Fighting the Urge to Fight for the Kids

It surprises me how often parents are willing to entrust a complete stranger, someone who has never met them or their children, with deciding their family's future based on what that stranger can learn about them in a relatively brief hearing.

As many of you who know me or have spent any time perusing my firm's website know, I mediate a number of cases for other attorneys. I begin by discussing the process and explain to the participants that mediation is their chance to take control of their own destiny and their family's future.

Several weeks ago I handled a mediation in which, I thought the parties were close to an agreement in which they would essentially each see their child for about half the time. At the last minute, one of the parties pulled out of the mediation because this party wanted to go to court so the child would not think that this person had not fought for the child. I saw one of the attorneys involved in the case recently and asked how it turned out. The person that wanted to "fight for the child" lost and now will only see the child about every other weekend instead of fifty percent of the time.

Occasionally, there are certainly instances in which someone should not appease the other side simply for the sake of settlement, for example, if the child would be somehow endangered by liberal time with the other parent (e.g. instability, physical abuse, etc.). In those instances, it most certainly is warranted to have your day in court. What I see on a regular basis are people who refuse to reach a compromise simply out of a misguided sense of ego and pride. These are the people who simply cannot bring themselves to reach an agreement with the other parent because they have built up such animosity towards the other party that any agreement would equate to some sort of capitulation that their pride will not allow. These people usually rationalize their decision by saying they are fighting for their children.

Custody litigation is some of the most brutal and personal litigation that there is. It is akin to bare knuckles boxing in which the most minute human frailty is exposed, laid bare and then blown out of proportion. Every skeleton is forcefully ripped from its closet and every family secret is told. In warzones such as these, everyone is affected, especially the children; no matter what you think. Moreover, there is rarely an easily discernible "winner" but it is usually pretty easy to tell who walks out feeling like they lost. Usually, it's everyone and the family is never the same. So, if you ever find yourself in the situation where you feel like you need to "fight for your kids," stop and think about whether it's that urge that your really need to fight.