February 25, 2010

It’s Not Divorce That Harms Children

Posted in Divorce tagged at 6:32 pm by demetriagraves

My focus has always been doing what is best for the youngest members of the family when helping their parents through a divorce. Earlier this year was the 40th anniversary of the no-fault divorce. This California law took effect on Jan. 1, 1970, and was followed by a wave of marital separations that continues to this day — and also a wave of rhetoric condemning divorce for harming children and undermining the fabric of society.

As divorce is clearly here to stay, I prefer to focus on how the process of dissolving a marriage can be undertaken without damaging the children. For example, in an adversarial custody battle, no one wins, but children are the biggest losers of all. I always strive toward the one thing that children of divorce need most which is peace between their parents.

It’s interesting to note, that studies conducted in the past 20 years have shown that on all meaningful measures of success — social, economic, intellectual and psychological — most adult children from divorced families are no worse off than their peers whose parents remained married.

Researchers have found two explanations for this. Children who have to cope with their parents’ separation and post-divorce lives often grow resilient, self-reliant, adaptable and independent. Plus children may benefit from escaping the high-conflict environment of a rocky marriage. After their parents’ separation, as conflicts fade, children recover.

Sustained family conflict can cause children to experience the kinds of problems that are usually attributed to divorce: low self-esteem, depression, high anxiety, difficulties forming relationships, delinquency and withdrawal from the world.

Given that reducing family conflict is good for children, the best way to protect them during divorce would be to minimize the acrimony of the proceedings. Where custody disagreements are settled by a judge’s determination of what is in “the best interests of the child.” In practical terms, this can mean that both parents do their utmost to demonstrate that they are the better parent — and that the other one is worse, unfit or even abusive.

I help my clients to understand that it is family conflict, and not divorce that harms children. I always will steer my clients toward the goal of keeping divorce proceedings as simple and conflict free as possible for all parties involved. Prolonged adversarial custody battles can be very damaging to children so my strategy is always to work toward avoiding this scenario. Indeed, most family law attorneys would agree that children are often the unintended victims in contested divorces, particularly when custody is in issue. As a result, most would agree that reducing family conflict and the acrimony of divorce would be beneficial to the children’s well-being. Having an experienced family law attorney to guide you through this process is vital to ensuring that there is minimal harm done to children during their parents divorce.


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