On October 9, 1994, the following statement appeared in a Dear Abby column.
The statement was made during a divorce hearing, by the presiding judge. A portion of the transcript was provided to the newspaper by the attorney who was present on the case, with a plea, for all parents going through divorce to heed the advice of the judge.
“No matter what you think of the other party – or what your family thinks of the other party – those children are one half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an idiot his father is, or what a fool his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child that half of him is bad.”
“That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love; it is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.”
“I sincerely hope you don’t do that to your children. Think more about your children and less of yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or they will suffer.”
Recently, that statement has been recirculated on the internet, in blogs and discussion groups.
Understandably, these sentiments have been met universally with complete agreement by those within and outside the Family Law Court System.
I would like to offer a different perspective.
No one disputes the fact that divorce is devastating and traumatic. The dream of growing old together, watching children grow, marry and happily holding the grandchildren, as portrayed in a Norman Rockwell painting, is gone now.
Instead of a happy home, the scene is replaced with the children being divided between homes, apartments, rented rooms, trailers or some other configuration, depending on finances. That dream is gone now too.
Family assets so hard fought to obtain, gone. Financial stability if they ever had it, also gone.
Attorney fees and court costs, child support and spousal support, paid now by both men and women add to the financial burden of the divorce and increases the anxiety felt by everyone involved.
To make matters worse, court closures, layoffs, and minimized hours in the courts that will remain open are going to delay, drag out, prolong, and make more expensive and difficult, the entire process.
Already court spokespersons have began to say that it will take up to five years before new filings will be heard. This will compound the current problems and multiply all of the issues. Everyone knows this going in and the anticipation heightens the fear.
This information however, provides us with a key to understanding, addressing and solving the most basic and fundamental problems dealing with the divorce process and the Family Law court system of this country.
If we know parents are emotional, fearful, and devastated, in some cases traumatized, by their divorce, and we do, why, would we think, that they would be capable of prioritizing their children at such a difficult time. Alone, without assistance from the very court system entrusted with their care and welfare.
We are asking the impossible of families and we, should know it!
The responsibility is on us, to change the situation, not the parents. We need to provide a process that makes it possible for parents to prioritize their children. A process that should also allow families to avoid the devastation that is so prevalent in the current system.
To some extent twenty years ago, we use to blame victims of a violent crime, when they are unable to provide a description of the suspect, weapon, or vehicle, to police.
We have learned however, through research and study that fear, anxiety, and stress, limit and take away coping skills of the brain during traumatic events. In much the same way that fear, and stress take away the coping skills of a parent going through divorce.
This isn’t new information, but as an application to the process of Family Law it is.
Therefore, the comments of the judge better reflect what the courts and we are doing wrong in Family Law and how the courts and we are failing families and children. Rather than what parents are doing wrong.
After all, parents only do what they are allowed to do. And in Family Law, that is just about anything and everything and we all know it!
Does this mean that parents have no responsibility for their actions during divorce. Not at all.
Families don’t need less structure, less accountability, during divorce, they need more! More structure, more accountability. This is necessary so that families can stabilize, during what will surely be one of the most crucial and difficult periods of their lives, theirs and their children’s.
This concludes the first installment of Custody Calculations, Calendars & Orders, Divorce Moment, An Open Letter to the Family Law Court System.
Here are just a few phrases that are part of the next installment.
No enforcement, no consequences, no nothing!
What began as an act of kindness has gone horribly wrong.
I hope that you will join us next week for the second installment of Divorce Moment, An Open Letter to the Family Law Court System. Thank you.
To learn more about Custody Calculations, Calendars & Orders, visit us on our web site, CustodyCalculations.com or contact our hot line at 702-675-5120 for coaching services, or seminars, Custody Calculations Divorce Boot Camp at 702-467-6251. Media inquiries 702-379-1590.