I went to the courthouse today to testify in an emergency custody hearing. The family court occupies a large part of the stately downtown county courthouse and is teeming with bustling attorneys and their bitter or broken clientele.
Perhaps most surprising to me was the upbeat, helpful court staff. I would have thought that dealing with such depressing domestic matters day after day would cast a thick gloom over the whole place, but I watched one needy or hardened person after another receive cheerful assistance from the waiting room clerk.
But the courtroom itself was a different feel altogether. The plaintiff and defendant, who you would never guess are actually husband and wife, sat shielded by their attorneys who exchanged meagre greetings and then shuffled papers waiting for the judge. The tension was palpable and even my pulse raced, waiting and hoping I wouldn't interfere with justice being done. Cruel lawyer games were played by the wife's attorney, apparently calculated to rile up the husband and cause doubt in the judge's mind about his parental fitness. The most intimate of relationships was mined for ammunition in a hideous, hellish, pitiless contest to destroy the husband and secure custody of the child.
I would say that the husband won the first round today, but there can be no winner in what I saw. I left the courtroom praying that my loved ones will never experience such a painful result of the Fall.