The goal of the “Truth Series” is to educate with truth and infuse that truth with hope. Here is another 2 parter (All names have been changed-) Part 1 will be the actual events of a court experience by a partner. Part 2 will be a dissection of what the partner experienced and how she used this to motivate her. It will also include tools for those of you getting ready for court and still in court. Let me set the stage: This is the last 30 minutes of a 2 day court divorce hearing. The judge is speaking to the wife (Mom) and the husband (Dad) “equally” to review what the judge believes are the core issues in their relationship and offering his advice on what they can do moving forward. Even if this isn’t your path, I encourage you to read this because I believe if you are here, eventually you will be in the space of someone who needs your support.
TIME 1:38pm Judge: Ms. Smith, let me ask questions of you first. Some of my questions will be challenging. I will have similar challenging questions for Mr. Smith. In your discussions in a general sense with Mr. Smith, what is it that disturbs you the most? that he just sees things differently from you, calls you names or just doesn’t seem to listen to what it is that you have to say? Or any of those or none of those? Mom: I must say that he doesn’t seem to listen or respond to the questions that I have. Judge: Ok. And when you don’t feel listened to, can you tell me what sort of emotion that evokes with you? Mom: In relation to the children, frustration, grief, worry, fear, Judge: little bit of anger Mom: Yes, sir Judge: You would feel more respected if you felt listened to? Mom: Yes. Judge: Now, when this case started, well first off, um, you are the one who filed for divorce. Had there been discussions about mutually ending your marriage? Mom: No. Judge: Ok. You tell me whether you agree or disagree that that likely evoked a certain emotion in Mr. Smith? Mom: Agree. Judge: You are named the temporary residential parent of all 4 children. Do you believe that would have evoked a certain emotion in Mr. Smith? Mom: Yes. Judge: Positive or negative? Mom: Negative. Judge: Can you see from his vantage point that that would have given you an element of control? Mom: Yes. Judge: And did I hear you say that when it came to the signing up of Annie for cheer, you did that without his agreement? Mom: Yes. Judge: By putting the children into counseling, you did that without his agreement? Mom: Yes. Judge: And, um, did you regularly keep him up to date with what was going on with their schooling? Mom: Yes. Judge: Ok. Well, with respect to just the ending of your marriage, this temporary designation as a residential parent, you leave room for the reality that that could have left him on the outside feeling like he is always looking in? Mom: Yes. Judge: Ok. From your experience in knowing Mr. Smith, is that a position he is comfortable being in? Mom: No. Judge: Do you regard him as a soft spoken, non-caring, sort of just a wimpy type person? Mom: No. Judge: And so you can appreciate when you take certain actions and we’ve heard the term “unilateral” a number of times, that is destined to evoke a certain response from him, isn’t it? Mom: Yes. Judge: You could see where he would like to have a feeling of respect also? Mom: Yes. Judge: It’s an understatement that you find it difficult to talk with him, one on one? Um, let me ask it this way, by not having one on one conversations with him, harmonious, respectful conversations, has that improved your relationship with him over the last few years or has it made it worse? Mom: Improved. Judge: Do you feel he feels more respected by not having direct conversation with you? Mom: No. Judge: Do you feel more respected by not having direct conversation with him? Mom: Yes. Judge: You say that because it doesn’t give him an opportunity to say things about you that aren’t consistent with what your conversation is? Mom: Correct. Judge: Has the time come though that there be some change in the way the 2 of you communicate with each other? Mom: Yes. Judge: I know the answer to this, tell me what you would not do for your children? Mom: Put them in harm’s way. Judge: There’s nothing? You would do anything? True or false? Your children are affected by the lack of harmony between you and their father? Mom: Yes. True. Judge: And to find the right method just to have some degree of harmony is going to be very difficult? Mom: Yes. Judge: But we’ve already established there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for your children so therefore it stands to reason that however difficult it may be, if it is the one most loving thing you can do for your children, the time has come to do that, right? Mom: Yes. Judge: Do you expect to go and talk with somebody and within an hour, everything is better? Mom: No. Judge: Do you expect to be challenged with certain methods that you ‘re going to have to employ? Mom: Yes. Judge: And, uh, do you expect it is going to take time with you doing it over and over and over again in order for you to improve it? Mom: Yes. Judge: Do you leave room for the possibility that this case may not be the most legally difficult case that we have around here? Mom: Yes. Judge: You read Guardian Ad Litem’s report, it’s been a year ago, right? Mom: Yes. Judge: And it had a recommendation about seeing “a joint therapist”. Is there a particular reason you didn’t pick up the telephone and call “the joint therapist” to get that started? Mom: (In tears) yes. Judge: What is the reason? Mom: Because I’m afraid of “Mr. Smith”. Judge: Did you, did you contact “the Guardian Ad Litem” to inquire why she would make such a recommendation? Mom: No, sir. Judge: Did you talk… you realize you could have filed a motion with the court to address how that could be “done” if in fact it was to be attempted? Mom: No, I didn’t “find out how it could be done differently.” Judge: How much weight do you believe I should place on what your children say they would like to do? Mom: (silence and crying) Sorry. Judge: (After 30 seconds of silence waiting for Ms. Smith to respond) You don’t need to answer that. Can you see that when you want Annie to go from gymnastics to cheer, and she expresses excitement to you, and you don’t diffuse that, you put Mr. Smith in a tough spot with her? Mom: Yes. Judge: In a similar light, when he hears homeschooling options, from the boys, and he doesn’t diffuse that, or say I need to talk to your mother about that, he puts you in a very tough spot, doesn’t he? ‘Cause you want to walk that fine line between loving your boy, your children and doing everything you can for them, but also saying no when you think it’s appropriate. Mom: Yes. Judge: And you’d like to have his support on that, wouldn’t you? Mom: Yes. TIME 1:48pm Judge: Mr. Smith. Dad: Yes. Judge: Is it a fair statement that’s this may well be the most emotional experience you’ve ever been through in your life? Dad: Quite (can’t understand), sir. Judge: It leaves you wondering about the financial end of everything, right? Dad: Yes, sir. Judge: It leaves you wondering about what’s going to be happening with respect to the care and the upbringing of your children? Dad: Yes, sir. Judge: And you have to suffer from the loss of your marriage? Dad: Yes, sir. Judge: So, when I ask the questions about a certain emotion of having Mrs. Smith file this action, that is true? Correct? Dad: Yes, sir. Judge: That was not a positive emotion, was it? Dad: No sir. Judge: You didn’t say, “oh, thank goodness, I was hoping to do this next week?” Dad: No, sir. Judge: And the term “temporary residential parent status” gave her an element of control over your children that you did not like? Dad: Yes, I agree. Speak up? Yes. Judge: You felt like you were on the outside looking in? Dad: Yes. Judge: You didn’t feel like a full, full- no fool, you didn’t feel like a full, active participant in the future care and upbringing of your children? Dad: I agree. Judge: Which creates worry, frustration, anger. Dad: Frustration. Judge: Mr. Smith, you agree with me, you have been the one during the term of this family’s existence who makes the money? Dad: Yes, yes. Judge: And so therefore, nothing can get paid for unless you provide it? Dad: Yes. Judge: And, so, therefore if Ms. Smith, needs the roof over her head, the car that she drives, the gas in the car, the food, anything, she has to look to you for the assistance for that to get done. Correct? Dad: Correct. Judge: Can you appreciate that that gives her a feeling that you have a huge element of control in this situation? Dad: Yes. Judge: That’s not a fun position to be in, is it? Dad: No sir. Judge: Do you agree with me sir, that anybody who puts together a budget, probably could add something to their budget because there’s always stuff happening that is beyond what the budge is? Dad: Yes. Judge: And so, did her budget include buying birthday gifts on behalf of the children whenever they went to birthday parties? Dad: I don’t recall. Judge: My point being that you leave room for the possibility that when somebody sits down and puts in a budget, there are things that they did not contemplate. Dad: Yes, sorry. Judge: Would you agree or disagree that she does not feel as independent as somebody who makes $200,000 a year might? Dad: I would agree. Judge: So, whenever there was a request for you to pay something, and if you have reasons for saying no, then don’t you anticipate it’s going to evoke a certain response from her? Dad: Yes. Judge: He’s keeping me in my place. He is punishing me for what I’ve done. Do you agree she would like to feel respected that even though you earn more money, she did things to help you go off to make the money and so therefore she’d like to be a joint participant in the financial end as much as she possibly can? Dad: Yes. Judge: That’s what respect is. Do you feel your relationship with her now is better than it was 2 years ago? Dad: No. Judge: The inability to talk to her in an ineffective way, has that helped the 2 of you or hurt you? Dad: (sigh) Judge: It’s still a source of frustration. Dad: Yeah. …it’s been little communication to give a good answer to that, your honor. Judge: Do you think this is the most complicated case that we have of the thousands we get a year, the thousand that we get a year? Do you believe this should be one of the most complicated? Dad: I think there are some aspects of this are different, yes sir, I do. Judge: Is there anything you won’t do for your children? Dad: Nothing. Judge: Is there a particular reason you go this Guardian report over a year ago, you didn’t pick up the phone to call “the therapist” to get that started? Dad: Uh, it, no good reason, your honor. I, I no good reason. Judge: Be that as it may, you agree now is the time? Dad: Yes, sir. Judge: And is that gonna be easy to do? Dad: I think it will be a great start to improving our communication. I’m willing and ready to do it, sir. I don’t know if it will be easy, but. Time 1:56pm Judge asks if attorneys have more questions. Both state no. Time 1:56pm Judge: Mr. and Ms. Smith, I imagine this on Monday. We have lots of cases with not enough money to go around. It’s, there are people, I don’t know how they do it. Father makes $34,000 a year, mom makes 20, they got 3 children, I don’t know how they do it. That makes that case more difficult than this case. We have cases involving sexual abuse, physical abuse, that makes that type of case way more difficult than this case. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this, you 2 do not have some incurable form of cancer that cannot be fixed. It’s way more than a common cold, I get that. But if you’re going to the doctor, they’re going to tell you there’s a remedy for this. It’s going to take some time and effort. You’re going to have to follow some prescriptions, but if you really want it, it can be done. At the end of the day, it’s going to require a steady dose of respect. There’s a phrase called 2 strokes and a poke which basically means anytime you’ve got something you need to talk to somebody about you tell them 2 positives before you get to the negative. Some people would rather choke on their words than do that. And if you 2 don’t have children, I’m not having this talk with you. As it sits right now, there are 4 people who are not in this court room who are very much affected by the both of you and right now I don’t see the effort made to address the most important aspect of this case. I hear it all the time, “I do what I do because of the things he does.” or “I only do the things that I do because of what she does.” Somebody’s got to stop that. Somebody’s really got to get to the bottom of that. With respect to homeschool, there are competing factors there, there is what the children say, but I have to balance that with the past, and where we stand, and how are they doing. In a lot of respects, I feel like I am the general manager of a football team who’s head coach suddenly passed away, and I’ve got a new coach coming in saying we need to change our quarterback. And I’m wondering why? If we are doing well, why are we changing our quarterback? Now, there’s a difference between my analogy and this case, or to put it in my analogy, we have a quarterback that’s either been injured or is aging and so the day is coming that we do need to change our quarterback. I just don’t feel like today is the day that is going to happen. But Ms. Smith, as your boys get older; It’s a natural curiosity. It’s just human nature, the grass is greener on the other side, it’s not necessarily a negative to you, it’s just them wanting to be boys. Mr. Smith, that’s where the respect comes into play because this came across she has somehow not done what she needs to do and we need to make a change. You heard me ask yesterday to “the Guardian ad Litem”, if father would have called mother up and said, “look, I really want to thank you for all these things that you’ve done through the years, it’s a really hard job, I don’t know how you do it but hey, I’m hearing these things. Can we talk about this?” Totally different conversation. Totally different dynamic. But the way this was set up- it’s lines in the sand, we are going to have a battle and somebody’s gonna win, and somebody’s gonna lose. Dale Carnegie said the best way to win an argument is to not have an argument. So, that’s my decision for today. Ms. Smith, this is not the end of that. I’m gonna have the both of you- I understand “the therapist” – she does an excellent job but I’m going to have both of you go to Pastor “for a class on parenting”…. Time 2:06 pm Judge: … by a lot of respect, you are on the same page. You just have different ways of trying to read what’s on that page. Um, I’m always, like I said on Monday, I’m always glad to see 2 parents actively involved in their children’s lives, because that’s what they need. And so, I’m hopeful that when the day comes that littlest “one” is not “the little one” anymore and he’s graduated from high school and he’s on his way to MIT, or the IVY league and we go to close this file out, my hope and my goal is that your file stays where it is. If that happens, it means the 2 of you will have resolved each of their issues in a way without having to go through court. You don’t have to do that for my benefit. I’m here every day. This is my job. If you did that, I think you’d be doing that for your children, and I trust you both agree they’re worth that. Alright. Good luck to both of you.
“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating the change you do choose.” Michelle Rosenthal