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Keeping it Together While Enduring Divorce

One of the most important things any family law or divorce litigant can do is maintain a sense of perspective while participating in the process. In my experience, people are all too frequently paralyzed by feelings of intense emotion during the period leading up to resolution of family law matters. Fear, dread, vindictiveness, rage, hurt, betrayal, pride and denial can all incapacitate normally mentally healthy people, negatively impacting the rational decisionmaking process.

Sadly, this poor decisionmaking doesn't just affect the litigants, it affects those people least responsible for the conflict - their children, and manifests itself most frequently in the following actions:

1. Withholding of the children for a scheduled exchange.

2. Failure to return the children at an agreed time.

3. Embargoing the other parent from any contact with the children by telephone during "their" time.

4. Deliberate actions which could have negative consequences for the health and safety of the children, done for the express purpose of annoying the other parent.

5. Refusal to return clothes or toys after an exchange.

6. Fighting at the exchange site.

7. Speaking about the other parent in a derogatory fashion.

8. Asking the children to pass a message to the other parent about some failure, either real or perceived.

Kentucky courts are frequently called upon to address these issues, and in fact will do so when presented with these facts in the course of a motion or hearing. There are ways, however, to avoid the costly step of running to the court over these failures in basic civility. As litigants engage in child exchanges or communications with regard to their children, the following factors should be considered:

1. Is the communication that you are going to have with the other parent going to accomplish anything, or are you just venting? If you are merely venting or seeking to score rhetorical points, it is probably best to remain silent.

2. Are you calling the other home too often when your children are there? Would you object to the frequency or timing of calls if the children are in your care?

3. By blocking the other parent from calling the child during "your" time, are you respecting them or doing your child any good?

4. Is there any practical reason for failing to send clean clothing or toys to the other home with the children?

5. Is there any legitimate reason to send scornful messages to the other parent through the children, or to disparage the other parent in front of the children by speech or conduct?

By exercising mature common sense and basic civility while participating in a family law action or divorce, a great deal of expensive conflict may be avoided.