November 5, 2021
“Destroying a divorcing family in order to save it”
starts the decision in a recent case. The case became a contest to prove each parent was a better person than the other. In the end neither parent won and both parents and the children lost.
Neither accused the other of being unfit or providing an unsafe home. They had agreed to joint physical custody and that they were able to cooperate to make joint legal custody successful. So what’s the problem? They were essentially only arguing over how many overnights each child would spend with each parent.
That argument consumed over $250,000 of this middle-class family’s assets. They spent their savings, including retirement. They maxed out their credit cards. Dad’s business may not survive because of the stress. The mortgage is in default and the children’s home may be sold to pay the Guardian Ad Litem. The children are on Food Stamps and now depend upon the state for health insurance.
These disputes took place in public in open court. Each parent’s unattractive behaviors, illnesses, errors in judgment, and verbal or physical attacks, real, imagined, or exaggerated, that occurred during the 16- year marriage were exposed. Trial transcripts are available essentially to anyone willing to pay the transcription fee. The court’s Memorandum of Decision, not only elaborates on the evidence recited in this article, but contains details of Mom and Dad’s finances, that are now available to the public indefinitely.
After all that, the judge ordered exactly equal sharing of parenting time.
It’s possible that a different judge might have seen the situation differently. Found Dad was the better person and favored him because Mom slapped him first. Or sided with Mom because Dad lied more than she did. But what mattered to this judge, and likely many others, was that neither Mom nor Dad, whatever their faults and weaknesses as people, was unfit to parent. And that both parents had stable homes not far from each other where the children could live.
This case is an example of an unfortunate consequence of the traditional adversarial system to divorce. The contest takes over. Here, as is clear from the decision, Mom and Dad seemed to lose sight of what was important – their children. Instead, both got caught up in, as the judge observed, a test of wills with the children as the grand prize.
A divorcing couple can learn many lessons from this case. But perhaps the most important is that before choosing litigation, at least explore with your attorney whether there are other options, like mediation or collaborative divorce, that would be more cost-effective, private and less destructive.
Consider contacting Attorney Cappalli to discuss non adversarial options so that what happened to this family doesn’t happen to your family.
Thank you to The Cheshire Citizen for first publishing this article in the November 4, 2021 edition.« Back to all news