Child Custody Book Review
Win Your Child Custody War
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5 out of 5 stars A singular achievement and an amazing resource, January 24, 2003
Top 50 Amazon Reviewer: Dennis Littrell from SoCal
Charlotte Hardwick's use of the military metaphor throughout (including a photo of a child in a Marine Corps dress uniform on the cover) is in recognition of two salient facts about custody disputes: they can be psychologically as brutal as war; and the stakes can be extremely high. Yet, as Hardwick details and documents, negotiations are possible, and if the welfare of the child has the highest priority, both sides can win.
I would advise you, however, NOT to go into court without having first read this remarkable book. Over the course of 672 doubled-columned pages, Hardwick shares her personal experience and her painfully accumulated knowledge on just about every conceivable aspect of the child custody wars while guiding the reader toward a powerful strategy. If you don't have this book you are likely to be overmatched; indeed if your attorney doesn't have this book, he or she is likely to be overmatched. In fact, I would say that the first thing you should do after reading the book yourself, is buy a copy for your attorney and somehow persuade him or her to open the pages and to start reading--anywhere in the book. I promise you your attorney will learn facts, ideas, strategies new to him or her. The expanse and depth of the material presented here quite frankly amazed me. This extensive tome constitutes an entire course not only in child custody disputes but in human psychology, parenting, and the law itself. Some items:
There are 91 pages citing, summarizing, quoting from, and referencing relevant cases and decisions
There is a detailed guide on how to negotiate and what conflict resolution is all about; a chapter on how to handle discovery and depositions; another on judges, what to expect from them and how you might get a good one or avoid a bad one; there's guidance on what to expect in court and how to present yourself and your case; how to select an attorney; what your case is likely to cost and how to discover the assets of your adversaries, including (this floored me) hidden assets such as "Overpayments to the IRS" . You will learn about how much you can expect to pay or receive in child support, and again how to gauge assets, including hidden income such as "excessive deductions on paychecks" --a nice dodge which amounts to loaning Uncle Sam the money until tax time!
You will also:
--Discover how to handle psychologists and other "evaluators" and influence them
to your advantage. For example beware of the "halo effect." (Have your side
evaluated by the psychologist first to secure that effect.)
--Understand what psychological tests can be given and what they can mean in the
dispute. Sometimes the judge makes the court-ordered decision of a professional
binding, so that "you have in fact a new judge."
--Appreciate the role of other experts, what they can and cannot do to further your case, and how to evaluate and get a reliable expert who will make an effective witness.
--Learn the value of keeping a detailed log of everything pertaining to your case and its possible use as documentation. Hardwick presents this with some tips on how e-mail and computer files can come back to haunt you if you share the wrong information, even anonymously or through the assumption of an Internet moniker.
--Become knowledgeable about lie detectors and their use and misuse and the reach of DNA testing.
--Know which problems or accusations are issues and which are non-issues in the
eyes of the law. For example, child endangerment is an issue; a "blended" family
is not. Physical abuse is an issue; false accusations may or may not be.
--Be introduced to the infamous Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in which one
parent tries to alienate the child from the other parent through lies and
distortions. PAS includes "The Grand Lie" in which one side falsely
accuses the other of child sexual abuse, a charge that is hard to become
completely free of, regardless of the truth of the accusation.
Hardwick even includes some humor with eleven ways on how to know "You've Been
in Court Too Long" from Dean Hughson. If this isn't enough there is a
presentation of ingrained psychological strategies that you might use or
encounter such as the famous "Tit for Tat" from game theory or the sneaky
"Tranquilizer" who lulls you to inattention and then takes advantage.
There is a Glossary of Terms and a detailed Index as well as a lot information on resources throughout including Internet. There's even a chapter on lies and how to correct them (should you be the liar!).
The mass of information and the sharp, sound guidance contained herein really amount to a post graduate course in child custody disputes. Even so I was almost as much impressed with Hardwick's assertive, no-nonsense writing style and organization that managed to painlessly inform while emphasizing a positive approach. Her philosophy is perhaps best expressed in this quote:
"In truth, if custody is solely decided on what is best for the children, there can be no loser."
5 stars Robert Morris Dallas, Texas
Amazon.com Top 10 Reviewer March 31, 2002
At the outset, I wish to say that I am personally offended by the illustration on this book's cover of a child dressed as a U.S. Marine. That said, I realize that for many involved in a child custody dispute, it may seem like a "war" to them. Charlotte Hardwick offers to them an abundance of practical advice as to how to formulate and then implement strategies which will help them to achieve their objectives. Almost daily it seems, the media inform us of violence which results in the deaths of estranged or divorced parents; worse yet, the deaths of their children. These are indeed tragedies. Less publicized (if at all) are child custody disputes in which one parent is better prepared than the other for obtain a court ruling favorable to her or him. (Many of murder/suicides occur after such a court ruling, despite a restraining order and other prudent precautions.) I highly recommend this book to any parent who either anticipates a child custody dispute or has become involved in one; also to grandparents and other relatives of the principals involved in such a dispute; also, to others who could become involved, such as clergy, law enforcement officials, social workers, school administrators, teachers, coaches, and even attorneys who do not specialize in child custody law. One of the greatest values of this book is that it identifies what seem to be all of the options to consider. Another is that Hardwick helps her reader to sort through those options
in order to select those which are most appropriate. Once such selection has been made, Hardwick then answers the inevitable question "What now?" To the best of my knowledge, there is no other single volume which offers anywhere near as much information nor one which presents its often complicated material as clearly.
We have a large family and, thus far, have had no personal experience with a child custody case. However, over the years, several friends of our family have found themselves involved in one. Other than taking the obvious step of obtaining legal counsel, they really had no idea what to do...and not do. Hardwick wrote this book for them as well as for all others who are ill-prepared and emotionally preoccupied. Not all child custody disputes resemble "war" but all of them do have profoundly serious implications and consequences. Hence the incalculable value of Hardwick's assistance when attempting to know what they are, to understand them, and then to proceed.
5 stars WordWeaving.com
Senior Editor 01 January 2002
An incredible resource -- Very highly recommended
Choosing to give my ex-husband custody of our very young children was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. Later battles for visitation rights and custody have been the most painful events of my life. I have endured restraining orders based on lies, long distance visitation, and the psychological devastation of being separated from my children. My case went to the worst of extremes when my lawyer resigned my case in order to testify on my behalf in court. Because of the injustice of the handling of the restraining order, my case was used as the example that changed a school's non-custodial parent pickup policy. Along the way, I made many of the mistakes common to parents in my situation and learned many lessons the hard way. I wish I had WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR when I began those battles; the information, advice and warnings would have made the battle far easier.
WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR provides the legal details and information an informed parent needs before and after hiring a lawyer, detective, or even a psychologist. WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR sets realistic expectations, includes straight talk with no mollycoddling, and lots of sound advice. Logs, affidavits, and home studies are covered with meticulous detail and with sound examples. As the author cautions, however, readers also need to follow the advice of their lawyer over the book. For example, in the extreme case of a parent who does not want to visit the child and would stop harassment if not required to pay child support, the author suggests: "You could get counseling, legal assistance or return the money the court sends you each month from the other parent." I know from personal experience that you could return the parent's money in the state of AR. In the state of GA, the money isn't yours, it belongs to your children, and you are required by law to accept the money, just as the non-custodial parent is required by law to pay. No exceptions.
Encouragement and common sense are also included in the WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR. Some battles are better walked away from, especially when the battle becomes a matter of winning and not necessarily in the child's best interest. WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR forces readers to carefully examine their own motives, behaviors and attitudes. It also warns of the pitfalls many parents fall into, and provides tips for how to avoid them. As I turned the pages, revisiting my own battles, challenges and mistakes, I couldn't help thinking of the emotional pain this book could have saved me. Simple things like plan an activity for when you return the children to their custodial parent would have been useful advice from the beginning of my battle. In addition, WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR is very sensitive to the issues non-custodial mothers face, especially considering the harsh judgment society
places on women without custody.
This is the most personal review I have ever written, but given the nature of the book, I feel compelled to offer personal confirmation of the value of WIN YOUR CHILD CUSTODY WAR. Surprisingly, I also found a lot of self-forgiveness as I read this book. As I revisited old wounds and previously second-guessed decisions, I found confirmation of my own good decision-making, giving the book a remarkably positive spin for this battle weary, but successful warrior. Very highly recommended.
5 stars Internet Bookwatch
Volume 11, Number 12 December 2001
A disclaimer at the beginning of Win Your Child Custody War warns, along with numerous other cautions, that "No reader should act on the basis of any information contained in this manual or provided through the listings from this manual without seeking appropriate legal advice from an attorney." With that sobering caveat in mind, Win Your Child Custody War is a comprehensive, exhaustive legal reference, written specifically to help parents embroiled in a custody case know exactly what their options are and the different things they can do to best pursue those options. From logs as documentation to how to deal with lies, perjury, panic situations, allegations of physical or sexual abuse, and the costs of court and child support, Win Your Child Custody War leaves no issue unexamined. For ease of comprehension, most situations are presented in mini-anecdotal format, restated in an unambiguous "What This Means" sentence or two, and a "Reasonable Action" is clearly presented for immediate consideration. Win Your Child Custody War is more than a reference; it is a singularly fascinating study of all the human behavioral ills that can accompany divorce and child custody proceedings. Furthermore, Win Your Child Custody War should be required reading cover to cover for any parent involved in a child custody dispute. While it absolutely cannot take the place of an attorney, it will unquestionably help the reader understand what he or she can do with or expect from the court system before the attorney starts the clock on charging a pricey hourly rate.
5 stars Michele Hernandez [Top 50 Amazon.com Reviewer] October 30, 2001 from Deerfield Beach, FL USA
Everything you could ever think of ...
I was amazed at first that this book was written by a non-professional, but after reading it, I can see that the author went through much of this stuff personally and learned a great deal. Lawyers only tell you so much, but this book examines the issues from various sides. It is VERY comprehensive. You can read it cover to cover (it's very absorbing) or use the
excellent indices to find almost any topic you need to know. Some of the material (like the detective reports) is fascinating. There is a ton of helpful advice. The only problem with the book is that it's SO big that it can seem overwhelming until you realize that you don't have to read everything, just what's relevant. I like the fact that the author emphasizes that you should do everything NOT to fight in order to protect your kids. Many feel a custody battle is about who wins and who loses, but the biggest losers tend to be the children.
4 stars Cautionary Directions for World War III-Type Combat, November 12, 2001
Donald Wayne Mitchell [Top 10 Reviewer for Amazon.com
If you think that using the courts to get a better custody deal is an easy, simple, inexpensive path, this is also the right book for you. It will hopefully present you with the reality of what you will go through and encourage you to seek a simpler solution.
Child custody battles are usually about the emotions of the adults, and reflect the child's interest as an excuse to "punish" the other adult. In chapter 13, there's some helpful material about how to minimize the negative impact on children during divorces and changing custody relationships.
Most women going through a divorce of separation hit some situation that scares them almost to death (such as you go to pick up your child, and find an empty house with all the furniture removed). These issues are dealt with very well in chapter 15.
Chapter 16 does a fine job with how to deal with various kinds of child abuse, false allegations of child abuse, and actual cases of kidnapping.
The author has been through much of this, so you're dealing with someone who knows the ropes. However, remember that this is a resource guide. The chances are very good that you will never come up against 95 percent of what is described here. Also, you don't really have to know the roles of the various courts (up to the Supreme Court) as they are outlined here.
Ms. Hardwick consistently encourages you to settle peaceably and quickly, whenever possible. That's good advice. This book would have been a lot more valuable, however, if it had dealt with custody issues from the perspective of what most people will go through rather than the relative few who will face drug-dealing, fly-by-night, ex-cons during the custody battle. If your former spouse or lover is a person of good character and has moral habits, you will eventually settle this issue by having the two of you sit down without any lawyers around and calmly talk it over. Many people don't want to do that, and create lots of problems for their children while wasting tens of thousands of dollars in the process that are badly needed for some other purpose.
Although this book will teach you how to run a very effective child custody law suit, my advice is to avoid doing that if at all possible.
Think of the children's interests first, second, and third . . . even when you are looking out for their interests!
Donald Mitchell, co-author of The 2,000 Percent Solution and The Irresistible Growth Enterprise
Jim Anderson, for 'INFOCUS" (Mr. Anderson is the sysop for the DiVorce Source
BBS which features a wealth of legal resources primarily for Utah. The system contains
standardized legal pleadings (boiler plates), actual pleadings, court rulings, opinions on
family matters, articles, learned essays, and sources for further research).
The Official Newsletter of FOCUS: Children and The Other Parent, Parents
Organization Salt Lake City, Utah.
As I sit to write this review, I can't decide whether to characterize this book as the
20th Century response to Sun-Tzu's "The Art of War", or as an indispensable
Bible for the modern divorcing parent. I suppose either, or both, would be appropriate.
Even then, I can't even begin to describe this how-to manual whose table of contents alone
covers ten pages, except in the most general terms. Indeed, I thought of offering that
table of contents AS my review!
After many years of personal experience and study on divorce and related issues, I'd
thought that there wasn't much that I didn't know about divorce. This book showed me some
nooks and crannies that I hadn't even been aware of, let alone explored. When Ms Hardwick
asked if I had any suggestions for additions, I came up with one very small and obscure
one. But surprise she'd already had that slated for the next edition!
The detail in this book is superb, yet it is written in language easily understood by
the laymen. And it covers the entire route beginning with preparing yourself emotionally
and psychologically, throughout the depths of strategies, tactics, and counter-mover.
Despite the book's intentionally startling title and its pervasive analogy to military
matters, Ms Hardwick is no advocate of waging such wars when not absolutely necessary.
Indeed, her concept of victory is the cessation of hostilities with, if not a mutually
agreeable situation, at least the fairest and most equitable one possible. She reminds
throughout that, despite the heat and emotion of battle, we must always
own interests to those of the children.
If all this sounds like a raving review of Ms Hardwick and her volume, it most
definitely is. I am astonished at the breath and detail she has afforded here. It was a
magnificent undertaking on her part. This is most definitely four-star material.
While not cheap, it should be considered that this book contains more information than
any other ten books on divorce put together! And when you consider the impact that such
valuable information can have on the lives of your children, this is a modest investment
indeed. I highly recommend the Win Your Child Custody War manual.
This review was written for FREE Thoughts of Fathers' Rights and Equality Exchange
(F.R.E.E.) San Diego, CA by Bret Wellman and reprinted (with permission) in the Family Guardian Journal
War is Hell!
Anybody who has been through the turmoil that is a custody battle can attest to
the fact that it often seems like all-out total war. The combatants command phalanxes of
lawyers, detectives and psychologists to win the spoils of victory, only to have their own
resources squandered away in the Pyrrhic victory or devastating defeat. Hardwick has taken
this analogy to heart in her book, Win Your Child Custody War.
This analogy, however, is carried to extreme with an unfortunate choice of
cover art. The book's cover sports a photo of a bright-eyed tot in U.S. Marine Corps
blues, carrying the implied message that children are active soldiers in your custody war.
The book, however, lays to rest this mistaken perception. The child is most often cast not
in the roll of eager recruit, but of bewildered refugee in such wars To bring this: point
home, the author has devoted a full chapter to the child's point of view.
In fact, the author, a scarred veteran of a custody war, recommends the
negotiated peace as the solution yielding the most benefits to the most parties. In this
sense, custody battles are true to the analogy, that is, both types of war are best
avoided. Precious little useful information is offered her on the avoidance of war,
though, and the peace-loving reader is left searching the voluminous bibliography for
Often, the best road to peace, though, is to prepare for war. The book then
goes on to relate the pre-war tensions and give concrete examples of how to deal with them
effectively while building your defenses. It covers the stages of war up to and through
the court battle and the reconstruction that must follow.
The cast of characters is all between the covers, the field marshal (you), the
general (your attorney) assorted mercenaries (detectives, expert witnesses), the
battlefields (your home, court), mines (slips of the tongue and outright lies), artillery,
(accusations), traitors (well-meaning but misguided friends and relatives), the objective
(your children's best interest) and the enemy (your child's other parent). Even the
equipment you will need to wage war, cameras, answering machines, fax and word processors
Within these pages the various scenarios play themselves out, from the
negotiated settlement to the full nuclear exchange. Win Your Child Custody War,
is not simply an entertaining allegory of war and peace, however. It bulges with
strategic techniques on the handling of the players (including you) in your
ordeal of battle. Whether you chose to wage total war or restrict your
belligerence to judicious saber-rattling, there are a wealth of useful tips and
resources to be found here.
The author's pointers on keeping a personal log are especially detailed and
useful. This log is probably a parent's best weapon in a child custody war. No single
proven incident of neglect or poor parenting skills short of those ending in serious
injury to the child is ever likely to prove a parent unfit. A pattern of such behavior, on
the other hand, can easily do just that. A coding system given here also helps find log
entries that point out such problems as lies, abuse, dirty conditions observed and the
The author provides copious examples of professional reports from the various
troops under your command, and explanations on interpreting their real meaning. Checklists
and blank forms help you, the prospective commander, formulate and stick to the best
tactical strategy for you own custodial conflagration. Each of these forms in meant to
help you get the most out of the various combatants (and even some neutrals) in your child
The examples form a coherent picture of a hypothetical custody battle as told
from the perspective of Randall, who has fathered a child following an affair with Amber,
a rather trampy woman with little to recommend her as a parent, except, perhaps, for the
proper plumbing (which she appears to use to excess). The author uses the custody war
between Randall and amber to accentuate the points made in the text and to bring them to
Included in the appendices are your sources of a wealth of intelligence: a
summary of the custody laws in the fifty states, a tutorial on how to read legal
documents, and names and addresses of places to find help in your campaign.
After the war, comes the peace. Building a life in this period of
reconstruction includes a healing process requiring rapprochement with your former
adversary. The closing chapter gives hints on how to push aside the rubble of your battle
and get on with your life. Here the book directs the reader to other resources in the
bibliography and appendix.
There are many more helpful books on making peace and recovering from defeats
than this one, but if you are thrust into war,
Make no mistake
about it; you need this book.
Win Your Child Custody War
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