Martial Arts Parenting


Dear Dharma,

I have been divorced for 7 years and share parenting with my ex of our 10 year old daughter.  My ex has remarried and his new wife is very controlling of both him and my daughter. Unfortunately, she also has enough money to pay for his lawyer, something I cannot afford.

They have taken me to court on numerous occasions in an effort to try and gain custody of our daughter. The judge has never agreed with them and my daughter does not want to spend any more time with them than she currently is. Her dad has always forced her to participate in martial arts as he owns a TKD school. She is growing up and wants to try other activities, but he does not understand. Every time the issue comes up, he blames me for trying to alienate her from him, which is as far from the truth as it could be.

My ex is using the courts to break me financially and emotionally. He won’t participate in any form of mediation and the one who suffers the most is my daughter.

Any words of wisdom?


Dear Struggling,

It feels like any words of wisdom in a situation like this will just come off as cliché and trite, and that’s the last thing I want to offer you.  I’ve read your question several times in the past few days and I myself am struggling as to what to suggest.

So… your husband and his wife keep taking you to court to try and gain sole custody, and the judge keeps denying them, is that right?

Without knowing what his grounds are for this motion, it’s hard to speak intelligently to it, but unless he has a solid reason to try and take a child away from her mother – things like drugs, alcohol, a revolving door of scummy men (much like my 20’s) – the courts are likely going to continue to deny him. The fact that your daughter doesn’t want to live with them is also important, and the older she gets, the more her voice will be heard throughout the process.

Alright, frick… words of wisdom…

Whether you are using a lawyer or representing yourself, do you think there is any value in requesting the judge to mandate mediation for everyone?

I’m just envisioning a mother standing before a judge saying she has tried everything she can think of with no success, and although she has suggested mediation on more than one occasion, her husband refuses to take steps that improve the situation rather than damage it.

I honestly have a hard time envisioning said judge saying no to a request like that, but remember, Dharma’s not a lawyer.  I just think it’s gotta be worth a shot, non?

Secondly, it’s going to be super important for you to keep the lines of communication open with your daughter while all of this happens around her without slamming her dad and step mom. Make sure she knows that you want her to have a happy, healthy relationship with her dad, and that your job is to help her navigate through that…

In regards to the martial arts, if this is something your daughter is no longer interested in and has other things in mind she would like to pursue, then that needs to be encouraged.  And subsequently, dad needs to be encouraged to join her in those pursuits – coach her soccer or baseball team if that’s her calling, or sit through the endless dance and/or gymnastic routines as required.  If his presence and participation are consistently being requested, he can’t successfully accuse you of trying to alienate him from his daughter.  These requests might be good delivered by email… paper trail… just saying…

Remember, you can’t reason with the unreasonable and you can’t change anyone’s behaviour but your own.  Don’t give him the power to break you.

Please, readers, if you have any suggestions at all that might help Struggling, they are welcome.  Please please send them through the comments section below.

Strong and positive thoughts to both you and your daughter.  A nasty rash to your ex.



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  • watcher-of-lawyer-shows says:

    I’m not a lawyer either, but if they take you to court again for custody, is there any way to include a clause that, in the event that the judge sides with you again, the couple pay for your legal fees? Especially given that they’ve taken you to court before with the same verdict?
    Also, I really like Dharma’s advice about getting the dad more involved in the daughter’s new interests. Perhaps a conversation between the daughter and father emphasizing that the dislike of Martial Arts is nothing person may go a long way too.
    Best of luck!

    • Dharma says:

      That’s a really great suggestion, thanks for for making it…
      It sounds like he’s bent on taking everything personally, but yes, to reiterate the point can’t hurt…
      Thanks for the comment…

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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