- Children Are Not Cannon Fodder
- December 6, 2013
- Law Firm: Law Offices of John A. Patti - Red Bank Office
- Best Interest of the Children
The standard with regard to the children is always what is in the best interest of the child. That's a standard that every parent must keep in mind especially during divorce litigation. It is not what is in your best interest and it is certainly not what is in your spouse's best interest that the court will consider. For example, having children flip-flop day to day basis on where they will reside may work for you or your spouse, but that is certainly not an environment preferable for the children. Children need stability; that is in their best interest.
The Double Edged Sword
Manipulation of children are double-edged swords. You may believe that feeding the children information will render a short-term gain. However, consider the consequences of manipulating a child into believing something that is simply untrue. When the child discovers that he or she was put in the middle of a nasty divorce, relationship you will have with this child will be forever tarnished. The relationship the child had with your spouse is already destroyed and you will therefore be left with a child who harbors feelings of resentment and even blame for what happened. Do not believe for one second that these children can bounce back with the snap of the finger after everything in the courts have been resolved. They are more impressionable than adults and some of never forget.
Most recently I was involved a case where one spouse was trying desperately to convince his son to leave his mother and come live with him in another state. The child had a disability and was very emotional. This did not stop the spouse from applying the "full court press". The entire conversation on Facebook became to subject matter of the motion filed with the Court. Needless to say, the Court was appalled and immediately began to reprimand the spouse who attempted to manipulate the child. This litigant has now forever impressed upon this judge the fact that he was willing to use the child in an attempt to hurt the child's mother. Anything said on social media is discoverable. Just because it is a conversation on Facebook does not mean you are allowed to have that conversation. Likewise, or have been many litigants who have left messages on Twitter finding themselves having to explain these messages to a family court judge who sits as Parens Patria, the guardian of the child.
Keep the Children Out
There are certain circumstances where the court must interview the child to determine what if anything is going on inside house. Those circumstances, having the children involved for an interview or for a therapeutic evaluation is permissible. However, relying upon the children as your emotional guide for using the children to hurt your spouse or ex-spouse will simply damage the child altogether. Let your attorney and the professionals who deal with children on a day-to-day basis assist you with children involved in litigation. Do not take this upon yourself to do what you believe is right by involving the children. Always always always run the situation by your attorney and if you are in therapy by your therapist. These are professionals accustomed to answering these types of questions and rendering an ethical resolution that does not involve tactics or strategy.
The Motion to Change Custody
The courts will tell you that custody is a fluid concept. Meaning, you can change custody if there is a substantial change in circumstances. For example, if a person becomes terminally ill and cannot care for the children, that may be a factor to temporarily change custody until the residential custodian gets better or dependent upon the facts change it altogether. The change of custody because the child has told you that he or she wants to be with you and not your ex spouse may not considered to be a change that a court will act upon. Moreover, to use certifications of your children, or to coerce them into making or saying statements on your behalf is simply damaging. These children will carry the emotional scars from your litigation posturing for the rest of their lives. It is more frugal to be a parent than to try to manipulate a child. When it comes right down to it, is it really the best interest of the child to change custody or is it simply revenge.
Superman and Wonderwoman
A final note, remember how you viewed your parents. Your father most likely was your Superman. He could do anything, fix anything, and probably provided for your home. If anyone at school spoke poorly of your father, that was certainly grounds for a fight. Your mom, probably walked on water like my mom. Forbid anyone speaking ill of your mother that would also lead to an altercation. Now think about what you're doing in this litigation and what you're exposing the children to in this litigation. When you speak ill about their father, you are dismantling Superman. When you disparage the children's mother, your disparaging most wonderful woman in the entire universe. Again think about somebody speaking like that about your parents. Think about how quick the conversation when end if that were to take place. Keep that in the back of your mind the next time you think about saying something mean-spirited about your spouse to the children whether you believe it's warranted or not.