My book is launching this month, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’d like to take a moment to share the introduction of the book with you to provide an overview of why I wrote the book and why, I believe, its topic is so important.
The purpose of this book is to share with my colleagues in the legal and related professions – as well as parents – some of the useful skills that I have developed over a long career working closely with children during divorce and separation proceedings. My hope is to ensure the best possible outcome from an always unfortunate situation.
The goal of all dissolution actions involving children should be to shield the child from as many harmful effects as possible. Most legal professionals are comfortable working with adults, but few of us understand the skills and sensitivities needed to gain the trust of a child to extract important information that will help us ensure the child’s best interests are met. These skills are not taught in law school. And even when they are taught in complementary environments, they pale to actual experience. Children differ from adults in thought processes, vocabulary, memory, attention, and moral values.
As a domestic relations judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, I was fortunate to oversee cases involving more than 40,000 children. I learned from each of these cases and their results. From this experience, I gained a keen understanding of the information that the court needs in order to make sound decisions and protect children.
As an independent attorney, I now focus my practice on the protection of children in divorce, separation, and other traumatic situations, including situations involving child abuse or neglect. My ability to discover and provide the courts with needed information often leads to the court appointing me to represent the best interests of children in family disputes. In these cases, I vigorously advocate for the rights of children by serving in the official role of a guardian ad litem or child’s representative.
I am also an experienced court-appointed family mediator in Cook County, Illinois, and also practice as a divorce/custody attorney. In all of these roles, I guide my clients to act in the best interest of their children’s mental, physical, and emotional health.
The breakup of a family does not always involve an officially married couple seeking a divorce. In fact, most children today are born to unmarried parents. The status of the parents does not change the trauma to the child. A breakup of a relationship and the subsequent decisions involving parental decision-making (often known as custody) and parenting time (often known as visitation) affect children as well.
Whether a child is born to a married couple, an unmarried couple, a divorced couple, a separated couple, a surrogate, or a single individual – the concepts discussed in this book apply. This book is intended to help a broad range of participants – including family law attorneys (especially those appointed as a GAL), mental health professionals, mediators, investigators, administrative personnel, and parents – understand how to best determine if a child involved in a divorce, parental decision-making or parenting-time proceeding is being placed in harm’s way. It is intended to help them identify and provide the court with salient information – and better the life of a child.
In addition, this book serves as a reference point for family court judges as they collect the information needed in order to make these vital decisions. Without a doubt, protecting the wellbeing of children is the number-one priority of the family court system.