Judge Shares the Highs and Lows of Collin County Families
Original Article Published Nov 2008 by
By the time he was 7 years old, John Roach Jr., had already decisively declared that he would be a “lawyour” when he grew up. The youngster passed long summer days at the courthouse with his dad, former lawyer and judge John Roach Sr., now the Collin County district attorney.
Today, the Honorable John R. Roach Jr., serves as state district judge of the 296th Judicial District Court, where he sees civil and family law cases. He and wife Laura, an attorney and mediator, balance raising three boisterous young boys with the law and order of the courts. When DallasChild asked Judge Roach for a view from the bench, his obvious passion spills over in precise speech honed by years in the courtroom.
How does being a parent inform your work? Tremendously. I would find it very difficult to make decisions regarding families with children without having children of my own. Witnessing the problems families face every day is eye opening. Seeing other families’ problems makes me much more appreciative of my family. Being a parent also helps me understand the folks who appear in front of me. I sympathize with parents going through a divorce and having “visitation” with their kids rather than being able to eat breakfast with them every day and tuck them in every night.
Is there an aspect of your work that is especially challenging – something that makes you sad, angry or discouraged? The most difficult part of my job is making decisions on child custody. Having one good parent and one not-so-good parent is usually easy, but having two good parents or two bad parents is a challenge.
What makes me discouraged are parents in a divorce who have lost complete focus of their kids and spend their time in court bashing each other, hoping the court will side with them or at least have the court confirm the other spouse is at fault.
In my job, I’m asked to interview children in my chambers to get their perspective on things. We do not ask them where they want to live, but we do want to know what is going on with mom and dad. With younger children, I ask them: “If you were given a magic wand and could fix anything, what would you fix?” Nine times out of 10, they will say they just want their parents to stop fighting. It is really sad.
Finally, I am amazed at who parents want to make decisions about their kids. Every day, I decide whether a child is going to public school, private school or home school. I decide if Johnny is going to be put on ADHD medication or not; how often Suzie gets to see her grandparents; should a child be held back a year before starting school; or whether Alex is ever going to see his father again. The people who can best serve the interest of children, in almost every instance, are the parents. I often tell people I would not want them to make decisions about my kids – why would you want me to make decisions about yours? It is certainly my job to make these decisions; I make the decisions when I have to. However, parents going through divorce need to agree to disagree as to why, how or whose fault it is and focus on the kids. Your spouse may make a sorry husband or wife, but it does not mean you have to be sorry parents.
Tell us about the rewarding side of your work. In my job, I get to preside over adoptions where people who were unable to have kids get to start a family because of adoption. I see people who were on the road to destruction, usually because of alcohol or drugs, turn themselves around for their children and succeed. I see women who have been physically abused for years gather the courage to leave an abusive relationship and move on with their lives. I get to preside over marriages. I have a great job.
How do you balance a very demanding position with nurturing your own children? Someone once told me, “All the successes life can give you cannot outweigh a failure in the home.” And we believe it. You must: (1) work to live, not live to work; (2) leave the BlackBerry in the car; (3) eat dinner together; (4) make your family your best friend.
When things get hectic, how do you let off steam and relax? DATE NIGHT! Laura and I try to make date night once a week. I believe it is absolutely essential you spend time with your spouse. The folks at the airlines have it right: “If you experience a decrease in cabin pressure, airbags will drop from the ceiling. If you are traveling with small children, put your mask on first, then your child’s.”
The reason they tell you this is because if you are not capable of functioning yourself, then no one is there to help your kids. Make sure you have the oxygen (i.e., rest, alone time, quiet time) so you are ready to help your kids.
Published November 2008