Children Lose When A Divorced Parent Is
Guest Author, Anne Kass, - a retired District Judge of Albuquerque, New Mexico
What some divorcing parents would like, more than anything, is for the other parent to vanish. They believe that would solve all their problems. What they don't recognize is that when one parent disappears, the children's problems generally get worse.
A few years ago a case in my Court showed me what a high price children can pay when they lose a parent through divorce.
The case had started 14 years earlier. The divorcing parents had a one-year-old daughter. They were quarreling about how much time dad should spend with her. At some point the mother grew weary of the fight, and she moved to Nevada where she filed a second divorce suit. People could do that back then. It seems the father had also grown weary of the fight, because he ignored the Nevada court papers.
When the Nevada judge didn't hear from the father, he signed a divorce decree, provided by the mother's lawyer, which said the mother was to have sole custody. The father was to have no visitation rights at all. It also said the father needn't pay child support. I guess the mother's lawyer thought no time/no money was a fair deal.
What brought this back to my court 14 years later, was the fact that when the child was in her 15th year, she attempted suicide.
The psychologist who was treating her said the major contributing factor to her suicide attempt was that she had an intense longing to know her father. Everyone has heard of adopted children who move heaven and earth to try to find their birth parents. Children want to know their parents.
The psychologist said that the young girl had always blamed herself for her daddy's absence. She had thought, "Everybody's daddy loves them except my daddy. He doesn't love me. I must be unlovable."
He explained that children who lose a parent almost always think it is their fault.
He said that what it would take to make this child whole and healthy again was to find her father.
The mother was back in my Court to ask the Court to help her find him, because he really had disappeared. The Court has no resources to help locate missing parents. The irony in this case is that the mother is now spending her own money to pay a private investigator to try to find the father.
Fourteen years after she had "won it all" in Nevada, this mother learned that her own victory was her daughter's loss, that a parent's wishes and needs can be different from--even opposite to--a child's wishes and needs. Unfortunately, the mother learned all this at the daughter's expense.
When a parent's needs are different from a child's needs, we can only hope the child's needs will come first
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