During Your Family Law Conflict, Your Children Matter the Most
Hopefully these powerful words place your family law conflict into perspective.
CONTEST ON/JTS: Contest winners and rules are at the end. Check out the podcast of the Honorable Judge Jack Day’s interview on Family Law Radio (familyradio411.com) under “shows” for an in-depth conversation related to this article.
Let’s bluntly dive into what is perhaps the most important part of being a family law attorney or someone going through a family law related dispute: The children!
I do not have a lot of great legal citations or logical deductions in this article. I am simply presenting what most people already know and what most people in family law conflicts forget.
Please read the following that was written by the late Judge Michael Haas. He unfortunately passed away in 2011.
“Minnesota Judge Has 200 Blunt Words for Divorcing Parents"
By Judge Michael Haas, 2001
“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.
“No matter what you think of the other party-or what your family thinks of the other party-these 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 half of him is bad.
“That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That 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 what you are doing to their emotions.
“I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”
This is a pretty powerful statement by Judge Haas and I believe it is absolutely correct in every situation. There are some disputes related to children where both parents are good parents, but they disagree on whom the children should live with most of the time. There are other situations where one parent is a physical or emotional threat to the children. If you don’t think that children are at the center of parental conflict, then research this trivia question: How many “child calls” were received by Florida’s Department of Children and Families for the fiscal year 2010-2011? DCF does not define what is a “child call” is but I assume it means calls related to the well-being of children. The number is staggering. The answer can be found on the DCF website under “DCF Quick Facts.”
Here is a fundamental truth in my opinion: Children want to love both parents. They do not want to be messengers for one parent or soldiers for another. Children do not want to be in the middle of your conflict with the other parent.
Here is another fundamental truth in my opinion: If you are going through a divorce, paternity, or dependency case, you will likely have negative feelings towards the other parent and you may feel the need to “get the children on your side” or “tell them the truth” about the other parent. You may feel that you have an obligation to explain the court proceedings to the children. You are hurt, you are angry, and you want to protect the children.
However, these are not your children alone. Your children belong to both of you. If you are in a normal time-sharing (custody) arrangement or worse the other parent has some type of restricted time-sharing schedule, such as supervised visitation, the children do not need to know the details or your opinion. Tell your friends, your parents, or the judge, but can we agree to leave the children out of it and let them make their own decision when they get old enough?
I understand that children may ask questions that are difficult to answer without explaining the court proceeding or the disputes between you and your former partner. At these times, please consult a psychologist or licensed therapist. They can help you find the right thing to say that will reassure your child without exposing them to additional stress. But the fundamental rule remains the same: Keep your adult conflict away from the children.
So here is the contest update: All donations are made except to the animal shelter (ahrsca.org) in California. They have not listed a physical address and we don’t have a Pay Pal account. April F won the Bankruptcy trivia and has asked us to donate to Tampa Bay Cat Alliance. Kathy C won the Local Elections contest and I will donate to Manatee Red Cross on her behalf unless she instructs otherwise. At times we get thank you letters from people you donate to, and I want to say that the recent letter from the MacDonald Training Center Foundation, Inc., was well written and much appreciated.
CONTEST ON/JTS (official rules here). JT Simons, P.A., is holding a contest for you to figure out the hidden trivia question in this article. If you win, JT Simons, P.A., will donate $25 to charity. In short, figure out the hidden trivia question, send an email with the answer to JT Simons, and make sure your nonprofit is legitimate. Remember, send the answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line CONTEST ENTRY, and give me as much information as you can about the nonprofit you want the donation to go to. I need to verify it. I need your first name and the first letter of your last name.