D vs D (Divorce Action with Custody Issues)
Our client chose to represent himself in his divorce action. When he finally decided to allow us the opportunity to represent his legal issues, he was under an Order of Protection and unable to see his young child. We quickly determined this was an acrimonious, irresolvable divorce and the parties were swimming in an acrid burning emotional crucible destroying their relationship more every day and denying their child a beneficial relationship with both parents. Normally we advise our family matter clients to slow down the legal process until the heat and burning of the emotional crucible abates and relative calm enables the parties to negotiate a mutually beneficial resolution. We believe it is always better to negotiate your own resolution rather than rely upon final decisions reached by a Judge who knows very little about you.
However, we believed this relationship was breaking down more every day and it was likely they would not be able to co-parent their child, thereby ruining the child's chances of enjoying a happy, fulfilling life with both parents participating in his development. Not only did the parents dislike each other, but they did not trust one another. We appealed to the Magistrate in the case to fast-track the divorce and take it directly to a final hearing where a Judge would decide the issues. In the meantime our client followed our advice and successfully completed not only one but five different parenting training programs through the Kids First program. Here he learned how to dampen down his dislike of his spouse and more importantly how to cooperate with her to benefit the growth and nurturing of their child. He began to place the benefit of his child above his own desire for revenge. He also engaged in therapy, sought medical treatment and medication for his disabling injuries, and returned to work part-time to build up his stamina and his personal confidence in life.
At the final hearing we gently discredited his spouse's testimony and convinced the Judge that the issues arose out of dislike and distrust rather than actual actions. Other divorce attorneys would likely fiercely attack the spouse and ruin their chances of ever learning to co parent. We do not believe in a scorched earth policy in a family matter. This family will live together for many, many years as their child matures, goes to college, graduates, gets engaged, marries and has their grandchildren. We believe it is more important to focus on this long-term success than to focus on the current relatively unimportant disagreement. At the same time we showed the court that our client has grown in maturity, taken important steps in increasing his coping and parenting skills, and fully addressed his disabling injuries.
The result: Our client allowed his spouse to reside with their child, where his siblings would continue their support, schoolmates would stay the same, and local friends would remain. He gained full rights to visit regularly with his child, and to communicate throughout the week by telephone. The day after the final hearing was the first time our client visited with his child in over 7 months. The parents agreed to engage in co-parenting classes together, and they will hopefully begin to trust one another in the important task of co parenting their child. Their child is the real winner in this case. We believe our legal and counseling intervention will allow this child to live a normal, happy and full life with both parents giving him their love, support and teachings. That is our goal.