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During rough times for married couples, their children can feel most of the stress. The 3rd District Court is trying to relieve some of this stress with some classes just for children.
On Saturdays, there isn't a lot of action in the Matheson Courthouse. But in one room, a group of kids is hanging out and sitting in a judge's chair.Third District Court Commissioner Michael Evans said, "I've been doing this for 18 years now and practiced family law for 14 years before that. What I've learned is that children are very confused about the court process."
Evans says this isn't like what kids may see on a field trip to the courthouse. They're learning what's going to happen inside the courtroom when mommy and daddy get a divorce.
"It's frequently emotionally heart-rending. I see families at their low point and parents at their low point," he said.
Bringing the divorce education class for children to the third district was Evans' idea. He saw how effective the program was in states like Hawaii and New Jersey. Evans says he's been working on this program for seven years, but still, not many families know about it.
"The children are given very basic messages. ‘The divorce is not your fault. You can still love each of your parents,'" he said.
Course instructor Diane Passey said, "Even when parents do a wonderful job of telling their children that it's not their fault, for some reason, a lot of children internalize it and think, ‘Well if I was a better kid I could have prevented this."
Passey says she's seen cases where one or both parents try to pit a child against the other parent. She says they have to train children on how they can protect themselves from being used in this way.
"If you're feeling bad, you can say that and you have the right to say, ‘Mom, when you say things like that about dad…' or, ‘Dad, when you things like that about mom, I feel bad inside,'" she said.
She added, "They hear the words ‘going to court' and they see things on TV like Judge Judy and all of these other things."
I replied, "She is scary."
She agreed, "It does give a misconception about court."
These classes are held on the second Saturday and third Monday of the month and are not required, like the divorce classes for adults are.