For the most part, I very much enjoy what I do for a living. I get to help good people who are going through one of the more difficult chapters of their life. I receive the opportunity to meet husbands and wives who truly need guidance on how to pick up the pieces from a failed marriage and move forward with the love of their children as well as their own personal sanity intact.
Unfortunately, every once in a while I sit in court and watch a husband and wife behave in such a childish manner that I wonder how they ever made it this far in life. I should be thankful that this rarely if ever happens to any of my own clients.
Let me tell you about one husband and wife who, while I waited for my case to be called, could learn a very valuable lesson in common sense.
Clearly, these two did not like each other. They sat in front of the judge and at just about every opportunity made insulting comments about the other. The comments included opinions about the lack of communication, horrible parenting, dishonesty during the marriage and divorce, refusal to coparent, alienation of the children (which interestingly enough each accused the other of) and just about everything else you could possibly imagine.
That wasn’t the crazy part.
The crazy part was that these two could not even agree on something as simple as a pickup and drop-off location for custody or whether, and I am not exaggerating when I write this, whether the pickup should be at 6:15 PM or 6:30 PM. That is not a joke. I sat and listened. I still cannot believe the judge sat and listened while these two spouses advocated to the court why there was such a significant difference in the 15 minute time-frame that the children would be picked up by one of them and dropped off any other.
They both wanted to Court to micromanage their family.
45 minutes into the hearing, the Orange County family law judge finally said what I expected him to say 43 minutes before. That the “court cannot micromanage family or your lives no matter how much or how little the two of you fail to get along or cannot agree.”
What is so difficult about this concept? Did these two who both held down jobs that paid them a middle-class income, somehow managed to get to their 40’s in life, went through a wedding ceremony, reception, honeymoon and, if I heard them correctly, were married for 14 years, really need a judge to tell them that? Micromanaging family doesn’t work during a marriage. These two actually wanted a complete stranger in a black robe to do it during a divorce.
How is it possible that these two could have lived together without killing each other if something as trivial as a 15 minute timeframe for pickup and drop-off would cause them to sit in court self represented and argue with each other and give their pleas to the judge because they both thought they were right and the other was wrong.
Then, it occurred to me.
It is something I say to my own clients every once in a while when I see that they are starting to lose focus– “do not let your emotions control your decisions. The moment you do, you lose control.”
Now, I realize that is easier said than done. After all, divorce is emotional and it is common for there to be bitter and even hostile feelings toward one’s spouse especially if there has been a breach of trust, such as infidelity.
But there has to come a time in every person’s life, no matter how bitter or angry he or she may be at each other, that they understand that energy spent on such trivial and nonsensical things is energy wasted.
These two in court behaved like two adolescent children in a playground arguing over a ball. I refuse to believe that the two of them were fools. There is no way they could have gotten this far in life by being so. Because they simply cannot get along, they look to the court to make the decisions. What they don’t understand is that the court cannot do it – it doesn’t have the time or the capacity.
It is almost impossible for a judge to be able to micromanage minutes within a custody case, whether it is a pickup, drop off or anything else.
It is impossible for a family law judge to take every issue that may aggravate or annoy a parent to heart and try to solve it.
Family law courts have to paint with a broad brush when resolving issues. All the orders in the world will not solve problems if the parents refuse to co-parent and communicate and a significant part of the whole parenting and communication is resolving issues and resolution is the opposite of micromanaging – it is letting go and trusting that cooperation and communication will prevail.
I don’t know if these two in court will ever understand that. I sure hope they do. Because, if they do not, then I hate to think what will happen with their kids as they get older and have, as their model for relationships and parenting, their own parents.