I experienced a bittersweet moment this weekend. My family was away for the holiday weekend (the weekend before my daughter’s 11th birthday), and she had a friend with her. All of a sudden, gone was “daddy” only to be replaced by the much more mature sounding “dad” when she spoke to me. I was not angry. In fact, words cannot express the love and pride I have for both of my children. That said, it was a stark reminder about how fast children grow up. In a instant, she graduated from that sweet little girl to a mature (most of the time) pre-teen. It is not that I did not see this coming, mind you, just that when it got here, it was jarring.
So why, do you ask, is this family anecdote on a Family Law Blog? In fact, I am happily married. However, this reminded me that in one particular case, where there is particularly egregious parental alienation going on, we started using the term “childhood is fleeting”, to urge the court to act swiftly (it didn’t and that is another story – perhaps for a future post on this blog). Put more simply, while there will always be a parent-child relationship, at least in name or by biology, childhood is finite. It ends at 18 – if not sooner. And once it is gone, it is gone.
When a parent interferes with the other parent’s relationship with the child(ren), special occasions interfered with or worse yet, the other parent is precluded from attending, disparaging the other parent to the child, buying a child’s affections, making a child take sides, the harm done is untold. So too, when a parent voluntarily absents her/himself from a child’s life, think of all that child and that parent loses? While sometimes there can be make up parenting time, often the parent can never be made whole. If proms, graduations, religious events, birthdays, fathers or mothers days are missed – you can’t get those days back.
Courts often don’t do enough to stop parental interference (putting aside for the moment that it can take months to actually get before a judge), which only serves to encourage the violator to continue their abhorrent conduct. Often, they are steeled by the fact that they got away with it, or worse yet, the threats of sanctions are empty threats, empowering the misconduct to get worse.
As I have just seen for myself, childhood goes by in a blink of an eye. Because you can never get the time back, court’s must be more dilligent in ensuring that parenting interference is swiftly remedied. After all, isn’t this in the best interests of the child?
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland and Morristown, New Jersey offices though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.