Claudia S. Haltom is the author of the new book The Single Parent Referee Workbook. An attorney and judge for more than 30 years, she sat on the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court bench for 17 years. She is the CEO of A Step Ahead Foundation, Inc., based in Memphis, which offers long-acting reversible contraception to area women.
Q: How did your work as a judicial referee cause you to write this book?
A: My career as a lawyer and particularly my years as a judicial referee gave me the inspiration to write this book. So many real cases led to bits and pieces of the stories in the book. But, the mistakes people made both in court and in their lives gave me the ideas for each and every chapter.
Q: You write, "This is NOT a Revenge for Dummies book." What approach should parents be taking, and how do you feel your book can help them?
A: My favorite quote from an unknown source is, "The best revenge is living well." So many people want to get even or get revenge for the way they have been treated. They think that hurting the other person will help.
However, I want them to know that getting revenge is more damaging and more harmful to him or herself on so many levels. Trying to be the best person and have a successful life is what will lead to positive outcomes. Living a life full of anger and resentment is like drinking poison and believing someone else will get sick.
Q: What is the best way to try to resolve communication problems among family members?
A: I believe that email is the greatest invention in the world for communicating carefully, thoughtfully, slowly and accurately.
Thus, I recommend that when families are having serious communication problems, they should write draft emails, let it sit or run it by some uninvolved third party. Then, you can document what you said and how you said it.
You can try to add humor carefully, and you can include pictures. Sending pleasant pictures of children/grandchildren/events is a good way to stay connected without talking too much. Sending a text or email picture every few days can be a pleasant, non-engaging way of staying connected. Most communication problems have to run their course, provided the parties do not continue fueling the arguments.
Q: You advocate "faking it" when it comes to attitude. How does that help?
A: In front of the kids, it is important for parents to act like grown ups. That means no ugly scenes, no snide sarcasm and no
mean-spirited comments. When that is NOT what you feel, then that is faking it. It might not be as fulfilling as a good cussing out
can be, but it is pure class and it shows your child how to act.
When you are not in front of the kids, there should be no "attitude" because there should be no verbal engagement. Avoidance is the best approach. Try to avoid being around the other parent.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on animal custody and legal issues. It is going to be funny and real. Lots of couples who split up want to fight over the dog.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: It is a real setback when someone going through domestic drama or a separation/divorce gets pregnant. Unintended pregnancy under these circumstances causes more unhappiness and negative outcome than most people can fathom. This doesn't even begin to address the way an unwanted child is treated and responds.
Thus, all women should be informed of the success and safety of
long-acting, reversible contraception. A woman who is not in a solid, positive relationship should be very, very careful about getting pregnant.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb