If you’ve ever traveled on an airplane, you’ve certainly heard the preflight safety announcements, including the announcement explaining what to expect in the event of a loss of cabin pressure. In that event, we are told that oxygen masks will automatically drop down from the compartment above our heads.
Now, at this point, you may be wondering, “why am I reading about airplanes and oxygen masks in a matrimonial law blog?” And it’s what passengers are told next that matters most.
Too many times in a divorce, we hear from the parent that we’re representing that he or she will sacrifice everything for the sake of the children -- to the point of his or her own detriment -- and, therefore, they should be awarded “full custody.” This is when we invoke the oxygen mask analogy, first asking if they are familiar with this pre-flight warning, and then we ask: “What, according to the pre-flight announcement, is the adult traveling with children supposed to do first once the masks drop down?”
That is when we almost always see a flicker of acknowledgement on the face of our client. As you know, the correct answer with regard to the oxygen mask is that the adult should put their own mask on first, before assisting any children with their masks. After all, the adult cannot help others who may need it if he or she is incapacitated.
The same is true for raising children. We suggest to our clients that they will be far more effective as a parent in the midst of a divorce -- which is, in effect, the loss of cabin pressure for the marriage -- if they “put their own mask on first.” In other words, parenting in a divorce should not necessitate a total sacrifice of their own well-being. It is okay, and indeed, preferable, for a divorcing parent to take some time for him/herself. After all, only when a parent is their best self can they also be the best parent.
So, if you find yourself “flying” towards a divorce, you are welcome to contact a member of the “flight crew” on our matrimonial team at Cohn Lifland Pearlman Herrmann & Knopf LLP.