Keeping your feelings in check to benefit your children.
Copyright © Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2012
During the litigation process, there is often more acrimony since issues are being negotiated, and nothing is really settled. There are often angry and hurt feelings, so it is not unusual for individuals to try to withhold parenting time as a weapon. Most states use the standard of what is in the child’s best interests in devising a parenting arrangement. The parenting time plans (i.e. visitation) should reflect the child’s age, proximity of the parents as well as the parents’ ability to communicate and cooperate with each other. When a parent is not the parent of primary residence, that parent should ideally remain a major part of the children’s lives, so long as he or she has the desire, the ability and if it is good for the children. Important concerns include the history if any, of domestic violence, psychiatric problems, substance abuse or child abuse.
Under ideal circumstances, even parents who despise each other should lay aside their resentments and anger to do what is best for their children. It is best that the parents behave civily and respectfully toward each other. To make that easier to accomplish, a consistent, predictable and realistic schedule of parenting time should be devised and put into writing, signed by all parties and the Judge. If the parties cannot agree, they are usually sent for mandatory parenting time mediation. In New Jersey this is usually done in the Courthouse for free, and the parenting mediators there do a great job of helping the parents to craft a workable parenting plan. Mediation usually does not take place when there is an active restraining order against one of the parents.
If no agreement is reached even after mediation, the Judge will have to make the decisions. Parents should understand that if they cannot do what is in the children’s best interests, cannot bring themselves to encourage a substantial relationship with each other, then the Court will do it for them and you might not like the outcome at all. Judges always tell the parents that it is in the parents’ best interests to work things out amicably between themselves because they know their children best and it is their lives. When a Judge has to make the decisions for you, such as in parenting time, choice of schools, vacation travel, and even extracurricular activities, etc., then it is possible that both parents will be upset when they leave the courtroom, since they have put these decisions in someone else’s hands. Even though that person is a Judge, he or she is still an outsider and does not know the children like you do.
You should realize that the Judges do not pay much attention to either parent’s accusations and mud-slinging. Unless there is proof (not just your allegations), it will just annoy the Judge rather that to produce the result you wish for. Your case to a Judge, is one of hundreds or thousands of similar cases, and they want it to move forward and be disposed of in the best, fairest way possible, and as long as the children's best interests are being served . If things get bad enough, the Judge will appoint a psychological expert to evaluate everyone, because the Judge will not rely on what you say unless there is documented proof. Rather, the Judge will rely on the experts to advise what the best arrangement should be. It is expensive, intrusive and sometimes humiliating to go through this process. It is sometimes very hard to bite one’s tongue and to appear to be “giving in” to the other parent, especially if the mind-set is one of "winning". But if it will benefit your child, it is important to do what you can to put their needs first, before being driven by the predictable anger and resentment that you have built up against your spouse over the years. It should not be about winning. Rather it should be about how your child will grow up: fairly well adjusted, or not.
Your child's childhood can be a war zone, or conversely, can be looked back upon as two separate, loving homes where both parents supported the parenthood of the other. The children will not thank you for fighting "for them" or for making disparaging remarks (or even facial expressions of disgust) about the other parent. It will usually come back to haunt that parent later on when the child grows up with great resentment toward the parent who disparaged the other, years ago. Since the child loves both parents (even though you don't love that parent any more), it puts that child into a great loyalty conflict if he/she thinks you do not approve of their maintaining a close, loving relationship with the other parent. That can cause anxiety, behavioral problems and sometimes worse.
Copyright © Jonathan D. Gordon, Esq. 2012Please note, this blog is for information purposes only. It is not legal or psychological advice and it does not create an attorney/client or psychologist/patient relationship. If you have a question about a specific matter you should seek out an attorney or mental health expert to assist you.
More on this later. Visit me at http://www.jdgordonlaw.com/