More than ever before, divorce is making news. Much of it is due to changing legislation in many nations and several states within the U.S. regarding issues such as custody. In the past five years there have also been major shifts in our perceptions about divorce and the emergence of new alternatives that can simplify and reduce the time and cost involved in divorce proceedings. Consequently, society is talking more and caring more about divorce than ever before in history.
This, I believe, is very good because with discussion comes awareness of the many complex challenges that surround divorce. This includes the many weaknesses and inequities in our divorce-related legal systems and the long-term consequences of poor decision-making as couples attempt to transition through the divorce maze.
A while back Parade Magazine, the Sunday supplement magazine that comes with newspapers in many large cities around the U.S., sponsored a national poll. The question they asked was this: Should divorced dads get equal custody?
63% of their responses were YES and 37% were NO. Here are some quotes reflective of the responses.
On the YES side were comments such as “Just as women should get equal pay, dads should get equal custody. The 14th Amendment requires that people be treated equally, regardless of sex.” Another YES response was “Children are more likely to thrive if they have access to both parents.”
On the NO side was this comment, “It’s too stressful for kids to be split between two homes. They need a constant, stable environment.” Another NO quote said, “Each parent should maintain the role he or she had before the divorce. Usually, that means more time with Mom.”
I wish there was a simple YES or NO answer to this question, but in my opinion, there isn’t. Every family and every situation is unique. Trying to make such an enormously complicated issue as custody into a black and white/right or wrong answer is absurd. Now is the time to heighten our awareness about the enormous emotional and psychological effects of all custody decisions upon our children — not come up with simplistic one-size-fits-all legislation.
It’s impossible to compare two families with different numbers of children of different ages and genders living in different parts of any nation. Then add to the mix parents with different levels of emotional and educational involvement with their children, differing cultural and spiritual philosophies, and different levels of career commitment, financial security and child-care support. What you get is infinite diversity with no two families ever being quite the same.
Should divorced dads get equal custody of their children? Absolutely YES — when the right conditions are in place for the best interest of those children. And definitely NO — when the well-being of the children and their future is at risk. Who should decide? Sincere, loving parents along with the most caring, compassionate professionals they can access. These professionals must understand divorce dynamics to help create the best possible outcome for everyone in the family — but especially the kids!
I always suggest divorce mediators as an excellent resource. Therapists who specialize in divorce and family counseling can also be very effective in contributing to your divorce team. Experienced Certified Divorce Coaches can offer valuable insights. Divorce Financial Analysts may also play an integral part in your peaceful resolution. Collaborative divorce attorneys who are comfortable working with these professionals can keep you on track for the purpose of creating a positive win-win resolution.
Take your parenting responsibility seriously! If you let your heart and head, but not your ego, lead you in making these crucial decisions you will honor your children and give them the best possible future in the years and decades to come. That is what I wish for every child touched by divorce!
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Rosalind Sedacca, CCT is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents. For Rosalind’s free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit //www.childcentereddivorce.com.
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