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“Visitation Isn’t Free”

(by guest blogger)

I observed something troubling in family court today.

A mom and her attorney had just come out of a mediation.  They were loudly discussing what had just happened with the mediator, ex-husband, and opposing counsel.

(A note on mediation: The family court sometimes requires disputing family members to go to mediation before allowing them to go to trial.  This can be a last ditch effort to avoid the tremendous heartache, time, and cost that become inevitable with ongoing discovery and hearings. )

The mother coming out of mediation was demanding that her attorney explain why her ex-husband should get to see the kids if he was a month behind on child support.  The mother’s exact words that sent chills down my spine: “Visitation isn’t free!”

There is a single phrase that echoes through the halls of the family court tenfold above others: the best interest of the child.  This is the one thing every person entering the family court needs to understand.  The best interest of the child is THE guiding principle in each and every family court case involving children.

The family court orders child support because children need to have their needs met, by their parents if the parents are able.  Likewise, the family court orders visitation because generally speaking children need to have relationships with their parents.  Children need their parents’ financial contributions.  Children need their parents’ love, guidance, and support.  Not one or the other.  And certainly not one held hostage for the other.

This mother did not look like a bad woman.  Like so many faces in family court, she looked heartbroken and stressed and confused.  I hope her attorney put her at ease, and reminded her that her children need all the money AND love their parents can provide.  These two things are not mutually exclusive!

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