How did your parents’ divorce when you were a child affect your adult life?

My parents did not divorce, but I base my answer to this question on the experiences of my clients, whether it be how their own children reacted to their divorce or how my clients felt as children when their parents divorced.

Overall: divorce is, with rare exception, catastrophic for children. It is devastating emotionally, psychologically, and physically. I cannot overstate how damaging divorce is for the overwhelming majority of children. It scars and cripples most children emotionally and psychologically for life.

This is one of the reasons why, after more than 20 years practicing law as a divorce attorney, I am convinced that “staying together for the sake of the children” is a noble, even a sacred, sacrifice that parents make, if they 1) agree to stay together for the sake of the children until they reach adulthood; and 2) agree that even if they aren’t happy as spouses, they are committed to ensuring their innocent children aren’t made miserable by their parents’ divorce. I know that’s not a popular sentiment in a world that treats marriage and family so lightly, but the convenient claims that “kids of divorce are resilient” or that “kids fare better when their parents divorce and stop fighting all the time” is, frankly, B.S.

Children of divorce:

  • are sicker than other children and more likely to develop health problems, and not just as children, but throughout their lives;
  • are far more likely to suffer mental health and emotional disorders and behavioral problems, and twice as likely to commit suicide
  • do more poorly in school, less likely to go to college, and are more likely to have lower paying jobs
  • are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs
  • are more likely to commit crime and engage in reckless, risky behavior
  • are more likely to engage in premarital sex as children and to get pregnant out of wedlock
  • are less likely to marry and more likely to divorce

Just read the accounts. They are plentiful and repeat the same tragic tales:

  • “I find it hard to trust anyone”
  • “I feel worthless, unlovable”
  • “I find it hard to make friends, make intimate connections with people”
  • “I am afraid to marry and to have children of my own”
  • “I don’t see the point of marriage and family”
  • “I use people because I can’t care for them or muster the will to care for them”
  • “I hate my parent(s)”
  • “I was robbed of a happy childhood”
  • “I’m insecure, anxious, depressed, angry, resentful”
  • “I don’t have hope for the future. I don’t see the point of trying.”
  • “I can’t function normally. I can’t relate to people in an emotionally healthy way. I don’t take very good care of myself. I do self-destructive things.”

Don’t believe me? Ask any adult who was a child of divorce. They will almost all have at least one of the problems on this list. With rare exception, their parents’ divorce was a traumatic blow. Sure, there are some couples who need to divorce, some kids who would be, on balance, better off if their parents divorced. But even kids whose family was moderately or even severely dysfunctional suffered as a result of their parents’ divorce. Even if the net benefit of divorce is positive for kids (such as when a parent divorces to protect the children from abuse), kids are still heart- and head-broken by divorce.

Dealing with Your Spouse During the Divorce Process

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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