Consumer — 21 October 2013

Special to American News Report

court gavel on top of a law bookWhen a divorce occurs, there are usually attorneys for each side. But, if there are children involved, who’s watching out for them?

Children seldom have representation. In fact, many times they are so young, they don’t know what’s going on.

Here’s how Dr. Jann Gumbiner, a licensed psychologist and clinical professor at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, described it:

“Many divorced spouses are in and out of court all of the time. Family lawyers are fond of saying ‘litigation is recreation for divorced parents.’ There are ugly e-mails, violent phone calls, and frequent trips to family court. Big threatening judges in dark robes take preteens into small rooms and ask them who they want to live with. ‘Choose your mother or father.’ It is naïve to think this doesn’t impact children. Children suffer.”

Attorneys who are working with their clients shouldn’t allow the children to become a bargaining chip in a dispute.

“The court hates it when a child is used that way,” said Brenda Fishbein, an attorney in Ellicott City, Maryland. “Any child psychologist will tell you that negative comments about one parent from another are just wrongheaded and damaging to the child.”

Divorce is tough on kids, but the growing scientific evidence is that children adjust over time, as this article in Scientific American indicates. Divorce affects most children in the short run, but research suggests that kids recover rapidly after the initial blow.

“We speak with our divorced clients all the time about thinking about their children,” said Fishbein.”Almost all parents worry about their children, but divorce can be a very emotional and angering experience. It is very disappointing when one parent disparages the other in front of the child.”

The answer to the question of “who is watching out for the child?” is that the parents need to be.

“Part of our job as attorneys is to make sure that we know what the client wants. And in almost every case, the parents love the children and want them to be okay,” said Fishbein. “Sometimes in the heat of battle we have to remind them about the children. Usually that works.”


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