Every other country song I listen to involves a family law dispute. Or perhaps every other family law dispute offers ripe material for the raw, straightforward, everyman lyric that typifies country music. I mean country music, not pop and not what passes for country music of late; but 1980’s and 1990’s, and some 2000’s country music. Hardly a day goes by where I turn on the radio and I don’t think to myself: that line speaks to the struggle client X is going through right now, or that phrase encapsulates the attitude client Y should have on her divorce. Of course, country music isn’t alone in capitalizing on the emotional and sometimes sensational aspects of love, divorce, broken homes and hearts, abuse, and so on. But, I’d argue country music does so better than any other genre.
Country music, especially the songs I grew to love from the 80’s and 90’s, are so often melancholy and reflective; emotional, but very often focused on telling a story and not on turning a phrase. They are also often delivered in a straightforward way; without runs or unnecessary edginess that detracts from the message.
Country songs have a way of taking the real, common, everyday struggles people go through every day and putting them to song. It’s not as if country music transports us to another time and place, it highlights and makes us contemplate our time and place. And what is more relatable to our everyday life than the struggles we go through with our family; the people closest to us. We find it easy to relate to songs that talk about love lost and gained, families struggling through separation and divorce, and many of us have even experienced the debilitating effect of drugs and alcohol, and abuse whether it be physical or emotional. Country music can put these experiences into perspective and help us contemplate how to live with, and learn from, such experiences.
Grieving the loss of a person that is still alive
Jeanette Walls writes in The Glass Castle: “One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, my dear, is to grieve the loss of a person that is still alive.” This is so true. And the tragic part is many people going through a split or divorce can’t accept that they are even grieving.
The Dixie Chicks You Were Mine talks about the struggle coping with grief, and about how children also have to deal with the loss caused by divorce:
Grief can cause hate. It can cause normally rational people to do the irrational and put the needs of their children second to their own selfish desires. But this is at odds with the overarching goal of the family law system: putting the best interest of the child first. If there is one message I tell my clients more than anything else it’s this: your words and actions need to always be focused on the best interests of your child. As an attorney, I can’t change the past. I can’t sprinkle magic dust to make their cases “better.” I can be their advocate and defender in court, but that only goes so far. A client’s best advocate is themselves; their actions and attitude will speak louder than any turn of phrase or legal loophole.
Grief is a wound many attorneys are not equipped to heal. Attorneys can be very good at shining a light on people’s flaws and past transgressions, but they can be very bad at healing the wounds caused by these issues. It’s not our fault; having their past transgressions laid bare on cross-examination is the last thing someone needs when they are grieving. Healing is what therapists do, attorneys instead try to “win” the case for their clients. Many people in family law disputes can benefit from counseling, and this counseling can include children, whether individually or through group sessions with the parents and the children.
Stemming the Tide of Parental Alienation
Parental alienation is extremely damaging to children, but difficult to prove, difficult for many parents to recognize when it’s happening, and difficult for many parents to admit to when they are doing the alienating. Parental alienation doesn’t just impact fathers, but fathers seem inordinately effected. In Toby Keith’s Who’s That Man a father laments that another man has taken over his wife and his relationship with his children:
Many fathers need an attorney to simply assert their right to visitation or their right to a say in their child’s upbringing. Other fathers feel that a step-father is trying to edge him out of the child’s life bit by bit, and that it needs to stop. Fathers are not supposed to be at a disadvantage in our family law system. That doesn’t mean fathers don’t get shafted by mothers and overlooked when not adequately represented in court.
Fighting for a child when no one else will
Sometimes a child simply needs parents that put him first; parents that are willing to deal with grief and hate and rally around him. And sometimes, what a child needs is an advocate that will fight like hell to shield him from abuse and neglect.
I represent many clients, both parents and children, who’s main desire is to stop the cycle of child abuse. Rolling Stone published the “40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time,” and not surprisingly Concrete Angel by Martina McBride was number one:
Child abuse is an unfortunately all-too-common aspect of family law cases. No case involving child abuse allegations is quite alike. And I have cases at each end of the spectrum; clear child abuse that requires emergency court action like a protective order or a temporary restraining order excluding an abuser from access to a child, to cases where evidence of abuse is entirely secondhand and could result from child coaching and an attempt to alienate the alleged abuser from the child. Regardless of the facts of the individual case, it remains true that both sides—the one alleging abuse and the alleged abuser—need an attorney on their side.
An attorney might not get you everything you want, but they can amplify your voice and protect your legal rights. Give us a call at (903) 871-1714 to see how we can help with your family law case.