"Fighting For My Children" Follow Up: Mediation"

"Fighting For My Children" Follow Up: Mediation"

On the first show, Dr. Phil met with Linda and her ex-husband Michael to help resolve their nasty custody battle. Although Michael was not the biological father of Matthew, 16, and Irina, 13, he had been awarded custody. Linda has been fighting for seven years to reclaim her kids, and argues that since Michael is transgendered, he is not a fit parent.

After the show, Linda and Michael continue the battle. "It was a very big relief that Dr. Phil stopped Michael in his tracks because Michael doesn't get stopped," Linda says. "I get stopped."

Michael expresses his frustration. "I believe that Linda was put on the spot, being on national TV, and Linda's very hurt. Linda's very angry, and Linda's not ready to stop fighting."

Michael is remarried to Sherry, who was once Linda's best friend. "Sherry and Michael have to make it look like I'm the jealous wife, that I'm angry about Sherry and Michael's affair. I gave Michael to her so I could get out," Linda says. "Bottom line is, Michael wants my children and for me just to shut up."

Michael sees a bleak future if Linda is awarded custody. "Linda does not want to solve this in any way but taking me completely out of the children's lives," he says.

Dr. Phil arranged for Michael, Linda and their attorneys to meet with a mediator, Michael Carbo, from Mediation, Inc.

"If it was not for Dr. Phil, I would not be going into this mediation right now," Linda announces.

Michael's ready to move forward. "I just hope that we can get past everything else that's involved in this case and just do what's best for the kids," he says.

As the mediation begins, Michael's lawyer, Karen, says, "The only non-negotiable item is Michael be recognized as the legal parent."

Michael and Linda go back and forth heatedly for hours, trying to decide on a custody arrangement they both can live with. "If it's going to change and alter the way that they're going to grow up, I don't want Michael in their lives," Linda maintains. "I don't think it's beneficial for the children to change households."

The day ends without a resolution. "I think they felt somewhat rushed toward the end," explains Michael Carbo. "The last thing you want is a settlement in which the parties later want to challenge because they felt that pressure."

Dr. Phil is joined onstage by Michael, Linda and their lawyers. Turning to Michael Carbo in the audience, Dr. Phil asks, "How do you think this process went?"

"I think it went very well," he replies, "I think it's going to be successful in the end."


Addressing Linda and Michael, Dr. Phil says, "I have absolutely not one shred of doubt in my soul that you love your children and want the best for them ... What I'm hoping is that can come to the surface and push everything else out."

Linda's lawyer, Matthew, is optimistic even though no agreement was reached in mediation. "Michael and Linda were at opposite ends of the universe, the mediation brought them closer together than they've ever been before."


Michael sees progress as well. "What's important to me is that Matthew and Irina both can have fulfilled relationships with Linda and myself," he says. 

Michael's lawyer, Karen, also weighs in. "The fact that they were able to sit down and get as close as we did get and we're continuing to have conversations, I think is a testament to both Michael and Linda as well as Mike Carbo's incredible job doing all of this," she says. "I think both of these parents realize that what this is really about is the kids."

 

Dr. Phil agrees. "The kids could come out a winner here if everyone keeps the right attitude."

To Linda, Dr. Phil asks, "Do you believe that these children would be hurt or damaged if they did not have an ongoing, forward going relationship with Michael?"

"No, I do not," she says. "They want both parents in their lives. I think it's more hurt and damage now that they're not in my life than if they weren't to be in Michael's life."

Dr. Phil challenges her view. "I think if you were not in these children's lives, that would be catastrophic for these children," he tells her. "You need to do all of the things to ensure that when you're in their lives that you are healthy and positive and a constructive influence." Likewise, he argues that the children would be negatively impacted if Michael were removed from their lives. "This is the only father they have ever known, and they love him and they value him and they care for him," Dr. Phil stresses. "If you tear either parent out of the children's lives, they're going to go through a grieving process."

Dr. Frank Lawlis, who heads the Dr. Phil advisory board, has evaluated Matthew and Irina. "I want to assure the audience and the parents that they are great kids," Dr. Lawlis says. "They have an excellent psychological profile, so we're not talking about these kids that are on the edge." Both children have developed good coping skills, and have been focusing on the positives in life, like sports and school. 

 

 

Dr. Lawlis also notes that the children don't feel safe in their home. "They feel like basically they are invisible," he says. "Whatever they say is most times misrepresented by both of you in terms of this battle. They really feel like they're never heard," he tells Michael and Linda. 
 

Children of divorce have special needs. Michael and Irina are being forced to fill those needs outside of the family unit -- in school, and by turning to an influential teacher, Mrs. McCoy. Dr. Phil praises their teacher, and sends her flowers and a spa weekend in appreciation of her efforts.

 

Dr. Phil asks Dr. Lawlis: "What kind of gift would it be to these children for both of these parents to step up and say, 'This family needs a hero and I'm stopping this right now. I'm going to find some common ground. We're going to stop this, and we're going to go back to these children as co-allies in a unified front ... We want to start rebuilding this family'? What would that mean to these children?"

"I think it would mean everything because, basically, they want to feel heard, seen. They want to have a sense of their place in this world," Dr. Lawlis says. "They need a place where they can talk in safe way, where they don't feel like anything they say is going to be used against them or against one of their parents."

Dr. Phil urges Linda and Michael to put their interests aside for the sake of their children. "You never ever have to endorse his values, beliefs, lifestyle, transgender status in order to support him as someone that the children love and look to as a parent as a father," he tells Linda. She and Michael need to work as a team and have the same discipline, standards and predictability in both households.

Linda expresses concern about the children's stability if they must split their time between two households. "I want the children to have stable home life from Monday through Friday when they're in school. It's too much disruption, I feel as a mother," she says.

Michael agrees. "I think it's important that the children have a stable environment as well."


Dr. Phil urges Linda and Michael to view their situation as that of an extended family, such as having a room for the kids at each of their homes. "With some universal conduct creating this environment in the home, you can really minimize this for the children," Dr. Phil explains.

Turning to Michael Carbo, he asks, "Can we resume the mediation and try to resolve this before this court date comes up?"


"I offered that right from the get-go, and I hope they take advantage of it," he says.

Both Linda and Michael say they will.