Yesterday, July 12thwas our anniversary <3 I can’t believe it has been 15 years since I said, “I do.” Time flies! As we were leaving for dinner to one of our favorite gastronomical splurges, David looked at me as asked, “Why did you get so pretty?” I couldn’t help but laugh. This stage he is in is so adorable! The things he says are priceless. I went on to explain that his daddy and I were celebrating being married for 15 years! He looked confused. “Why are you getting married again?” He replied. I laughed, and explained it’s sort of like a birthday. We’re not getting married again, just celebrating every year that comes. “Will I get married?” He inquired. “I sure hope so! I pray you will find a wonderful girl, who will love you, and more importantly, love God,” I smiled. He furrowed his eyebrows and said, “I don’t want to get married! I want to marry you mommy! Why can’t I marry you?” And of course my heart just ((((((melted)))))) I gave him a big hug, while thinking to myself, “I’ll take it while I can! One day I’ll be walking you down the aisle!”
At dinner, Ricardo and I reminisced about years past. One particular thing not-so-romantic, but that will forever mark our anniversary, was the fact that three years ago we were on the phone with lawyers, and this year we were on the phone with lawyers, yet again. Except this time, we’re in a much better place—on the “other side” of the fight, if you will. We thanked God for his mercy and grace upon our family, and our marriage, which could have easily been destroyed. In the post where I talked about the initial meeting with my lawyer, he explicitly explained to me “your husband cannot defend you.” We were both perplexed as to why he would say such a thing. Then he went on, “They will say you care more about your wife, and are not prioritizing ‘the best interest’ of your child.” We were still confused. What could be more ‘in the best interest of a child’, if not a mother and father who loved and defended each other, in order to keep the family together? I posed these questions to my lawyer at the time, and if you haven’t figured this out yet, my lawyer did not parse words. He flinched, and proceeded to roar, “THEY ARE GOING TO TAKE THE KIDS AWAY FROM BOTH OF YOU! I’ve seen couples get divorced just so they could get their kids back. They don’t care about you! All they care about is getting those kids out!” I was once again caught completely off guard. I kept thinking, “Shouldn’t they care about the TRUTH?” I didn’t want to get yelled at again, so I kept my mouth shut, and this bible verse popped into my head:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. -Proverbs 12:15
Now, years later, I’ve had time to do my homework, and look into what my lawyer was saying at the time. Much to my horror, he was right. Legally speaking, what does it mean to be “in the child’s best interest”? Late in the twentieth century, The United States Supreme Court first provided due process protection to minors in In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967). The law recognized (minor) children as people, who are entitled to constitutional rights. In turn, children were entitled to the protection of the state and to services designed to help them when parental care, control, and assistance were not available or were beyond parental capacity. Let’s pause right here. One of President Ronald Reagan’s famous quotes comes front and center to my mind:
The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
You have probably never given that quote much thought, neither did I, until the day the government came to meddle in my life. Before the twentieth century, children were considered “assets” to which the parents have absolute right to possession. As a result, children were often used as cheap labor in sweatshops or farms, made to work hours a day for pennies. Ultimately, enactment of child protective services stemmed from an opinion that in many communities and families, what was considered reasonable discipline was, in fact, child abuse. Up to this point, I can understand why some judicial action was required on behalf of the children. But as we’ve seen repeatedly in history, when the government gets involved to “help” it can be a very slippery slope. Starting with the term “the best interest of the child.” It is a rather nebulous and ill-defined standard that opens a plethora of interpretations. There is still no concrete definitive standard to which a judge can look at, and the definition often varies from case to case. No wonder families thrust into this system are so confused! If you don’t have the resources, like we did, of an experienced attorney your family is already on the losing side of the battle….