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Friday, February 9, 2018




BEING “GASLIGHTED”
IN FAMILY COURT





 Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D.
© Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2018



In the famous old 1944 movie, “Gaslight”, starring Ingrid Bergman, her husband tries to make her think she is going insane, or better yet: make her mental health actually deteriorate, by manipulating the environment in subtle ways, making the wife question her sanity. He manipulates her sense of reality, denying her perceptions and falsely points out to her that she must be imagining things, or that her memory is going or that she is delusional.  This movie title became a verb over the years, as “gaslighting” became a description of manipulative behavior on the part of a spouse or partner against the other. It is not unusual to see this manifested in a relationship where one spouse is an abusive sociopath or narcissist, or both.
In Family Court, we see attempted gaslighting in a spouse who creates ambiguity or drama about things such as parenting time scheduling that were already communicated by email (“I never saw that email, you probably forgot…”) or text message (“I never received a text from you.”).  It could come in the form of blatant lies about what the other party supposedly said but didn’t, e.g. “You told me I could drop him off an hour late…”.   A sociopath or narcissist (or someone with both personality disorders) is good at manipulating other people to achieve their goals.  Those goals could be to hurt the other parent, to harm the other parent’s relationship with the child, to simply sabotage and weaken them and make them doubt themselves, etc. 
We see gaslighting frequently used by manipulative pedophiles such as we saw in the recently unveiled facts surrounding the molestation of Olympic gymnasts by the team doctor. Children are especially vulnerable to manipulation, and their sense of reality can be bent by a sociopathic sex offender who attempts to use their position of power (e.g. doctor, clergy, teacher, family member, etc.) to gratify their own needs.  Domestic violence abusers gaslight their victim by denying they were really violent, or that they really intended to harm the other, and then by buying the abused spouse flowers or jewelry, etc. Making the victim doubt their own perceptions, or making them feel sorry for the abuser (or guilty) can ultimately cause the victim to endure more abuse and ultimately become depressed with a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, low self esteem, helplessness and hopelessness. Gaslighting victims of childhood sexual abuse instills in the child much guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt, especially when the abuser is an important and otherwise respected person in that child’s life. This later manifests itself in the child having low self esteem and feeling unworthy of healthy relationships. Those who have extramarital affairs or are otherwise disloyal, are notorious for their gaslighting denials, instillation of guilt in the person being cheated on, and ongoing lying and manipulation of facts and reality to avoid being caught, telling the spouse “you are imagining things,…”.
In Court, the gaslighter lies to the Judge, insisting they did not receive the court notice, did not get served the papers, did not know of the deadline, had a family emergency, etc. Sometimes the feigned sincerity of the gaslighter even makes the Judge temporarily unsure of what really is real or not real.   Judges attempt to be fair to all parties. When the Judge is not 100% certain, he or she will tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the manipulator, which to that person is another victory, another time they “got over” on the Court.  At some point, the Court will not have any more of it and will act accordingly, but the gaslighter has been doing this for a lifetime and is adept at lying, bending reality and manipulating others.
A person, weakened by a gaslighting partner, is most likely depressed and immersed in self-doubt. A therapist potentially could help that person to regain a sense of confidence, better reality testing and self-esteem. That person would do well to keep a diary (electronic with a good password) of the interactions between them. Keeping a log of all text messages and emails, provides proof of what was said or not said. There are apps that one can get to be able to print out text messages. It is also better to do things in writing with a gaslighter, rather than to rely on verbal conversations which will later be denied or distorted.  That is not to say that verbal communication should be avoided, but after such a conversation, it is good to send a confirming email (“this is to confirm today’s conversation where you agreed to ….”).  That way, there is some documentation that can be used later in court if necessary.
It is interesting, although bizarre to others, that many people who have borderline personality disorder, who are also narcissists and/or sociopaths, actually believe the lies they feed to others. That helps them to appear more genuine and truthful—even to a Judge. If the person distorts their own reality to achieve their own needs, and they can rationalize their actions and minimize the negative qualities of those actions in their own mind, then they will be able to better convince others of that distortion.  That person being convinced of the distorted reality will pay for it with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-doubt and repeated voluntary exposure to the psychological and physical abuse they have been enduring for years.  When this compromised spouse is a parent, they often become incapable of protecting their child from the abusive parent/spouse, because of the same dynamics. The victimized spouse/parent sometimes makes excuses for the abuser, rationalizes the abusive behavior (that they know or suspect is going on), and sometimes will actually side with the abuser against their child to avoid confrontation.
When a child protective services agency gets a referral to this family, it is possible that the victimized parent could also be accused of child neglect or abuse, for allowing the other parent to do so to the child. Again, it is essential that a person who is being manipulated in a relationship have someone such as a therapist or trusted clergy or friend to speak to, so that they may obtain better reality and recommendation for taking necessary action. Avoiding the confrontation is only avoiding the inevitable, because somehow this will end up in court or in a police station.  When there are children involved, taking action becomes all the more compelling since it is a parent’s basic duty to protect their children. Protecting one’s self must take place concurrently so that the child has someone to lean on, to obtain a basic sense of security and safety.  Without that, the child will be at grave risk for all kinds of problems in later life. Being gaslighted by the abusing spouse/parent can be avoided by keeping track of reality, facts, interactions and agreements, as well as seeking help from a professional or trusted others. Going to Court with documentation that proves your position and shows the other party to have been untruthful will strengthen your position. The more documentation, the better it is for you.
Good luck, and please post a comment about your experiences.
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This blog and its contents is the intellectual property of-and are Copyrighted © by:
Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., Esq., 2018. All rights reserved.
DISCLAIMER:
Please note: Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D., is a Family Law Attorney in NJ and in NY, representing Family Law clients in Superior Court of NJ. He is also a Licensed Psychologist (NJ #1358, NY #5614, OH #7540) who has, in addition to providing general psychological services, performed forensic child custody evaluations and who has been appointed Guardian ad litem and Parent Coordinator by the NJ Superior Court, Family Division. No special skills or, expertise in either profession is implied by any reference to my being licensed as a Psychologist as well as being a licensed attorney.   The two professions are distinct and separate, with differing training and education, and they each have their respective licensing, rules of ethics and codes of professional responsibility.  Contracting with Jonathan Gordon in one profession precludes ever engaging his services in the other profession due to conflict of interest. This web site and blog are solely for general informational and educational purposes and should not be construed otherwise and should also not be taken as tax advice (for which you must consult a C.P.A.). A professional relationship is not established with Jonathan D. Gordon until a retainer agreement is signed for legal services or if a consent for treatment agreement is signed for psychological services.
Please note, since this blog is for informational purposes only. It is neither legal, tax nor psychological advice and it does not create an attorney/client or psychologist/patient relationship. If you have a question about a specific matter or issue, you should seek out an attorney or mental health expert to assist you. In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit your closest emergency room.
Call to schedule a consultation or for further information:


201-801-0455
email: jonathan@jdgordonlaw.com
Web Sites:  
www.jdgordonpsych.com

Tweet Me:  @jdgordonlaw; follow me on FaceBook


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THE RIGHT OF FIRST REFUSAL-
WHAT IS THAT?


 Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D.
© Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2017-2018


In devising a divorce or child custody settlement agreement in which parenting time is set out, there is frequently reference made to the “right of first refusal” (RFR).  Typically, that means that when one parent is not available to care for the child during their own parenting time, the other parent must first be contacted and given the option to care for the child before anyone else (e.g. babysitters, family, etc.).  When a parent is faced with that scenario, however, it is not that difficult to sabotage that provision.  For example, with young children who will probably not understand the schedule requirements, a parent could bypass the other by having a grandparent or babysitter spend a few hours babysitting, hoping that the other parent won’t find out.  When the other parent does discover the breach of this provision, however, typical excuses include:
            -“I tried to reach you but you didn’t pick up, the voice mail didn’t work, etc.”
            -“I was just going out for an hour and something unexpected delayed me”;
            -“The child begged to go next door to the neighbor’s for a few hours while I
   went to work and there was no school that day, etc.”
-“The child begged to go to grandma’s for a few hours, what’s the harm?”
-“The day care center is an exception to your right of first refusal; it is like
   school, or an extension of me, or part of my parenting style, etc.”
These are but a few examples, and each family has its own nuances and scenarios. In any event, however, it is probably easier to violate this provision than to strictly comply with it, especially when the terms are not carefully spelled out.  To comply with this requirement, good faith communication is essential.  This is most difficult when the two parties cannot communicate, cooperate, co-parent or hide their disdain for the other. Sometimes the parent with the child feels like they are losing something by giving the child over to the other parent, even for an afternoon. Heaven forbid that the other parent should get five minutes extra with the child. It feels like a defeat. This sounds irrational because it is. But it is common.
The parent receiving the child may also be contributing to some of the bad attitude that pervades their relationship.  Being smug, condescending or acting like they won and the other parent lost, can lead to a subsequent sabotage of the right of first refusal. In short, what goes around, comes around, because co-parenting is a reciprocal process that demands civility, cooperation, fairness and good faith. Without the belief (by both parents) that they are both essential for the child’s well-being, it is easy to marginalize, exclude, demean or sabotage the other parent’s time with the child, or that parent’s relationship with the child altogether.
In drafting a child custody or parenting time agreement, a right of first refusal clause may have a better chance of actually working if the conditions are set forth in such a way as to make it easier to comply with. For example, the right of first refusal could kick in only if a parent is unavailable for an entire day (e.g. more than 8 hours), or for a day that involves an overnight.  So, if one parent has to go on a business trip overnight, rather than to have the child stay at Grandma’s, the child would stay at the other parent’s residence if that parent opted-in for that night.  Not being available on a daily basis due to one of the parents working, could be addressed either by the other (if non-working) parent having the option to care for the child under this provision, or by both parents agreeing to use day care. If the child is in day care, however, and is quite young, an agreement should spell out the rights of the other parent (who does not have parenting time that day) to take the child out of the day care (e.g. to go shopping or to the doctor, to the beach, etc., with that child). Again, it is possible that the working parent who is unavailable would rather have the child in day care than to be with the other parent (who would benefit [to the chagrin of the non-benefitting parent who feels like they lost something]). The issue can be specified in much detail in the agreement to minimize ambiguity and to clearly define the parameters of the right of first refusal, among numerous other things. It does work both ways and it helps to clearly define the terms.
Situations such as those described above are a few examples of how some parents (not all) put their own emotional needs above those of their children, and throw fairness, good faith, cooperation, co-parenting, etc. out of the window.  Residual hatred, anger, and resentment can distort a person’s judgment and drive that person’s decision-making. This negativity contributes to the narcissistic tunnel vision that fuels Family Court litigation. It precludes reasonable, flexible, good-faith co-parenting, it causes anxiety and other behavioral problems in children, and costs tons of money in legal bills. In drafting a parenting time agreement, all of this should be taken into account, realistically anticipated to the extent possible, so as to minimize ambiguity and the confusion and anger that can ensue later on after the agreement is signed and in force.
The right of first refusal recognizes that in child care, both parents (if fit and capable) should take priority over all others. It requires the two parents to deal with each other cooperatively, flexibly, civilly and in good faith for the best interests of their child.  This presents for some, a crucial challenge for those who could not cooperate or be civil to each other when they were previously living together.  But here, the stakes are great, it is not about them, and their emotional needs should take a back seat to the best interests of their child. It is possible (and necessary) to compartmentalize one’s feelings in this regard, to cubby-hole the resentment and anger and keep them separate from the reality that the child needs two parents.
Good luck, and please post a comment about your experiences.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This blog and its contents is the intellectual property of-and are Copyrighted © by:
Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., Esq., 2017-2018. All rights reserved.
DISCLAIMER:
Please note: Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D., is a Family Law Attorney in NJ and in NY, representing Family Law clients in Superior Court of NJ. He is also a Licensed Psychologist (NJ #1358, NY #5614, OH #7540) who has, in addition to providing general psychological services, performed forensic child custody evaluations and who has been appointed Guardian ad litem and Parent Coordinator by the NJ Superior Court, Family Division. No special skills or, expertise in either profession is implied by any reference to my being licensed as a Psychologist as well as being a licensed attorney.   The two professions are distinct and separate, with differing training and education, and they each have their respective licensing, rules of ethics and codes of professional responsibility.  Contracting with Jonathan Gordon in one profession precludes ever engaging his services in the other profession due to conflict of interest. This web site and blog are solely for general informational purposes and should not be construed otherwise and should also not be taken as tax advice (for which you must consult a C.P.A.). A professional relationship is not established until a retainer agreement is signed for legal services or if a consent for treatment agreement is signed for psychological services.
Please note, since this blog is for informational purposes only. It is neither legal, tax nor psychological advice and it does not create an attorney/client or psychologist/patient relationship. If you have a question about a specific matter or issue, you should seek out an attorney or mental health expert to assist you. In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit your closest emergency room.
Call to schedule a consultation or for further information:
201-801-0455
email: jonathan@jdgordonlaw.com
Web Sites:  
www.jdgordonpsych.com


Tweet Me:  @jdgordonlaw; follow me on FaceBook

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

USING COMMON SENSE, OR NOT THROWING CAUTION TO THE WINDS IN PLANNING YOUR DIVORCE.


 Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D.
© Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2017-2018


So, you may be certain that you are going to initiate a divorce after the holidays are over.  In fact, you may have already secretly consulted with an attorney or did some preliminary research about the process.  Assuming you are not in an emergency situation, there are some common-sense guidelines that you should become aware of if you are not already thinking about them.
It is hard to imagine that someone with whom you have shared a bed, perhaps had children with, and spent years with, could become your enemy overnight.  Despite the fact that you may have grown apart over time, engaged in mutual avoidance or bickering, or worse, your identity is still wrapped up in living with this other person (i.e. “The Devil you know”).  You may have assumptions about how you both should comport yourselves with each other. Perhaps you assume certain ironclad, inviolable tenets of privacy, decency and rules of fair play with your partner.  If you assume, however, that any of this will necessarily apply once you announce your plan to divorce or leave, etc., then you are being na├»ve and setting yourself up for harm.
Actually, in many cases, the other party may react badly, emotionally or even violently. That violence may be physical against you, or against property—your property.  If there is violence or threat of violence, or harassment against you, then you have a cause of action for domestic violence and may obtain a restraining order. A call to the police if needed, will immediately stop the threat (at least for the time being with a temporary restraining order (TRO), until things can be sorted out in court).  Otherwise, you can file a complaint for domestic violence in the Superior Court of New Jersey. In other cases, however, there may be a more passive-aggressive response by the “jilted” party. This is where your pre-planning comes in.  Things you can reasonably do:
           
▪ Get a post office box, open up your own checking account;
▪ Make a list of your personal belongings, property, bank accounts, etc.
▪ Find a safe place out of the house in which to keep your:
Diplomas, certificates, passport, engagement ring or other personal jewelry, watches, expensive shoes, birth certificate, naturalization or citizenship papers, transcripts, your personal bank statements, will, attorney’s business card, photos, laptop, etc. You may want to park that precious antique motorcycle or your stamp collection elsewhere.
If you get a new personal safe deposit box at a bank, you will have to divulge to the Court the location and contents of this box.  You should not put marital funds or your spouse’s property in such a box. You may want to photograph what you are placing in the safe and bring a reliable, credible witness with you. At some point, this box may become frozen by the Court (upon your spouse’s motion) and you may then gain access only under supervision (e.g. your attorney and spouse’s attorney at the bank). Just keep that in mind.  Also, some examples of the things you may not do to plan your divorce:
▪ Cancel or change any insurance (health, life, auto, homeowners,
etc.). You will have to certify to the Court that you did not do
this for a 90-day period prior to the filing of the divorce
complaint. But if you maliciously wait 95 days, the Judge can
still do what he/she believes is equitable and fair for the other
party or your children who may have been severely
compromised by your actions.
▪ Cancel or change phone service (e.g. your spouse’s cell phone, or
Internet, cable, etc.; stop paying utilities, landscaping, etc.
▪ Move marital money around, empty bank accounts, hide funds,
transfer property or money from your name to that of others;  
▪ Change the marital status quo or do anything shady, sketchy,
underhanded, clandestine or harmful to the other party. The
Court will find out about it and make you restore the status
quo and it makes you look bad to the Judge. You don’t need
that. Good faith and acting fairly to the other party is important.

            Anything, however, can be agreed-upon between you and your spouse, provided you fully disclose to each other in good faith and draft some sort of written agreement that may be needed in Court later. For example, you and your spouse may agree to change the auto insurance, or change the cell phone account (to become two separate ones). You may agree to evenly divide all of your cash (checking and savings accounts).  As long as you fully divulge to each other and memorialize your agreement in a written document (notarized is best), then later you will not be criticized for wrongfully taking money from a joint account.  I would suggest, however, that before you make any agreements between yourselves, that you consult with a family law attorney. You may end up waiving something to which you would have been entitled, if you are not properly advised or cautious.  Don’t be so quick to waive alimony (if you might be qualified to receive it) or child support (which legally you cannot waive anyway).  Saying “I just want this over with” and acting impulsively can cause you more grief and regret later.
            Being open with nothing to hide is the best way to go. For example, if you had a joint checking account that had $40,000 in it, and you took $30,000 out, you will need to disclose this and pay back your spouse’s portion (the other $10,000 if ultimately it would have been an equal split). Your spouse’s car, even if titled in your name, remains your spouse’s car until the Court (or your spouse) says otherwise. Status quo must be maintained to the extent possible. You may be angry and full of hate for your spouse, but malicious behavior is not tolerated by the Court. You could end up paying your spouse’s legal fees if so.
            Having said all of this, with good faith and fairness notwithstanding, you may incur the wrath of hell from your spouse when it is clear that you are seeking a divorce or separating.  Keep in mind that all of your phone calls with your spouse may be recorded, your in-person conversations with your spouse may also be (audio or video) recorded, all of your texts and emails will be printed out and archived to use against you later, your Facebook and other social media posts will be studied and printed out to use against you later, your desktop computer or laptop that you leave around the house, will be perused, and so on. It is not unheard of for a spouse to hire a computer technician to make a copy of your hard drive when you are at work. Whatever you already posted on social media cannot be legally removed (destroying potential evidence), but you can exercise good judgment going forward by not posting anything incriminating (any more). You can change all of your personal passwords for your cell phone, your desktop (if not jointly marital) and laptop.   You cannot block your spouse from accessing a joint account. But you can ask the court to freeze your account to prevent it from being dissipated, pending final resolution of the financial issues in your divorce.
            Please do not talk about your divorce/separation with your children; don’t involve them; try to protect them as best you can, depending on their age and awareness. Do not fight with your spouse in front of the children, or say derogatory things about your spouse within ear-shot of a child. Don’t confide in your child as if your child is your confidante or worse: your therapist. Children are harmed by this reversal of roles. It is not their job to console a parent. It is hard enough for a child to get through this and to manage their own feelings. Managing a parent’s feelings as well, is too much to expect from a child.
            In short, it is best to use common sense to proceed with a divorce. Since this may be unfamiliar territory for you, and it is confusing, it would be best to consult an attorney who practices Family Law in your state.  Not only can you obtain legal advice, but you can get common sense and realistic feedback from your attorney as to the best strategies and ethical methods under which you may safely proceed.
Good luck, and please post a comment about your experiences.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This blog and its contents is the intellectual property of-and are Copyrighted © by:
Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., Esq., 2017-2018. All rights reserved.
DISCLAIMER:
Please note: Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D., is a Family Law Attorney in NJ and in NY, representing Family Law clients in Superior Court of NJ. He is also a Licensed Psychologist (NJ #1358, NY #5614, OH #7540) who has, in addition to providing general psychological services, performed forensic child custody evaluations and who has been appointed Guardian ad litem and Parent Coordinator by the NJ Superior Court, Family Division. No special skills or, expertise in either profession is implied by any reference to my being licensed as a Psychologist as well as being a licensed attorney.   The two professions are distinct and separate, with differing training and education, and they each have their respective licensing, rules of ethics and codes of professional responsibility.  Contracting with Jonathan Gordon in one profession precludes ever engaging his services in the other profession due to conflict of interest. This web site and blog are solely for general informational purposes and should not be construed otherwise and should also not be taken as tax advice (for which you must consult a C.P.A.). A professional relationship is not established until a retainer agreement is signed or if a consent for treatment agreement is signed for psychological services.
Please note, since this blog is for informational purposes only. It is neither legal, tax nor psychological advice and it does not create an attorney/client or psychologist/patient relationship. If you have a question about a specific matter or issue, you should seek out an attorney or mental health expert to assist you. In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit your closest emergency room.
Call to schedule a consultation or for further information:
201-801-0455
email: jonathan@jdgordonlaw.com
Web Sites:  
www.jdgordonpsych.com

Tweet Me:  @jdgordonlaw; follow me on FaceBook


Thursday, November 30, 2017

SEARCHING FOR THE
BLISSFUL DIVORCE?
OR, FOR JUSTICE IN FAMILY COURT?
DO THEY EXIST AT ALL?

 Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D.
© Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2017
            
Is there such a thing as a “blissful divorce”?   It may sound like an oxymoron, but in some rare instances it has been known to happen. For example, I know of a couple who went out for ice cream together when they left court, having just gotten divorced.  Just as rare is the concept of justice in Family Court since the issues are not so well-defined, nor is it always clear who did what to whom.  The concept of justice is usually more applicable in Criminal Court or perhaps in the Law Division where people sue others for negligence or breach of contract, for example. A thief who goes to jail received justice.  A victim of a tortfeasor (someone who caused an injury or loss to another for which money damages can be recovered) can receive justice in court with a money award to assuage their pain and suffering or to restore the previous status quo that existed prior to the loss.  But in family court?  What is justice and is it applicable?
            Often, a client in a divorce or child custody battle (to name a couple examples), thinks that if only the Judge could hear their story, it would be “all over” for their adversary (e.g. spouse or other parent of their child), that the Judge would be mortified, angry and punish the other party.  That is rare, however.  The issues in Family Court are typically littered with “he-said, she said” allegations, mud-slinging, character assassination, demonization and just plain lies.  Simply going before a Judge with a litany of allegations does nothing definitive for that client’s case.  There will be counter-allegations and predictable reciprocity in the mud-slinging department.  The Judge often has no idea where the truth lies, at least in the beginning since there is so much being alleged by the respective lawyers.  Typically, these allegations are verbalized in Court by an attorney.  The client has little opportunity to speak directly to the Court, except with permission if an attorney is representing them. And it is usually a bad idea for the client to speak without preparation, without the attorney’s blessing, on an impromptu basis. Things are blurted out, and it often makes things worse. A client should make sure their attorney is on the same page as them, has a passion for the arguments the client wants to be made, and is able to adequately verbalize those arguments.
            Allegations of child abuse or neglect need thorough investigation by the child protective service (CPS) of that State. In New Jersey it is called DCP&P (formerly DYFS). False allegations of abuse or neglect against the other parent is an evil thing to do to that parent and to the child. That can be considered emotional abuse or attempted parental alienation.  Real allegations and serious concerns of abuse or neglect, however, should be immediately reported and investigated. The state agency will do its work and report to the Court. The Judge will make further determinations when the information is provided to the Court in due course. That information may include written reports generated from mandatory mental health evaluations and substance abuse assessments.  It is a slow process but necessary. Who gets justice here?  In this scenario, we are talking about protection, health, parenting. Not justice. The best interests of the child are paramount.
            An angry party, for whatever reason (e.g. infidelity, rejection, financial losses, etc.) can rarely think objectively.  The other person is vilified and there is nothing that other person can do right in the eyes of the angry person.  That other party is portrayed as having no redeeming qualities, whether as a person or as a parent.  The other person is portrayed as being horrible, a sub-human, or piece of garbage in the eyes of the angry one. Being angry is rarely constructive if it is excessive or chronic.  It is actually self-defeating.  A chronically or extremely angry person litigating in Family Court often makes things worse.  It causes the Judge to take notice of the demeanor of the angry one, and to eventually realize that the allegations are very often false, simply malicious lies being told to the Court.  That makes a Judge angry. Judges don’t like being lied to, especially when it effects children and their relationship with either parent.
            Honestly, the Judge does not care much about the personal hurts that the parties carry around with them. The Court cannot afford to be distracted by the back-and-forth allegations by the parties, especially when the best interests of children are at stake. The Judge is interested in facts with proof, and then the court applies the facts—once they are ascertained—to the Law.  Family Court Judges also have discretion to do what they think is in the best interests of the children, even temporarily, while the facts are being gathered. Looking for justice in Family Court, is a rigid, perhaps moralistic expectation that a person may harbor, expecting “justice” to essentially be punishment of their ex or of the other parent. In essence, getting justice is akin to getting even, if conceptualized this way by the angry party.   The Judge does not share your anger or sense of outrage.
Sadly, as we all know, life is not fair. Sometimes people get away with bad behavior.  More often than not, the court will prefer to focus on the present than on the past. Your spouse may have been terrible as a spouse, and hurt you and your life in many painful ways. But that is usually why you are getting divorced.  Your spouse may have been inattentive, insensitive, selfish, narcissistic, hurtful, insulting, terrible in bed, and had numerous affairs. The Court will not take any of that into consideration unless there was domestic violence, child abuse, or purposeful dissipation of marital assets (for example). The divorce process is a business deal, dividing up marital assets, determining custody, parenting time schedules, alimony and child support.  Expecting the court to come down hard on the opposing party because of what you suffered, is unrealistic and expensive.  But the court will come down hard on the other party or on you if your child suffers.
It is most important to have a realistic view as to what you are going to court for, what you hope to accomplish, and if they are reasonable goals to have. Attorneys should discuss these issues with you and go through all of the possible scenarios, options,  strategies and probabilities of success, costs, etc.  Communication with your attorney is crucial, and it is important for the client to keep an open mind in the event that some goals (to give the ex a good beating in court, take them to the cleaners, get sole custody, etc.) are unattainable, unrealistic or self-defeating. The court will always ask itself, “Is it good for the kids?” before making a decision. What you may fantasize about (a “home run” in court) achieving may not be in your children’s best interests and you may not realize it because of the pain and anger you may be experiencing (which clouds judgment).  Sometimes a client gets counseling to help get support for what they are going through emotionally.  It can help in making better decisions, establishing realistic goals, reducing self-defeating anger, guilt, worry, depression, etc., and making the Family Court experience less acrimonious and perhaps, maybe even “blissful”.  Getting through the Family Court cooperatively and civilly with your ex, with lower attorney bills and more money in your pocket, can truly be blissful. But you won’t know unless you try.  And yes, it takes two. Sometimes you have no choice but to fight it out in court.  But you can at least be the one who goes through the process showing good faith, communicating civilly and respectfully, being cooperative and fair to the other party.  You can’t control the other person, but you potentially have control over your part of the process. 
Good luck, and please post a comment about your experiences.
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This blog and the term, “Blissful divorce” are the intellectual property of-and are Copyrighted © by: Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., Esq., 2017. All rights reserved.
DISCLAIMER:
Please note: Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D., is a Family Law Attorney in NJ and in NY, representing Family Law clients in Superior Court of NJ. He is also a Licensed Psychologist (NJ #1358, NY #5614, OH #7540) who has, in addition to providing general psychological services, performed forensic child custody evaluations and who has been appointed Guardian ad litem and Parent Coordinator by the NJ Superior Court, Family Division. No special skills or, expertise in either profession is implied by any reference to my being licensed as a Psychologist as well as being a licensed attorney.   The two professions are distinct and separate, with differing training and education, and they each have their respective licensing, rules of ethics and codes of professional responsibility.  Contracting with Jonathan Gordon in one profession precludes engaging his services in the other profession due to conflict of interest. This web site and blog are solely for general informational purposes and should not be construed otherwise. A professional relationship is not established until a retainer agreement is signed or if a consent for treatment agreement is signed for psychological services.
Please note, since this blog is for information purposes only. It is neither legal nor psychological advice and it does not create an attorney/client or psychologist/patient relationship. If you have a question about a specific matter or issue, you should seek out an attorney or mental health expert to assist you. In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit your closest emergency room.
Call to schedule a consultation or for further information:  201-801-0455
email: jonathan@jdgordonlaw.com
Web Sites:  
www.jdgordonpsych.com


Tweet Me:  @jdgordonlaw; follow me on FaceBook

Monday, September 11, 2017

LYING IN FAMILY COURT:
"SPIN"? OR BAD BEHAVIOR?
 Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D.
© Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2017 
            
     We who represent clients in Family Court, often hear false allegations or lies presented. Those lies can usually be refuted by evidence to the contrary, or perhaps by the failure to support the lie with evidence (because it's a lie).  Unfortunately, in Family Court, character assassination and unproven allegations can also be used to sway a judge, casting doubt on a parent's ability to safely parent a child.  This is when bad behavior can be unwittingly rewarded.  Family Law attorneys sometimes reflect that they are so used to lying in court, that it is almost expected. The concept of perjury, as it is experienced in criminal court or in civil litigation, does not seem to have the same taboo when it takes place in Family Law. Why is this tolerated?
     One reason why lying is so ubiquitous in Family Court, is because it is difficult to ascertain what is a lie.  Saying that someone is a bad parent, or an uncaring parent is a value judgment, a perception, which is not necessarily a conscious lie. Both parents in a custody battle may exchange mutual accusations that the other is a lousy parent. Perhaps they are both wrong, but being angry, bitter or vindictive, they want to destroy the other with their destructive allegations (while not taking their child's best interests into consideration).
     It is upsetting, however, when we see a vindictive parent purposely making up falsehoods to present in Court, to accomplish their destructive goals.  Unfortunately, a Judge often cannot initially determine who is accurate and who is not. That is why in Family Court, Judges often rely on expert testimony from a hopefully objective professional who may delve deeper into what is really happening to this family and what is in the best interests of the child.  But an expert is not a prophet or a mind reader either. We find that when the same lie is repeated again and again, and it appears in court documents (e.g. client's certifications) year after year, well-it starts to look like it might be true. In fact, the creator of the lie might actually believe it him/herself because of the intensity of their feelings. Judges get frustrated, experts may sit on the fence (because the expert isn't sure), and the same lie is bandied around in a compelling way, implying that something has to be done about it quickly (the way the party who lies makes it sound).  As a result, at times, a non-drug abusing parent is sent for a substance abuse evaluation, has to have parenting time supervised, has to have parenting time limited, has to attend an anger management or parenting skills class, has to have a psychological or psychiatric evaluation, etc.  These are the exceptions rather than the rule, but they occur more frequently than you would expect.  At the most extreme, a judge might suddenly change residential custody in court, without a hearing, just based on the allegations of parental alienation from the other parent. 
     Unfortunately, a parent might provide ammunition to the other parent (who is making the allegations) in a moment of anger, saying inappropriate things to a child or even directly to the other parent.  I have previously discussed in this blog that at a time when someone else is trying to pounce on any imperfection, it is best to be careful what is said, how behavior is manifested, and how compliance with court orders takes place.  The other party should be assumed to be recording (audio and video) everything that is said, having a private investigator following you around, or soliciting sworn certifications from neighbors, relatives and caregivers to use against you in court. While repugnant to most judges, and while hardly ever used in court, surreptitious recordings of children may exist. Better to be watching one's "P's and Q's" during litigation to minimize this kind of unfair (and unnecessary) scrutiny.  When an adversary shows up in court with a handful of sworn certifications, or better yet--with your unfortunate text message to back up the "lie", that may be all that is needed to destroy your credibility with the judge.  And if your credibility is harmed, then the credibility of the lie is enhanced. In other words, you cannot afford to "lose it" even once in this setting or atmosphere. When you are being evaluated, watched, measured or tested (by being provoked), then anything that happens can be used in court if it seems relevant.  
     While attorneys for the most part are ethical, sincere and hard working professionals who are trying to properly represent their clients, there are a handful who have no qualms about twisting the truth in order to prevail in court.  While rare, it is sad to see that happen, and truth-twisting does happen.  Whether a judge will see that as "lying" per se, or just a case of zealously representing a client, depends on the judge, that lawyer, and on the circumstances.  But I have heard judges tell clients at the onset of a case, that if the judge is lied to once, that the client is "done", when it comes to credibility.  And every attorney knows that it takes a long time for an attorney, with a good track record, to establish a good reputation with a Judge, but all it takes is one slip-up with the truth to destroy their credibility. It still amazes me why any attorney would knowingly lie to a judge. It is simply not worth it, and it is wrong on so many levels.  
     Lying to destroy the other party is fairly well known in Family Court, and is not tolerated if it is identified as such.  Unfortunately, parents who do this with malice, are not considering the effects of their behavior on their children who need both parents (assuming the other parent is not abusive or substance-addicted). Wrongfully hurting the other parent's access to the child with unfounded lies and innuendo, as well as with false allegations of domestic violence or sexual abuse, is akin to child abuse in some situations, since it causes damage to the child by distancing the child from an otherwise loving and safe parent. This malicious behavior by an angry or hurt (rejected) parent is the height of narcissism and selfishly places their own needs before those of their child.  Hopefully the Family Court judge can quickly identify and discern what is factual from what is false, and get the family on the right track. Better yet, if an angry parent is thinking about destroying the other parent, it would be good to rethink that intention, perhaps get counseling to deal with the underlying issues, and to openly discuss their concerns for their children and for themselves with an experienced family law attorney who will almost always provide a realistic path for the client, upon which to proceed ethically and morally during this difficult time. 
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Good luck, and please post a comment about your experiences.
Copyright © Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., Esq.,  2017
Jonathan D. Gordon, Ph.D., J.D., is a Family Law Attorney in NJ and in NY, representing Family Law clients in Superior Court of NJ . He is also a Licensed Psychologist (NJ #1358, NY #5614, OH #7540) who has performed forensic child custody evaluations and who has been appointed Guardian ad litem and Parent Coordinator by the NJ Superior Court, Family Division.
Please note, this blog is for information purposes only. It is neither legal nor psychological advice and it does not create an attorney/client or psychologist/patient relationship. If you have a question about a specific matter or issue, you should seek out an attorney or mental health expert to assist you.
Call to schedule a consultation:  201-801-0455
email: jonathan@jdgordonlaw.com
Web Sites:  
www.jdgordonlaw.com
www.jdgordonpsych.com

Tweet Me:  @jdgordonlaw; follow me on FaceBook