I recently appeared in a matrimonial judge's court for the first conference
(preliminary conference) of a
contested divorce case. The clients were both present and the judge took the opportunity
to explain the court process to the clients and to inquire about various
aspects of the case.
The judge told the parents that their marriage was not a failure because
they had parented two healthy children that if the divorce is handled
properly will have every opportunity to grow up and not be scarred by
their parent's decision to end the marriage. The judge wanted to inspire
the parents to treat each other with mutual respect, not to bad mouth
the other parent in front of the children and to try to make the process
of the children going from one household to the other as seamless as possible.
I have seen this judge make similar remarks to other parents in other cases.
Some of the parents get misty eyed, some nod their head in quiet agreement
and others stand stone faced without the slightest display of emotion
other than their contempt for the other parent.
The cost of contested divorce cases is high. The cost of
contested custody cases can be higher both financially and emotionally. The statements that
are made to win the case will cause anger and resentment that may take
years to heal if not longer. The amount of time and money spent going
to court, leaving work, the emotional upset in the evening after court
or during the day will cause stress and other difficulties.
Parents have the chance, absent serious problems with the other parent,
to guide their own destiny and make joint parenting decisions about schedules,
activities, education and other matters of similar importance if they
are civil and respectful to each other and have common goals for their
children. I have spoken to matrimonial attorneys who have said that their
own parents had a horrible divorce and that they want to help their clients
avoid the same mistakes.