The harsh realities of court-based custody battles.
When I think about court-based custody battles, I think about the fear I felt the day I put my first-born on the bus for his first day of kindergarten.
I’ll never forget the morning I put my first born on the school bus for her first day of kindergarten. The moment I let go of my child’s hand, reality hit and I realized her safety was now in the hands of a stranger. My head filled with paniced thoughts. After all, what did I really know about the bus driver, this stranger now in charge of my child’s fate? What did I really know about his driving record? About his sobriety and mental state? Did he enjoy a good night’s sleep last night, did he leave his glasses by the bedside table, or might he, right now, be preoccupied and distracted by troubles at home? I knew none of these things, of course. Not one.
And yet I, like every other parent who’d placed their precious child on this bus, I had put my child’s life and my entire world in the hands of a complete stranger.
Overwhelmed with anxiety, I did what every other nervous first time parent does, I jumped in my car and followed the bus to the school with a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel.
That was the longest mile and a half of my life!
Court-based custody battles relinquish a parent’s control
From the day our children are born, we do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe and that the experiences they have, the values they adopt, the friends they make, and the people they meet won’t harm them or do anything other than serve their best interests.
We would never choose to turn over any of these important decisions to a stranger. Nor would we choose to relinquish our judgment of what is best for our child to anyone without solid proof that they’re capable of making better decisions for the well-being of our child than we could.
Unfortunately, losing control is exactly what happens when parents bring their custody battles to court. When you do this, you’re relinquishing complete control over the most important decisions regarding how your children should be raised to a complete stranger: a judge.
What do you really know about this all-powerful stranger? Sure, you know that he/she was elected to the bench and that he/she was likely a lawyer before being appointed.
But do you know anything about his/her familiarity with family law? Or about how he/she has dealt with parties, including children, in prior custody battles? Or how those children have fared in the years following the judge’s decision? No, you don’t.
Here’s what you do know: this judge does not know you or your child. He/she is not aware of your values or your hopes and dreams for your child. Frankly, they are irrelevant. This judge has never lost a single night of sleep worrying about your child’s health or happiness as you have. Nor would this judge unhesitatingly lay down his/her life for your child as you would. (None of my words are intended to suggest that judges are uncaring people. But it’s impossible for any judge in any divorce proceeding or custody battle to see things the way you do, or feel as protective of your child as you do.)
When you decide to engage in a custody battle, you’re relinquishing control of your parenting decisions to a complete stranger. You would never do this in any other situation if given a choice. Why then would you do it in the context of a divorce?
A better way to protect kids whose parents are divorcing
Fortunately, there are options that allow you to stay in control of decisions to be made regarding your child’s future.These choices are known collectively as ADR (Alternative Divorce Resolution) and they include collaborative divorce, mediation, and negotiated settlement.
In my experience, these alternatives to litigated divorce provide a much better way for parents to amicably resolve marital disputes while fully protecting the interests of children they so deeply care for.