In nearly 20 years of practicing as a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer, there is one universal truth that must be followed; no matter how cruel your ex-spouse may have been to you emotionally, if you have children together, you must put their best interests above your own. While this may sound elementary and a “no brainer” to many of you, sadly this credo is not always followed. Please allow the following example to amplify this sentiment:
About 10 years ago, I represented the husband in a high conflict divorce wherein child custody was a looming and contentious issue. Throughout this case, it seemed at times that the parties would not even agree that, “the sky is blue.” On the day of trial, after years of litigation and negotiation, we finally settled the matter on the day of trial.
This year it was time for the son’s bar mitzvah. Regretfully and once again, the parties could not agree on one thing, not even the minor details. My client then visited my office with a post-judgment motion in his hands that had been filed by his ex regarding this issue. My office proceeded with our Cross Motion and our hearing date was an upcoming Friday. The day before court my client calls me and says, “my ex and I have settled the matter.” As a proponent of fair settlements (especially when children are involved) I was excited. Then I heard the settlement terms; each party would have their own bar mitzvah.
I was horrified. I politely tried to explain why this was, in my opinion, clearly not in the best interest of their child. Regretfully, my client and his ex had made up their minds and wanted the Court action withdrawn immediately. A Consent Order with all of the details of the settlement was drafted, approved and signed by a NJ Family Court Judge.
As a rule of thumb, if two parents can come to an agreement regarding custody and parenting time, I almost always operation in a laissez faire manner. As long as the child is protected (as well as my client’s rights) it is clearly preferred that the parents make these decisions on their own. However, if I detect that the arrangement reached between the parties is not in the child’s best interest, it is then my responsibility as a New Jersey Custody Attorney to get involved and protect the child.
In this case, I found it to be horrific that these two parents, who have been divorced for 10 years, could not even “fake it” for one day for the sake of their child. For those of you not familiar with the Jewish faith, a bar mitzvah is one of the most important events in a boy’s life. At the age of 13, it is impossible for it to have escaped this child that his two parents could not even be in the same room on HIS big day. This type of behavior is such that cause permanent damage to the child and my haunt him for the rest of his life. It may even affect the way that he operates in his own family one day.
While I appreciate the high emotions and bad feelings that exist between two people who had a nasty break up, there is just no excuse. Please always place your child’s best interests above your own. When the day is said and done, it is your child who loses.