Recently, I was challenged by Cordell Parvin, the respected Legal Coach and Author, to the phenomenon sweeping the country known as the “Ice Bucket Challenge”. As anyone who has any presence in social media, or access to a TV, car radio or the internet knows, the point of this dumping ice water over the heads of people is to raise awareness and funds to fight the horrendous and often overlooked disease of ALS. The whole process was fun and for a good cause but the other unforeseen consequence was it started me thinking about this idea of charity in the world I work in everyday – divorce and child custody.
The word “charity” is not often used much nor even thought about as people who once cared deeply for each other try to find ways to reduce that other person to the lowest form of human existence. Can there be charity in divorce? If you tithe at your church or synagogue the Courts are not going to give you much slack in that regard when it comes to alimony and child support. When families separate and one house now becomes two – there is much more attention paid to how the money is going to be stretched to cover all the expenses than how much can be given to help others.
The stay-at-home mom (or dad) who raised the children and still found the time and energy to serve on local non-profit boards, the PTA, or help with food pantries are required in a divorce to find a job and re-tool themselves for the work force to now survive. A life of giving to others isn’t going to serve them very well in a divorce court.
If you look at “charity” as the giving to others of material things such as money or personal belongings – then the word really has no useful purpose or significance in a family law case. The circumstances of the situation simply won’t fit that definition. But if you view the word in its original meaning (dating back to the Romans) when “charity” connoted more a state of mind – a mentality of kindness and benevolence, then it certainly has a place in divorce and custody matters. This view of “charity” should definitely be more prevalent and in the forefront when couples divorce or decide to fight each other. The ancient proverb that “charity begins in the home” is probably never so needed more than in a divorce or family law matter. The costs, the mental anguish, the worries, and all the fears would be dramatically diminished if this simple truism were followed. It was the family they once created and it will be the family they leave when all is said and done. Wouldn’t a little “charity” from both sides make this sad happening a little better for everyone – especially children involved and help maintain respectable relationships into the future post lawyers and Courts?
Maybe the Legislature should enact a new law requiring every parent who is thinking about filing family law litigation to have ice poured over their head. It just might jolt them both into thinking about how “charity” should work in their situations – or maybe it will just cool them off for a while.