When two people get into a relationship, hardly do they take time to contemplate the challenges that might arise if things go awry; at least most of us don’t…and even the few who ‘think ahead’ only do so with regard to finances and assets, hence the dreaded prenuptial agreements.
Earlier this month when I started my pupillage, my pupil master gave me some heads up, that in some instances I’d find myself looking for tissues to dry my tears when a client’s story got me all teary. Thankfully, I have read several cases, so I know how poignant a person’s experience could get.
Now that I’m being exposed to the practical side of a lawyer’s life, one thing I can confidently say is that breaks up can be awfully messy… and the worst part is, the ones who seemingly bear the mother-load of the brunt are the innocent children resulting from the relationship. Funny thing is, even legally they are referred to as ‘issues’, instead of children.
About a fortnight ago, I got to attend a negotiation, where an estranged couple were trying to reach an out of court agreement about how to have joint custody of their baby girl. As I watched the two split every holiday for the next seven years, I almost cried. I mean, here were two parents, who could not stand each other, but who wanted to be a part of their child’s life.
I have watched such incidences on TV countless times, but every time I comfort myself that the heart-wrenching scenes are all scripted. However, this was different. It was all real. There was an innocent child caught up in the murk. The case made me think of my own life. All through, I’ve watched my own parents fight and my mom’s sole reason for staying was because she wanted to ensure dad provided for us…basic needs and all.
I can say for a fact that living in a home marred by violence is damaging on so many levels; I have an anxiety disorder to show for it. On the other hand, having a child transfer from one school to another every year because their parents live in different localities feels equally traumatising for the child. Is there a lesser evil really?
As I sat through the negotiation, most of my concerns were about the girl. She needed stability in her life and that, didn’t seem like it would be happening anytime soon. Then there’s puberty, when a child is transitioning from childhood to adulthood. She would need someone to explain the physical changes taking place.
Silently, in the depths of my mind, I wondered which of the two unfavourable paths she would pick if she had a choice; her seemingly bleak one, or my anxiety-inducing one. I’m not sure there’s a better option between the two. What I’m pretty sure of however is that arguably, children suffer most when their parents fall out.