These suggestions are intended to help Alec Baldwin and all dads out there, who like me, have lost it once or twice when their kids or (ex) spouse drive them to frustration. Here are my recommendations as a father and a fathers’ rights lawyer.
9 Tips for Fathers’ Rights
1. Remember what Dad’s were like when you were a kid. Dad’s are big, loud and scary. Take it down a little. Use your indoor voice.
2. Ready, fire, aim is what most people do when they get angry. But if I let the other person get my goat, then I figure I have lost. I’m in arguments all day long at work. So I have learned to control my anger, control my blood pressure and try to get the other person to hang up on me first. Sometimes I use humor to diffuse the argument. When somebody is yelling at me, I might say something like, “You’re having a bad day aren’t you?”
3. Don’t be a control cowboy. Controlling your environment is great for your career and work but it doesn’t work too well in family relations. Be prepared to give everybody in your family a little slack and give up some control.
4. Attract don’t attack. Yes it is ok to bribe your child. Make the rules easier at your house than mom’s house. Create an environment that children will enjoy. If you can afford a pony, buy one. Like your mother told you, you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Because the legal system is based on the adversarial model, it is easy to get caught up in the fight. But you will do better in the long run if you learn how to settle and compromise.
5. Everything you say can and will be held against you. Your wife’s lawyer is always doing pushups on you. So be choose your words carefully in emails, letters and phone calls. I always write with the idea that what I say may end up in front of the judge.
6. It is about the child, not you. When I am mediating child custody, I make the parties bring pictures of the children and I put them in the center of the table. Whenever the discussion gets heated, I direct their attention back to the pictures. “This is about them,” I say. “Do you want to spend their college tuition on lawyers?” Children have needs in a divorce. They are stressed. They are worried about the future. You need to take care of them and support and nuture them during this time.
7. Do your homework. Is it true that mothers prepare more than fathers for their custody battles? Sometimes it seems that way to me. I find that the most important aspect of custody negotiation or litigation is preparation. Get the facts, research the law, investigate and organize.
8. Hire a custody consultant. I heard that Alec Baldwin went to see Dr. Phil. I think that is a good idea. If you can afford it, I would hire a custody consultant, a therapist or mental health professional to give you advice on the best ways to approach your custody case.
9. Know your child. Don’t get caught off-guard at the deposition or trial. Know your child’s clothing and shoe sizes, favorite pajamas, names of friends, school teachers and doctors. Go to those PTA meetings and soccer games. Volunteer to coach if you can.