Let’s swim to the moon, uh huh
Let’s climb through the tide
Penetrate the evenin’ that the
City sleeps to hide
Let’s swim out tonight, love
It’s our turn to try
Parked beside the ocean
On our moonlight drive**
Confused about what “best interests of the child” means? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. So are judges, attorneys, and especially psychologists. At AFCC’s 2006 national conference in Tampa, FL, family court professionals gathered to discuss whether “family” or “parents'” rights were compatible with the “best interests of the child” standard. But in comparing “rights” to “best interests,” the discussion took an unexpected turn to a more fundamental question: What does “best interests” really mean? Does it take a Ph.D. to know the answer? Do judges know any better than lawyers, psychologists, or parents themselves?
Does anyone really know what “bests interests” means and how to determine it for any child or family?
There is an answer–a very disturbing one if you’re a parent or a child entrusting your or your family’s future to a legal system that admits it’s mostly broken and often enormously harmful to parents and children. Yet despite their abundant confession that a “best interests determination” is impossibly complex, witness each speaker go on to explain “but here’s how I do it . . . ”
We start thinking we’re good at it, and that can be very seductive … but it’s very dangerous.”
“Swim to the moon”? “Climb through the tide”? “Penetrate the evening”? Makes no sense . . . unless you’re Jim Morrison on a payote high, or, as it turns out, a psychologist giving a “best interests of the child” opinion.
Beautiful poetry? Yes. Breathtaking imagery? Absolutely. Wouldn’t it be great if we could really . . .
All you need in life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”
~ Mark Twain
But as our grandmothers, grandfathers and parents hopefully taught us: “If you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” Especially to other people’s children. Perhaps the professionals you’re about to hear themselves had dysfunctional relationships with their own ancestry and didn’t get the memo.
From the Tampa 2006 AFCC Brochure:
In Whose Best Interests? Juggling the Rights,
Needs and Interests of Children, Parents
The tension between parents’ rights and what is in the best interests of children often collide head-on in parenting plan disputes. How can professionals ensure a balance between individual rights to parent children and the needs of the entire family? Are the needs of children of divorce and separation more important than the rights of their parents? What ethical and practice challenges confront the judge, lawyer, custody evaluator and mediator? This interdisciplinary panel will examine these critical questions and discuss this precarious juggling act.
Hon. Susan B. Carbon, Vice President, National Council of
Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Plymouth, NH
David Hoffman, J.D., Immediate Past-Chair, ABA Section of
Dispute Resolution, Boston, MA
Isolina Ricci, Ph.D., Author, Mom’s House, Dad’s House for
Kids, Tiburon, CA
Moderator: Professor Nancy Ver Steegh, M.S.W., J.D., William
Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, MN
The professionals you’re about to hear studied Zimbardo and laughed at his foolish students as they easily devolved into terrorism toward their fellow students. These professionals cringed as they watched Milgrim’s subjects crank up the amperage, shaking their heads: “Beasts! How could they?” They perhaps even watched the Nuremberg trials in which not only military officers, but physicians, were convicted of war crimes against their fellow humans–often in the name of “scientific experimentation.”
These professionals then shortly graduated to careers in which judges tell them to inflict on parents and their children very real pain, to tell a very real lie that it’s for a child’s best interests, understanding very well they have no idea what the trajectory of the lives of those parents and children will be–other than the delight of scorn combined with the pleasure of expense–and do so not because they believe it works, but–get this–because they are told to by a judge.
Beware: As you listen to our edited version of the discussion, be ready to pick your jaw up off of the floor after you hear a despicable confession of what family court professionals have know for years: A “best interests” determination is impossible, yet these professionals explain how they are still charging exorbitant sums pretending they can swim to the moon.**
The take-away for parents and children: If anyone has sold you–or ordered you to–a “best interests” opinion or fight, you’ve been defrauded, or perhaps even worse, extorted. If this is you, California Coalition may be able to help. Contact us.
**“Moonlight Drive,” The Doors, Strange Days