Following up on my post yesterday, I still think that when a marriage dissolves, some account should be taken for who is the wronged spouse.
Now I know that's not always obvious, and in a lot of divorces both people play a role. But take my mother, for instance, who was left for another woman. Maybe she didn't do all she could to make the marriage work, I don't know, but to me it was a pretty clear cut case: he left her, it was his fault.
Luckily for me, this was 1972 when the mother got custody. My father was living overseas anyway at the time, so I was left with Mom. She did a good job. I had my own bedroom. All my stuff was in one place. I had routines. I had a home. In as far as it was possible, I was a normal child, except that once a year I would fly across the country to spend time with my father.
Today I have watched all my nieces and nephews endure the divorces of their various parents. They do not really have their own rooms, to the same extent. Instead, they have two rooms--one in Mom's house, and one in Dad's house. They're always leaving stuff at one house or the other, and when they want it, it's not there. They're forever moving back and forth. Their lives are always in transition. The rules change from house to house. The diet changes. The level of exercise changes. And you get the frustration of never really being settled.
The good thing, of course, is that they have a relationship with both parents. But I think in one case the mother would have been far less likely to cheat, and far less likely to leave, if she had not known she would automatically get joint custody. If cheating meant that you lost your kids, I doubt she would have wrecked the marriage. I bet she would have found a way to make it work.
I know children do better with a relationship with their father, and thus joint custody is likely a good idea. And from a purely equitable standpoint, we needed joint custody to give some fairness to the dads when a marriage ends. Too many dads were losing their children altogether.
But let's not pretend it's easy on the kids. Imagine never really having a space that is entirely your own where you can retreat to, because everything is always split. My one daughter has a hobby of making beaded jewellery. She has a lot of supplies. If she were having to move back and forth between two homes, I don't know what she'd do. I guess she'd have to leave it at one house, and then when she was at the other house, she wouldn't be able to practice her hobby. Or what about piano? Both my kids take piano. If Keith and I split (which we would never do, but hear me out), would the other buy a piano, too? Or would the kids just not be able to practice for half the week?
Joint custody is not as easy as it sounds. It can be very hard on a child. And imagine it from the perspective of the spouse who has been abandoned. You have dedicated your life to your kids, and you want your marriage to work. Your life is your children. Nothing is more important to you, other than God.
And now your husband (or your wife) cheats on you and walks out, and the courts tell you that every weekend and every Wednesday night you won't have your kids, for the rest of your life. Can you be a parent halftime? What does it mean to never have your kids on a weekend? How will you endure missing some Christmases with them? And you didn't do anything! Your husband (or wife) did. It just seems wrong.
I guess the end message is this: divorce is messy. There are times when it is necessary, but I think those times are far rarer than what actually occurs. And to pretend that joint custody will make everything okay for the kids is to be naive. It is not easy for anyone living under those conditions, and I find myself wondering if going back to the situation where one spouse, the one who was wronged, got full custody may, in some situations, be better.
What do you think? Do any of you have experience in this? I'd love to know!
About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.