by Linda L. Piff, Esq.
It seems every time we turn around we hear about someone’s messy divorce. We hear about how “so and so” is going to hire a tough lawyer and get everything they have coming to them. It seems this type of response to divorce has almost become a cultural expectation.
Unfortunately, what we don’t hear about nearly often enough is how this type of adversarial divorce process impacts the lives of the people involved. We don’t hear about the children who have to watch their mom and dad fight, make hurtful accusations against one another and use them as leverage. We rarely hear about the bitterness, feelings of insecurity and isolation felt by the children of adversarial divorce. Child therapist tell us that these battle scars do not simply heal when litigation has ended but can last for a lifetime affecting school performance, how they relate to peers and even how they approach their own marriages or as well as the manner in which they end them.
But then once in a while we see a light shining in the darkness reminding us of what really matters while inspiring hope and commitment to a better way.
And A Child Shall Lead Them
I recently read of a decision (R.R v. L.A.C) written by Judge D’Alessandro in Hudson County, New Jersey. The opinion begins with “This case concerns the Court’s authority to fulfill a Child’s request to hug and see her Father.”
The facts of the case were somewhat typical. Mom and dad were living together but as “angry strangers.” Under the stress and uncertainty of marital strife, a little girl named Gabriella was being bullied and failing in school. There is no question that the couple loved their daughter. Maybe being caught up in a process that was created for the purpose of enforcing a legal right caused them to lose sight of why they were there in the first place. If so, they were soon given the gift of seeing through the eyes of a child, when following the hearing, Gabriella made her own petition of the court. From a heart that desperately longed to know both her mom and her dad, Gabriella asked the court if she could give her dad a hug.
The Tears of a Child and Her Gift of Hope
The decision ends with “The tears that she and her Father shared were inspirational. Mother cried afterwards “that seeing my daughter happy makes me happy.” The Court thanks this beautiful child for her gift of hope. Tear-moistened soil is often fertile soil.”
Tear-moistened soil is fertile soil indeed. What the legal process could not do a child accomplished with a pleading of her own written on tear stained cheeks. It isn’t the fact that we divorce that destroys families and crushes children. It is the way we divorce. There is a better way.