It’s that time of year again! It’s Back to School for our children, only this year without the benefit of a tax free weekend. But that’s another story for another day. As a society, we mark the passage of childhood in a number of ways, and the progress from one school grade to the next is near the top of that list. If you are on social media, I have no doubt your newsfeed is filled with pictures of your family and friends’ children on their first day of “x” grade. Mine certainly is and it’s a sweet departure from some of the other topics I’ve grown accustomed to (numb to) in my social media. Often the picture is accompanied by a sincere, sweetly written post by the parent about how bittersweet the moment is, how quickly the years are ticking by, how they hope their child has a great year.
Like a lot of things I experience in my world, I cannot help but think about it through the lens of my professional life. See, these back to school posts all have one thing in common: the parent is focused on one thing and one thing alone: the well being of their child. In the family law realm, this is commonly referred to as “best interests of the child.” I am not saying that this is the only time I see parents interested in the best interests of the child. But it was universal on August 3rd in Chatham County and universal in metro Atlanta on August 7th: It is one day that we all as parents spend some time in reflection over what the next year holds in store for our children: what we hope they experience, what we hope they avoid experiencing, that they are happy at the end of each day/week/month, that they learn and progress in their studies, and that they remain a child, our child, for just a little bit longer than they think that they want to. We grasp at the fleeting innocence for our growing children because we understand just exactly what the adult world holds in store.
I juxtapose this with the decisions I see being made by a few parents in the midst of divorce and other family law litigation. Because they are hurt, angry, or afraid of what their ex or soon-to-be-ex has done, the concern over what that child experiences, what they are exposed to, how quickly they are being forced to grow up seemingly vanishes because they are the most painfully effective tool to wield against the other parent. I am certain that somewhere in that parent’s newsfeed is a back-to-school posting about how their child is growing up far too quickly.
When I see my friends’ kids in my newsfeed in their obligatory back-to-school posts, I stop and hope they have a good upcoming year. Dear reader, I hope the same for your children. The world I dream of is one where no child is used as a pawn in their parents’ litigation and that all of our children are spared the loss of innocence by immersion in family law litigation. Until then, our fight to build a better way of practicing family law continues!