200 blunt words for divorcing parents

Marriage rates have declined dramatically in Tennessee. Not surprisingly, divorce rates have also fallen. 

The National Vital Health Statistics office reports that from 2000 to 2016, Tennessee marriages per 1,000 residentsdecreasedfrom 15.5 to 8.6, and divorces decreasedfrom 5.9 to 3.8.

This news reminds me of 200 words quoted by the Tennessee Court of Appeals in several opinions involving divorce and parenting.

In 1994, “Dear Abby” published remarks by Judge Michael Haas of Walker, Minnesota, at the end of a difficult divorce trial. 

 “Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.

“No matter what you think of the other party – or what your family thinks of the other party – these children are one-half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an “idiot” his father is, or what a “fool” his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.

“That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.

“I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”

This advice is appropriate for married parents going through divorce, and also for non-married parents who are separating.

Jim Hawkins is a general practice and public interest law attorney based in Gallatin. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice.  All cases are different and need individual attention.  Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. To suggest future column topics, call (615) 452-9200.


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