For Better Or Worse, Your Kids Need Both Of You

By: Lucille P. Uttermohlen | Posted: 21st December 2009

Copyright (c) 2009 Lucille Uttermohlen

I had a case today that was very typical. Two divorced parents who generally got along found themselves in court because of their 15 year old daughter. She is a poor student, had some rather unsavory observations on her "My Space" page, and generally has shown herself to be a pain in the nether regions.

The father is one of those people who is so laid back, it is amazing he can stand up. He isn't a bad guy, just a little distant and self involved. He works 5 nights a week, and is more interested in being a buddy to his kids than a parent. In short, if he gets the custody decision he wants, the daughter's step-mother will be raising the girl.

The mother is from the old school. She believes her kids should do what they are told, and she monitors their computer and cell phone use. When the daughter lived with her, she had a strict curfew, and could not go out with her friends unless she told her mom where she was going, with whom, and when she'd be back. The daughter wasn't allowed to date, and most of her social activities had to be approved by Mom beforehand. This may sound strict, but it will also sound familiar to those of us of a certain age.

Judgipoo was not happy with either parent. He felt the father was supporting the child in her disrespectful behavior. He didn't reveal his deepest thoughts to the mother, but he wasn't happy with the daughter's grades when she lived with either parent. He was not interested in hearing the testimony of one of my witnesses to whom daughter dearest tried to sell drugs. In short, he came into court mad, wasn't too happy when he listened to the parents, and was madder still when the hearing ended. All of the tropical plants in his courtroom were amply steamed, and the lawyer eating snakes went to bed tonight with full bellies.

The sad thing about this situation is that it could have been avoided. The parents apparently talked together about their kids and the behavior they expected from them earlier this year. The daughter announced that she would like to live with her father. The mother was willing to let her do it, thinking that a few weeks of not seeing Dad anymore than she would have during visitation would convince her that she may as well move home.

The daughter found that lack of supervision at Dad's was a fun thing, and decided she wanted to stay. Throw in the step-sister with driving privileges, and the fact that no one made her do anything she didn't want to, and it is easy to understand why she did not want to come back to her mother's more regimented environment.

Dad refused to listen to Mom when she tried to tell him why she didn't think things were working out. The girl admitted to Mom that she no longer had friends, and that she no longer engaged in the school activities she used to love. Dad testified that the only reason he had brought his custody case was that the "daughter wanted to live with him". He didn't know what grade she was in, nor did he know who her friends were, and that she had put her cell phone number on "My Space" where all the little perverts in the world could find it and call her for a nice sexy chat. If she's lucky, she can have a date with a sex offender in 24 hours or less. Dad would be at work, so he needn't be the wiser.

Both parents love the daughter. Dad just thinks he is being a good father because the girl relates to him like she does with the rest of the kids in her class. Mom thinks the kid ought to tow the line, and that she should be accountable for her time and attitudes towards people.

They are both right. Kids need to feel they can confide in their parents. There is a lot of confusing influences in today's high schools, and a kid needs to be confident that the person who is responsible for their well being understands their feelings. However, they also need to be stopped from making choices that are not good for them, and Mom and Dad are the ones who have to guide them in this regard.

When people divorce, they need to forget their feelings towards each other when they are raising their kids. As hard and unpleasant as it can be, they should sit down and discuss what their kids are doing, and what actions they should be taking. Unfortunately, too many kids of divorce end up being parented by judges because the parents can't agree between themselves what is best for their children. Not only does the court end up deciding where they will live, and how they will be supported, it also ends up having to decide whether the kids should have to go to reform school, or whether their drug use was a one time thing. This fact, more than anything else often results in a disconnect between society and the next generation. This is why divorcing couples should be very careful that living separately doesn't mean they will no longer parent together.


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Lucille Uttermohlen has been a family law attorney for 27 years. She has written a number of articles about divorce and other couple related issues. For more information and free downloads, visit Lucille at http://www.couple-or-not.com If you have questions about the law, or relationship issues, write to Lucille at lucille@utter-law.com.
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Tags: parents, mom, sad thing, lawyer, snakes, drugs, cell phone use, laid back, testimony, old school, certain age, courtroom, tropical plants, bellies, lucille