The first round of the holidays is behind us, and I do hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you who are divorced and co-parenting I hope it was filled with easy schedules and cordial interactions with your co-parent/ex-spouse.
In my nearly 20 years as a New Jersey divorce and family law attorney I have helped countless clients work out their parenting time and child custody plans. This planning always involves the division of holiday time, and usually includes times and locations of where children will be dropped off or picked-up. I always tell my clients that while there may always be some awkwardness during these exchanges, it is always in the best interest of the children and the parents’ sanity to make them as civil as possible.
Clearly, I was not the attorney helping Halle Berry and her co-parent/ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry. Just in case you missed it, things did not go smoothly at Berry house Thanksgiving morning. While Aubry was dropping off their daughter, Barry’s fiancé made a reference to a recent court battle (Halle wants to move the child to France). The dad and fiancé exchanged words and fists, and police were called to the home. After all was said and done, both men were in the hospital with cuts, a broken rib, and bruises. By the end of the ordeal, a temporary restraining order issued, and Aubry, the father, is not only forbidden from seeing his child but also from coming within 100 feet of the daughter, Halle, and her fiancé. Most striking, a child witnessed violence, and that is inexcusable.
I had the opportunity to be part of a much more civil exchange on Thanksgiving night.
As I shared last week, over Thanksgiving dinner, my girlfriend’s children met my family for the first time. We had a fantastic time at my house including a meal with all the trimmings (my first turkey brining experiment was a great success) and the festivities concluded with an extensive trivia battle over pumpkin pie. Shortly after my family left it was time for Jen’s kids to go off with their dad for the rest of the weekend, and he was coming to my home to pick them up. This is exactly the type of hand-off I have negotiated, and the first time I was going to be part of the action.
My girlfriend and her ex-husband have a very peaceful relationship revolving around what is best for the children. They are in constant communication about schedules, academics, and activities. But, in my experience, the holidays can bring up great emotions and I was putting lots of energy on us all having a very positive experience.
The dad kept Jen up-to-date on his arrival time, and he arrived on-time. We had the kids packed up and ready to go, including a full tray of leftovers for them to enjoy throughout the weekend. The dad came in, we shook hands, the girls were thrilled to see him. We exchanged stories of the day, and he and Jen even did some catch-up on his friends at the shore still recovering from the Hurricane. We cracked a few jokes, shared a few more stories, and they were on their way. Jen’s three daughters saw peace.
This is how it should be done, children should see happiness at the holidays. They should be given countless examples of how to act like adults. Jen’s three daughters will have very happy memories of this Thanksgiving filled with both parents who love them and who can come together in their best interest. This is exactly what my staff and I help our clients achieve.
Now I realize, that in certain situations it may require digging tremendously deep to be civil. In the best interest of the children involved, it is worth the effort you put in. Absolutely no good can come from a child hearing off handed comments and screaming. Great damage can be done when a child witnesses psychological and physical abuse.
We are just beginning the holiday season. If you have had any problems with your co-parent/ex-spouse negotiating parenting time especially during the coming weeks, give our office a call and we can strategize ways to fix your situation. We can give you the legal tools to protect your time with your children. Additionally, if your co-parent doesn’t understand the importance of civility, we can help you work through a course of action to help them see the importance.