I’m very proud of my soon to be released book, Protecting Children: Bettering the World One Child at a Time. My publisher asked me to answer some questions to provide insight as to why I decided to write the book. I’m happy to share them with you.
Question: Your book is chock full of legal information about protecting children in cases of divorce and separation. What is your personal experience in this area that inspired you to write this book?
Answer: In college, I focused on child psychology. I was fascinated with the development of the human mind from birth to adulthood. I entered Law School from which I graduated with honors and served on the Law Review Board. That presented me with the opportunity to serve as a Judicial Law Clerk in the Appellate Court, where I learned in detail the practice of many areas of law.
I then opened my own law practice and litigated almost every area of law, from civil rights, to personal injury, to criminal law. My passion, however, has always been helping children. I found my calling in family law, which is what I concentrated on for many years. I eventually joined a major family law firm. The greatest opportunity, however, always was representing children as a Guardian ad litem, Child’s Representative, or Attorney-for-the-Child.
Then in 2008, the State Supreme Court appointed me to serve as a Judge. My litigation experience was vast, and I was trusted with presiding over many different matters. I quickly, however, gravitated back to helping children. I was presented with the opportunity of my lifetime, serving as a Judge in the Domestic Relations Division.
As a Domestic Relations Judge, I was able to help over 40,000 children. My focus was always on ensuring that each child had the opportunity to grow into healthy, functional, independent adults. I learned so much, and developed so many skills. The most important was aiding children by minimizing trauma to them caused by divorce, custody, and other disputes in which their parents were involved.
I knew that I had to write it down so that others would be able to help now, and long after I leave this earth. There will always be children facing trauma when their parents are involved in conflict. There are so many ways to remove the trauma from their lives. These skill are important and can be used by parents, lawyers, and judges.
Question: If you had to generalize advice to parents–not knowing their individual situations — what is the most helpful general advice that you would give?
Answer: Look at the world through your child’s eyes. It is easy to get lost in the conflict that you are facing, but your child did not ask to be born to you. That was a choice you made. Your child is entitled to a trauma free childhood.
Question: There is also a lot of great advice for attorneys in this book. What is the biggest or most common mistake made by divorce attorneys with regard to the children?
Answer: No matter who you represent, who the parents are, and how you know the parents, refuse to advocate a position that would harm a child. Judges are relying on you to help them get it right. Manipulation of the facts does not lead to justice, it causes injustice, which is inexcusable when a child’s life is involved.
Question: You’re a judge, so it may be hard to answer this question, but judges also make mistakes. What advice do you have for your fellow judges?
Answer: Do not be afraid to interview a child. Children are the greatest source of accurate information. Even when they are not telling the truth, because they are afraid of hurting or betraying one of their parents, their body language will let you know the truth. Then you can do everything possible to protect him or her.
Question: One of the great things about this book is your in-depth look at how to deal with different age groups–from infants to toddlers to teenagers. There really isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to protecting children, is there?
Answer: That is very true. For example: infants obviously do not speak. As an attorney who represents very young children one is really looking for bruising, repeated injury, and comfort with the parent. Another example are young children who are mobile. They will waddle over to a parent for comfort unless there is an issue with that relationship. As children age, they become better communicators. This can clue you in to a great deal of information. With teens, it is vital that they know their thoughts and feelings matter; that they matter. That is how they learn to stand up for themselves, and avoid abusive relationships. At all ages, however, it is imperative that children are removed from abusive situations. They need to know that violence is not the norm. It is so important to break the cycle of violence. A person who abuses was abused himself or herself. Children are not born violent. It is a learned behavior.
Question: Who do you see as the audience who will most benefit from reading it?
Answer: We can all benefit from each other’s experiences. I was blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime, helping over 40,000 children have the opportunity that they deserve: to be healthy adults who can have healthy relationships – in the work place, with a significant other, and with their children. Many of the children I’ve helped found themselves in high-conflict family situations. This, obviously, was at no fault of their own. Parents, lawyers, and family law judges can make a real difference in these children’s lives. I truly believe that we can make the world a better place one child at a time.