She is tough as nails. Oftentimes she is in my office wearing a leather jacket and when talking her deep voice reveals a sharp wit and quick intellect. She has short stylish spiked hair. I assume that she intimidates a large percentage of people who cross her path. As I prepared her for what her trial experience may be, I wondered how she may come across in court – this tough as nails mom.
I was positive that even if I had suggested her wearing an appliqué sweatshirt with puffy kittens on it to soften her appearance, she would not have even known what I was talking about. Nor would she then have been authentic. We talked about authenticity in our meeting – I suggested that she may feel most authentic if she were vulnerable about her worries, hopes, and dreams for her six year old daughter when talking to the judge about what mattered most to her.
The moment arrived in the courtroom when her testimony about her position on custody matters and a parenting time schedule was set to begin. I began by asking her what was most important to her in this whole divorce case. “My daughter and what is in her best interests,” she said softly with an unexpected catch in her throat. I was caught off guard as I moved to the next question, “What are you most worried about in the outcome of custody for your daughter?”
She sighed. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She did not look to the judge rather she shifted in her seat and turned out to the courtroom. She faced her spouse, she faced his parents who sat behind him, and her parents seated behind me. She spoke to all of them. “I am most worried that somehow this case will hurt Emma. I am worried that she will be taken away from any of the people in this room who love her more than anything. I am worried that this will change who she knows as her family – all of us. We all love her and I just want that to be the same, no matter what the schedule is. I want Emma to know that she is loved.”
One of the things we forget while in the midst of divorce is our true heart. Oftentimes too tempted to engage in malicious or snarky comments about our soon-to-be former spouse, we inch slowly away from the integrity central to who we really are. We may forget the truth as it moves further away from us in the fuzzy feelings of divorce.
In over 16 years being in a courtroom listening to parents testify about custody matters, this was the most authentic answer I have heard a parent give. She set aside past acrimony, her own hurts, and in that moment focused on the truth. My client had promised to tell the truth, the whole truth, so help her God. And she did.