What Doesn’t a Judge Know that Even a 10-year Old Girl Knows?

What don”t family court judges know?  An awful lot. For instance, a child”s heart.

I am always struck that judges, along with attorneys, are so often asked what is best for children. They have not the slightest training in child development. They have never counseled a distraught parent, or hugged an agonized child.

As a physician accustomed to rigorous scientific scrutiny of what works and what doesn”t, it is inconceivable to me that judges have been put in charge of our lives based on their seat-of-the-pants guesses about what is best for kids.

 And here is the ultimate disqualifier:  they have no means of learning what happened. Without follow-up, they continue as blind as the day they put on the robe. In medicine, we study what happened, and we correct our mistakes of the past. That”s why we don”t still apply blood-sucking leeches to cure typhoid fever. But the judges are still trapped in the 18th century, when there was little alternative but to give sole custody to one parent (in those days, it was the father).

 A member of ours wrote movingly about what happened after the decision of a Massachusetts family court judge to allow his daughter to move to Delaware. This is what the courts never see.

“Heather is almost 10 and has lived in Delaware since October of 2005.  And what is ironic is that I am sure the courts would consider this move a success.  She is doing well in school, has adjusted and made friends, and, overall, is doing very well.  The big problem?  She never wanted to go and hates having her parents so far apart.  We miss each other each and every day.  She tells me, “Dad, when I am in Delaware I miss you and when I am in Massachusetts I miss Mommy.”   

“I just got back from my seventh or eighth trip down there.  I don’t think that it’s fair for her to have to fly back and forth every month so I break it up by going down there every few months.’   

“The courts would see our situation as a success story.  The problem is, Heather and I both hate the way things are.  And we are the only ones who ever have to make sacrifices.  Her mother gets off easy.  Justice served?  Hardly.’

This man feelingly describes his child”s heartache – something the courts will never know.  So they”ll make the same mistake the next time  —  until we do something about it.

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