After three months of bitter, negative campaigning, a mother has won permanent, year-round custody of her three children, satisfying the judge’s ruling that a fighting family settle things the democratic way: with an election.
The two boys, Bobby, 3, and Nathan, 12, voted for the mom. The couple’s little girl, Hillary, 6, voted for her daddy. Both parents voted for themselves in the all-or-nothing polling.
Wilson G. Berthstraugm, 33, the father of the children, is crushed by the outcome.
“My whole life has been devoted to parenting, and I’m doing a wonderful job. This is not fair. My life is over.”
Twelve-year-old Nathan, who had difficulty making up his mind, became the pivotal vote in the election. Both his mother and father bombarded him with pamphlets, posters, and gifts.
“Mom came through with the best deal,” says Nathan. “She game me a no-curfew policy, complete freedom over my bedtime, and she banned groundings.
“Dad game me a bike and a computer, and he promised me a car down the road â€” but I went with Mom anyway. At this point in my life, freedom is more important to me than material things. I don’t feel that I need the hassle of a controlling parent. That’s essentially what Mom’s offer amounted to.”
The election came about because the divorce court judge got tired of the better-than-thou attitude of both parents.
“The whole trial was a sickening popularity contest,” says Judge Al T. Totsmorth, III.
“Both of them kept trying to prove they were the first choice of the kids. It got to be ridiculous. I finally thought: what the hell, let them vote by secret ballad and see who really is more popular â€” if that’s so bloody important. So that’s what I did. The mother won.”
Judge Totsmorth says divorce cases are the most depressing of all he hears.
“It gets old listening to the gripes of parents with children,” he says. “If they could just hear themselves. They would realize it’s just a simple communication breakdown.
“Parents these days are filing for divorce far too quickly, without thinking about the well-being of the children. But, once they file, that’s it. There’s no way they’re going to resolve things after that.”
“The parents are beyond help. My job is to empower the kids as much as I can. That’s why I let them vote. May the best parent win.”