I DON’T Love Your children!

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A few weeks ago I had lunch with a judge from Nassau County whom I respect very much. We were talking about difficult parenting discussions I have had with clients and she stopped me with this story:

“Do you know what I say to couples who turn up in my courtroom?  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.”

So often if you have locked horns with your spouse you think that there has got to be a fair, impartial, and honest judge who will see the situation from your perspective and choose what you know is best for your kids. After all that is the mandate and mantra of the family court system, to decide “in the best interests of the children”. But as you can see, even terrific judges can’t know your children as well as their parents and while you may think it is obvious what should be decided, it may not appear that way to someone who doesn’t know anything about you, your spouse or your children.

When you decide to go to court keep in mind that you are losing control of your ability to make decisions for your family. No matter what you say, after a judge has ruled, you will be given a court order to follow through with his/her decision and you are bound by that order unless you return to court to appeal the judgement.

Often judges will ask parents if they have tried mediation before deciding on their parenting plans or custody issues because, unless they absolutely have to make those decisions, the judges want the parents to do so. Mediation is sometimes mandated by matrimonial judges, even in cases where all other issues are being litigated, to keep parents in control of all decisions involving their children.

A year ago I worked with a very angry couple who were ordered by a judge to work out a parenting schedule or the judge would “do it for (them) and (they) weren’t going to like it”. When they appeared in my office they were each threatening and accusing the other of unspeakable behavior. The fact that I was neither judge not jury, and wasn’t going to resolve their issues for them finally sunk in and they were left with having to speak to each other and hash out an agreement they could live with. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. Having had discussions about their children and what was best for each of them, they were able to return to court with a parenting plan that they had settled on together.

So no matter how angry you are, or how sure you are that your spouse will lose in court, it is still better to try to settle the parenting issues directly with the other parent rather than risk losing total control by placing the process in the hands of a stranger, who doesn’t love your children, doesn’t know you or your spouse, and just might make the wrong decisions.
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