I got a call recently from a woman for whom I had handled her divorce. She and her husband have one child and my client has the child the majority of the time. Her former husband suffers from depression and he self-medicates with alcohol. When he is not drinking he is a good man, but when he does everyone has to watch out. We all know the type.
While exercising his parenting time he had a little too much to drink and he yelled at his daughter. He wasn’t drunk, but the alcohol made him a little less thoughtful than he normally was. His daughter called her mom and all agreed she should come and get the daughter. All was quiet for a few days, and then dad called his daughter to tell her he was sorry for what he had done. My client wanted to tear into him and deny him time with his daughter, so she called me.
We talked and I asked her how she would respond if his lawyer contacted her with the intent of denying her parenting time. She thought for a moment and said it would make her angry and hurt her. Then she said maybe what had happened wasn’t that bad. The safety plan had worked and no real harm had been done and that he was willing to meet with his daughter and a counselor to address what had happened.
Sometimes it’s the actions we don’t take that are the most important. Her ex-husband will have to learn to work through his depression, and he will have to get better control of his drinking if he is to have a deep relationship with his child. But if all we do is fight in court the real problems will never be addressed, and the necessary counseling might never begin. This family needs to address emotional issues that still hang over them, and often the courts can do little to resolve these. It takes trained professionals to peel back the layers of hurt so that the healing can begin.
Good lawyers are more than barking dogs; they have a concern for their clients that goes beyond merely filing legal actions, and they know when to advise to give the soft answer. Each case is different, and I always advocate safety, but know that the term “counselor” is another name by which attorneys are known. Call us if we can help. With you we will map a course you can live with.