In a recent story published by the AP News Organization, a New York father who said no to his toddler son’s demand for a McDonald’s meal was branded an inept parent by the psychologist appointed by the court to assist with custody and timesharing determinations, and urged the judge to eliminate or limit the father’s parental visits. The court-appointed psychologist told the judge that the fast food dispute “raises concerns about the viability” of the father’s weekend visits with his son.
The court-appointed psychologist reportedly pronounced the father incapable of caring for his nearly 5-year-old son after the father offered his son a choice — dinner anywhere but McDonald’s, or no dinner at all — and let the boy choose no dinner at all. The father then took his angry 5-year old son back to the mother’s house early from their October 30th dinner timesharing visit.
The father and mother of the boy are in the middle of a bitter divorce. Court records in the divorce case indicate that there have been a considerable number of court filings over a two-year period. While the divorce case is pending, the father has timesharing on alternating weekends and a dinner timesharing visit every Tuesday with his son.
The father described himself as “normally not a very strict father who rarely refuses his child McDonald’s,” but he put his foot down on October 30th “because his son had been eating too much junk food.”
Though the father quickly regretted his stance when his son threw a tantrum, he felt that giving in would reward his son’s bad behavior, so he offered the elsewhere-or-nowhere “final offer,” as the father described it.
“The child, stubborn as a mule, chose the ‘no dinner’ option,” the father said, so he returned the boy to the mother’s building, while still trying to entice his son into changing his mind as they waited in the lobby for the mother to get home from work.
This case illustrates why litigating your divorce case can be a costly mistake. Two (2) years of litigation and still not divorced; tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees; strangers (psychologists, judges) determining what timesharing is best for the children and the parents; lack of privacy; acrimony and bitterness; poor co-parenting relationship between the parties; child stuck in the middle between warring parents, exhibiting signs of emotional trauma.
Collaborative divorce empowers the parties, with the guidance and assistance of a professional team made up of their attorneys, a neutral financial professional, a neutral facilitator, and other neutral professionals as needed, who have all been formally trained in the Collaborative Divorce process, to achieve an outcome that is fair, reasonable and most importantly, designed by the parties, for the parties, and is in the best interests of the parties AND the children, in a non-adversarial, non-confrontational environment. It’s faster and less costly than traditional adversarial litigation, while preserving the privacy of the parties. The Collaborative Divorce process allows the parties to successfully co-parent their children after the divorce is finalized, maintain civil parenting relationships, and move forward constructively and positively toward a happy and healthy future, free of the drama and expense, in every sense of the word, of litigation.
Ronald L. Bornstein, Esquire, is an attorney, mediator and frequent lecturer on Florida Marital and Family Law. His practice includes contested litigation and collaborative family law cases throughout the State of Florida, with offices in Palm Beach County. He is a member of the Executive Council of the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, serves on numerous Florida Bar Family Law Section Committees, and has been practicing for more than 25 years. To learn more about him and his practice, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.