whenDivorce and Separation is recognized as a Traumatic Event on Children

Divorce/separation of a child’s parents is listed as the second most common Adverse childhood experience (ACE) in a child’s life, according to NSCH. “Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that can have negative, lasting effects on health and well-being.¹ These experiences range from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to parental divorce or the incarceration of a parent or guardian. A growing body of research has sought to quantify the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences and illuminate their connection with negative behavioral and health outcomes, such as obesity, alcoholism, and depression, later in life.” A couple of things you will notice when evaluating these two briefs on the data, that there are a higher risk of negative health effects on a child’s health as an adult when there are more ACEs in that child’s life, and that a child’s resiliency can improve with experiencing an ACE. The research shows that the more minor the ACE the less negative effect that it may have. Therefore, you might be able to infer that if divorce was not turned into a knock-down multi-year all out high-conflict, high stress war, you could compare the negative effects with the resiliency and find that reducing the stress of the divorce experience would protect the child from unnecessary stress. Divorce alone does not have to create as great a harm as some of the other ACEs.

Removing a Child from Either Parent is also a Traumatic Event

Since removing a child from a parent they are attached to and bonded to can be a great traumatic stressor, more so than the divorce itself, it would be safe to say that two fit, loving, and bonded parents should be protected to equal time with the child. I didn’t see any ACE that said that having two equal homes was an ACE. So depriving a child more than divorce naturally deprives them already would presumptively create unnecessary added stress and could cause greater damage to children. Divorce court judges and those that advise them that do not protect children to both of their fit parents equally could be causing the children even greater harm; and this therefore would be detrimental to the health, welfare, and well being of children.
“Divorce courts that ignore equal parental rights are not acting in the best interest of the child.”
Robbing children of the life experiences and associations with both parents add trauma to a child who is already going through a traumatic experience in the separation. Protecting children to equal time with each parent comes as close as you can to reducing the trauma. Children spending the maximum time with each parent is what allows children to develop into unique adults without feeling like they have lost part of themselves in the process. It is these men and women in robes acting as gods with power unto themselves to control children’s lives who may be the biggest villains of all.

Not all adverse childhood experiences are equally harmful to a child.

The CDC goes on to explain that not all adverse childhood experiences are equally harmful to a child. A divorce/separation of parents in fact may be a challenge, you can still build strength into a child and improve their ability to succeed when you learn how to parent through the divorce and after. Whenever a child learns to navigate a difficulty, they have developed a tool that they can use later in life. Say perhaps if they encounter a difficult boss. In short, divorce/separation can be a lot less harmful than many have been led to believe. And although divorce is a type of harm, it is not one that the court is allowed to protect your child from. (See Palmore v. Sidoti for a case where the court explains how they evaluate harms the state can and cannot protect a child from.) So when the courts understand their role in this harm and correct the process so that it is less stressful on the parents, the process will be less stressful on the children.

Divorce is the second most common Adverse Childhood Experience.

ACEs are used to predict the highest level of risk for negative outcomes as an adult.

We measured the prevalence of eight adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), consisting of whether
the child ever:
1. Lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated;
2. Lived with a parent or guardian who died;
3. Lived with a parent or guardian who served time in jail or prison;
4. Lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple
of weeks;
5. Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs;
6. Witnessed a parent, guardian, or other adult in the household behaving violently toward another
(e.g., slapping, hitting, kicking, punching, or beating each other up);
7. Was ever the victim of violence or witnessed any violence in his or her neighborhood; and
8. Experienced economic hardship “somewhat often” or “very often” (i.e., the family found it hard
to cover costs of food and housing).

And then you have this evaluation of the study: According to the CDC:

“The Influence of Resiliency on Children with ≥ 2 ACEs Associations exist between those contexts children are surrounded by and the number of ACEs that they encounter. Therefore, certain factors inherent in these environments may have the potential to promote their health and wellness. For example, among children age 6 to 17 years that experienced ≥  2 ACEs, those who were usually/always resilient (e.g. stayed calm and in control when faced with a challenge) were less likely to have missed ≥  11 school days per year and to have repeated a grade, in addition to having been more likely   to be usually/always engaged in school (Figure 7).”

What does this mean for divorced and separated parents of minor children who have been restricted and don’t get to see their child equally because they have been told that it wasn’t good for their child and that it stresses the child out or that it isn’t stable for their child to travel back and forth between two homes? This means that that the courts have been getting it all wrong when they made assumptions that making a child go through changes or that a child identifying with two homes is harmful to the child. This means in fact that the court may actually be hurting your child by keeping your child away from you. The court’s attempts to over-protect YOUR child is harmful. When in fact there is more supporting data to show that a little controversy, discomfort, and challenge in a child’s life may not only actually lead to more resiliency and success in adulthood but may actually lead to better health and wellness long term (of course when the child has the security and stability of each of their parents and not when the court strips one of the parents of their equal authority in that child’s life).

How many children are affected by ACE’s?

The CDC estimates:

“Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have profound effects on the lifelong health of adults.”1 “Nearly half (47.9%) of US children age 0‐17 years experienced one or more of the nine ACEs asked about in this survey (Figure 1). This translates into an estimated 34 825 978 children nationwide.”2

Is There a Strategy I can Use in My Divorce for Combating ACE Effects?

The next time a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, family study investigator, child custody study evaluator, other court-appointed professional, attorney, Guardian ad Litem (GAL), Amicus, or your ex try to deprive you and your child, you will have what you need to protect your child right here. Begin with changing how you think about divorce.

1. It is NOT harmful to your child to have equal time with two parents who are in conflict with each other. This conflict does not warrant restricting the child’s equal time with you and your equal rights to care, custody, control, and companionship of the child.

2. It is NOT harmful to your child to force them to be with the other fit parent. It is not harmful to require the child to do as they are told. It is harmful to teach a child to disrespect and to run from a parent because they are not getting their way or they are a little uncomfortable or they are being pushed to behave.

You know now how to argue that the courts are not protecting the child’s best interest and in fact they are not even protecting the child at all. In fact, they could be creating permanent damage to the child and preventing your child from developing lifelong skills that are needed for successful survival. It would appear that these experts have allowed their own cognitive biases and their own discomforts to get in the way of doing their job and what is best for your family, which is protecting your right to continue to be an equal force and authority in your child’s life. You can support these arguments from another part of the study done by the CDC called National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) as well. This shows that a little bit of stress in a child’s life is okay, and in fact that too much stress in a child’s life hurts not only the child but the parents of the child as well! Causing more stress during an already stressful time, like the court process does, when two people are separating, is bad for families period. A child custody process that creates more animosity between parents is therefore harmful to children. Any process that leads to the result of cutting a fit and loving parent out of a child’s life therefore is more damaging and detrimental to any stress regarding change in lifestyle and household from one to two homes. So requiring children to choose between parents just to result in one parent being marginalized in that child’s life not only hurts children but also the futures of children; and this hurts society as a whole. North Dakota attempted to pass Measure 6 with the presumption that both parents are fit and entitled to equal parenting time unless proven unfit. Children would not need to be placed in the middle or choose one parent over the other. Many states have been trying to implement similar measures. Arizona passed what is being considered a “presumption of equal parenting” in 2016. The state of Kentucky passed equal parenting in 2018. Without presumptions that parents are presumed to be fit and equal courts have been starting off with presumptions that parents have something to prove. Many courts even presume that parents who fight for equal custody or who disagree with the court are not fit and are unable to put the child first. By not having this presumption that parents in divorce/separation are fit until proven otherwise, the courts are causing harmful litigation. When attorneys put parents in a position where they have to fight and prove they are a better parent than the other just to keep equal time with their own child, and a process or system that requires the child to choose one parent over the other, it should be clear now that this is what is harmful to a child and to all parents, not the parents relationship between each other failing. The following researcher, Joan B. Kelly in a report she made on studies regarding “Children’s Living Arrangements Following Separation and Divorce: Insights From Empirical and Clinical Research, published in Family Process Vol. 46, No. 1, 35-52 (2007) found that even when parents had conflict, children having frequent time with each parent did better than children raised in a sole custody home.

“A meta-analysis of 33 studies comparing joint physical and sole maternal custody from court, convenience, and schoolbased samples indicated that children in joint physical custody arrangements were better adjusted across multiple measures of general, behavioral, and emotional adjustment, self esteem, family relations, and divorce-specific adjustment….Although joint custody parents reported less past and current conflict compared with sole custody parents, conflict was not a predictor of the joint custody advantage in child adjustment (Bauserman, 2002)”8

While we are not an organization that recommends leading with statistics and studies as the foundation of  your argument for better policies, since studies can be twisted, abused, misused, and can yield results that might lead a mental health professional to encourage more unconstitutional practices or lowered due process, we do recognize that these kind of studies are important to help all of us understand the possible effects of our choices. Studies can be used to change behavior. Let me show you how this very same report can contradict itself. So if you rely solely on studies, many people can find other studies to counter the ones you are using, and then you are in a very expensive war to prove your side again. Take for instance the very same report by Joan B. Kelly also cited the following:

“Two other studies similarly found joint physical custody to be more beneficial to children and adolescents than sole
maternal custody along multiple dimensions when conflict was low, but these benefits
were suppressed by high levels of conflict (Lee, 2002; Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992).”9

How many of you have been victims of attorneys, mediators, and counselors claiming that because you were in conflict with the other parent it was their duty to protect your child? They might use the study above to justify inserting themselves to take over the decision making of what is best for your child over you because of their belief and the study supporting that belief and this being more comfortable for them to do. Dr. Warshak provides one solution to this and that is rather than cut one of the parent’s time down, figure out a way to avoid some of the conflict in the following way:

“Where tension and conflict accompany transfers of children from one home to the other,
rather than reduce children’s time with one parent as a response to concerns about
parental conflict, consideration should be given to conducting transfers at neutral sites
where both parents are not present at the same time (Main, Hesse, & Hesse, 2011). For
instance, the children can be dropped off at daycare by one parent and picked up by the
other. This protects children from exposure to parental conflict.”10

So here you see that it is the direct exposure to the conflict that causes the damage and not merely the fact that the parents are in conflict. The children after all shouldn’t be seeing the court battle and wouldn’t ever even know about it if they weren’t being stripped of one of their parents and weren’t being interviewed by a bunch of strangers and the judge. (and by the way, even conflict that does not rise to child abuse or clear and present danger we would argue still is not enough to justify the use of government power to interfere with a child’s right to continue to be influenced and raised/influenced by each parent equally.)

Children with Disabilities

Children with disabilities add an additional layer of complexity to a child custody battle. There are many disabling conditions that create challenges like autism, mood disorders, and other conditions that can make children more sensitive to stressors or changes in a household, make it more difficult to overcome courts imposing their idea of what is best for that child. In addition to the divorce, parents might be in other kinds of litigation related to a child’s disability; for instance, parents with children who suffer from birth injuries like cerebral palsy, have additional stressors that can impact how they are handling communications with others during a separation process. There are more demands on their time and energies, making it even more difficult to focus on what is happening in the family courts regarding their rights and the child’s rights to each of the parents. Courts are more likely to cut one parent out of the child’s life or place that parent under the total control of the other parent in these situations based on the court’s perception of the child’s sensitivities. And most of the time, the court does this without any additional experts or research on the child’s condition. And the parents go through this without the necessary support systems or the time to learn about how to navigate the additional process of separating with their rights intact.

Becoming a Better Society

So while it doesn’t hurt as a society to strive to learn more about what helps improve behaviors and outcomes and become the best parents we can be and to be better guardians of the future generations, we must not do this at the cost of forsaking the foundation of our country and the only document that comes between us and corruption and abuse of power. We are protected to be allowed to make the decisions we feel is right for our children and not have the ideas of others imposed on us by third parties or judges, not even if their decision might be a better one. We are allowed to have our flaws and imperfections and to make decisions that are not popular. This keeps our society and communities thriving and creative and what makes our communities unique and strong. The protection of our rights are sorely needed in the family courts right now in order to protect the future generations from this continued failed social experiment, societal monotropy, sterilization and irreparable damage to our families. So as long as the results of the studies that are being used are not misunderstood and are not used to ignore the protections of the constitution and your fundamental rights being superior to any expert or judge and do not violate the constitutional foundation that protects our fundamental parental rights and ability to protect our children from being overprotected according to someone’s study that very likely will be countered by someone else’s or already has been, our children will be protected from being sterilized and stripped of their unique qualities and strengths that they get from diversity that only children being raised by different adults can get, including the benefits they get from learning to face challenges and changes. So as long as you follow the constitutional guidelines you can use studies to help others comfort and to help change culture, but you cannot use them to violate someone’s rights. Fit and loving parents are better for children equally regardless of their flaws or imperfections and regardless of their marital status. As long as you stick with children should only be deprived of a parent after that parent is proven unfit or a clear and present danger directly to that child you will prevent studies from being used to deprive your child of both fit parents equally. One attorney recently in North Dakota in light of the introduction of Measure 6, (the equal shared parenting initiative that would have made the presumption that both fit parents have equal shared parenting unless proven unfit), made it clear that he too believes that children should be raised by both parents unless they are in clear and present danger. According to Attorney Arnold Fleck, “All of the studies coming together; the peer review studies by social scientists and psychologists that do this for a living are saying that it is always best for the kid unless the child is in harms way to be raised by both parents [corrected from the word children]…” and Supreme court opinions presume that parents are fit unless they are a clear and present danger or proven to be unfit. This would show then that North Dakota’s current section 14-09-6.2 actually is unconstitutional. No State can create a law that does not abide by the Constitution. Let’s get back to the harm issue because attorneys opposing a presumption that fit parents have equal shared physical custody want to claim that passing a presumption that parents are fit until proven unfit and that both are “entitled” to equal custody time with their child is harmful and should not be the starting point. They are a clear example of why it is important to protect your rights with the proper level of due process otherwise families are subjected to these types of personal biases and preferences. Sole custody and even the uneven shifting of rights from one parent to another is not in the child’s best interest ever with fit parents. (See additional statistics on what has been found with children being raised in one-parent homes and see additional studies done on children who had one parent rendered a visitor. They found that it didn’t matter if it was a deprivation and not a termination. The effects on the children of divorce in a study done by Massachusetts General Hospital proved to be the same as the damaging effects they found in children who had a parent terminated. Author Joan Teresa Kloth-Zanard did a nice job of summarizing the study along with some other statistics from other studies here. And by the way this study was also quoted and used by Judge Elaine Gordon from Connecticut in 2009 in a video she made to parents. This video by the way continued to show the biases that judges and attorneys continue to have which is to blame the parents.) While it is true that two parents separating is a type of harm as we discussed above and is stressful for a child, we also wanted to show some additional research published by the NSCH study that shows that children who undergo stress do have better resiliency when they are able to “remain calm and in control” when undergoing a stressful situation. And what child wouldn’t be calmer and in more control if they continued to have the security and stability of both of their parents? If they didn’t have to wonder for years which parent they would live with and instead knew immediately that they wouldn’t lose either parent and that both parents would continue share them equally?When a child is being told they are going to be ripped from a fit and loving parent, when a child’s financial security is being put at risk because the court process is making their parents spend their future college funds and making them broke, when the child’s parents are no longer in control but instead attorneys, guardian ad litems, counselors, and a judge take over, the child’ security that they had in their parents is removed and that is unnecessary harm that is being inflicted on that child, and that is what is permanently detrimental and in fact leads to death and permanent illness as you can find in these studies as well.

Stressing parents out harms children

If a parent wants to tell a court how to solve the dispute, they just need to point to this article. When parents can tell their child immediately that their personal problems will not change the fact that the child will be with each parent equally but just in two separate homes, this also eliminates the necessity for prolonged litigation and allows a child to adjust and settle into their two homes and their changed environment more quickly and remain secure in their parents. This also allows the parents to re-establish themselves more quickly and continue to be productive citizens as well. (Want more information on what it looks like when courts operate constitutionally and how you can assert your parental rights so you can get this result, shorten litigation and save money, you can get our book here and sample motions* to help you start integrating your rights into your family court arguments today.) Graph ACE and effect on health and school If a child knows that they can still depend on both parents and the parents are able to continue to be able to remain in control of their own lives without the added expense and burdens of a court process, the parents will be less stressed out and the child can handle the stress of the parents separating, the parents can better address the natural stressors of the child without the distraction of the court; and the parents can continue to invest in the needs of the child and that child’s future, rather than in the pockets of the attorneys. It is well documented and proven that long drawn out custody battles that pits parents and children against each other causes permanent damage, emotional damage (parental alienation), and behavioral problems like drug use, smoking, early pregnancy, dropping out of school; and long-term health problems like depression, anxiety, and suicide. Two of the main stated purposes of the CDC NSCH study referenced above are:

•To estimate national and state-level prevalence for a variety of physical, emotional, and

behavioral child health indicators in combination with information on the child’s family context and neighborhood environment.

• To generate information about children, their families, and neighborhoods to help guide

policymakers, advocates, and researchers.” Attorneys that were opposing Measure 6 may have simply prevented the integration of equal parental rights into their family court and domestic relations statutes. But this does not erase the fact that parents already have these rights. If attorneys continue to ignore family rights in the divorce and modification process they are not only preventing parents from protecting their children but are also hurting children and causing irreparable harm and permanent detriment to children. They are also violating your constitutional rights and are not protecting you and your family with the supreme law of the land as they have all taken an oath to do. The text of the measure 6 initiative was as follows: measure 6 initiative picture of text

Why Would Attorneys Oppose a Parental Rights Initiative?

The big question is why would attorneys oppose a parental rights initiative that so clearly brings North Dakota’s family laws closer to being in compliance with the Supreme Court opinions regarding parental rights and children’s rights? The answer that Chris Berg uncovered is that there’s no money in it for attorneys if parents don’t have to fight for custody of their children. Chris’ backs Attorney Jason McLean into a corner and exposes the lies coming from the attorneys opposing the measure. Jason tries to get you to believe that the Bar Association of North Dakota put money towards defeating Measure 6 in North Dakota to keep attorneys out of court. Thanks Chris for exposing this lie. And I agree, this doesn’t sit right with us either. In fact, it downright stinks. Chris also points out how Attorney Arnold Fleck believes the courts would decide if a parent is fit or unfit if North Dakota’s Measure 6 had passed. You can watch what Attorney Arnold Fleck had to say about it in this video from Valley News Live “6:30 Point of View” hosted by Chris Berg on October 28, 2014 yourself (And keep in mind that even though Measure 6 didn’t pass if you know how to assert your rights you can insist that the court apply your parental rights protections and your right to have your child equally. I put the link to our book above and here are some sample motions* to help you assert the rights taught in the book into family court: #630POV Divorce Corp also believes that attorneys are only in it for profit. See the following PSA video created by Divorce Corp in support of Measure 6, and as this video says, the decision should be obvious: And, as Chris Berg (@chrisberg630POV) points out it is so important to know who is contributing money to oppose the measure. Donors opposing ND ballot measure 6 Other attorneys opposing Measure 6 have said that they believe that this measure is harmful to children. As we have shown in this post studies do not support that lie either. In fact, studies show that it is better for children to have equal access to both of their fit and loving parents. Yet, children continue to be stripped of fit and loving parents every day in this country at alarming rates. An article posted on (LifeSiteNews.com) states that “The number of children living in single-parent homes has nearly doubled since 1960, according to data from the 2010 Census.”4 And that “Today, one-third of American children – a total of 15 million – are being raised without a father. Nearly five million more children live without a mother.”

Why You don’t have to wait for an equal parenting law to pass.

If you do not want to be another statistic then learn your rights. You don’t have to wait for a measure to pass, these rights are fundamental and if your State is not following the proper due process to protect from making an error in deciding a lawsuit on your fundamental rights, you can let them know that you are not playing their game anymore. (Our book, “NOT in The Child’s Best Interest” can help you learn these rights taken directly from 90 U.S. Supreme Court cases and several federal district court cases. Get the summarized version and Troxel annotated to make it quicker and easier for you to use and start today. Get the sample motions* to help you use the arguments in the book in your family courts.) Start taking the steps you need to get your life back today. The kind of harm the men and women in robes are causing families is irreparable and unforgivable. You are not harming your child by fighting to protect your rights to equal time with your child, they are harming your child by harming you and forcing you to fight for the rights you already have naturally. They are harming you and your child by not protecting your child’s right to be protected by you. Get the book and learn your rights . The Lost Generation rally that raised awareness about the families the family courts are harming took place in Washington D.C. This rally highlighted the alarming number of children being hurt by those in the system that claim to protect them on November 14, 2014 at grassy area 1 at the United States Capitol. If you are grieving over the damage and harm that your country has caused you and your children, you are invited to also connect with Patrick Glynn who ended his 400 mile Walk for Lost Kids at the steps to the building that claims to protect this country’s constitutional foundation so that all of us can pursue “life, liberty, and happiness.” We encourage all of you to continue to take the steps to stop this damaging unconstitutional practice that so many attorneys and judges in this country have adopted and are perpetuating and forcing onto families throughout this country at alarming rates. The spread of the effects from these unconstitutional practices are more prominent than West Nile Virus, or any flu, and higher than the current ebola epidemic. Join us and stop this virus, this silent epidemic, from spreading to your family and into the next generation. In the words of Patrick Glynn, of Walk for Lost Kids, “You have to walk before you can run.” Divorce Corp Reform Conference took place on November 15-16, 2014. Ron B Palmer of Fix Family Courts was part of the discussion regarding parents rights versus children’s rights on Saturday, November 15, 2014. Also check out organizations like the Alabama Family Rights Association organization helping parents in Alabama keep their equal rights to their children. Thank you Kenneth Paschal for sharing additional research that helped us make this post even better. Kenneth Paschal is the Director of Governmental Affairs for ALFRA. Check out their website to see how they are advocating to safeguard the constitutional rights of children and parents to equally associate and spend time together at ALFRA (Alabama Family Rights Association). – See more at: ALFRA (Alabama Family Rights Association). And those of you that know me, know that I often go back and improve our posts and update them so that you are sure to be getting the most up-to-date articulation of what we find to help you get the best results for you and your child. So check back often and contact me here if you have questions or need anything else. Resource: 1. http://www.childhealthdata.org/docs/drc/aces-data-brief_version-1-0.pdf?Status=Master 2. Ibid. 3. http://ballotpedia.org/North_Dakota_Parental_Rights_Initiative,_Measure_6_(2014) 4. https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/the-number-of-children-living-in-single-parent-homes-has-nearly-doubled-in 5. Ibid. 6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study: major findings by publication year. http://www.cdc.gov/ace/year.htm. 7. Picture credited to Kenneth Paschal with www.alfra.org and acquired from http://www.inquisitr.com/1300186/father-fights-for-rights-for-children-to-have-equal-access-to-both-parents-even-after-divorce/ 8. “Children’s Living Arrangements Following Separation and Divorce: Insights from Empirical and Clinical Research.” Joan B. Kelly. Fam. Proc., Vol. 46, March, 2007. http://www.expoo.be/sites/default/files/kennisdocument/fp_2007_childrenslivingarrangementsafterdivorce.pdf 9. Ibid 10. “Social Science and Parenting Plan for Young Children: A Consensus Report.” Richard A. Warshak. 2014    

(This post was originally posted on October 30, 2014. Updated on March 28, 2019. Updated on July 29, 2021.)