Advantage Denton

November 16, 2009

Children of Divorce

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 12:33 am

Melissa DentonThis post is actually related more to my practice as a family law attorney than it is related to lawyer finding, but I think it is interesting stuff for most people. On last Friday, I finished up earning my mandatory continuing legal education, reaffirmed my status as a pro-tem court commissioner and learned important stuff at a class on “advanced parenting plans”.

The people who work in the field of family law are just about all really caring individuals who genuinely want to do a good job and don’t have any intention of hurting families. Like undertakers, we help people through a really traumatic time which is also often an expensive time with many built-in changes. We are very glad when we find something that looks like a good answer for the tough questions we help people through.

I think that answers that look too good to be true are usually too good to be true. One size does not fit all families. The “science” behind telling us what parenting plans will have a good impact on children is not a reliable science at all. While the folks who research the subject of how divorce impacts children are probably giving us good food for thought, we absolutely must not breathe a big sigh of relief and apply their findings to each family we see. The studies which give us conclusions we are encouraged to rely upon have many methodological flaws (necessarily) which do not account for biology or the micro-climate social environment of each person and each family.

While I intend to take the time to read the materials which were provided at my seminar and I intend to read the underlying source data, I already know that the discussions of developmental psychology, attachment theory and reciprocal connectedness are extremely dependent upon the culture of the individuals studied. I know that many of the studies rely upon persons answering questions well after the occurrence of events they are questioned about. They are asked about things which were and are traumatic and complex in their lives. Many studies use exclusively the ubiquitous college students who are not and can not be a representative sample of the world or even American population. A college student’s answers about what they would have wanted when they were a child of divorcing parents is not good data to rely on. Children are supposed to be protected from significant parts of the information that is used to decide what is best for them. How can their (necessarily ignorant) hindsight be ultimate truth now?

Seeing lawyers and judges hurry to write down that 70% of children of divorce have this or that after effect in this or that circumstance reminds me of the fact that 94% of statistics are misleading. (I just made up the 94% number.)

Each family is a unique set of culture and biology that needs individual listening from any judge who makes decisions. It is very tough to be in the job of decision maker and it would be so easy to turn to the latest guru or proponent of “truth” about what is best for all children. The alternative dispute resolution methods that parents can use to decide for their own families are to be prized and encouraged. When people can’t agree, I sure hope that courts will view each case individually and not assume that any particular cookie cutter is the best simple answer. Blaming both parents when agreement is not reached is not particularly helpful, either. While it may make the judge look more neutral and possibly could make the person who does not win marginally more willing to comply with court orders, it often tears down the parent who was doing their best all along and who has withstood a torrent of harsh behavior and efforts from the other side.

Trends and fads come and go in family law. I hope that we can recognize that those who too forcefully pronounce that the one ultimate truth is now available should not be our sole source of wisdom.

November 7, 2009

Making a Life that Matters

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa Denton @ 6:58 pm

Melissa Denton I was recently confronted by the death of a person I did not know very well. This person was a relative in my parents’ generation, but I did not know her. I don’t know what work she did. I don’t remember her ever wishing me happy birthday or saying a kind word to me. We may have exchanged some banal neutral phrases at a family get-together from time to time. Though I have struggled to do so, I can’t remember one piece if information about her ever doing anything for anyone.

This shocks me a bit.

I’m pretty sure that we all use the occasion of another person’s death to contemplate our own mortality. When I attend services for people I know who have died, it is always my practice to recall my interactions with them. It is also an occasion, strange as that is, to get to know the deceased better. Almost always, I learn something more of the person I already knew. It is very comforting to me to review that person’s role in my life and in the community and feel connected to them and to other people.

My relative’s death leaves me with a weird void. I see it as a cautionary tale. She was a grownup when I was a child and never made any effort to connect with me or my siblings. No occasion ever arose where that situation was remedied after I became an adult. I feel pretty sure that if she had ever tried or done anything of note, I would have heard about it. (She might be the one who caused the breaking of a bunch of China by bumping the ironing board upon which it had unwisely been placed, but I am not sure.)

Perhaps the best thing that this relative has given me is the gift of awareness that I don’t want anyone who knew me to feel this way when I pass on. Connecting with people and making a difference to them is the most important thing we can accomplish. It is my hope that my work as a lawyer and my work with Advantage Denton as a lawyer finding company will make many lives better and that I truly connect with all of my family members with whom I come into regular contact. I thank her for this truly valuable gift.

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