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A War On Two Fronts: the Courtroom & the Livingroom

His phone buzzed in his slacks pocket, his foot tapping the nerves out as he waited to be called to the stand. The Courtroom was uncomfortably cold. The chair he sat on, uncomfortably hard. The Judge sitting up at the bench did not look particularly pleased to be there. That resonated with him.

Another buzz of his phone signaled him of another text message. He knew who it was. His wife. She wasn’t here today. She didn’t want to be called to testify; she didn’t want to look at his ex wife or her attorney; she didn’t want to be involved. Which hurt.

Too much was happening in his head as his attorney set out the road map as to why he and his ex wife were miserably uncomfortable in the Courtroom today. With every buzz of his phone, he was snapped out of where he was back to the night before. To the night before, when she screamed, “just settle already; you’re choosing Will over your other kids.”

Those words rang in his ears. With each notification to his phone, he could guess what she was sending him. He itched to look.

Was it true? Was he choosing his eldest son over his other two kids? Was this all a mistake?

His son, Will, was ten and had only ever really known the two-household model, week on – week off schedule. Honestly, he and his ex had the co-parenting situation down to a science. But a few months ago, his ex remarried – which in and of itself wasn’t an issue since he’d remarried about three years ago – but Will’s new step dad lived over nine hundred miles away. What was a long distance romance was not going to sustain a new marriage, so, his ex was planning to move … with Will.

That was how they ended up here. It isn’t that he didn’t think his ex was a good parent or that she didn’t love Will. But, a move so far away was going to radically change Will’s life – and not necessarily for the better. Will would go from seeing his brother and sister every other week and at every baseball game to maybe a few times during the course of the year and in the summer.

He felt like he was fighting for his family. But after a few months of legal fees, accusations from his ex, discovery, and this hearing – his wife didn’t feel the same.

Now, as he waited for his and son’s fate to be decided by the Judge – he realized he was fighting a war on two fronts: in this Courtroom and his own home. As he listened to the attorneys prime the Judge for the evidence and argument, that sinking feeling settled into his gut. Did he make the wrong choice? Was keeping Will here rather than letting him move in Will’s best interests if his step mom was going to resent him? Was he going to be able to keep his current marriage together if his wife thought it was Will versus their children.

Was he choosing Will over his wife? Could he even consider choosing his wife over Will?

Just as another angry buzz from his phone jostled him out of his thoughts, his name was called. He stood up, and walked to the stand. There was no turning back now. It was out of his hands; there were no good choices up to today and no good choices after.

Perhaps that is why the Judge looked so sour as he took his oath to tell the truth. The Judge may not know that at home the cost and the stress of this litigation was tearing at his family – but the Judge did know that whatever the decision was – it would tear Will’s life apart. His heart shattered for his son; for his family, for himself.

But he took a deep breath, and testified.

Jess Lill