There is a very frightening reality these days for moms considering divorce. It's a reality that numerous women assembled at the Monmouth County Superior Courthouse in New Jersey today are determined to raise awareness about, in hopes, of inciting change while calling the competency of judges such as Judge Paul Escandon in question.
Like Judge Paul Escandon, a number of judges are on the hot seat for being allegedly biased against mothers and ruling in the favor of fathers in divorce and custody proceedings. And whereas, in some cases, such rulings are warranted, in others, they are not.
The peaceful protest rallying together in Monmouth County Monday was doing so to protect "Abused Children Of Divorce and Separation." These moms are seeking to have courts dig deeper into cases and become more educated in determining divorce and custody rulings that meet the optimum needs of the children involved. The claim is that the manner in which Family Court handles these cases is not only archaic but in certain "high conflict" situations, the manner is barbaric. High conflict cases comprise many meanings, folks, including granting custody to documented abusers and pedophiles. It seems, when files are sealed and evidence thrown out, the playing field doesn't always level out in the most obvious, logical, or beneficial ways especially for those who have the most to lose -- kids.
Many times, in these cases, the safety of children gets lost in a variety of personal agendas, leaving the word "family" in the phrase family court to resemble more of the Sopranos than that of the Cleavers. The results can be devastating...beyond words or description actually. In some cases, suicide prevails, bringing an end to a traumatic tale.
No doubt, family court is a messy place. Judges have an enormous job to do. They can be burdened and buried under a backlog of cases that they must pass judgment on in a timely fashion. I am certain that this is not easy. What is equally as true is that "court", especially family court, is expensive. With lessor incomes earned by moms and longer court proceedings, many moms are financially destroyed even before the lengthy custody battles ensue.
Truth be told, the fallacy that moms are still making a killing when seeking divorce is similar to the continued fantasy that Santa Claus really does exist. You've been snowed if you believe, as a woman, that the current economic and legal "divorce and custody" climate will award you a bunch of money in the form of alimony, child support, and two weeks paid vacation in both winter and summer. The only guarantees either party will receive when filing for divorce are huge legal bills. Past that, everything is up for grabs...including custody of the children.
"Money" also comprises a tricky factor in divorce-custody proceedings. "Money" can work for or against moms. Those who don't have it to cover litigation costs to the extent that litigation is carried out when seeking custody, may fall prey to the party that does. Many a woman has lost custody of her children because she could no longer pay the high price tag that goes along with winning or keeping custody. Some women actually succumb to bankruptcy as a result of excessive battles. Other women lose custody of their children because they work full-time to pay the bills or are serving their country in the military and their ex's are free-wheeling it on unemployment lines or in jobs that are less demanding. Seems like, in these cases, women are "damned if they do and damned if they don't." It's difficult to calculate how money will factor into divorce as a mom. Beware, however, as it has an overwhelming impact on every divorce's ultimate outcome.
Divorce is one of those complications in life and marriage remiss of one solid formula or steadfast solution in which to depend on. Just like the cases it must govern, resolution comes in all forms especially when left up to an outside party, such as a judge, to decide. The memory of moms walking out of courtrooms with their children, new homes, and new hubbies in tow is no more, my friend. As my late husband use to always say, "The pendulum will always swing left or right for as long as man survives. And it will always correct itself." I get the feeling that we have hit a point when the pendulum may have swung a bit too much to one side when it comes to divorce and custody and many moms are done suffering or accepting the fact. Thus, we are in the throes of an appropriate correction. The rally in Monmouth County speaks to that observation.
That said, I think -- whether mom or dad -- we can all agree that "Children, and the safety there of" should always come first in life and in divorce. Parents who are documented abusers or pedophiles should never be awarded custody of children -- men or women. That's where the pendulum stops swinging altogether. I will always have a real problem with anyone, judge or jury, who thinks otherwise.
They say "Within Every Child Hides A New Story Just Waiting To Be Born." It is our job as parents to ensure that these stories are ones of favor and future despite ourselves. They should not constitute nightmares or sorrowful endings at the hands of our own failings. Nor should either parent be left wholly ravaged by a divorce as this too will negatively impact the children involved. We owe it to the kids to be grownups. Divorce and custody might, ultimately, be a crap shoot if we allow it to be but children should never get caught in the cross fire. Nor, should we depend on the legal system to do any better in carrying out our divorces than we, ourselves, are doing.
Truth be told, maybe when we do better, the courts will do better. One can only wish... hope... and pray... as moms, dads, and ultimately, parents!