Just about everyone thinks their divorce case or child custody case is an unpleasant experience to go through.
And, truthfully, no matter how hard we attorneys work to insulate our clients and their children from the legal process, their divorce case or child custody case undoubtedly is unpleasant for just about all family members.
Except possibly in an uncontested divorce case or an uncontested child custody case … Possibly.
A new client recently asked me: what are the most difficult divorce cases and child custody cases you deal with? By “difficult”, he didn’t mean in the sense of applying my legal skills to the representation of the client.
His question got me to thinking. There was a time when I probably would have answered, without hesitation, cases where one party abuses the other party … or their child.
But, in the last half dozen or so years especially, what I call the context or backdrop of many divorce cases and child custody cases has grown more diverse and complex – and central to the outcome of the family court case.
It’s hard to compare these particularly disturbing divorce court cases and child custody cases to one another quantitatively or qualitatively. But what is crystal clear quantitatively, however, is that these especially troubling family court cases, as a percentage of all family court cases we see and handle, has risen over time and, in the last several years in particular, has really shot up.
These particularly disturbing family court cases include those where:
- either spouse / parent is a domestic violence abuser of the other spouse / parent
- either spouse / parent is a sexual abuser of the other spouse / parent
- either spouse / parent is a child abuser or child sexual predator or both
- a child of the spouses / parents is a domestic abuser of either spouse / parent or their siblings (or extended family members)
- a child of the spouses / parents is a sexual abuser of either spouse / parent or their siblings (or extended family members)
- either spouse / parent or their child suffers from severe mental illness (psychosis, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, narcissism, etc.)
- either spouse / parent or their child suffers from severe, treatment-resistant alcoholism
- either spouse / parent or their child suffers from severe, treatment-resistant drug addiction
- the couple’s child has extensive and complex, likely permanent, special needs
- either spouse / parent or their child suffers from a severe mental or physical disability (such as partial or total paralysis or particularly intractable bipolar disorder)
- either spouse / parent or their child suffers from a serious chronic illness that is not (yet) disabling (such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus, etc.)
- the couple’s child has been caught up in the juvenile justice system as a result of multiple serious juvenile delinquency convictions and
- the couple is in desperate financial straits (such as fearing homelessness due to foreclosure and/or overwhelming debt resulting from prolonged unemployment or significant medical expenses not covered by insurance
I wish I could say that the above is an exhaustive list of the most disturbing types of divorce cases and child custody cases, but it’s not. Just some of the most troubling backdrops to family court cases that spring to mind as I write at this moment.
Depending on the particulars and family dynamics, these especiallly disturbing divorce court cases can be especially rough on one spouse / parent or a child, on both spouses / parents, or on the entire family.
But it doesn’t even stop there. To a much lesser extent, although it may not be obvious, these particularly troubling family court cases can be rough on family court mediators and divorce court judges hearing them as well. Really.
Granted, this doesn’t make your divorce case or child custody case any better or easier. But it could be worse, couldn’t it?