A Chance Encounter with a Divorced Parent Putting the Child First!
An observation of family law attorneys and the trial court judges--who have to make difficult to impossible decisions between litigants over children and too are caught in the proverbial middle–is the extraordinary conflict that arises over holiday parenting time, particularly Christmas. Most all parents of Christian faith have special events and traditions at Christmas that they want (or demand) be followed during the Christmas holiday.
Unfortunately, many of the Christmas events overlap and the timing simply cannot be worked out. So for the month of December, attorneys and Indiana’s dedicated trial court judges try to resolve Christmas disputes, with more or less success. Ultimately, if it comes to intractable positions, no matter who “wins”, the children know something is not right about Christmas.
The entire Christmas story–the celebration of the Christ child’s birth is incongruous with putting the children in the conflict at this sacred time.
The Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines promulgated by the Indiana Supreme Court go a long way in creating defaults so that no matter what, a child is not the subject to police wellness checks or denied access to both parents at Christmas. For many involved in high conflict custody litigation, it almost becomes numbing–it does for the trial courts and attorneys as well: And fighting at the time when the basis for the holiday is celebration.
Last night I had a chance encounter at dinner to observe a father (unknown to me before that night) who was obviously exercising his parenting time with his four year old daughter and her paternal grandmother. There was nothing but life and vibrance in this child’s eyes and total absorption of the father and grandmother with the child. There was no direct or indirect indication of any inference that the child had better enjoy the time because she would then be going to her mother! (or substitute father!)
At that moment, I realized that high-conflict litigants can chose to accept the situation and make the best of a precious child and give the gift of peace during Christmas. It is obvious in this case that this time was not proceeded by high conflict litigation or negotiation. While divorce is a very traumatic time for the parents and children, it is possible to have quality time with your children without pre-disposing them to have a negative experience with parenting time and carry this expectation to their own relationships in the future if they are still on the divorce battlefield.
As domestic advocates who truly try to make a difference, I would say these were reasonable parents on divorce, and their counsels and the court empowered them to make a choice to put their own person needs below those of their children. Unfortunately, it not always possible with a spouse fighting an emotional battle, addiction, mental illness, or criminal activity–however if the focus is truly on the best interests of the child it is sometimes possible to step back and disengage.
Children are our future, and with divorced parents who co-parent the way I observed, it should give us all encouragement that while the parents have to move on (or should) in separate directions; they should fully appreciate and parent their children, not use them as tactical weapons against the other.
The point of this blog is the traumatic process of divorce can be minimized on the children, ultimately helping each parent avoid their worst fear–a child who carries into adult life with relationship problems or worse. Nowhere is this more important than in celebrating the Christmas holiday for those of the Christian faith–not fighting through it.
It is hoped this blog gives divorced or divorcing parents encouragement during the holiday time to recognize the best gift the parents can have is that child and focusing on their best interests can ease the burden. This focus is also a good one to carry on as a New Years’ resolution; and even if you have different religious beliefs and practices. This blog post was written by attorney Bryan L. Ciyou. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates practice through the State of Indiana.
May you and your children be blessed during this special time and during the next year. If you are divorced you have a lot of ability to ensure this. Give a little, and see the situation through a child’s eyes.