“What’s wrong with you? It’s her last assignment and it is due tomorrow! How could you just leave something like that lying on the kitchen counter?” Sharon watched her mom press the phone closer to her ear.
“What? Are you kidding? Even if we did meet in the middle, it’ll be late when me and Sharon get back and I have to go to work in the morning. You need to be the one bringing it here; I don’t care how long that puts you on the road!”
Mom started rolling her eyes. “Fine then. I’ll just stack this with all your other noncompliances and Sharon will get a bad grade!”
Mom slammed the phone on the receiver. Sharon peeked up through her long lashes to see her mother standing in front of her.
“Sharon, sweetheart, I know it’s hard going back and forth every weekend to your dad’s house, but you have to remember to bring all your stuff home, especially important homework assignments, okay?”
Sharon nodded her head, a tear slipping down her cheek.
“Your Honor? I’m sorry to bother you, but the child’s attorney finally arrived. Here are the recommendation papers.”
Sharon raised her head and smiled at her assistant. “Thank you Charles. We’ll reconvene in fifteen minutes.”
As the door to her chambers closed behind Charles, Sharon thumbed the thin folder. In fifteen minutes, she would sign a decree turning a child’s life upside down.
The scenario had played itself out repeatedly: the child would have two sets of friends, two sets of pets, two bedrooms, and two parents who put the child in the middle of their disputes. It would be Dad’s house or Mom’s house. Not home.
Sharon bowed her head again and returned to her prayer. Father, You know how difficult these cases are. What can I do? How can I make this husband and wife understand? You guided me to this place, to this position of power. Why am I so powerless to make a real difference?
The silence echoed in Sharon’s ears. She opened her eyes and scanned what she expected to be the typical recommendation for care and conservatorship of the child. But as she read, Sharon shook her head in disbelief. “Huh? Are they serious? I’ve never decreed anything like this before.”
Sharon leaned back, a picture painting itself in her mind. A smile made its way to her lips, and she raised her eyebrows. Could this be a revelation?
“All rise. The court of the honorable Judge Sharon McKinley is now in session.”
Sharon banged her gavel. “I have reviewed the case of Carter vs. Carter. As there are no claims of domestic violence and the reason given is “incompatibility”, I was prepared to sign the decree of divorce. My final decision was pending the recommendation of the child’s attorney regarding the minor in this case, Deanna Carter.”
Leaning forward, Sharon gazed down on the husband and wife who stood separated by more than two lawyers, yet still had one thing in common.
“I know you are both going through personal trauma at this point. You were joined together as one in Holy matrimony in the sight of God and man. The only way you can be separated is to be torn in two, and that remains your decision. But I want to focus on the one who is suffering most, your daughter. You are asking me to declare she can no longer live in a home, and disrupt her life every single week, constantly shuffling her and her personal belongings. In lieu of this, I’ve decided to implement the recommendation made by the child’s attorney.”
The courtroom filled with whispers. Sharon tapped her gavel as she held the papers in one hand. “Jackie Shelton, the child’s maternal grandmother, has offered to take up residence in the family’s current home for a six month trial period. You, Michael and Helen Carter will alternately live there and care for your daughter every other week. You will exchange house keys on Thursdays at 6 P.M.”
Expressions around the courtroom held confusion. The Carter’s attorneys objected. Sharon hit her gavel again.
“Only after the trial period will I review the Carter vs. Carter case again. Court adjoined.”
A final rap of the gavel stunned the room. The people rose mechanically as Sharon retired to her private quarters, and the word “huh?” lingered behind her.
Wiping a tear from her cheek, Sharon whispered, “It is in Your hands Father.”
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