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Fred Silberberg

Fred Silberberg

Posted: July 22, 2009 10:51 AM

No One Has the Sense to Protect These Children


In more than 23 years of handling divorce cases, I have seen first hand the difficulties that children encounter when their parents cannot work out their issues, especially custody issues. When those disagreements exist, parents often resort to making allegations about the fitness or character of the other parent. At times, these allegations about fitness or character involve behaviors that the other parent claims to either have personally observed, or to have knowledge of.

In most states, including my home state of California, divorce files are public record and anyone can view them. Despite my own unsuccessful effort to get legislation introduced in the California Assembly that would seal divorce records, these divorce court files remain open to anyone who has the inclination and the time to look at them. Many of these files contain sordid details about the personal lives of the litigants. The details run the gamut from financial information to information about the parties' personal problems, and problems surrounding their children. In the context of a divorce, family business is no longer that.

In the tempestuous waters of a marriage breaking up, emotions, and not common sense rule the day. One side wants to attack the other; one party is often perceives himself or herself as the victim who now wants to lash out at the aggressor. Oftentimes, the tool used to attack the other side is the children. When that happens, the damage is often irreversible. Not only are the children put under enormous amounts of stress, but the public disclosure of what goes on in their private lives can often be devastating. Moreover, that information is easily ascertained years after the case is over and done with. Court files are maintained, in theory, into perpetuity. And the information remains there, even if the allegations are not true. Poor judgment on the part of parents who are only interested in themselves can have the most serious consequences for the unintended victims; the children.

In cases of acrimonious divorce, there is one minuscule saving grace: in order to get the information, one has to get the court file. Unless the file concerns someone known to the public, in which case the media will often publish portions of the file, this effort serves, to some extent, as a deterrent. However, in the coming weeks that won't be the case with regard to a certain family in Pennsylvania; the heads of which seems ready, willing, and able to air their dirty laundry in front of the nation in exchange for a nice payout when it is aired on national television. I am talking, of course, about Jon and Kate Plus 8.

This reality based television series takes the question of impaired parenting judgment to a new level. It is bad enough that Jon and Kate Gosselin decided to make their lives of their eight children public spectacles in exchange for fame and fortune. Certainly no one asked these eight small children whether they wanted what would otherwise have been a private, and hopefully somewhat innocent childhood, kept that way. Instead, their parents decided that their lives would now be exposed to millions of Americans that they did not know, and would never meet. For the past couple of years, millions of strangers have been given the opportunity to view matters regarding these children that, but for their parents narcissistic behavior, would not otherwise have been known by anyone.

Having opened the door to the public through the miracle of modern television, the Gosselins have now compounded the potential damage to their children, but making very public, the matter of their marital woes and impending separation and divorce. It is not bad enough that they have each decided to take their issues to the media, allowing themselves to be the centerpiece of most supermarket tabloids and other publications for weeks. Apparently these people cannot get enough attention from the media. Rather than saying "this has gone too far", the couple now intend to continue to air their personal dirt, when they allow the series to continue with another season, expected to open with scenes of the parents telling their children of their impending divorce. It is bad enough that people feel the need to air this kind of dirt in their court documents. The Gosselins are determined to make it so that anyone and everyone knows exactly what goes on in their household. Clearly, they have no regard for the impact that this will have on their children, on into adulthood.

The Gosselins are much younger than those of us who remember another set of parents who were the pioneers of reality television, the Loud family who, in 1973, invited the cameras into their household to broadcast the intimate details of their lives on public television. It was during that series that Pat Loud told her husband to leave the house and filed for divorce. For years thereafter, the Louds were subjected to criticism for the way in which they aired their personal issues in front of the American Public. As adults, some of their children expressed anger over the public being given access to their family matters. However, it is doubtful that the Gosselins would have learned anything from the experience of the Loud family. They seem determined to pursue ongoing fame and fortune regardless of the welfare of their children. And the viewing public, who enable this type of behavior, are almost equally to blame. It seems then that there is no one attempting to protect the well being of these eight innocent children.