrophically. Principles like “the best interests of the child” don’t hold up because the power imbalance prevails instead. This is disastrous because that empowered parent can shift his or her need to control to the child.
Not all situations are doomed in which there is an unequal distribution of power or authority.
Can You Level the Playing Field
In some cases, there is no leveling the playing field. However, there are times when the parties (or others involved) can shift the focus. In mediation, for example, the mediator is skilled at using tactics to shift the focus to the acquiescent party’s favor. Mediators are trained to use specific methods to help bring important topics to the forefront. These tactics don’t necessarily take the power away from the empowered party, but they certainly help to keep it at bay.
Another method is to become informed. Knowledge is extremely important in shifting the focus or redirecting the control of the empowered party. Arming oneself with all the information and relevant resources can help the acquiescent discover strengths they were unaware of.
A support system is crucial to shifting the imbalance as well. Oftentimes, the party with the least authority or power builds confidence and strength just from having a supportive team around them.
Be mindful of your particular circumstances. It is extremely important to be very honest with your intentions, your goals, and your present situation. This will help you to prepare for what’s to come without losing out on what matters most.