This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You can lead a horse to water...

You can't make people make good choices. Working in Family Law is a constant reminder of that. Then again, so is my own family.

I have a (now former) stepsister, thanks to my (now estranged) father's remarriage (and subsequent divorce). I've only met her once, and honestly, can scarcely recall doing so (they live in Minnesota). I am still in contact with my (former) stepmother, but recently my stepsister has been contacting me. Today she called me wanting information about child custody, because her ne'er-do-well baby daddy is threatening to get full custody of their infant daughter and is trying to kick her out of their apartment (because he's sleeping with someone new... and hopefully that chick is smart enough to make him use a condom, because he's currently married to someone else and has children with that woman to whom he isn't paying his child support, in addition to having fathered a child with my stepsister. Winner!)

Of course, I can't really help her (she lives in Missouri, I'm not licensed there), and could only tell her generally speaking that family court judges don't usually award sole custody to deadbeat dads with a (recent and ongoing) criminal record and an ongoing drinking problem, so don't let him bully you, but that she should go visit her local Legal Aid office before things go any further. Also, of course, that she should get rid of this loser as soon as possible, before she ends up on the receiving end of a removal order because she's endangering her child's welfare by keeping this drunken idiot around, and her kid ends up in foster care. Is she going to do so? No, of course not. Last time I talked to her about this, she "loves him." (Cue vomiting noise.) That inspired her to move to Missouri with him in the first place. Now he's threatening to leave her homeless and take their child. Love is not enough.

I don't know what makes women stay with losers like that, or even be with losers like that in the first place. Not that I have a lot of room to talk about making good choices when it comes to men, or about staying in bad relationships way too long, but shit, none of them were *that* bad and besides, once you have a child in the equation, you have to make the tough decisions to do what's best for your kid, not what you want, just because you "love him." Or because you don't want to live with family members who are going to treat you like a child and try to make you live by their household rules. You have to suck it up and do what's best for your kid, and if that means swallowing your pride and living with a grandmother who is a crazy Bible thumper, which is her only choice at this point, I think you go buy a Bible and thump it along with her until you can do better for your kid. Otherwise, when the Cabinet comes and takes your child, you don't have much room to say you aren't guilty of neglect because you didn't leave the drunken idiot when you knew he was a danger to your child.

But I don't have the answers. I don't know why something that seems very simple to me is very difficult for other people. I had a childhood friend who was in the middle of a family court action for neglect (again, thanks to the loser she was keeping around her kids) and was ordered to drug test. Even though she doesn't use drugs (she says), she wasn't making it in to test, because she didn't have a car and no one could give her a ride. She said she couldn't afford the bus fare to get there, and her Cabinet worker had dropped the ball on getting her a bus pass. I'm like, you can afford to buy cigarettes, but you can't afford bus fare? Really? You know, if I were in those court proceedings, and passing my drug screens meant I could get my kid back sooner, I'd effing walk there.

But I continue to struggle with this with my own clients. It's a lot of a failure to just follow through with basic things. For instance, I have one client who I need to get some records for a hearing that is next week. She cannot get me a signed release. I just need her to sign the thing and mail it back to me, and it's been two weeks and numerous emails from me and I just cannot get her to follow through. I can't figure it out. Then again, I can't get certain other clients to pay their damn bills either, so maybe I'm just missing something here.

I don't know what I can possibly do to make other people do what they should be doing, but if anyone has the answer to that, I will give you a cookie.


PT LawMom said...

It seems very simple when you're outside it. I can tell you that when I was in a long-term emotionally abusive relationship, it was really hard for me to make the choice to leave. It wasn't so much about him but about MY sense of personal failure and accepting the fact that I chose him, had a child with him, etc. More than anything, no amount of love could change his behavior. That's hard. Having gone through several rounds of divorce counseling, I can tell you it;s common and most everyone delayed leaving because they could not let go of the "could have been" and admit that change is not possible. It happens across all socio-economic levels. I used to feel the same way about others until I looked in the mirror.

Jessica said...

Ummm...if anyone REALLY has the answers to your questions, I will give them my house. And my car. And my undying gratitude (along with that of certain friends and family who could use some eye-opening help in these areas!)