Custody Trials: The Good, Bad & Ugly

In the past year I have tried two custody cases to conclusion and decision by the Court.

The first case was essentially a relocation case but it also required a change of custody because the parties were no longer following the prior order and the Mother wanted to now officially have custody and the Father wanted to move away from Long Island and return to North Carolina. After trial my client, the Mother, was able to receive an order of custody and my best guess, as I have not heard otherwise, is that the Father stayed on Long Island. So while the end result may not be that much different from what the Mother and Father were previously doing, nevertheless the trial brought out the worst details about each person's character, mental fitness and involvement or lack of involvement with the child. By the time the trial was done neither party was talking to the other. The Father tried to capitalize on the Mother's bi-polar diagnosis (for which she had successfully continued treatment). The Mother highlighted how the Father never paid anything for the child even while they lived together and instead relied upon the maternal grandparent to support the child.

One could say that I did my job and my client "won" because she received an order of residential custody. The Father will have parenting time. However, the hurtful statements are out there in the ether and they both heard it and it will take some time to move forward.

My second custody trial was to represent the Father of four children that were alienated from him by their Mother. After 8 days of trial with expert testimony the Court ruled that the Father's testimony was believable and that he had tried everything that had been requested by the court appointed experts to make visitation successful. The one person that was a complete obstacle to success was the Mother. The Court is transferring custody to the Father but it will take time to undo the damage caused when the Mother would not "allow" the children to have fun with their Father.

At what price does a win or a loss arrive? How much damage is done to young children who do not understand how they have become the "pawns" in a bad breakup of their parents? What will their future relationships be like if they are scarred from their parent's bad divorce?

So while clearly there can be a "winner" or a "loser" or perhaps something in between, the real goal is to make your children the winners so they have the best tools for life.