The Court Process
Navigating Separation and Divorce in the Best Interest of the Child
by Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
***This is part of the Navigating Separation and Divorce in the
Best Interest of the Child Series
“It is to your benefit, emotionally and financially, for the two of you to agree on as many things as possible before going to court.”Barnstable Probate and Family Court
On many occasions, while sitting in the court room waiting to testify, I watch couple after couple approach the bench for the finalization of their divorce. The Honorable Justices Scandurra and Ryley sit at that bench throughout each year, reciting the final
order of divorce. Each person is asked, “Do you believe your marriage is irreconcilable?” What a depressing seat to sit in as the judge who legalizes the end of the “I do!”
The last thing that these judges want to deal with is disagreements from divorcing adults. For this reason, almost all cases are sent to the Probation Office first (at Barnstable Probate and Family Court). Almost all cases are required to participate in some level of mediation prior to going before the Judge.
It is to your benefit, emotionally and financially, for the two of you to agree on as many things as possible before going to court. The point is, both sides usually feel they are on the “high road.” Many couples expect to go through the court process and have it be determined that either they are “right” or that they have been “wronged” and the court process will reveal that “fact.”
At court, there is no “high road.” Frankly, the court really doesn’t have the time or interest in hearing anything about what happened between the two of you or how either of you see it. They want the financials and the parenting agreement (when there are children involved).
And the BEST mediators will always acknowledge, without hearing many details at all, that “There is ALWAYS more to the story!” and maybe aim you toward a therapist, but leave it out of mediation. In fact, this was illustrated so well a few years ago. I was providing counseling to a man going through a divorce. He and his soon to be x-wife were in a mediation session. The facts THAT HE REQUESTED were laid out on the table. The woman cleared her throat and said, “Mr. ------, there is way more to the story….” And as she began to continue, he interrupted her and said, “Mrs. ------, there always is. Now let’s move on.”
You may not agree, and some would contest this mediator by walking out and presenting to the court that another should be sought. But this mediator was doing his job.
Now, let’s say that you have concerns about your child in the care of your soon to be “X”. What are your
If there is an issue of domestic violence, you should be aware that you can seek assistance from Independence House, or another Domestic Violence center in your area. Because the next piece of
information that I will give, is that you need to be able to be open and honest during the court process if you have concerns. If you don’t feel safe being open and honest, you need to seek counseling from a professional for help in making the next step, and most importantly, ensuring the safety of the child, to your best ability.
Note: Any of these examples could read, “My wife….” But I have phrased them all “husband” since this is a “mommy” blog. There are many women making very poor decisions where their children are concerned and many diligent fathers trying to protect these children.
#1 – A large part of the break up was because of my husband’s drinking. He’s a big guy and believes he is fine to drive after having 5 or 6 beers. I’m not sure if he would drive with our 8 year old in the car.
#2 – My husband is addicted to porn. He is up till all hours involved in porn. On overnights, our 3 year old sleeps in the same bed with him.
#3 – My husband just doesn’t pay attention. He goes out to the garage and works on his car and leaves our 4 year old in the house watching TV.
#4 – My husband is abusing pain meds. He is a really good dad but when he “needs” his pain pills he will put
our child in the car and drive an hour to pick them up, probably from some unsavory location or person.
#5 – I heard a rumor that my husband is dating a woman who sexually abused a younger boy.
I could go on all day with examples that have presented in my office. Some are dreadfully frightening and some are just really inappropriate. If there are instances that you feel could put your child at risk, you need to seek professional counsel. This might be in the form of a good family/divorce attorney or a psychotherapist. It may require a consultation with The Department of Children and Families, which you can do by calling anonymously and asking to talk to a “screener.”
You will need to put your concerns in writing as part of a court document; state facts as facts and concerns as concerns. Always be completely honest about the facts or concerns. Try to determine what you are going to request of the court to be entered into an order and be as clear as possible so the court knows just what you are asking for. Seek professional support if you aren’t sure if your concerns are valid or you aren’t sure what to do.
It is a parent’s job to protect their child. If you have concerns, you follow up. There are so many things a divorcing parent has to give up. Hopes, dreams, partnership, money, maybe ideals about how your child will be raised when they are not with you, even giving up your child for brief periods of time (when they are visiting the other parent. Let your child’s safety be something that you will do all that you can to not give up.
Please consider getting support if you are going through a major separation, married or not married, especially if you have children. Family and friends can be very helpful, but even just a few sessions with a specialist can make a big difference.
Tracy Lamperti, LMHC, BCETS
Please see www.tracylamperti.com for more information about marriage and divorce.
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