The Bledsoe Firm - August 2019

The Importance of Putting Kids First During Divorce It’s critical for parents to remember to put their children first. During times of separation or divorce, there’s a tendency to lose that focus. After all, going through a divorce can be stressful, and sometimes our perspective changes. This month, many kids are heading back to school, and it’s important for parents to be there for their kids. This is especially important for kids just starting school or starting a new school. Every separation and divorce situation is going to be different, but there are compromises divorced or divorcing parents can make to ensure their kids don’t get lost in the commotion of the start of the school season. If both parents want to be a part of their child’s education, that is absolutely an option and is encouraged. There are different ways this can play out. One parent may help with certain subjects while the other focuses on the rest. Parents can also plan to attend the various events that may come up, from sporting events to extracurricular outings. This is when a shared calendar of events (such as a Google Calendar shared between the child and both parents) can be a huge benefit. Parents need to remember that their child is also dealing with their parent’s separation. Making a child “yo-yo” between parents too many times a week may take a serious emotional toll on the child, not to mention be disruptive to routines and school schedules. If parents can’t come to a mutual agreement on a parenting schedule, that’s when they need to seek intervention of the court. Then, the court will decide on a schedule that’s in the best interest of the children. Finding the right balance can be tough. We have to balance work, family, and even time for just ourselves. But again, don’t forget about the kids. They need you.

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In my mind, the point wasn’t fully relevant to the case, but nevertheless, I had to address it.

Court etiquette requires you to directly answer the judge. “Yes,” “no,” and “I don’t know” are all acceptable answers. You never want to ignore a judge or try to get around it. So, I addressed the judge and answered the question, knowing it could derail the case. I said I would be happy to offer a supplemental brief on the point that had been brought up. That way the judges would be fully informed on the matter. At this point, I was shaky. I felt panicked — I was worried about the rest of the case. I felt like everything had been derailed and that so much of what we had worked hard for was in serious trouble. But I pushed on, and my entire focus was on getting back to my strongest question. I went on for 22 minutes, feeling shaky and uncertain the whole time. I couldn’t stop thinking about what the judge had brought up. As it happened, I got a notice from the court that they did want to see a supplementary brief. I would need to put that together. This was the second time we had been asked for a brief, which wasn’t unusual, being that it was such a big case. A few days later, I had the chance to watch my argument on video (everything was videotaped). I was a bit apprehensive about watching it. I didn’t want to see myself all shaky and nervous. But I sat down with my wife and watched it. The interesting thing is that it’s easy to get wrapped up inside your own head. You may feel shaky and nervous on the inside, but on the outside, it’s a different story. After we watched the video, one of the first things my wife said was, “I thought you did great!” She picked up on a lot of things that were said by both sides and pointed out different inflections and mannerisms — but my shaky nervousness wasn’t one of them. It had gone very well! My apprehension was for nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. I learned an important lesson watching the video and thinking back to my experience in the Courts of Appeal. I knew the law, and I knew the subject matter, and even though I thought I was shaky and nervous, no one else noticed. The lesson I learned is that, even if you’re thinking you’re experiencing the “worst-case scenario,” it may actually be a good thing. It might not seem like it in the moment, but that’s the great thing about reflection. In the end, the supplemental briefing addressed the point and actually proved that our side was right, making the other side look weaker. As hard as it can be, you have to push forward through those tough moments and through to the end. You never know what you might discover about yourself. —John Bledsoe

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