Ending a marriage is an extremely emotional and tumultuous time. Grievances are aired, memories are mourned, and often people believe it is the time for vindication. As a family law attorney, while we listen to the recounting and are here as your advocated, it is impossible for us to know every detail of the history of your marriage which led to your very difficult decision to obtain a divorce. You may have every right to be angry, and your decision to use the divorce proceedings as your last chance to seek some form of revenge may be well justified. That is a very personal choice. A choice that we cannot and will not make for our clients. And if it is a matter of principal that causes you to fight tooth and nail for the Lazy Boy your husband loves to watch football in every Sunday or the set of dishes your wife loves to use when you have company, we will advise against it and try to keep you on track for more substantive issues. We also point out alternatives such as the reality that buying ten new lazy boys or sets of dishes would be less costly than the fees and aggravation involved in fighting for them. That said, we do represent your interests. We try to empathize, but we do not know the hurt you are trying to heal. We will try to keep you on the right path.
What we will not do, however, is assist you in using your children as pawns during the divorce. We will not let you use them as a negotiation tactic to obtain a better financial settlement, nor limit their time with the other parent when you nevertheless think it would be in the best interest of your child to be with the other parent, in an effort to hurt your spouse. Bad husbands and bad wives are not necessarily bad dads and bad moms. What we do as divorce attorneys is difficult. One of the things that helps us to sleep at night is commitment to getting your children through your divorce with as little damage as possible.
I believe my personal commitment to the children involved comes from my own experience with divorce. I can clearly remember sitting in a Judge’s chambers (at that time just a big scary room) at the age of five and having the Judge turn to me and say, “So, who do you want to live with? Your mom or your dad?” I froze. Oh, did I mention that my mother and father were in the room with me? They waited with bated breath for my answer. I wanted desperately not to hurt either one of them so I mumbled, “I don’t know.” The Judge ruled that I would live with my mother four days a week and with my father three days a week.
I don’t remember any of the amazing birthday parties my parents threw for me. I don’t remember the names of any of my favorite teachers from grade school. I don’t remember my excitement on the day I got any of our beloved pets growing up. But I will tell you – I remember the dress I was wearing, the color of the bows my mother had put in my hair, and the look on my mother’s face when I mumbled my answer that day. I will always remember those things. I believe that’s why I feel it is my duty as an ethical attorney to try to help you from making those same memories for your own children.
I was lucky – my parents didn’t put me in the middle of their divorce. Unfortunately, the judge did. In fact, my parents went as far as getting back together to shield me from the negative effects of a divorce even though it wasn’t the best decision for them. That’s an example of the kind of love for a child you only understand when you have your own – the love that makes you instinctually throw your arm out to shield your child when you brake to fast in the car. The law does it’s best to protect children these days from situations like the one I faced at the age of five, but there is still plenty of room to throw your children into the middle of your divorce. I always hope my client’s instinct is to shield his or her child during a divorce.
Divorce is difficult enough for you. Don’t make it difficult for your children. Allow them only the good memories. Allow them to plan their weddings worrying about whether they will remember all the steps to their first dance instead of worrying about whether or not mom and dad are going to be able to be civil to one another. Take the road less traveled.© Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, PA, 2013. All rights reserved.