Considering a multitude of differing perspectives and insights helps me to better hone my skills as a divorce lawyer. What I see and hear every day is rarely black or white, but a rainbow of shades of gray. One way of broadening my viewpoint is to read all sorts of blogs each week, an activity which I totally enjoy! Consistently, one of my favorites is Michael Mastracci’s Divorce Without Dishonor Blog. Mike is an excellent attorney from Baltimore, Maryland. His own difficult and acrimonious divorce and child custody battle led to his personal interest in collaborative family law. Attorneys and clients both should include his blog on their frequent read list. Mike regularly espouses ethical, moral and philosophical standards that we should aspire to meet. I have personally and professionally been a proponent of child welfare issues for over 30 years. So, when I read his recent post about “What We Are Teaching Our Children of Separation and Divorce,” I had to ask Mike if I could have his permission to republish it. He kindly agreed. Here it is:
“What We Are Teaching Our Children of Separation and Divorce”
I stumbled upon a quote, while reading some other blogs that may be of interest if you have children, especially young children, and you are going through a moderate to high-conflict divorce. Nearly 20 years ago a well known Canadian Jurist, The Honorable Justice John Gomery stated “Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child. It has to be taught. A parent who would teach a child to hate the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.” The case that led to the above comment involved four children caught up in a heated custody battle between their parents whereby the children became “catastrophically” alienated from their mother. How does that happen?
When you think of young children, their innocence and their sponge-like quest for learning, it is no wonder that they are so affected by their parents’ anger and hostility. It’s one thing to say or do a few things that may not win you the good parenting seal during a contentious divorce, but it is quite another to deliberately poison and pollute a child’s mind. If only we could truly love our children more than we may dislike the other parent.
Most people would agree that children do not belong in adult conflicts. However, it happens all the time. It needs to stop. We as parents need to become aware of the damage that we can do to our children when we allow them to participate in the conflict of divorce. We also need to learn how to protect the children when the other parent just does not “get it.”
It may seem ironic coming from a divorce attorney, but if people spent only a fraction of their time and money otherwise wasted on the fight, in more pro-active and productive ways, their children would be so much better off. Moderate to high-conflict cases may be tempered and tamed if all concerned adopt a collaborative and therapeutic approach. Individual therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, mediation, family counseling and the like are better uses of time and money than litigation fees and practices. Read, learn, and educate yourself on divorce and parenting. Some of the best ways to shield your children from the pain of the divorce and “picking sides” or being “caught in the middle” involve improving yourself and to the extent possible, encouraging the other parent to do the same.
Our children will grow up one day, and statistically speaking, they have at least a fifty percent chance of divorcing their spouse. What will they remember from all they learned as children of separation and divorce? When it comes to teaching our children about the way people are supposed to get along, like charity and relationships, it begins at home.
Thanks, Mike, for trying to help us keep our focus on the “big picture”! Why not set up an RSS feed to have his posts emailed to you? Click here to go to Mike’s Divorce Without Dishonor Blog.
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.