Thursday, June 1, 2017

The nexus between your child custody order and a 24-Hour allergy relief drug

So what does an allergy relief drug and a child custody order have to do with each other? This odd pairing by me is not without its purpose and I do intend to show more than a tangential connection.

I happened to catch a Zyrtec commercial recently which stated "Zyrtec starts working at hour 1 . . ." then proceeded to claim that the 24 hour allergy relief drug is as effective the twenty-fourth hour as the first. Pause to become conscious of your first impression of that claim. I will tell you mine in a moment but first think about that claim and consider its meaning.

Does that claim state that the drug is efficacious in combating the body's immunological response to allergens for a full calendar day? That is what the marketers of Zyrtec what you to think. It may be a true claim but that is irrelevant to my purpose here. Instead I want for you to understand what is said.

Analyze this claim by drawing two palm size circles juxtaposed on a sheet of paper. Write "first hour" in one and "24th hour" in the other. Then make a few strips of paper long enough on which ten letters can be written. Write "none", "some", and "complete" on those. Then place them over the circle or circles on which the level of effectiveness could theoretically be the same.

What you should see is three strips placed within both circles. The conclusion from this is that "as effective" means "the same" and is only a comparative measure. It is like saying "this vehicle provides as smooth of a ride on the twenty-fourth trip as the first." But if the vehicle is a crudely built wagon without any springs or shock dampening system traversing a cobblestone roadway then the ride is likely anything but smooth. Yet, your first impression was likely that the vehicle provided a smooth ride.

When I heard that claim my immediate thought was, "Wow, they just said it doesn't work at all." This is because change requires action. The probability that no change will occur within a system or that an actively changed system will regress to its mean is greater than the probability that an active change will remain constant for a set duration. Thus, the probability that the car parked near my house will be moving at the null rate now and twenty-four hours from now is greater than any of the actively changed speed of cars passing by now moving at the same speed at the same time tomorrow morning.

Now it is time to take the positive bias that you may hold which you likely have if you thought that Zyrtec statement equated efficacy and apply it to child custody orders. Applying bias to the circumstances surrounding child custody litigation can be a costly mistake. Thus, objectivity is to be considered paramount.

I had a client whom I was counseling about his feelings towards the mother of their son and his resentment related to her interactions with the child. Particularly, he was upset at the level of care provided by mother which he labeled "clear neglect" and "probably abusive". At some point he revealed that he was keeping a record of incidents involving the child.

He then detailed a plan to keep gathering accounts of neglect or abusive of the child from mom's neighbors, parents or friends of the child and personnel from the school the child attends. In about a year or so he planned to drop the bomb and file for sole custody which he was confident that he would get because of the abundance of evidence of abuse and neglect he would present.

I paused briefly and asked, "Why would you plan to go into a court room to admit to a crime and that you didn't care that your child was subjected to ongoing abuse and neglect?" He appeared perplexed. Precisely because he was biased.

However, I viewed the plan objectively. A parent suspects that his child is being abused or neglected. For a period of approximately one year this parent documented the abuse or neglect. Indiana has a must report criminal statute which requires any person to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child. This parent willfully chose not to report the suspected abuse or neglect. This parent willfully chose not to intervene to halt the suspected abuse or neglect. His bias was that he saw the neglect of the child as done by mother as the result of her action but not by his inaction.

When it comes to parenting time decisions I have had numerous clients and have read the accounts of many other parents who have sought an equal division of time with the child. The bases for these claims is generally based upon a similar scenario; two working parents who both shared parenting responsibilities prior to the demise of the sole family unit. It is from this perspective that these parents have configured schedules to accommodate the parent's schedules while maximizing the time each has with the child while maintaining an equal division of the child's time.

I find this bias to be fundamentally flawed. When devising a parenting time proposal the primary objective should be to formulate a schedule which provides a superior level of continuity to the child and best mimics the former parent-child interactions.

I also perceive a hazard in submitting a strictly formulated 50-50 schedule. In divorce each parent is to submit a financial declaration. In Indiana there is a presumption of an equal division of marital property and debts. In these cases it is customary to submit proposals for the distribution of assets and obligations to achieve an equally valued division. When a parent concurrently tenders a parenting time proposal that follows the same format it is difficult for a judicial officer to not see the implicit attribution toward the child; that the child is an object of the marriage to be equally divided. Holding the bias that the child should continue to have the same amount of time with each parent can be a detriment to one seeking parenting time.

A conversation between some judges and myself once touched upon this issue. A judge was lamenting the circumstance of a hostile custody case in which neither parent would agree to deviate from an absolute equally division of time with the child which resulted in a 3:00 a.m. exchange. This absurdity raised the ire of all. The judge presenting the anecdote queried the others as to how to handle these types of "parents". One response appeared to surmise the opinion of all -- "Place the child with someone who cares about him and let those two fight it out over who is to blame for them losing custody of their child."

Claims, whether they be a solicitation to induce the listener to engage in a commercial transaction or those made during the progression of a child custody case, should always be viewed objectively. Failure to do so can leave someone subjected to the pitfalls resulting when not all parties to the interaction hold the same bias.

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©2008, 2014 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

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