Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dad on How to Talk to Children in a Divorce Proceeding

(Dad holding my sister Sharon 1950 or '51)
From memo to then Supervising Judge Richard P. Byrne from "Commissioner Donald W. Pike"

I structure the interview in such a fashion as to preclude [children in custody battles] from telling me who they want to live with. I believe that can be very damaging in the long run to children and I don't think it's an obligation that they have to communicate to the interviewer who they want to live with.
If I could pass a restrictive rule of evidence to restrain interviewers of children in custody matters, it would be that theyy are precluded from asking children who they want to live with and would be precluded from asking children if they love one parent or the other parent. Once in a while, children will blurt out . . . "I want to live with mother or I want to live with father."
[The questions I ask after testing memory and the ability to understand right from wrong are as follows:]
Who bought the clothes they have on. Who fixes breakfast. Who lives at their house. What happens if they fall down and hurt themselves, who do they go to first? If they cry out in the middle of the night, who comes to their bedside. What would happen if they had a nightmare or a bad dream and called otu in the middle of the night. What would happen. Who they sleep with. Who their best friend is. When they go to buy clothese, who decides about the clothes. Do they decide. Does mother. Does daddy. Does stepmother. Does stepfather. Questions about their teacher. . . .
I ask questions about how often people visited with them and if they've had good times on the visit and what they did on the visit and I learn from them based on family law investigator's report or psychiatrist's report or the lawyer's offers of proof of what the witnesses will testify too. I ask questions that elicit the kinds of things that are of concern, that is, if somebody drinks too much or if there's been the use or drugs or improper disclipline. . . .
I've had answers from very small children that they're going to get a mini bike from their daddy if they go to live with him and if they don't go live with him, they won't get the mini bike because he won't have room to keep the mini bike . . . .
I 've asked . . . [the] question "suppose that I say you're going to live with daddy, how often do you want to see mama . . ." [I]f they say they they want to live with daddy, they want to see their mother every day, and if they live with their mother, they want to see their daddy every other weekend, the implications of that are so cleaar that I don't have to ask them very many more questions.
I have had lawyers crying silently in the backgroudn after the children have answered some of my questions and I've had lawyers apologize to me for having brought the order to show cause after they heard such an interview.

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