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Handcuffed for Custody

The Judge sat on the bench. The calendar was called and the case was announced. The Mother and her attorney stood. The Father and his attorney stood. The Judge remembered these parties well. A divorce, just finalized a few months before.

It took dozens of motions, a few hearings, several failed mediations, court ordered eight week course in high-conflict parenting, and an all-day trial on the evidence to finalize the case. Yet, again, the Mother and Father were before the Judge, each begging her to right their ex's wrongs.

Now, the Judge watched the Mother, while pointing her finger, claim, "He said this. He never did that. He didn't pay." The Judge heard the Father begrudgingly admit he did say this, he never did that, and he would pay. The Judge ignored the excuses.

Then the Judge watched the Father, while shaking his head, assert, "She started this. She did that. She keeps me from my son." The Judge heard the Mother reluctantly admit she had started it, she did that, and she was keeping the son away. The Judge ignored the justifications.

After hearing three hours worth of evidence, the Judge had easily formed her ruling. She scolded both parents for their behavior, their pettiness, their selfishness. She noted the child was only two years old, their divorce fresh, and the future of co-parenting daunting. An order for contempt is powerful, but it cannot solve the source of the conflict. But, with all other avenues exhausted, the Judge announced the most radical cure for the parties' misbehavior:

10 days in jail. Each.

Ultimately, the Mother got what she wanted, to see the Father pay. In turn, the Father got what he wanted, to see the Mother punished. Yet, neither was particularly happy to hear the news.

The courtroom was silent when the sheriffs entered, handcuffed both the Mother and Father, and escorted them away. The attorneys were left behind in the courtroom, the desk behind them stacked high with exhibits. They'd earned their fee.

There is a tangible benefit to always taking the higher road. Not only is it usually the better path for your child while co-parenting, it will likely save you from ever spending the night in a cell. Being flexible, reasonable, and cooperative when your ex is involved can be a Herculean task. It is what judges expect, especially when children are involved.

It can seem extreme for a Judge to order a parent to spend some jail time over a custody dispute. It is extreme, but it isn't rare. Don't let your ex rile you up enough to spend thousands of dollars and several nights in jail. Consult with a family law attorney who will not only help you strategize your legal case, but develop a plan to effectively co-parent. Often times, that means finding an attorney who is searching for a solution, not just a salary.

The Mother and Father got the result they individually asked for, they got their ex-spouse locked up. Their attorneys got what they wanted. They got paid. But the Mother and Father's victory wasn't painless; it wasn't without handcuffs.

"Did you get what you wanted?" "Well, yes and no."

Jess Lill

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