The Problem of Trash, Garbage, Clutter, and Filth in Family Law


Hello there:

Are you going through a divorce, or facing the prospect of one, and you have minor children? Or are you curious how not to become a party in a divorce?

If yes to one of these, here is my advice to you:

I stress that many family law litigants do NOT have this problem, but many do!

I have encountered a phenomenal number of cases where one or both parties are living like pigs.

My Mother was, and my wife is, a phenomenal housekeeper/homemaker.

I confess, my wife and I came out of the fifties and into our adulthood in the 1960s, and we accepted the premise that the wife would do the majority of the house management and cleaning, and the husband would bring in the bulk of the income by devoting an average of 60 hours a week for 50 years or so. She is the mistress of this domain.  Our children and I are her beneficiaries.

I think it worked for us. High school had home-economics for the girls and shop for the boys. Linsly Military Institute had map reading, marksmanship, marching, and uniforms; swords even. It is what we learned and what we knew.

The 4-H Club had sewing and cooking for the girls, and archery, timber management, woodworking, and gardening for boys. We crossed over and back. Girls raised cattle, and Eric Wallace and I did a demonstration of how to make drop biscuits. We beat out two girls!  But we clearly knew the difference between boys’ stuff and girls’ stuff. And, we knew nothing of the concept of transgender, and are still working to process it all.

And of course, there were Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. I knew instinctively that the co-ed 4-H was the way to go, as was our Methodist Youth Fellowship. Interesting irony that my 8th through 12th school years were boys only. My loss.

Now I am not sure who is getting trained for what, or by whom, but I am seeing photos and videos daily of former marital residences piled high with trash, old clothes, and garbage,  even animal feces and hoarder-houses that you can barely make your way through.

And there are pets who are neglected and deprived, and livestock that’s not tended to. Family Courts see it in divorce cases, allocation of parental rights, and domestic violence.

Circuit Courts see it in juvenile abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, and criminal cases. Teachers and social workers, doctors, and first responders, of course, are on the front line.

If television and the news are to be believed, things are even worse in large cities and deprived communities. It is a crisis of great magnitude, a loss of basic skills, and a lack of clear definitions of who we are and what our purpose of life is.

The causes? Drugs? Alcohol? Depression? Lack of training and skill? Paucity of values? Lack of role models. And now this pandemic is taking hope from millions.

Is there a “desert” on t.v., on the Internet, and in our culture that is starving our children the guidance they need in moving into adulthood. There is and isn’t. There is an immense amount of great stuff on t.v. and the Internet, but so many only watch fluff and garbage.

So, you tell me. But if I am your lawyer, I do not want the other side showing me evidence that you are pig and too unconcerned about your self-respect and the welfare of your children to keep your place neat and clean. If that is what you are doing, do you even deserve those children?

If you depressed or addicted, get professional help, and do a serious review of your life and lifestyle, but in the meantime, try to go through the motions keeping it normal around you. Keep the floor clean, the toilets sparkling, the dishes washed, the bedding free of critters. Take it a step at a time until you start feeling better. In fact, by “keeping going”, perhaps that will help you come out of it.

If life overwhelms you, simply keep moving and doing. One step, one more step, and one more. Just do it!

Suck it up, realize that your children need you to pull through and come out the other side stronger and better.

My experience is that when a marriage is failing, people tend to give up. Often there is deferred maintenance on their house and their children. Certainly, they defer tending to one another and their relationship.

But once we are engaged in what is, by design, an “adversary relationship” in a divorce setting, even if we have been sent to mediation, it is essential to move to a mode where the house is cared for, the children are your first priority, the paths are clear, and the marital residence is well taken care of.

When it is all over, and all you are is an “every other week-end parent”, or your time and contact are limited to “supervised visits” or worse, it may be too late.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

1 Comment

  • Alice Warner Shumlas says:

    I agree with your assessment 100%. I practiced Family Law at one point and was constantly trying to convince clients to literally “clean up their acts”. As my mother used to say, soap and water doesn’t cost that much.

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