The Problem with “My Kid” During Divorce and Custody Cases
What’s The Problem With “My Kid”?
Written by: Stefano Ceroni
If you were only drawn to this blog because of its title, then I should probably clarify a few things before I go any further: First, I’m not a psychologist, therapist, counselor or any other type of behavioral health expert who would otherwise be qualified to diagnose the cause of any child’s problems.
So, if your kid truly does have a “problem” that you are trying to figure out, I’m probably not the best person to be listening to.
Although… I’m sure I wouldn’t have much difficulty coming up with a few suggestions. I mean hey, I wouldn’t be writing blogs if I didn’t think my two cents were worthwhile.
Anyway, at this point, you may be asking yourselves “why the heck am I writing a blog about kid’s problems if I am self-admittedly unqualified to be doing so?”
My answer: You’re right! I’m not qualified, so I will not be discussing any kid related problems in this post. Rather, I’m going to be talking about your problem with “your” kid.
Sorry, I probably should have mentioned that when I said “my” kid, I didn’t actually mean your individual kid or your friends’ kids or even my own personal kid. In fact, seeing as how I don’t have any kids of my own, talking about anyone else’s kids would really be quite disingenuous, don’t you think?
So, what did I mean when I said: the problem with “my” kid?
Well, what I meant was: what’s the problem with thinking about your kid as “your” kid; as opposed to… let’s say…“our” kid?
See where I’m going, yet?
Well, unless you’ve been involved in a child custody dispute or divorce involving minor children, then you’ve never had to really think about how important the distinction may be between referring to your child as “my” kid versus “our” kid.
“My Kid” vs. “Our Kid”
That being said, as a practicing divorce attorney, I am certainly qualified to tell you about how important this type of distinction can be and how many people fall prey to its extremely subtle poison.
You see, when people who share common children get divorced or separated, one of the biggest issues that arises during their negotiation or litigation is what rights each parent will have when it comes to their kids. For example, who will have decision-making rights? And, what will their parenting time schedule be? And, who gets to decide what extracurricular activities they should join? (And so on…)
And, presumably, because the parties are no longer thinking of themselves as one cohesive family unit when they are fighting over the issues above, they have a very strong tendency to start talking as if their kids belong to them alone as opposed to belonging to both them and their ex.
If this has happened to you, don’t fret… its natural! All humans, whether consciously or unconsciously, have a tendency to alter the language they may normally use when trying to argue a position or make a strong point. In fact, it’s actually a tool that everyone should use when performing any type of persuasive storytelling because of its extremely powerful affect.
For example, think of a situation where one parent begins to tell you about how their ex was trying to take their kids away from them, and when doing so, they constantly referred to the kids as “my kids.” As a listener, our natural reaction is to develop a sense of empathy for the parent telling the story, as if the case involved a complete stranger trying to rip away this person’s child.
Don’t believe me?
Try this…Google reviews for divorce attorneys in your area and see how many posts include language about how some attorney helped the person writing the review win or lose “their” kid(s).
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.…
Well, if you’re anything like me, you will have noticed that people do this a lot. And, if my logic above holds true, you will have at some point during your reading taken sympathy with the party posting about “their” kids, even though you know nothing about the opposing party.
OK then, so what’s my point?
Well, my point is, when it comes those parties involved in divorce and custody cases over their children, this natural tendency is something that can land someone in very hot water.
Well, unlike most casual listeners, family court judges hear these types of diatribes all the time. In fact, they hear them all day, every day, for months on end. So, it’s safe to assume that they are not as easily persuaded as the average listener to become empathetic with the party who constantly references their children as “my kids”…Especially when you consider the fact that the other parent is also in the courtroom, talking about their same kids.
Think of it like this…go back to my example above with the party telling you their story about their ex, but then consider that you actually know their ex and you know them to be a very good parent. Puts things in perspective, right?
In fact, knowing the other parent is a good parent will in all likelihood cause you to subconsciously resent the storytelling parent for referring to the kids as “their” kids, when you know full well that the kids have another very capable parent who is still very much in the picture.
You see… now you’re thinking like a judge!
The truth is, judges hate it when people refer to their kids as “my” kids because it speaks volumes as to how that person perceives their own rights and power when it comes to the children at issue: that is, they think they are number 1. Judges don’t like this because judges follow the law, and the law says, mom and dad are both number 1. And, there isn’t much you can do about it.
Sorry moms…you don’t get any bonus points for giving birth or breastfeeding.
Sorry dads…you don’t get any points for buying them toys or teaching them to play t-ball.
Hey, it took both of you to make ‘em, so you both get to own ‘em. At least that’s how I like to put it.
Now please, don’t get mad at me moms, my wife is on your side. In fact, she has always told me that when we have kids they are going to be “her” little babies. (And, get this…she is also a divorce attorney). So, if she has trouble with getting over the idea that her kids are “our” kids, I know how hard a pill this concept must be for all the moms to swallow.
And, to be fair, I pointed out moms because in my experience they are the more guilty parties when it comes to making this type of infraction during divorce and custody cases. There is nothing wrong with that, but for some reason, it just seems to be the case. Maybe it has to do with the whole umbilical cord thing, I don’t know.
What’s the Take-Away?
The take-away is this. If you are involved in any type of litigation regarding your children, try to become conscientious about how you (or even your attorney) refer to the children at issue. I say this because not only is it extremely hurtful to another party to listen to someone talk about their kids as if they do not belong to them, but because it makes you look like you have absolutely no ability to recognize the needed and positive influence the other parent has over your children. This will not win you favor with a judge. In fact, in all likelihood, it will eventually be used against you.
So, try to remind yourself, no matter how much you hate your ex, your children still deserve to have them as a parent.