Friday, April 22, 2011

Crackheads, strippers and ex-cons

And other characters in family court's High Conflict Resolution class

The teacher talked about herself for about an hour. How she’s worked for the county’s family court system for 17 years. How she’s survived the budget cuts. How she’s witnessed the elimination of some family court services and the reduction in staff. 

Then she went back to talking about her qualifications, justifying herself to the room. It wasn’t like anyone in attendance was going to challenge her credentials. It certainly wasn’t going to be the guy next to me with the tattooed neck who reeked of cheap cologne and could barely keep his eyes open.

Welcome to the court-ordered High Conflict Resolution class!  


So how did I get here? Well, I can thank my ex for that. In fact, the judge said so.

During our last child custody hearing, my ex picked a fight with me while I was on the witness stand giving testimony. His booming voice, yelling accusations at me, immediately took me back to the angry house.

Like a scene out of a Law & Order episode, the judge swiftly let loose his gavel, demanding order in the court. “I can see why your wife, soon-to-be ex-wife, wants to divorce you,” he told my ex.

After my ex picked a fight with my attorney (just a few minutes later), the judge ordered my ex to attend the High Conflict Resolution class. He then looked at me and said, “You can thank you ex for this because you have to go, too. I can’t send one and not the other.”  


Now here I was on this Thursday morning, wasting half of a personal day.

Far more interesting than the class, or the teacher and her credentials, were the characters in attendance. By characters, I mean crackheads, strippers and ex-cons. I was sure the woman in front of me was all three. I’ll call her “Blondie.”

When the discussion turned to “it’s not always the fathers who cause the conflict,” every man in the room instantly bonded. It was the first time I’d seen homeys and hillbillies unite.  

Let’s go back to Blondie for a minute...

When she finally arrived to class (20 minutes late), she immediately took off her shoes and began to pick her toes. When she was done with her toes, she rummaged through her big purse. Thirty minutes later, she pulled out a large brush then used it to brush her hair for about 15 minutes.  

She then put her hair in a ponytail. Then she took her ponytail down. Then she put it in a clippy. Then she put it back in a ponytail.  

Meanwhile, the teacher cited several real child custody cases that she had worked on over the years. Some were cases where one or both parents were on drugs, mostly crystal meth.

Every time the teacher said the words “crystal meth” Blondie’s ears perked up. She stopped fidgeting. She was suddenly attentive. Her eyes lit up as if she was half-expecting the teacher to pass the pipe.

Then there was the guy with a limp and a bad back. Let’s call him “Homey.”

I saw Homey limp as he walked in. Had I not witnessed the limp, I would have found out anyway because he announced to everyone that he’d been shot in the foot (thus the limp) and that he also had a bad back. He didn’t explain the bad back, but sitting down was so painful for him that he chose to stand for the entire four and a half hour class.  

He also refused to remove his sunglasses, referred to his ex as “the bitch” and incorrectly used the words alienate and alienation about half a dozen times. (“It’s not like I’m an alienate. I was born here.”)

I forgot to mention the two Japanese women. They were observing the class because somewhere back in Japan they’re considering implementing this class in Japanese family court. 

The Japanese women asked if each one of us could briefly explain our case. In other words... How did we get here?

This is where things got juicy…

Blondie had been married to a pilot. She accused him of being a cocaine addict (no comment) and bedding a different flight attendant every weekend.

Sally the Homemaker (not her real name, I’m sure) said her husband had left her for the nanny. At one point, she said something about how hard it was to find a good nanny. This prompted the teacher to say, in a very scolding manner, “I would strongly advise against hiring anymore nannies.” I found this extremely hilarious. I confess, I snorted!

Hank the Hillbilly said he’d only hit his ex once. Oddly enough, he took a moment to say he was thankful to his ex for waiting for him “that one time” when he was locked up.  

The (former) Trophy Wife said her ex uses money to push her buttons. The entire class simultaneously rolled their eyes.

The Vegan said the main conflict with her ex was that he treats the boys to a Happy Meal every once in a while.

But my heart went out to Marcie. I call her Marcie because she looked like Peppermint Patty’s best friend from the comic strip, Peanuts. Marcie said her ex had (allegedly) physically abused her son his entire life. Her son is 3.

Me? I just shook my head, meaning “I pass.” But the teacher asked me to reconsider for the sake of our Japanese guests. Yet all I could mumble was, “It’s complicated.”



  1. In my point of view about breaking up with your boyfriend/girlfriend and to get him/her back are two: First, you still have a chance to get him/her back once the break up was made by arguments, misunderstanding and a sort of things that he/she might felt irritated with. If this is the cause then there would be 60%-90% of chance that this broken relationship might still be arranged. Second, if the cause of the breaking up was by agreement like this relationship has no more chance to go through and its like its not growing anymore because both of you didnt feel love at all (its another topic about how to strengthen relationship) So its made by the couple so I guess no more relationship to be arranged and its all over! This is just my opinion.

  2. What a colossal waste of time, but it did make for a funny post! I'm sure one of these classes is in my future...

  3. I'm assuming your STBX wasn't there at the same time?!!?? THAT would have been something, too. The good news is you got something out it -- great writing material. The bad news is that it was worthless, just like so much else when it comes to dealing with angry, uncontrollable, ex-spouses.

  4. No, my STBX was not there. Exes aren't allowed to attend together so the court assigns a different class date to each party. Thank goodness!

    Each time one of these characters opened their mouth, I just shook my head and, in some cases, gasped.

  5. In theory, I think it is good that the courts want to help mitigate conflict between ex spouses, but unfortunately, no one really learns anything they are not ready to hear.

  6. Oh dear... I'm sorry to hear this. I hope some day you can look back at this and laugh your ass off.

    If it's any consolation, it did seem like the judge favored you over the ex...

  7. Colorado has a mandatory parenting class for ALL divorcing couples. I did go and it really was a complete waste of time - I don't think I learned anything of value and yes, the therapist that led that class also gave a spiel about how qualified he was.

  8. Wow, mandatory! Well, there's a steady revenue stream for the state. The class was $100! It was very basic, common sense stuff. Don't argue in front of the kids (duh!). Don't threaten or harass your ex (double duh!). I've learned more about handling conflict with my ex in therapy. Yes, it was way more than $100 but worth it.