Getting divorced is a life-changing event that can be extremely emotional and confusing for adults and children. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Kandis Wyatt talks to Danica Joan about the benefits of having a divorce coach, especially in child custody cases. Learn about the support role of a custody coach in helping parents navigate the difficult waters of custody battles and court proceedings to help the family come up with the best resolution possible.
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Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host Kandis Boyd Wyatt. My guest today is Danica Joan. She’s a global speaker, a renowned expert, specializing in high-conflict parenting, child custody, divorce mediation, and she’s also a champion of children’s rights. So, Danica, welcome to the podcast and thank you for joining me.
Danica Joan: Well, thank you for inviting me.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: So Danica, there are so many critical conversations happening today that address issues surrounding co-parenting. So can you tell us about yourself and why this topic is so dear to your heart?
Danica Joan: Absolutely. About 20 years ago, I found myself in a divorce and custody battle. And I certainly didn’t expect it to lead me to my calling, but I think through my walk, through my journey of going through this really nasty custody battle, I realized I wasn’t the only one. I also found that I was just digging for research, trying to find out what the heck was happening to my family. Because it wasn’t just a custody battle in the court, my children were turning on me. And I was desperately trying to protect my children.
Start a Business degree at American Public University.
And over the process, I discovered terms like parental alienation, hostile aggressive parenting, and all of the nightmares that so many families are going through. It took a lot for me to try to find all of this research scattered everywhere, and I thought, “Well, that’s my mission.” To be the shortcut, to be able to curate and bring all of that information to people, to families who are desperate just like me.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: That is awesome. You know, I am also a divorcee, so I’ve read a lot of statistics about this area and why so many people really need to hone in and just understand it. So can you start by talking about some of the challenges you have encountered when speaking about child custody coaching?
Danica Joan: I think the challenges are really rooted in trying to get the courts to see what’s the best interest for the families. And it’s not just the courts, it’s been the, the education system, the mental health counselors, and the law professionals. Because they have no clue what’s really going on with the family because it’s such an emotional swirl at the time, it’s hard to determine what’s the cause and what’s the solution.
Danica Joan: So like in my own personal journey, I was combating the fact that my children had turned on me and they were parroting a lot of things to the guidance counselors, to the teachers, to the mental health counselors, and these professionals were not educated on how to see the signs when a child is being coached.
When they tell these professionals that my “My mom is abusive.” These professionals didn’t stop to think, “Wait a minute, a child, the way a child thinks is a child is going to protect their abuser.” And this happens a lot in Dependency Court, where you’ve got a child who’s been legitimately abused and neglected and yet they are doing everything they can to protect that abusive parent.
If they’re not educated and they don’t have clarity about what’s really going on, they could actually do harm to the family by marginalizing the parent who’s actually being victimized by the other parent.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Yeah. That’s a really good point, that you’d have to just understand and have education and training on this subject to truly understand it. And for many people, you’re thrust into this situation without having that background. So for each individual person, I’m sure they have their own story. So when it comes to child custody and coaching, how do you help people individualize their personal story?
Danica Joan: Well, one thing I love about custody coaching, or divorce coaching, or whatever you want to call it is that is sort of like the missing piece in a family court situation. An attorney is not designed to coach or counsel a person. So the custody coach can actually give that grounding to that parent who’s in this emotional swirl. And they can actually help facilitate healthier outcomes for the attorney can be much more effective and, of course, the judge can make a much more balanced ruling having these coaches in place.
I always tell people that before you go looking for an attorney for your case, get yourself a coach. A coach is not designed to be that mental health counselor, they’re not designed to get you to strategize the best outcome for yourself, they’re really trying to get you grounded in what, what’s your reality of the situation? It’s an up-and-coming profession that I would love to see in a law practice, so that a lawyer has like a team-based approach to help this parent get through things.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: I really agree with what you said that sometimes people expect a lawyer to be everything and anything regarding a custody suit. So it’s really great that there is this emerging field where you have people who can serve as coaches.
So American Public University has a large number of students in the School of Business, and so I know many of them are already pursuing a certain passion or a certain degree. So how do you use some of the best academic practices and theories to define what’s best for the child?
Danica Joan: Some of it is just having the knowledge of how family dynamics work. Understanding that, what is the best interest of the child? And when you look at the model of the intact family, the best interest of the child is to have access to both parents. And lot of times in an intact family, that’s what’s so.
And it’s unfortunate that when it gets into court, there becomes this tug of war and all trust is lost between both parties and they just start fighting for what they want. And a lot of times they’re suddenly in disagreement with the lifestyle of the other parent that was totally acceptable while they were together.
So the grounding, the way that were able to see the best interest of the child is to say, this child deserves, as a birthright, to have access equally to both parents. And I’m not saying that the shared parenting is going to work 50/50 however, it should start at 50/50 and a parent should be allowed to give away time that doesn’t work for them instead of fight for the time that they have.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Welcome back to the podcast. Today, we are speaking to Danica Joan about the importance of child custody coaching. One nugget of wisdom that I was told is that you have to love your child more than you hate your ex. And I think what you just said, that’s really an expression of trying to figure out what’s best for the child is that, if you need to give that time to the other parent. So in a perfect world, what training would be needed to make the public more aware of the importance of child custody and coaching?
Danica Joan: I think more attorneys are starting to educate the public on what the process is. Because when you think about this whole thing, it’s emotion-based, it’s fear-based. If you don’t know what’s going to happen in your life, you react to it.
And I have seen a couple of attorneys out there that are actually educating people and they’re doing webinars and they’re saying, “This is what the process is and this is what you can do and you can’t do.” When you’re rooted in solid education on how the system works, you’re not likely to go off the rails emotionally and do something that would have the other person feel betrayed and feel like you’re their enemy.
A lot of times these things go on for years and years and years. And of course, the whole family suffers not only financially, but the child’s whole childhood is traumatized from what they’ve been drug through. Yeah, custody coaching, I’m a big proponent of custody/divorce coaching when going through this.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Yeah, I agree. I think coaching is an awesome way to help people through situations of all types, including child custody. So does every person possess the skills to create and execute good parenting after a divorce?
Danica Joan: Everybody has a different level of their abilities and everything. But in regards to parenting, you really have to look at how were they a parent in the intact family. It’s not fair that a parent decide to completely marginalize the other parent when before everything broke up, they didn’t have a problem with the child being with the parent before. And those are little hints that somebody’s playing dirty. If you’re suddenly changing the game and you’re going to try to marginalize that other parent and I think the legal profession should look at that as a red flag.
Children are not a marital asset. They’re not a possession to be carved up. Sometimes parents think that because their spouse, in their terms, was abusive to them and then, of course, that’s also interpretation, whether it’s physically or mentally or whatever. Just because they were abusive to the spouse, does not mean that they’re going to be abusive to the child.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Good point. Very good point. So how do you ensure co-parents work together for the best interest of the child?
Danica Joan: I think that we’ve been trying to deal with that for a long time to try to get a parent who is toxic, who doesn’t want to work with the other parent. It takes something. Like, I always say that you don’t necessarily need an attorney to get in a, a divorce however, it can be a good thing. If you get a highly litigative attorney in on a low-conflict divorce situation, that attorney could create a whole toxic environment between the two parties. However, if you’re already dealing with a high-conflict situation, sometimes you need that attorney to stick up for the one that’s getting bullied by the other parent. So they do have their place.
I think a lot of it is support systems. Like what we’ve been trying to do with Kids Need Both is we’re creating this whole platform called Hope For Families. And its whole purpose is to cause the effective leadership of these professionals who are dealing with high-conflict families, whether they’re mediators, mental health counselors, legal professionals, and educators. We’re creating an environment so that they can develop themselves as professionals and get them paired up with our parent users on the platform.
A lot of times I get asked, “Do you know an attorney in Orlando? Do you know a mental health counselor?” And I would say, “I might know a few people.” But the goal of this platform is to fully vet these professionals and basically vet the ones that we feel are fighting for the family and they’re not just fighting for their own bank account.
So yeah, we’re creating a platform where it also has coaching groups and things like that. Because I always tell parents if they’re struggling, don’t isolate yourself, get yourself plugged into a support group or something.
If you can hire a coach, that’s even better. But you’ve got to have a quality group of people who are not going to just validate your view of things, they’re going to sit there and say, “Have you thought about it this way? What good things can you say about your ex?” Because if you sit there and talk to family and friends, they’re just going to validate your view. That’s not necessarily a healthy thing.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. I love what you said about trying to find a supportive network. You’re trying to find maybe coaching. And so in addition to that, what are some resources that you have used or provided in the past to help individuals just become more aware of the importance of child custody coaching?
Danica Joan: One of the things I do is I do Facebook Live most every week. I’ve, I’ve put it on hiatus right now while I’m working on building this platform. Building this platform Hope For Families, the goal is to provide those resources, to guide these families before they go off the rails, give them the hope that they need. Because they may not need that expensive attorney, they might want to go mediation center divorce. As long as we educate.
If you’ve never been married, it’s not even going to be on your radar to learn about mediation and custody coaching and stuff like that. It’s only important when you need it. So we’re trying to take these people who are in the midst of an emotional situation, maybe even in survival mode, and try to quickly get them pushed into the right direction.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Danica, that is wonderful. So as we close, I just want to thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your perspective on this issue. And thanks again for joining me today for this podcast.
Danica Joan: Thank you, Kandis, I appreciate the invitation. I really do.
Dr. Kandis Wyatt: Wonderful. And also, thank you to our listeners for joining us. As a reminder, you can learn more about these topics by signing up for the newsletter. So until our next podcast, be well and be safe.