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RESOURCES - SINGLE AND DIVORCING PARENTS

« We Don't Need No Stinkin' Judges | Main | Presumption of Joint Custody - Another must read article »

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Jeanne M. Hannah

Darrick: I agree with you that the right of children to have a meaningful and close parent-child relationship with both fit parents - something that is highly recommended by all reputable child development specialists - is sometimes lost in the process as child custody decision are made in the court system. I support children's rights and have advocated for them for over 20 years. Sometimes the system may yield an unjust result, especially where a parent who desires joint custody or full custody is "only entitled to the type of justice that he/she can afford."

Nevertheless, every single case - whether the parents are married or not - revolves around its own unique facts. To take a factual analysis out of the process using the "best interest of the child" factors and to apply a "cookie-cutter" approach [all children will be in a joint custodial arrangement with both parents where a presumption of joint custody is applied] is a recipe for disaster. Such a presumption treats children like chattel (possessions) to be divided equally.

Unfortunately, there are too few parents who are mature enough and educated about the developmental, social, and psychological needs of their children. Divorce brings out the worst in some people. A spouse who feels wronged by the other spouse may be motivated to punish him/her by "taking the children away." It is this dysfunction that contributes heavily to the havoc wreaked upon children where they are denied fair access to both parents.

I prefer to take the term "custody" out of the mix and to use the term "shared care arrangement," which could mean anything from the (unfortunately) more usual arrangement where the children are predominantly with one parent during the school year and have alternating weekends and some time during the week with the other parent to a more enlightened and flexible schedule where the children free-flow between the two homes. A primary reason why I prefer the terminology "shared care arrangement" is that where a parent is motivated to fight for full or joint custody because of pressure from friends, family, or simply a desire not to "lose face," this motivation can hinder reaching a parent-child custodial arrangement that is best for the child.

Yet, I once knew a couple who lived only 2 blocks apart. The father was very, very angry about the divorce. (He believed that marriage was a commitment for life and that his wife had broken her covenant with him). These people shared joint physical custody of two boys - week on/week off. Because of his anger, the children were not allowed "during his time" to walk to their mother's house for a short visit, to say hello to her in church (or even to look in her direction). This can hardly be considered to be healthy for the children.

Advocating for the best arrangement for children is very, very important. But I could never agree to a "cookie-cutter" approach as you are advocating.

Darrick

Please research this and then consider becoming involved in promoting the rights of children to be raised by both parents. The denial of this is going against our constitution in violation of basic civil rights. There are Yahoo Groups for every county in the nation that are forming under the format of NCP-(State Initials)-(County) to battle for these rights so feel free to join on.

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