Thursday, July 1, 2010


I am painfully aware that I have taken an unacceptably long hiatus from this blog.  As you can tell, in part from the last post, the events of the month and our trial schedule has kept me occupied and away from this nightly duty.


I once handled a matter that involved a teenage girl who was the bane of her parents' existence.

Of course, many of my cases involve kids.  Usually the questions are who gets the kids, who spends time with the kids, who makes important decisions about the kids?  Often enough the children are involved on some level.  The kids almost always know about custody questions and, particularly if they are of age, often want to have a say. The gal I'm writing about tonight wanted to run the whole show.  She caused great trouble in her parents' divorce and she was quite aware of it.

Somehow, somewhere, the parents had put her in charge.  Everything had to be cleared by her.  What she didn't like, didn't happen.  "How would this be for you, dear?"  "Mommy, I don't like it!"  "Okay, then, we won't do it."  You can imagine. 

So here her parents were divorcing, I presume with her blessing, but she insisted on running that show, too.   And, in little girl fashion, her interference was not marginal, not subtle, but had to be center stage, occupying all energies and manifesting huge crises. 

It was a nightmare.

As time wore on, one parent began to get it, began to try to reign the child in.  The other parent continued to carry out the child's bidding.  Do you want to guess which parent that child wanted to live with?  When a teenager is given a choice between rules and absolute freedom to do what she wants, it is the rare teenager who knows that rules are in her best interest.

But the law gives that teenager a choice.  And judge's are somewhat loathe to deny a teenager's wishes, particularly as they get older. 

So the parent who enforces boundaries loses and of course the child loses.  And the parent who is laissez-faire prevails. 

And yes, sometimes the legal outcome makes no sense.

I think maybe the judges think the child is so far along and too far gone, that telling the child "no" on that particular judgment day, has very little lasting value.  Insofar as the judge, a stranger, can step in and change family dynamics with a solitary judgment is concerned, it would be an exercise in pure hubris for that the judge to believe he would really make a difference.

And so the child is lost, at least temporarily, until the day she is tested, weighed, measured and hopefully on that fateful day, not found wanting. 

We never really know.  Only time will tell. 

I can only hope that time will be kind.

Michael Manely

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree that giving a teenager this important choice is not always in their best interest. It is a heart crushing blow to the parent who loses out.