Children benefit when their parents, the people who know and love them most, make decisions about their upbringing in the aftermath of divorce/separation.
I recently came across a well written blog, by Kathleen Bar-Tur, a LCSW and FIPA in NYC. The title? “I Don’t Love Your Children.” Here’s a brief overview…A well respect judge shared with her the speech given to parents who appear in family court; it goes like this:
“First, I ask them what they are doing in my courtroom. They explain they are there to settle a custody issue. I then ask them, “Do you love your children? Well, then what are you doing here? Because, I don’t love your children. I don’t even know your children and you are putting your children into the hands of a total stranger who doesn’t love them”.
Consistent with my own personal and professional experience, Kathleen states that divorcing parents often believe that a fair, impartial, and honest judge will see the situation as it really is (from that parent’s perspective) and rule accordingly (in the best interests of the children). Isn’t that the purpose of family court? Unfortunately, even an excellent judge can’t and won’t know your children as well as you; and despite your belief that the right answer is obvious – it may not be so obvious to a stranger who doesn’t know anything about you, your spouse or your children.
When you go to court you lose control of your ability to make decisions for your family; and after a judgment is rendered, like it or not, the judge’s decision is legally binding unless AND UNTIL you return to court to appeal the judgment. Judges know this and often do everything in their power to avoid having to make these important decisions and instead put pressure on the parents to make the decisions independently. Judges encourage and even order parents to participate in mediation, early neutral evaluation or other form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) because they know these processes work.
I routinely tell my angry and resentful parents that if they allow a judge to make these important (and difficult) decisions they will not be satisfied. Neither a judge nor a mediator has the power to resolve the painful past that led to the divorce/separation. The only path to success is to move forward and the options along the way are rarely desirable or satisfactory. Resolution lies in finding workable and livable solutions.
Despite your emotions or conviction that you will prevail in court it is always better to try to settle your parenting issues directly rather than place control of your life and your children in the hands of a stranger who does not love your children, does not know you, your spouse or your history, and, as a result, may likely make the wrong decisions for you and your children.
Written by: Amber M. Serwat, MA
Amber is a divorce and parenting specialist in private practice in Burnsville, MN – she is also a divorced parent and step-parent of three teenage children, ages 16-13.
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