The following is a response to a very good article written by Ica Iova called “Living Apart But Still A Family” located at Broken Home Society.
True most parents are unable to agree after divorce. This however is not grounds for a court to allow the other parent to torture and terrorize you or require you to parent their way just to be able to have equal rights and time to your child.
Married parents do not agree many times and do not have to agree. Divorcing parents do not agree and should not have to agree either. And as Ica states in this article “Children can, and will adapt to different rules. They do it all the time in school, at a friend’s house, at grandma’s house, etc. Creating a consistent routine will help your child understand and follow the rules.” Having two divorced family homes too is no different than having to go to two different relatives with different sets of rules, to a public place that has a different set of rules outside your home, or even going to school that has different rules than the child’s home, etc. You are correct Ica, children will adapt to each of their homes. Most children even in marriage adapt to many different homes. Many children spend summers with relatives who have different sets of rules, customs, and ways of running their households. Many children go to other relatives with their parents for the holidays where they must adjust once again to different relatives and different rules in different households. Then children attend school, go into public, attend ceremonies, churches, etc. All of these places the children adjust to different sets of rules. The difference is that during divorce the parents are no longer allowed to be parents and have their own sets of rules and customs and households. If a parent divorces because they disagree with the other parent and they want to influence the children different than what was being done in the marriage, they have that right. But divorce court wants to give that right only to one parent. Divorce court ignores that the children will adjust to both homes.
The courts make a mess of matters when they punish one of the parents for not giving in to the other parent. This is where we stand to fight the courts for interfering and imposing one parent’s ways onto the other. The courts make it a battle where one parent’s ways win out and the other parent is rendered powerless. They make it a requirement for the parents to convince the courts, evaluators, mental health workers, teachers, etc., that their way is more superior than the other parent. This makes the parents have to act differently and strange to the children. Children might “feel more safe and secure when they know that you are the adult in control” doesn’t seem to matter to divorce courts. In order for the parent to be in control the court’s would have to stop pitting each parenting style and decision against the other parent. When they do not allow a child’s preference to impact whether or not that parent gets to continue to have their parenting time, when they do not place penalties on mere parenting style differences and children’s angst, when the courts stop bending to the natural development and reaction of children to the changes in divorce, parents will be able to re-establish a new normal for the children sooner and provide that strength and consistency that the children require for their continued healthy development. The parents then will be able to continue to parent their children as two separate families with children in common. You will find then that the parents that are going to parent their children and make good decisions regarding their children will continue to do so, and the parents that are just unhealthy will get more unhealthy and eventually will end up in fitness hearings with due process that determine whether or not they can continue to be a parent to their children. This is different from the current divorce/custody system of being slandered and lied about and having their ability to parent ripped from them in divorce courts because they disagreed with the other parent or the children were put into a position where they had to choose one over the other.
Ica further mentions that children “could also be misinterpreting what they see, and that could lead to inaccurate conclusions on their part.” Courts too often use the children as a way to choose one parent over the other. They take what the children interpret as gospel. The courts have grown blind to the fact that doing this creates a power dynamic in the children that creates more problems for the parents. Just as all of us know and Ica has stated here, children learn to manipulate their parents and if they are given opportunity to get their way they will exploit this. They are only human after all. The courts are doing it and the children find that they can get more from their parents by playing along as well. The children start telling the parents what to do and the parents are rendered powerless and helpless by the courts when they are punished for not giving in to the children. The court then sees the results of these power struggles and fails to recognize that they have taken a natural push and pull of a child and turned it into a legal reason to rip the child from one parent or the other, to deprive the child of their right to be equally guided and parented by both parents regardless. They forget that children need the guidance and security of their parents while also needing the ability to explore and express themselves. This exploration and expression however needs to be in the safety of each of their parents’ guidance, not the courts, and not to be used by the courts as evidence for depriving one of the parents of their rights to have equal custody time with their child. Parents go through many trial and error decisions when raising children and if they weren’t afforded the ability to make mistakes we wouldn’t have many of the creative solutions that we have today that have led to many of the amazing adults in the world.
We have way too many busybodies and people wanting to butt into other parent’s business in divorce when they shouldn’t have anymore right to do this in divorce than they do in marriage. The same rules should apply in divorce, if the parent was fit and proper in marriage and nobody could deprive them of their rights, they certainly shouldn’t be able to in divorce just because the two parents don’t get along anymore.
Approaching discipline differently again is not grounds for a court to interfere in your divorce. Ica goes on to say “Children in general are resilient to experiences such as divorce and separation if they have a good foundation of family support.” And this support will be there and be stronger if the parents were not having to fight and pay excessively just to be able to continue to parent. Parents cannot afford to maintain a good foundation and provide family support when they are being attacked and torn apart at every step of the way in divorce. Divorce is the time when parents need their resources to establish two separate family homes. When their resources are being required for family studies, mental health evaluators, and court battles, this is taking away from establishing those new homes for the children. It takes twice as much money for two parents to set up two separate family homes. The court interfering and costing them just to have the right to do this are causing tremendous damage to children, delays in stability, and depriving the children of a parent where they could not know the benefit of having both parents in their lives equally.
Courts giving a parent the right to fight and get more benefit in court to the children than the other based on parenting styles is causing parents to not be able to tell the children what to expect. Children then are placed in the position of trying to resolve the situation themselves and tend to choose one parent over the other just to regain some of this sense of control back in their lives. It’s not the parents that have destroyed that, they only were changing the children’s lives and this requires some temporary disruption. It’s the courts that destroy the parent’s abilities to provide the children with each of their unique ideas and guidance separate from the other that the court’s destroy.
“Children thrive with structure, consistency, and boundaries; it also nurtures self-discipline.” Very true Ica, and this is possible in divorce in two separate homes. But in order for it to work, the courts need to butt out and back off so that the parents feel comfortable and secure in continuing to set these boundaries and structure and consistency without being subjected to the court forcing the other parent’s demands onto them. And experts need to stop pressuring the courts to do it their way. Parents do not have to be perfect to be parents. Courts that stop requiring this in order to maintain your separate rights to your child are the ones that will generate the healthy children of the next generation.
One thing we all understand is that children will be children. Whether or not their parents are married or divorced. Children “will continue to try to push against the limits, and/or play their parents against each other; each one of us did it to our parents,” being consistent however requires that we are respected by the courts to establish a new consistency and new boundaries and limits in each home separately for the children. Staying connected and continuing the relationship with the children is what ultimately is going to benefit the children. Courts are preventing this and placing barriers and burdens on parents and children. When they stop doing this you will see fewer parents willing to spend their time complaining in courtrooms and more of them able to focus their attention on their children once again. So trying to “do your best to be consistent, and to stay connected with your child” is up to whether or not the courts are going to restructure in a manner that supports this structure. Trying to stay connected to a child at the expense of bending to their every whim because if you don’t the court can act on your ex’s threat to take more time from you with your child, just is not conducive to good parenting and is not conducive to anything good for the child.
“Trying to be your children’s friend during the transition, in order to win their approval is likely to backfire on you;” has not been the case in divorce Ica. Unfortunately, divorce courts are driving this behavior and preventing the healthy parenting that you describe in your article. We look forward to the day when parents can be parents again and children can be parented.