No one, not even our attorney, has ever explained to us that the courtroom in these cases, is not where discovery takes place. It is through the course of discovery that courtroom drama happens. In these cases there is no bloody glove, there is no tearful testimony, no one is pressured into exclaiming, “yes, I did it! I did it!”
But no one told me. So when my expectations were completely dashed yesterday in this “non-discovery” courtroom, I sat there feeling like I was going to explode. Once again the backroom discussion occurred; once again the resulting proclamation came forward; once again, so little about what has actually happened or not happened broke through the surface of the hearing. This type of family court is a place where people refrain from being adversarial, it seems, at any cost. The Master will not entertain anything that puts the parents on the defensive or makes it uncomfortable for them when placed before all the parties in the case.
Aside from being furious that we are once again at the same place; that the court continues to connect the dots along this long and drawn out process; that nothing is essence has changed: not our status, not the permanency plan, nor anything that might indicate we are any closer to a resolution. Aside from all of that, I feel like I understand now. Had someone (like our attorney) explained to us the reality of the court, I suppose I would not have hoped so highly for someone to say the obvious, that the permanency plan is a failure because, and only because of the parents. I would then have turned toward some other expectation, maybe I would have even been able to be happier with the outcome of this, the eighth hearing spread out over the last eighteen months. I feel like everyone in that room during this hearing and all of the previous ones was let in on the secret. None of them ever expected something to occur that was never designed to happen, at least not at this stage of the game. I imagine that if we get to Guardianship and TPR hearings that could change, but for now the courtroom is a somewhat serene place where gentle questioning and prodding are the name of the game.
It is a curious way to operate. As our attorney explained afterwards, the Master guides her courtroom so as to not alienate the parents. They do not venture into areas where either of them could be put on the defensive. Since the only carrot available is for parents to get their children back and that doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect, the Master, instead uses a stick, though not so much a stick as maybe a Nerf ball to bop them over the head once or twice. I’m not sure that I understand the ways of family court just yet, but at least I have the rules in front of me the next time we play.
Given these recently discovered rules–would I have ever sought legal representation? Would we have ventured into court with the smartly dressed woman at our side who motioned on our behalf? Probably. Would we have moved in the aggressive manner that our attorney advised in trying to push the court so hard. Probably not. It was a miscalculation and the judge in addressing us as the end of the hearing gently reminded us of our role as foster parents.
But we were there—the Sentries. We went to the expense and effort of being represented. And we did get to speak. Against all of the rush of emotion and fear of having to say anything before the Master, the host of attorneys, caseworker and our foster son’s parents, I stood up and said what needed to be said. It was one of those times in life where you ignore everything around you and you find strength from somewhere. As emotional a being as I normally am, at that moment I was not about to cry, I was not about to fumble my words. It came out right, heart-felt and very real because it was about him. I stood up and told them about the amazing little boy who has overcome adversity, who loves to be with other people and has an astounding love of life. That is what they needed to hear from me, from us.
There is more to say……