Early this year, New Jersey Nets’ $18-million-dollar man Jason Kidd filed for divorce from Joumana, his wife of nearly 10 years, and mother of his three young children. Even those of you who are not basketball fans should pay attention to this story, as it represents many classic examples of what NOT to do in a divorce situation, particularly when there are “kidds” involved.
Apparently, this couple has quite a rocky history to say the least, and things only seem to escalate for these two as the days wear on. For example, Jason was arrested in 2001 after Joumana told police he hit her during an argument over their son. It seems that there was at least some truth to her allegations because Jason later pled guilty to spousal abuse, was fined (a “hefty” $200), and ordered to take anger management training. Now it appears that Joumana, too, could have used some help in the anger management department. In his dissolution papers, Jason accused his wife of “physically and mentally” abusing him, interfering with his relationship with his children, and threatening to make false domestic violence complaints against him to police. Just one day before he filed his divorce petition, Jason filed a domestic violence complaint against his wife, with a request for a temporary restraining order.
And Jason has not been shy about telling all. One thing that was stated in his complaint was that Jourmana used the couple’s 8-year old son (!) to sneak into the Nets’ locker room and “find daddy’s cell phone.” (You can imagine where this is going…) Mommy inspects the phone and doesn’t like the numbers that she finds, and subsequently starts screaming at Daddy (likely in front of her children) throughout the game. Allegedly, Joumana has also had tracking devices installed on Jason’s cars and computer, and harassed his trainer, friends, and family. Unfortunately, Joumana’s alleged behavior is not unique. Parents in divorce cases frequently put their negative feelings about their spouse above the welfare of their children. And while the adults typically move on and become involved in relationships with others, the children are left with the trauma caused by this malicious behavior. (Needless to say, Joumana launched an angry legal counterattack to Jason’s divorce petition and claims of spousal abuse, accusing Jason of a litany of offenses including binge drinking, gambling, “years of physical abuse” and serial adultery, to name a few.)
As this particular story proceeds to get uglier and uglier, take a lesson from it. First of all, if you feel that you are in a physically abusive relationship of any kind, don’t let it get this out of hand — or worse. Abuse must be acknowledged and addressed immediately for what it is. You must take it upon yourself to take the appropriate legal action and/or consider couples or individual therapy–whatever you can do to alleviate or escape that situation. Many people, both husbands and wives, are too slow in doing so — which can sometimes meet with disastrous results. When the potential safety of children is also involved, it is your responsibility to remove yourself–and them–from any impending danger. That said, even despite some couples’ best efforts to work things out in the most civil manner possible, we all know that divorces still have the potential to be painful, anger-fueled experiences. Experiences that while stressful for the couple involved, can inflict even MORE pain onto their children. Particularly if they must witness any of these angry expressions of ill will–or God forbid–be asked to participate.
Most of us are fortunate enough to not have our every move recounted in the press. But just because the rest of the world isn’t privy to your marital troubles, your concern needs to be for your children, and what they are taking in. As you try to help your kids navigate the pain of their parents’ separation–try to keep them out of the crossfire whenever possible. Whatever you feel you must do to protect yourself, NEVER use your children as pawns, or display your negative feelings toward your spouse on the Home Court. (In a divorce situation, there is no “Home Court advantage.”)
WENDY JAFFE, Esq. is the author of “The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide to Staying Married.” You can get more of Jaffe’s advice and hear a podcast interview at AOL.com, and you may also visit her website at divorcelawyersguide.com.