Having survived their own family splits, Generation X parents are determined to keep their marriages together. It doesn't always work. ...The studies do show that joint custody works better and reduces conflict. Unfortunately many judges and child custody evaluators insist that joint custody must be avoided if there is conflict.
Many of us do. The phrase "friendly divorce" may strike some as an oxymoron, but it is increasingly a trend and a real possibility. Relatively inexpensive and nonadversarial divorce mediation—rather than pricey, contentious litigation—is now more common than ever. Many of us are all too familiar with the brutal court fights of our parents, and we have no intention of putting our kids through it, too. According to a recent University of Virginia study, couples who decide to mediate their divorce are more likely than those who go to court to talk regularly about the children's needs and problems, to participate in school and special events, daily activities, holidays and vacations.
We may not make it in marriage, but we still want to make it as parents. In the '70s, only nine states permitted joint custody. Today, every state has adopted it. It was once typical for dads to recede from family life, or to drop out altogether, in the wake of a divorce. But dads are critical in helping kids to develop self-esteem and constructive habits of behavior. A 2009 study published in the journal Child Development found, for example, that teenagers with involved fathers are less likely to engage in risky sexual activities.
Joint custody also reduces family strife. According to a 2001 study, couples with such arrangements report less conflict with their former spouses than sole-custody parents—an important finding, since judges have worried, historically, that joint custody exposes children to ongoing parental fighting. Some divorced couples have even decided to continue living together in different parts of the home—or to "swap out" each week—in order to maintain some measure of stability for their kids.
I have yet to meet the divorced mother or father who feels like a good parent, who professes to being happier with how their children are now being raised. Many of us have ended up inflicting pain on our children, which we did everything to avoid.
But we have not had our parents' divorces either. We can only hope that in this, we have done it differently in the right way.
—Adapted from "In Spite of Everything: A Memoir" by Susan Gregory Thomas, to be published by Random House next week. Copyright © by Susan Gregory Thomas.
Monday, June 03, 2013
The Divorce Generation
The WSJ has a new book excerpt about divorce: