Tipping the Scales

When I think of the model/social media star Amber Rose, the first thing that comes to my mind is not “exemplary housekeeper”. So I was not surprised to see the photos of a “less than tidy” home posted all over the internet this morning by her ex-husband and father of her child, rapper, Whiz Khalifa, I thought to myself immediately  “what does he hope to accomplish here?” Sure there were overfilled trash cans outside of her home and dog poop on the patio, but was this proof of an unfit home for the purpose of modifying a parental custody agreement?

I ask my family law clients some version of these questions whenever there is some nasty bit of information that may be marked for exhibit: “What do you hope to accomplish with this information?” and “will this information work toward that goal?”

It may be strange to think of setting goals when considering the dissolution of a marriage, but I think that a clear set of goals keep both attorney and client focused on the desired outcomes. These clearly defined goals can help shape the trajectory of the divorce itself.

To overgeneralize, most clients who are navigating the treacherous waters of dissolving a marriage-with-children start out with a goal to dissolve the marriage and make sure the children are not traumatized in the process. Most will repeatedly clarify throughout the initial client meeting and initial filings that they are only interested in the best interest of the children. But somewhere along the way, perhaps after weeks of back and forth with attorneys, adjusting schedules, unpleasant emails or texts, a few initial hearings, the goal takes on shades of Black and Yellow and the focus becomes exacting petty revenge.

Revenge becomes a priority and clients began engaging in tit-for-tat digs at each other. Case in point, the blurry photos of an ex’s poop-spotted porch and public Twitter spats. Does any of this serve the interest of the child in the short or long term? I posit a firm no.

When balancing the “child’s interest” and “exacting revenge” the child’s interest should always tip the scale in its direction. The love of a couple’s child(ren) has to outweigh the hatred for each other.

Parents should dig in and fight hard for the safety and well-being of their child(ren). As an attorney, I stand in the ring with my clients with boxing gloves on. But before the gloves come off, it is important to access what “winning” looks like. Is it a well-rounded child, in a safe environment, and access to both parents in the absence of abuse, or is winning mutually assured destruction.

Whiz Khalifa’s concerns may be genuine and his goal clear, but I’m not convinced this is the best way to reach his goal, which he argues is his son’s safety and well-being.  A frank and honest discussion with his attorney about his goals may help Mr. Khalifa tip the scales back towards protecting his son’s best interest rather than publicly shaming the child’s mother. That, of course, is assuming his son’s best interest is the goal he is working towards. If the goal he has in mind is humiliating the mother of his child, then he needs to just keep on doing exactly what it is he is doing, because The Plan is working.

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