I recently read an article in the New York Times entitled "When the New You Carries a Fresh Identity, Too" written by Megan L. Wood that raised interesting questions about divorcing women and a name change after a divorce. The article brought up the fact that many divorcing women are at a crossroads of their life where the divorce gives them a chance to have a fresh identity by choosing a new last name. As the article recognizes, "[h]anging on to your ex's last name can daily conjure an unhappy past, while going back to a maiden name [they]'ve outgrown can be difficult to imagine." The solution, for some, is selecting another, neutral name.
In a recent custody case we litigated in the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, a case in which the parties' minor child is a smart, articulate, athletic and very talented 11-year-old boy, an excellent resource published by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts ("AFCC") called "Planning for Shared Parenting: A guide for Parents Living Apart" became a vital guide for the parties in formulating an effective parenting plan that both parties agreed is in their pre-teen's best interests. Formulating pre-teen parenting plans can be quite challenging. This particular AFCC guide articulates a number of important issues that the parties to a custody case should consider. Probate and Family Court judges often refer to the resource, so it is also something that should be considered in anticipating a possible judgment after a full-blown trial. This advance knowledge certainly helps settle cases, and in turn, reduces the overall cost of litigation.
In what are usually highly contentious divorces or child custody disputes, the term "parental alienation" has been coined to describe what is a form of emotional abuse that occurs when one parent actively works to align their child with him/her to the exclusion of the other parent, without justification, resulting in the child's rejection of the estranged parent. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines alienation as "a withdrawing or separation of a person or a person's affections from an object or position of former attachment; estrangement." In cases involving parental alienation, there is destruction of a child's once positive relationship with both parents. As one parent poisons the child against the other, the child's affinity shifts to only one parent while he/she alienates or rejects the other.