Some years ago, I represented a wife in a divorce involving three children. The children ranged in ages from kindergarten to middle school. My client was a savvy business woman, and her husband owned a small, successful business as well. One of my favorite things about this case is that my opposing counsel (husband’s attorney) was a colleague with whom I had long enjoyed a collegiate professional relationship and a mutual fondness.
During the course of the divorce proceedings, which involved a number of four-way meetings (meetings with the clients and attorneys to discuss settlement) it was decided that Wife would remain in the marital home. Husband then managed to purchase a home around the block from the marital home. The corner of his new backyard butted up against the corner of my client’s yard, and there were no fences.
In terms of property settlement, the case was a complex and long-drawn out nightmare. But in terms of custody, it was the dream case. Eventually, the case settled and the parties agreed to joint physical and joint legal custody. There was no parenting plan included in the judgment. Why? Because the parties were close neighbors, the children were simply at liberty to go back and forth between their two homes, the one they made with mom and the one they made with dad. The kids cut back and forth between their two homes and continued to be raised in what was as close to a two-parent household as possible in a divorce case.
I will never forget the day we all came to court to finalize the divorce. Before the hearing, we met in the courthouse cafeteria to sign the final divorce papers. The parties then asked for a few minutes alone and removed themselves to another table. My colleague and I watched as the parents sat down across from each other at a nearby table. As they talked intently but quietly, we could see that they were holding hands across the table, and tears were flowing in spite of the smiles they each wore. It was truly bitter/sweet. I remember remarking to my colleague that I wished we could send over flowers and a bottle of wine. He responded by commenting on how lucky the three children were that their parents loved them enough to keep the children safe, loved and emotionally intact while they transitioned to a two-household family. And, that is why it was my favorite custody case ever!