Holiday Divorce Musings

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on November 22, 2010

I think about what it would be like to divorce my wife several times per month, on average. I think about what it would be like to go through a custody fight over our kids. Why would a very happily married man contemplate such things? My job. I handle cases from various areas of practice but one area that seems to keep me employed at times is family law.

When I was a newbie attorney (some might say I still am) divorce cases were just another case. I didn’t really put myself in my clients’ shoes even though I had been married for several years. But now that I am a daddy, I see things a bit differently.

Just this morning, I dealt with a case where the natural father was seeking custody of his child from the child’s step-father since the natural mother is out of the picture for the time being. As is customary, the discussion between attorneys turned to “your client hasn’t exercised any visitation” and “well your client wouldn’t let my client see the kid” or the standard “your client hasn’t paid ANY child support.” Then the added complication of the holidays was brought into the discussion to make sure that all the parents (and grandparents) get to see the kid during this season of thanks and gratefulness.

Today I thought of my own kids and wondered how I would handle such a situation personally. I still don’t have an answer. I would hope that I would be gracious and understanding and try to put my kids’ best interests ahead of my own. But I can see how easy it is to fight when people get emotional and selfish and don’t agree about what those best interests should be. And sometimes that is my job; to pull off the gloves and fight for my client’s version of those best interests and try to help a parent get to spend more time with their child.

When the gloves come off, anything a parent does is potential ammo to prove what a shitty parent they are. It amazes me how things that are “no big deal” between married parents can be turned into evidence that the parent is unfit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about physical abuse, mental abuse, physical abuse or drug abuse. I’m talking about letting the kid stay up past her bedtime or being thirty minutes late to pick up or drop off the child. When Thing 1 was two years old, she somehow managed to get out of her bed and make her way through the garage and into the back yard where we were awakened by the sound of her clanging on some bowls. We were amused at her independence and resourcefulness. If that story happened in a divorce setting, that would be prime evidence that the kid is not adequately supervised.

Parents can often agree to holiday visitation decisions in the middle of the summer, but the same parents cannot come close to a compromise after the middle of November when holiday decorations start making their appearance. And when the parents can’t agree, a judge usually has to make the decision as to where the kids spend the holidays. I believe most judges try to make the best of the situation. But usually the situation and the decision is far from ideal.

So for all of you divorced daddies out there, I hope you have happy holidays and get to see your kids and share the joy of the holiday season with them. For all of you family lawyers out there, keep up the hard work. And for all of you daddies that have your kids (and their moms) at home with you, take time to appreciate your kids and your wife and realize that a happy family is something to be thankful for this time of year and the rest of the year too.

Image: Nils Rinaldi

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