This may be the most provocative piece of the judge’s dialogue. What are your thoughts about the Judge’s OPINION?
As a reminder: this is PART 4 of a 4 Part Series: Part 1 is an unadulterated overview of the last 30 minutes of a divorce hearing. Part 2 is what “Mom” thought and felt during her interrogation of the last 30 minutes. Part 3 is what “Mom” thought and felt during “Dad’s” interrogation of the last 30 minutes. Part 4 is what “Mom” thought and felt during the Judge’s recommendations. Let me set the stage:
This is the last 30 minutes (thus the time referrals- it begins at 1:38pm in the afternoon) of a 2 day divorce hearing.
The judge is speaking to the wife (Mom) first, and then 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
Mom’s thoughts are in BLUE.
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. (Oh, boy. Where is this going now? Be strong. I can do this.) It’s… there are people, I don’t know how they do it. Father makes $34,000 a year, mom makes $20,000, they got 3 children, I don’t know how they do it. That makes that case more difficult than this case. (Are you saying that because Mr. Smith makes a lot of money, my divorce isn’t is as tragic?) We have cases involving sexual abuse, physical abuse, that makes that type of case way more difficult than this case. (Have you ever heard of coercive control? Covert manipulation? So, again, because I’m not being beaten, you are minimizing me?) 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. (Yeah, the PTSD from betrayal trauma is not cancer, for sure.) 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. (Yes, I am aware. Bible studies, counseling, marriage books, Dr. Phil… umm and actually, sir, there are counselors that have said there is NO REMEDY.) 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. (Now you are critiquing my intellect. And you are wrong again- you can’t poke Mr. Smith and expect compromise. That is why I am here.) 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. (Did you miss the Guardian Ad Litem report in which I pleaded for someone to HELP the children? And don’t you remember fussing at Mr. Smith yesterday for the way he communicates to me? I feel like I am losing my mind. Breathe.) 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. (You think?) With respect to school, 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. (I have no idea what you just said.) 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. (Do not give him an eye roll. Make your face concrete.) Mr. Smith, that’s where the respect comes into play because this came across as she has somehow not done what she needs to do and we need to make a change. (Not the respect word again. Maybe if I dig my fingernails into my hand, I can make my mind check out. I guess the good news it that you, Mr. Judge, are talking to him right now.) 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?” (Wait… so you do remember the Guardian ad Litem…now I’m really confused. Are you admitting he’s the one with the communication issue? Because earlier, I swear you said we were both at fault.) Totally different conversation. Totally different dynamic. But the way this was set up- (Remember, you just said he’s the one who communicated wrong.) 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. (I’m confused again. Is your decision that we not argue?) 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”…. (Did he just refer me to a pastor? That feels really weird. And not ok.)
Time 2:06pm FINAL THOUGHTS from the JUDGE 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. (OH- I AM GOING TO LOSE IT. I KNOW YOU JUST SAID,
“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.”
AM I or AM I NOT doing the right thing for my kids? I feel like my head is going to explode.) 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.
….As a follow up to the Judge’s blind hope, Ms. Smith had to wait an additional 6 months for the judge to write out the decree after this court hearing. She has been in the courtroom for subsequent issues at least 6 times in 2 years with no end in sight.
My final thoughts. I don’t see the court system through rose-colored glasses. I can’t offer you hope that justice will be done. I can’t tell you the bad guys end up in jail. I can’t relieve your fears that your children will be safe. I can’t promise you will receive the financial support you need. BUT, I can teach you how to travel this path wisely. And that, at this point, is really all you have. Please reach out if you need encouragement, education, or affirmation.
“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.” Michelle Rosenthal The goal of my “Truth Series” is to educate with truth and infuse that truth with hope.
If you have a story you would like to share, please reach out at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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