In most Rhode Island Divorce matters, the parents will often
consider the best interests of the minor children. At least one
parent, if not both, are proponents of keeping the children out of the
scuffle and dealing with their issues as adults as far away from their
children as possible.
Unfortunately sometimes that doesn't happen. In some cases, the
children are pulled into the fray and in a few rare cases this MUST be
so if a good divorce lawyer to to protect his or her client.
What do I mean? Let me give you an example.
Melinda and Brett
Melinda and Brett have been married for 25 years. They have two
children, Alexandra who is 15 years old and Timothy who is 17 1/2 years
old. Brett is a bit obsessive about his "things" which includes his
wife, who he sees as his "possession". Brett's home is his castle, he
calls the shots and things are to be done his way without argument.
Melinda and Brett have lived the same house for about 20 years. The
house is paid off and only Brett's name appears on the deed because he
considers it "his" house.
Melinda can't take it any more and tells Brett that she wants a
divorce and that things aren't working for her anymore. Brett flies
off the handle, smashes a kitchen chair and throws a drinking glass in
Melinda's direction causing it to shatter against the wall with shards
of glass flying everywhere. Melinda is afraid, reaches for the
telephone and tries to call for help. Alexandra and Timothy watch as
their father pulls the phone out of their mother's hand and then rips
the phone cord right out of the wall. In front of the children Brett
tells Melinda that if she files for divorce or if she leaves the house
that he will kill her. Brett stomps around the house a bit more
slamming doors and cupboards and breaking another object or two. Brett
grabs his coat, warns Melinda not to leave the house and storms out.
Alexandra and Timothy
Alexandra and Timothy do not want their parents to divorce and plead
with their mother not to call the police and to let their dad calm down
and talk to him later. Melinda can't bring herself to call the police
so she listens to her children. Brett stays out until late at night,
comes home and forces Melinda to have intercourse with him against her
will. Melinda doesn't tell her children.
A few weeks pass. During that time Brett keeps reminding her that
he will kill her if she files for divorce or tries to leave him. Brett
begins demanding to know her whereabouts throughout the day and tells
her that she must be home right after work "or else". Melinda does
want to disobey out of fear for her safety.
Over the next few weeks Brett calls Melinda's work constantly,
begins following her around in his car and leaves countless messages on
her cel phone telling her that he knows where she is at all times so
she better not do anything.
Melinda Gets an Attorney
Melinda seeks legal counsel and has her attorney file for divorce.
On the same day that her attorney is going to have Brett served,
Melinda goes to her mother's house until she sees how Brett is going to
react. Later that day Alexandra finds out that her mother has gone to
grandma's house and she goes over to see what is going on.
Brett is served with divorce papers that afternoon and rushes over
to Melinda's mother's house where he continues to threaten Melinda in
front of Alexandra. Thankfully, Melinda's mother comes home and Brett
abruptly leaves. Melinda, afraid for her son who is at their house
goes back home to check on him. At her home Brett again threatens to
kill her and pulls a knife from the nearby butcher block right in front
of their son Timothy. Timothy tries to calm his father down and his
father pushes him out of the way. While Timothy scuffles with his
father, Melinda leaves and calls her attorney who gets an Ex Parte
Emergency Order which orders Brett out of the house, places the
children with Melinda and prohibits Brett from contacting her. Melinda
is petrified. During the three weeks before the hearing, Brett follows
Melinda with his car daily threatens her with physical violence when no
one is around and and makes anonymous calls to her work and cel phone
from local pay telephones so he cannot be traced. In each instance it
is Melinda's word against Brett's word.
Alexandra and Timothy Meet Mom's Attorney
Melinda's divorce attorney meets with Alexandra and Timothy. They
confirm the death threats their father made to their mother as well as
ripping the phone out of the wall and smashing various household
items. Melinda's divorce lawyer knows that if the judge is going to
continue the Order that keeps Brett out of the house that he may need
the children either to testify or to speak with the judge and confirm
these events since ordering a father from the marital home is an
In tears, calls her lawyer and has her lawyer go to court to get an
emergency order restraining Brett from harrassing her. The judge
grants the Emergency Order temporarily and enters it in the divorce
Melinda's attorney meets with the children and asks them what events
they have witnessed between their mother and their father and what they
heard. The children substantially confirm that Melinda's account to
her divorce lawyer was correct and that the children witnessed it.
Melinda's attorney explains that it may be necessary for the children
to speak with the judge about the events and that it is important for
the children to tell the truth. Alexandra and Timothy promise the
attorney that they will tell the truth if the judge wants to hear what
they have to say regarding what happened.
Brett Retains a Lawyer
On the day of the hearing Brett's divorce lawyer objects to the
Order, states that Melinda is lying about the incidents and asks that
the Order be immediately removed so he can return to his home.
Melinda's lawyer argues vehemently that to remove the Order will
subject Melinda to continued abuse and force her out of her home and
away from her children because the events are true.
The Rhode Island Family Court judge is not inclined to keep the
Order in force without something other than Melinda's word against
Brett's word. Melinda's divorce lawyer asks the judge to speak briefly
with the children to confirm that the abusive incidents did occur.
The Kids Meet The Judge
Alexandra and Timothy are led into the judge's chambers to give the
Judge additional information to determine if the Emergency Order should
remain in full force and effect. The following dialogue ensues:
Judge: There's no need to be nervous because nothing is
going to happen to you here. You're not in any kind of trouble or
anything so you can just have a seat and rest easy.
As the judge I just wanted to make sure I had all the information I
needed when considering what to do when issues come before me. So I'm
just going to ask you a question or two and then I'm going to speak
with your parents and their lawyers.
Alexandra and Timothy: [Nodding...]
Judge: Now it's important that you tell me the truth when I ask you something. You know that, right?
Alexandra and Timothy: [Nodding again.]
Judge: Good, so I just ask you a few questions, you tell me what happened and that's pretty much it. Simple. Okay.
Judge: Okay, now there was an argument between your mom and
dad recently at your house. It was in the morning and you were both
home. I know that. And I know you were home and you watched the
argument or at least some of it. Do you both recall that?
Judge: Now, did either of you hear your dad say that he wanted to kill your mom?
[The children look at each other and hesitate. . . ]
Judge: Go ahead. Either one of you can speak. How about you young lady?
Alexandra: It happened pretty fast. I know there was some yelling, but my dad has a loud voice.
Judge: Okay, but did you hear your father make any threats to your mother?
Alexandra: Well, his voice sounded threatening because he's
loud and he was angry but mom had just told him she wanted a divorce so
I guess I can understand why he was angry.
Judge: Alright, but did your father say he was going to kill your mother?
Alexandra: Well, he might have said something about that he wanted
to kill her for doing this to him or something like that but I don't
think he meant that he would really kill her. I don't believe my dad could do that. He gets angry, but that's not my dad.
Judge: [Looking at Timothy.]
Timothy: Alex is right. Dad was upset but if he said
anything like that I think my mom misunderstood or something because
she knows Dad would never hurt her.
Judge: Okay. So your father was angry. Did he grab a weapon or anything?
Timothy: No. He just had it.
Judge: What do you mean he just had it?
Timothy: Well, I can't remember but I think my dad may have been making a sandwich when mom told him about wanting the divorce.
Judge: What do you mean that he just "had it" though?
Timothy: You know. When we make sandwiches we cut them with
a steak knife. I think dad was just making his sandwich when he was
told about the divorce and he had the steak knife in his hand and he
talks with his hands alot so the knife was moving around in his hand.
I could understand if mom got nervous but I don't think it's like he
pulled a knife on her or something.
Judge: Okay, last question. Did your father throw anything or do anything with the telephone that day?
Alexandra: I think that was an accident. Mom went to call someone and dad grabbed the phone and the plug came out of the wall.
Judge: That's it?
Alexandra: That's what I saw.
Judge: Okay... I've heard enough.
Alexandra and Timothy Leave the Judge's Chambers.
Judge: The Order is vacated. The father can return to his home.
Melinda's Attorney: Judge I must object. This is endangering my client. The kids . . .
Judge: The kids just confirmed for me that your client is
LYING or that she is trying to set this man up to keep him out of his
own house. YOU had no objecting to having the children talk to me and
now I have the truth and you're unhappy that it backfired on you so I
don't want to hear another word or I'll find you in contempt and send
you down to lockup. The Order is VACATED! Good day counsel!
In the courtroom Alexandra and Timothy were sitting down cajoling
with their father as I led their mother crying through the courtroom.
Practicalities of Testimony
The long and the short of this is that adults are not the only
people that lie. This is a substantially true story which has been
changed slightly to maintain anonymity. The children were questioned
by the judge and they lied. They lied and it hurt their mother more
than they will ever know. It placed their mother and her lawyer in a
horrible position throughout the remainder of the divorce. Most
importantly, it set a precedence whereby she was forced to move out of
her home and was relentlessly stalked by her husband for more than a
year and a half. Even now after the divorce is done and over with,
this man still taunts her, threatens her and stalks her. This mother
could no longer trust her children to back her up on the other
occasions when her husband mentally tormented her and she could not
trust that the legal system who had called her a liar would protect her.
We all would like to think that our children are loving, loyal and
will be there for us or better yet just that they tell the truth.
Unfortunately, children are often manipulated by using their own
feelings and desires. Whether you are in a Rhode Island Divorce or
another proceeding in which you need to rely on what your children have
said, seen or witnesses, first you must think about what happens if
they do not tell the truth. Think and then think again . . . when you
least expect it . . . and when it hurts the most . . . your children
may surprise you.
For those who are interested, Melinda's attorney later discovered
that Timothy had been promised a new car by his father if he told the
judge his father hadn't done anything. Timothy did, in fact, receive a
new car just three (3) days after the hearing. Alexandra later
apologized to her mother and stated that her father had been crying and
that he would kill himself if he went to jail and that if she told the
judge the truth that he would go to jail.
While it is true that the father played on each of the children's
feelings, greed and weaknesses, the ultimate responsibility landed with
the children. They had one responsibility. To tell the truth. Sadly,
despite all the efforts of Melinda's lawyer to achieve some level of
safety for her, she paid the price for her children's lack of honesty.
All My Best to You on Your Journey Through The RI Family Court,
Attorney Christopher A. Pearsall - "The Rhode Island Divorce Coach"™
Copyright 2000 to Present Christopher A. Pearsall, Esq (All Rights Reserved.)