Why do unhappy married couples stay together for the sake of the children, when they could easily give the children two happy homes instead living in one miserable home?
Mom and Dad being happy apart in their own separate homes does not equate to their kids being happy in two separate homes.
Children suffer when their parents separate. Even when the marriage is a danger to the child’s physical or emotional health and safety, children (especially young children) often experience parental separation as a blow to their security, to their sense of the world and their place in it. So unhappily married couples may stay together because literally for the sake of sparing their kids the pain and the burdens of divorce.
And you cannot presume that divorce will result in both parents being happy.
Divorce may solve one problem—say, the parents always arguing and/or fighting in the presence of their children—but will bring with it new ones (and usually the new problems will be more numerous than those the unhappy marriage was causing).
And most children of divorce don’t like bouncing between their parents’ homes, especially if that means that they leave one neighborhood and group of friends at one parent’s house (which is usually empty for several hours before Mom or Dad gets home) to go to the other parent’s house where they don’t have that established routine, neighborhood, and group of friends.
This is why I advise parents who feel they must divorce, if it’s feasible:
- share custody jointly and arrange it so that the parents live in the same neighborhood, so that the parents live within walking or biking distance of each other.
- be complimentary of your ex-spouse (and no, that doesn’t mean you lie to your kids, it just means you’re judicious and mention the genuinely good things about the other parent). Except in rare circumstances, the children love you both. They won’t love you more if you run down the other parent, they’ll just feel like they are bad kids because they are the children of a parent that Mom or Dad says is a bad person.
- work to compensate for what the kids were denied because of divorce. You owe them that (even if you weren’t the cause of the divorce), and they need that, if they’re going to be happy, healthy and who don’t end up divorcing as adults themselves. Be there for your kids when they are scheduled to be with you. Make an effort to be fulfill—as best you can—their Mom needs and Dad needs when they are just with you. A spouse helps take the focus off your shortcomings as a parent. So recognize that you’ll need to make even more effort to be a loving, consistent parent when you are divorced.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277