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Best Interests . . . Is That About Me?

Posted by Kerry Hagan | Dec 11, 2023 | 0 Comments

Judges never talk about the best interests of adult marital partners. You just don't find them saying, “what's in the best interests of the wife? or the husband?” But what you hear judges talk about ALL THE TIME is the best interests of minor children. I actually think their best interests are clearly the single greatest concern and priority in the minds of ALL judges. Hands down! It's not even close. A judge can forgive themselves for a wrong call involving property and money. But for a judge to feel they've made a mistake with the future of a child is a real problem. It's a matter of conscience for a judge. None of them ever want to make that miscalculation. 

So, exactly what are JUDGES looking for when they make decisions about what we call, best interests? I personally have not ever thought, in the least, that a judge considered the financial resources of one parent compared to the other. They don't care if one is a millionaire and the other works stocking produce at a grocery store. They can order money to flow in the direction and amount they find appropriate. So much for money! The question is not really EVER about financial resources, but it's ALWAYS about emotional and relational resources, and how all the various needs of children are going to be best met

Now, I grew up in a family with a very loving father. He did however have one area of concern. He knew that in all likelihood he would have a shorter life expectancy than would be the case with most fathers. And he was right — he died at age 51 when I was 22, and in my first year of law school. After he died, mother told me they made a decision, early on, that "the boys would know who their father was." WE DID. I don't remember him ever expressing disfavor or dissatisfaction or disappointment with us. His attitude was that if we were going to "fail," he wanted us to do so going balls-to-the-wall, full-tilt, like a big, juicy June-bug hitting the windshield of life: SPLAT! That's what judges look for when they are making decisions about best interests. Not the splat part but the parental empowerment part — instilling in children the unshakable awareness that they can overcome everything that life might serve up and plop down right in the middle of their windshield. Ha! Didn't think I could actually bring it home with that June bug example, did ‘ya?

So, in matters related to children, judges use their eagle-sharp vision to search for how they can best help create a family matrix spelled 

B. A. S. E.

for children. That's: 





Boundaries are about instilling a sense of control that enables children to develop into cooperative adults who can pick and choose among various competing concerns — some of which are inferior, with some being more important and of a higher order. It's the ability to be an individual and let your “yes” be your YES, and your “no” be your NO — as issues come up on the radar screen and decisions are required.

Affirmation is about creating appropriately fearless and courageous children who are not afraid of challenges but have the confidence to always rise and give their best to meet them. Children who have been affirmed know what sic ‘em means, and they have the clearly instilled ability to then DO IT appropriately. 

Support = emotionally equipping children to learn and develop their own unique talents without either leaving them unchallenged or pushing them to the point they become mired in a sea of discouragement. It's not about programming children to complete the un-lived portion of a parent's life. I could have never been a center for an NBA franchise. I didn't have the physical tools. But I did have three library cards at the downtown Houston Public Library, and the Park Place and Garden Villas branches. And my brother and I had desire. My mother drove us downtown and sat for hours in the car, waiting on us to exit after our weekly investigations of the world of knowledge. She was paying the price for us. We now have 8 university degrees between us. That's what support looks like: paying the price to create an ability or expertise that your child wants to explore. Oh yea, about money: We didn't have a lot of money, but we always had money for books. The family paid the price for books. Every time. That's support.

The parent who Encourages their child is one who is always there for them when life events and circumstances threaten to grind their child into dog meat. We are talking about emotional management here, not sausage. You know, sh** happens, and Encouragers don't rescue their child, and they don't abandon them. They observe, listen, and pick them up to dust them off — instilling in them an inner confidence, strength, and innate self-understanding that when "today ends" a new day full of infinite possibility “dawns tomorrow.” And their watchwords are: you can do it!

Now, there are Shetland ponies, Arabians, Quarter horses, and Clydesdales. Each has its own unique qualities. Judges don't look at your children to determine what "breed" they are. They look at YOU to determine “what breed YOU ARE” as they determine how they can BEST HELP YOU overcome the adjudicated loss of your marital relationship. They want to keep your children on track. So, if you want to know what goes on in the mind of a judge, here it is:


Judges only really have one basic tool: JUSTICE. But it has other names. Like wisdom, civility, fair-mindedness, integrity, insight, decency, understanding and nuance. And, yes, humanity & compassion. Judges are not machines — they have a conscience and the Justice they dispense weighs heavily on them. They want you to HEAL YOURSELF. And what they want for your children is that they become whole, productive, meaningful adults. In other words, the BEST they can be. That's what best interests really means. Beyond a basic level of essential material supports, money just isn't part of the equation.

Who YOU ARE is what's important to judges. So, if you want to really know what a judge looks at in determining best interests you ought to get yourself a full-length mirror, and then spend a healthy amount of time looking unflinchingly into it. Because it is in the best interests of your child for you to chew up your own pain. Go ahead and swallow your unhealthy sh** yourself, and then digest it and pass it out of your system (with the help of a therapist). It does no one any good for you to spew out your anger all over those you say with your cheap WORDS that you love, but to whom you actually send a far, far more unsavory message with your ACTIONS. Quit blaming and making excuses. You couldn't fix your marriage and it's lost. So, FIX YOURSELF. Become a triumphant parent. Overcome. Put their welfare and future first. It's in your child's best interest for you to do so. That's what your judge thinks. “Best interests” is about your children, but judges look more at YOU than THEM — when they go about determining it.

About the Author

Kerry Hagan



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