Tuesday, July 25, 2017


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

          When a relationship dissolves, one would logically want to disassociate from the old partner, never see him/her again, walk away and never look back, etc., assuming fairly healthy thinking.  But it’s not that easy in Family Court cases that involved children or even with long term alimony issues.  Often, the relationship is truly “till death do us part” by its very nature.
            Having children with a partner just about guarantees that you will be tied to the other parent at least until the child is an adult, but it usually goes beyond that, into grandparent-hood. As I have stated in this space before, it is virtually impossible to surgically dissect away a former spouse when you have a child. While you might be able to plan separate birthday parties and vacations, you will not be able to plan separate weddings, Communions, Bar and Bat Mitzvas, college graduations, and births of your grandchildren, etc.  While it is difficult to think that far ahead when your child of divorce is eight years old, you might want to keep your interactions with your estranged or ex- partner on a civil and cooperative playing field because before you know it, your child will be 18, then 28, etc.
            Sometimes there is no escaping someone even when they live elsewhere, and you feel haunted and stalked by your own social media. For example, after a divorce or other break-up, you will be tormented by regular reminders of “this day in history”, for example, where you will be involuntarily subjected to photos of formerly loving moments you had  with someone you would rather not see.  Going through your Google photos or your phone gallery of pictures will yield, sometimes thousands of photos of your ex and you, during happier times. Also, your child will not let you forget about your ex. How do you deal with this now in a healthy manner?
            Sometimes it is better to take a step back, breathe, forgive, and accept certain realities, as touched upon above. The photos and social media example is only one facet of the bigger picture.  If you can speak civilly with your ex, it is best for you both to agree to keep it civil and cooperative for the sake of your children. You cannot obliterate your ex’s existence.  There is no way to do that legally, it is not realistic and it is not healthy for your child. Despite your hurt, your sense of betrayal, your anger, this person is someone who you once loved and with whom you created a child.  Is it good for you and your child, now that the relationship ended, to retain anger, hurt and sense of betrayal? That only hurts you because you are the one who feels lousy inside. It is also not good for your pocketbook either, since anger fuels needless litigation in many instances.
As I have also said previously in this space, it is good for your child (with a few specific exceptions related to criminal behavior, substance abuse and child abuse) to know that it is ok to freely enjoy a loving relationship with both parents.  Alienating a child from the other parent (overtly or subtly)  is a form of emotional child abuse.  If it is too painful to exist in the same sphere as your ex, to deal with him/her civilly and cooperatively as related to your child, then perhaps some counseling might be helpful. After the initial dissolution crisis dissipates, it is healthy for a person to settle down emotionally and to move on, keeping things in their proper perspective for the good of everyone concerned. When someone has great difficulty doing this, cannot forgive, retains significant anger, has violent fantasies, depression, etc., it is unhealthy for the person and for their child.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to completely shed one’s skin and totally start anew, as if to regenerate without memories of a previous life once shared.  The best one can realistically hope for is to feel ok, to be able to move on with life happily, and to accept the ex as a formerly important figure, who may still be a very important figure and role model for a child. That requires some mental gymnastics in some cases, but should be attempted and mastered. Your child needs the freedom to love both parents and to enjoy time with both parents, assuming there are no extreme, contraindicating circumstances. Going forward with your life is quite different from your child’s experience of the breakup, and it might be good to acknowledge this difference with your child, and to validate their need to enjoy their other-parent relationship without conflict, anxiety or guilt.
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 for the Courts 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
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