Years ago, Minnesota Judge Michael Hass gave some blunt advice to divorcing parents in his courtroom:
“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault. No matter what you think of the other party — or what your family thinks of the other party — these children are one half of each of you.
“Remember that — because every time you tell your child what an `idiot’ his father is, or what a `fool’ his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child that half of him is bad.
“That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.”
Judge Haas retired in December 2002 after 26 years of service as a Judge in Cass County, Minnesota. Judge Hass’ words have been quoted in an Ann Landers article, appellate opinions and countless attorney webpages, blogs, websites, and law journals. Yet this simple message remains sage advice for parents before, during, and after the divorce process.
Divorcing parents need to remember that their actions and words deeply affect the little people in their lives. Likewise, divorce attorneys need to remember that they are dealing with people’s lives and children and that their actions can last longer than the term of representation.