So, sadly I was in court recently for what I hope will be my last litigation matter ever. Both clients and attorneys waited for nearly three hours because we were called last, a process that costs most clients a great deal of money for little to no effort on the part of the attorney except that I was helping my client at no cost. One more example of how divorce litigation costs can spiral out of control.
So we sat for three hours watching the other matters. One couple and their attorneys came before the judge and said they had reached an agreement on child custody and visitation where the eldest boy would live primarily with the Dad and the two younger kids would stay with the mum, but the parents lived in different towns about 2-3 hours apart.
The mom explained cogently and with heartfelt emotion why they felt this was in the best interest of the children and their family. The dad agreed. The judge, however, had other ideas and decided that she, someone who does not know this family from a hole in the ground, would supplant their thoughtful decisions with her own and rejected their agreement.
Generally, separating children is not considered an optimal solution, but there is no right answer and no perfect arrangement for every family. But, absent abuse or neglect, every family should have the right to make these decisions for themselves. This family had clearly given considerable thought to their circumstances and had good reasons for their decision. And, moreover, the parents had worked through and resolved their own conflicts, so that the children would not be subjected to the anxiety and trauma that is experienced with parental conflict over custody and visitation.
It is outrageous, in my opinion, that the opinions of a disinterested third party should supplant the thoughtful decisions of caring and committed parents. In retrospect I wish I had had the presence of mind to follow the couple out of the court room and tell them to forget the judge, to tell them that they can make their own decisions. The parents could easily have filed a judgment or an order that would have enabled them to co-parent in accordance with their family’s needs and that satisfied the court.
So, if you don’t want a black robed politician making important, intimate decisions about your life, don’t go to court- mediate, collaborate, whatever it takes, stay in charge of your life, be the master of your own destiny and make your own decisions.
Resolve conflict out of court and just say no to state interference in your personal life.
With offices throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, Collaborative divorce attorney and mediator Lorna Jaynes provides innovative legal tools to resolve many family law disputes without the bitterness and acrimony engendered by the adversarial process.