Some of you will remember Paul Harvey, a radio commentator. in June 1944, Harvey began broadcasting from the ABC affiliate WENR in Chicago. He quickly became the most popular newscaster in Chicago. In 1945, he began hosting the postwar employment program Jobs for G.I. Joe on WENR. Harvey added The Rest of the Story as a tagline to in-depth feature stories in 1946. Harvey was also known for catch phrases he used at the beginning of his programs, such as "Hello Americans, I'm Paul Harvey. You know what the news is, in a minute, you're going to hear ... the rest of the story."
In two earlier posts, Scott Bassett and Kathleen Goetsch offered their differing views on the recent relocation case, Derry v Derry, decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals this week. Both Scott and Kathleen offered to let me post "the rest of the story," which is their continued private discussion of the impact of relocations on families and children.
I agree with you that kids are the important thing, but I disagree that we can treat children of divorce as if their parents' marriage had never ended. That is a potentially life-altering event that imposes a new set of rules, including the rule that one parent cannot make unilateral decisions about important things like moving the child out of state. When parents ask the court to dissolve their marriage, they also consent to the court making these types of decisions when they are unable to agree.
For some kids, especially teens, the ties to community, non-custodial parent, friends, and extended family will be strong enough to be dispositive. In other cases, not. I will be the first to admit that the father does not look too stellar in the C of A factual summary, but even if he is found wanting, that does not automatically reduce to zero the consideration given to community ties, friends, and extended family.
My gripe here is more with the mom and stepdad than with the majority decision. So long as we are sharing personal stories, here is mine. My wife and I were married after my second year of law school in Ann Arbor. My best friend in law school was an Alaska native who told such great stories about his home that I wanted to live and practice there after graduation. But my wife was previously married and had a five year old daughter. As in the case discussed today, dad was not a huge factor. In fact, not too long after my wife and I were married, he enlisted in the Army and served mostly overseas for the next 20 years, having only sporadic contact with my stepdaughter. But his parents were very involved in my stepdaughter's life, as were many extended family members, neighbors, and friends.
I realized that when I chose to marry my wife, because she had a child established in the community, I was by necessity (and gladly) surrendering my unrestricted discretion to live and practice in Alaska, or really anywhere other than SE Michigan. It would have been wrong to place my interests (or the interests of my wife and I together) above my stepdaughter's stability and continuity in her community. As seems to be true in the case we are discussing, there was no compelling reason other than perhaps monetary gain, perhaps joined with a desire for a change of scene, to support the relocation. We did fine in Michigan and never regretted our decision. Ironically, within 6 months after we moved to Bradenton, my stepdaughter moved to Clearwater on the other side of Tampa Bay. She and her husband and my grandson now live across the street and three houses down from us. I am sure the stepdad and mom would do equally well if they stayed. It may not be what they want, but it would be best for the child.
On 9/1/2010 3:20 PM, Kathleen Goetsch wrote:
I agree that when we invite the court into our lives -- as with divorce, guardianship and other related matters, that we surrender rights potentially - to the ultimate decision maker -- the judge. The problem that I see with this case -- is a dad who was less than fully invested in his child -- and perhaps lacked in the "role model" function (his lack of a license due to DUI"s & relies on his parents to help him financially) exercises control over son and more importantly - ex-wife.
To be fair -- mom too maybe exercising her "control issues" by moving out of the area and thereby foiling dad's attempts to be a good father. Perhaps the trial judge saw that in mom and that is the reason for the denial -- though not artfully written.
When I was 1st in practice I represented a father in a bitter custody dispute -- both he and mom were from East Germany (in the days when that was a communist-held state), he was very fluent in English -- she was less than fluent. They both made nasty accusations about each other (she unsuccessfully alleged that he sexually abused the 4 year old daughter). He was awarded custody (in the words of the judge -- not because he was that great of a father -- but he was the lesser of 2 evils).
After the divorce he had a job offer in Kentucky -- we petitioned for change of domicile -- Court denied because the contemplated change was being made for the purpose of denying contact with mom. So a few weeks later my client proudly announced to me that he had accepted a position in the Western part of the UP! That was in the days when you could do that with little problem.
Yes -- extended family and friends are very important -- and I have seen otherwise normally well adjusted kids go downhill fast because of a change in a school system - because the kid/s could not make appropriate friends --
And of course in my situation and my friends situations -- we all came from pretty well adjusted and high functioning in-tack family situations. Which made it a lot easier to adjust. Even more in my situation what looked like a move to a "black-hole" to a 5th grader turned out to be a marvelous move -- I was active in the community as a kid, was able to return and be a successful practitioner and remain active in the community. I sometimes wonder where I would be now if my parents made the move they were actually planning - to one of the Grosse Pointes (where all east-siders move up to ) rather than the "forced" move to Howell.
Anyway -- nice "chatting" with you. I always enjoy your take on things because your opinion in grounded in common sense and real life experiences.
Date: Wednesday, September 1, 2010,
It has also been nice corresponding with you on this issue. These are such hard cases. It was just such a case that cemented my decision to give up trial court practice and move to Florida while concentrating on appellate work and tech consulting. My client was the dad. A good dad whose business was tied to the local SE Michigan economy. He didn't have joint legal custody, but the kids spent at least part of the day with him 11 out of every 14 days, so the parenting time was extensive.
Mom remarried a wealthy entrepreneur (son of a furniture retailing family) who grew up on SE Michigan, still owned a home there, but had his primary residence on Jupiter Island, FL (a wealthy enclave full of gated mansions, but few children). Mom filed a motion for change of domicile. Dad opposed, but didn't seek to change custody (as is often the tactic).
The stepdad was not part of the day to day operation of his business in Florida. Indeed, he could have lived anywhere and still owned and had input into the business. But he chose to live on Jupiter Island instead of his home in SE Mich. In my view, mom and stepdad were making a "choice" for the rest of the family that they had no right to make.
Although the father in my case was far superior to the one in yesterday's decision, the judge (a close friend of mine) granted the change of domicile. This wasn't a question of money. Dad wasn't nearly as wealthy as stepdad, but he was still reasonably affluent. The kids wanted for nothing. The decision so upset me that I vowed to quit trial court work and find something else to do. Even today I feel almost as strongly as I did in 2000 when the case was decided that it was a horrible decision.
Guest Blogger Scott Bassett's website may be found here.
Guest Blogger Kathleen Goetsch's website may be found here.
The opinions are here:
Derry v Derry, Per Curiam (Cavanaugh and Talbot, JJ) (Unpublished)
Derry v Derry, Dissenting (Jansenm PJ)
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