Divorce, Custody, and the Government–Oh MY!

IMG-20120520-00484Sunday was my 17th wedding anniversary.  With every year that passes, I am more and more grateful for the man who said “I do” even though “for worse” at times describes our lives more than “for better” does.  We have learned, grown, and gone through trials. As we come out still married at the end of each bump in the road, we realize that we are part of a rare crew – those who stay married.  We do not say this with pride because it has less to do with us than it does to do with God and His role in our lives and in our marriage.  Maybe a little bit of stubbornness plays a role in our sticking it out, but really – the glory goes to God.

Yesterday morning I woke up and, as often is the case, I read some news on my phone. I typically scroll through the headlines and read those that catch my eye.  I care less about how many fish the Minnesota governor caught during the fishing opener than I do the laws that await his signing.  Today, the headline about a statute that hits home in my own life caught my eye.

Click on the title to read it: Proposed Custody Changes Await Governor’s Signature

I posted info about this on Facebook and asked my plethora of friends to respond.  I heard from many whom I anticipated would respond, and I also heard from some voices that are not normally in my “commenting” crowd.  All had strong opinions and good questions.  Many spoke from personal experience as a child of divorce or parents who had been through a divorce.

Thank you to all who responded as you have assisted me in clarifying my own thoughts!

Thought #1

As much as possible, I firmly believe that those who bring children into the world should stay together.  I doubt that those who legalized divorce in (insert statistics here) ever anticipated that in 2011 more children would live without both biological parents than those who do. In my faith life, I would definitely say that no one should seek to tear apart what God has joined together. My preference would be that our country be filled with marriages and families with a firm foundation of faith; however, the divorce rate is as high (if not higher) in the Christian church in the US than in the general population.

In my opinion, we have become victims to a lie that we deserve better than what we have chosen, that we should not have to work so hard at our marriages, and that infractions or betrayals are “good enough” reasons to abandon the marriage ship.  However, if forgiveness reigns in our hearts, lives, relationships, and marriages, staying together can be an option. (Note: I do not support anyone staying in dangerous relationship, so please, please do not hear that!!!)

When my husband and I do the premarriage counseling session on communication and forgiveness, he always states that we do not forgive our spouse or expect forgiveness from our spouse because we deserve it.  We do so because God forgives us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross – an act of forgiveness that we did not deserve.  Those who look in on our marriage might wonder, “What struggles have they had that they would even know what I have endured?”  Although I am very candid in my blog, I have not “bared all”…and there are things that we have struggled through that have been very difficult – in the same way that most couples would be able to say this.  There are times that we have both wondered, “What did I get into?”

And we have chosen to forgive -  not because the other deserved it but because we chose to follow God’s example in this area.  Staying together is not easy, but separating does not seem all that easy either.

Thought #2

Divorce happens.

Because we are human, we make choices, others make choices, and sometimes all of that ends in divorce.  I would not stand on this side of the blog and say that I judge another because they have gone through divorce because that is not my place. It is my place to encourage and support marriages to stay together; in fact, regardless of our faith convictions, we probably can all agree that –in the majority of cases – staying married is the best choice.

Although we can believe this, know this, and live this, we have to recognize that divorce happens. I can believe what I stated in Thought #1, still be a realist, and accept that divorce happens.

Thought #3

Divorce hurts everyone involved, but it causes a great deal of issues for children. No one whom I respect argues with this.  I know this personally as my own parents were divorced when I was very young. Although I believe that everyone involved did the best that they were able, I still had a very rough time navigating what it meant for my parents not to be together.

Thought #4
The government should not have to legislate common sense.  A couple of the commenters on the Facebook thread really took this to task.  Why are we legislating what should be common sense?  Research supports that children survive divorce better when both parents are involved.  If that is common sense, then why should we have a law on the books?
I have to say that I tend to agree. 
However, common sense has not ruled since custody battles started.  A couple of dad commenters (so glad to hear from them!!!) supported the need for legislation to support their rights to co-parent.  In the past, there has been a stigma against dads; yet, I know many who have been raised entirely by their dads, and they have come out with no more issues than I who grew up with my mom having 100% custody (ok…no crack jokes about my subscription of issues!!).

 

In fact, IF we are going to legislate at all, why are we going only to 35% and not to 50%?  Why would we not start out with the understanding that children who have 50% of the DNA from each parent should have input from each parent 50% of the time?  Honestly, these are just questions….I don’t really have all the answers – even if I act like I do…

Thought #5

In Stacy’s world, this is how things would go:

  • Unless there is compelling evidence of abuse, all custody arrangements should start at 50-50.   As a nation, we need to recognize that both parents are necessary in a child’s life.  If there is evidence or concern of abuse or neglect, that should be brought up to the court and taken into consideration.  However, dads have been neglected for far too long, and – in some cases – they have been allowed to neglect for far too long.
  • Every child whose parents are getting divorced should be assigned a guardian ad litum (yes – parents would have to pay for this as part of the divorce).  Guardians are “pro-child” – they are not to have anyone’s interest in mind except the child’s interest.  They would recommend to the parents and the courts what would be best if the 50-50 was not the best choice.  There might be times when 50-50 living conditions are hard (example: when children attend school in a district that is far from one parent’s home).  This needs to be addressed.
  • Parents need to realize that their lives will be inconvenienced, and that is just how it should happen.  While the ones who could not “make it work” move on (often re-marry, etc.), children go on living in the state of divorced-ness for the rest of their lives.  The parents are the ones who need to bend over backwards to make sure that life is as health as possible for their children.
My Last Thought

What is best for most children is that they are raised by the two parents who contributed their creation.  However, as in the case also of foster care and adoption, this is not true of children with divorced parents.  Because of this, legislation should not be in place, but judges and other law-parts involved in custody cases should be educated that both parents (except in exceptions) should be allowed and expected to have involvement in their children’s lives.

In closing, ParentFurther.com has a FREE webinar (click here to sign up!) coming up about how moms can make room for fathers.  I know that I often get in the way of my husband’s fathering, so I plan to attend and see what they have to say.  You can too – they are always at noon, so take your lunch hour and learn some parenting stuff!

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