This article is not about legal issues today. Instead, I reflected on some of the things children are forced to confront when a divorce turns their world upside down. When most people heard the word 'children' in relation to divorce, the image of young ones who might not understand what is going on comes to mind, but older children who do understand may suffer from the fallout in several ways.
These thoughts are from that child's perspective, based on stories I have heard and read:
Although I hated all the fighting when my parents were together, at least they were both still under the same roof and fully accessible for moral and financial support. During the divorce, my father moved out of the house and I was suddenly faced with having to make appointments to see him for simple things like lunch money and I had to call him to pick me up and take me to school.
Since the separation, Mommy has not spoken to my dad, so I have been left to make the arrangements for my brother and I to see him. I needed to purchase something for school and my mom told me, "Call your father. He didn't give me any money this month." Suddenly, I felt that we were a lot poorer than we used to be, and I wonder whether all the money is being hidden until after the divorce or if the lawyers are getting all of it.
Daddy took the dining table, the bed from the guest bedroom, his favourite chair and two of the paintings from the living room, so the house is a lot emptier and I hear echoes when we talk in the dining room. The good thing is that we used to eat in front of the television - but I still miss having the dining table. The empty spaces are constant reminders that my father is no longer here and that he will not be coming home - so I just stay in my room.
Why have I suddenly become the subject of custody proceedings when I can fully decide where I want to live and when I want to see Mom and Dad? When will I get the chance to tell someone what I really want? In the midst of the battle, I toe the line by not saying much because I do not want to be accused of choosing sides or saying the wrong thing and getting either parent in trouble; and I definitely do not want to have to go to court.
I overheard whispered conversations and I suddenly realised that the familiar neighbourhood might no longer be home and I will not be able to run next door to my friend's house because the family home will have to be sold. I might even have to attend a new school next year, because I have to live with Mommy and she will be going back to the country to live with grandma.
Family gatherings suddenly become smaller. The once-blended family is now divided along the battle lines drawn by my parents. In fact, some new people are at Daddy's house, because his girlfriend moved in with him. She is nice enough and she gives me some cool gifts, but I dare not say her name around my mom.
As lawyers, we are not trained to handle these emotional issues. We leave them to the counsellors and psychologists, and it is only if it becomes necessary to exhibit a report from the psychologist in the court proceedings that we become aware of some of the child's concerns.
The question is whether psychologists or counsellors intervene in enough cases to help the children cope.
Sherry Ann McGregor is a partner and mediator in the firm of Nunes, Scholefield, DeLeon & Co. Please send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com on twitter @lawsofeve.