The law offices of Brandon Legal Group would like to thank everyone that entered our first legal scholarship. While there was only 1 recipient of the scholarship, we believe it is still appropriate to call out the effort put forward by other applicants as well.
Thank You Daniel Kersey for your efforts, and your submission. We wish you all the best in your education at University of Florida, Levin College of Law. Please know, you are eligible to apply again for the current legal scholarship essay.
Helping Your Child During & After Divorce
By: Daniel Kersey
University of Florida Levin College of Law
Submitted: May 3, 2017
The best thing a parent can do is to advocate on behalf of their child by not forcing them against the other parent. The primary concern in divorce proceedings is and should be the welfare of the children. Bennett v. Bennett, 73 So. 2d 274, 278 (Fla. 1954). Many parents believe they are doing what is best for the child, and are likely to even ask the child what he or she wants. While these actions are commendable, it is what occurs in the implementation of what the child wants that the errors occur. For example, Mom goes to her Son and asks “Son, where would you want to live, with me, or your Dad?” The Son, feeling put on the spot says what he thinks Mom wants to hear. The Mom then goes to the Dad, either in person or through the courts and tells Dad “Son doesn’t want to live with you, he wants to live with me.” Dad, not really wanting to accept that this may be true goes to the Son and asks him “Son, is it true that you don’t want to live with me?” The Son, once again put on the spot, provides the answer that he thinks Dad wants to hear.
This scenario occurs not only in situations of deciding the custodial parent, but dividing holidays, birthdays, weekends, and other events that will occur in the family’s lives. This unjustifiable predicament places the child in a position to either lie to one parent, or upset the other, and is usually a lose-lose situation for the child. The best thing that parents can do is to advocate on behalf of the child, but leave the child out of it. The “best interest of the child” has plagued courts, judges, and attorneys throughout the nation. If these situations are so complicated as to confound educated legal and philosophical minds, placing these burdens in the hands of the child creates a “bad-guy” in every situation. Parents should speak to children about the environment that the child would like to have, explain the scenarios and the options, ask for input on the decision as a unitary whole, but not place the child in an arbitrator’s position.
Being the product of divorced parents, each with multiple divorces, I am aware of the predicaments that can arise when one parent belittles another’s character, and places the child in a position of “having to choose.” Experienced time and time again, the statements and “digs” of one parent to the other, and the different explanations as to “what happened and who was to blame” made me feel like if I didn’t choose one parent, then I was disappointing them. Furthermore, as I grew older and began to develop my opinion, I also began to understand that sometimes situations and relationships just don’t work out, and in reflection, I wish that I had just been left out of the situation altogether.
Parents should strive to understand how the children of divorce both view the situation, and view their roles and responsibilities in the situation. Reaffirming that a child is not to blame, is able to have a voice, and that both parents truly want to understand the child and know his or her wishes, and accept those wishes will develop a healthy unitary whole amongst the previous family unit. These understandings can come through honest and respectful discussions between the parents and the children, where the child is able to speak, and explain his/herself. When the child honestly feels like his or her opinion will not backlash at that moment or later, he or she will be honest with both parents. However, when the child is a ping-pong ball between the parents and used as a tool, this leads only to problems and resentment.
As with almost any situation, effective communication is key, children are smarter than parents give them credit for. Leaving the child out of the arguments, and advocating for them without using them as a pawn is one of the best things a parent can do to help a child during and after a divorce. Since “there is normally no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question fit parents’ ability to make the best decisions regarding their children,” fit parents must advocate for their children, and communicate effectively, while refraining from using the child as a pawn. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 58 (2000). Leaving the child out of the dramatization of the failed marriage will permit the child to develop trusting bonds with both parents, without feeling like he or she is letting either one down for his or her decisions.