In theory, it is best when parents with minor children are able to work out a custody and visitationarrangement on their own when they separate and/or divorce. After all, the matter involves their children/family and wouldn't they know what is best for their particular situation? Not always!
At a party on May 8, 2010, I began chatting with a woman who told me the sordid details of her ongoing custody problems after she learned that I was a family law attorney. Among other things, she informed me that the Court had ordered that her ex-husband submit to random drug testing after she convinced the Court of his history of drug usage and its impact on his fitness as a parent. The Court also ordered that he not consume recreational drugs or alcohol within a certain period of time before and during his custodial time with their son. She then explained to me that her ex-husband consistently failed to show up for his random drug testing. She expressed to me her frustration with the system because when she would learn that her ex-husband failed to show up for his random drug testing, she would file the appropriate motion with the Court to advise the Judge of the situation. She told me that she works in the drug rehabilitation field and that a failure to show up is considered the same as having received a dirty test because otherwise, the person would have shown up for the test. When she would go before the Court, the Judge refused to consider her ex-husband's failure to show up for the random drug test to be the same as a dirty test. Her ex-husband never appeared for any of his random drug tests and the Court ultimately removed that portion of the Order because her ex-husband never received a dirty test. She then explained to me that her son's performance in school had declined significantly because he was not getting his homework done and would get to school late while in his father's custody. She said that her ex-husband was unable to take their son to school on time because he would oversleep as a result of his substance abuse. She had spent a great deal of money obtaining an Order which the Judge would not enforce and ultimately eliminated. At this point, she was completely frustrated with the entire system and expressed to me that her son would suffer in the long run because of his poor performance in school and for other reasons associated with his father's substance abuse and the fact that the Court seemed completely unconcerned. She did not want to report the matter to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for all of the reasons set forth in my Blog of May 17, 2010 entitled, "The Real Problem with the Department of Children and Family Services." All that I was able to do for her was to express empathy for her situation, which I tended to believe based upon my experiences with such matters.
My last Blog entitled, "Emotions Play an Integral Role in Divorce Proceedings and Therefore Must be Understood by the Attorney" explained that "the emotional impact of a divorce is as severe as that of a death in the immediate family" and that "most of the literature on the psychology of divorce treats divorce as the death of a relationship." At the conclusion of that Blog, I stated, "It is horrific that 'both our court system and our culture at large' encourage people to make the most important decisions relating to the dissolution of their marriage, including but not limited to selecting an attorney to represent them, at a time when they are most vulnerable to making major decisions that they will later regret. Yet, when people are grief stricken following the death of a spouse, they are advised to 'try and avoid making major decisions at least for the first year following the loss.'"