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Why I'm Not a Fan of Joint Custody
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!

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At 12:57 PM , Blogger Cilla said…

as a teacher I have had various children in my classes with 'split parenting' .. often week and week about with each parent, or half the week with each.

It is definately not ideal - I've had the 'no piano practise' situation, the 'homework is at Dads', etc etc. It must be so difficult for them


At 1:42 PM , Blogger Lorrie said…

I have no personal experience, other than what I see with my children's team mates. Clothing, books/homework, hockey/ball equipment, phone the wrong home. I think it must be so difficult for the kids. Some parents are very considerate of their children's needs and have some leeway. For others, it is by the book.
I also, beleive your right in that alot of time divorce is not necessary; alot of people fail to compromise, and they don't seek help. The biggest losers are the children......what a shame!


At 2:18 PM , Blogger Vindiciti said…

I have two different custody cases due to all of the mess my pre-salvation life turned into.

My first husband left, and was absent a year. I got full custody. He gets every other Christmas and summers. I think they feel that dad's house is like summer camp.

Then I had to move in with a roommate for financial reasons, and lived out Ephesians 5:18. I have an upcoming custody hearing for my son, and since he is now kindergarten age will have full custody. I'm sure the agreement will be the same since it's the same judge.

It's hard not having my kids every summer and every other Christmas, but Phillippians 4:8 reminds us to look on the positive side. I get time with my husband. We're able to travel and visit family that we can't afford to visit with all four of our children.

Two of my boys, one from my first marriage and one from my ex-roommate, have autism. This causes major additional concerns.

My biggest issue with custody issues other than what you stated is that when one parent isn't saved, the children are being put in a terrible position. My older boys are missionaries during custody exchanges. My youngest boy gets nothing, and having autism, gives nothing as yet.

The good thing? It's working. Praise the Lord for my salvation, and Praise the Lord for using such a broken situation to His Glory to save the exes that I've been praying over.

Sorry this is so long!


At 2:21 PM , Blogger rebecca said…


So glad God got a hold of you, and your kids! What a great story.

And I do think you're right. While the situation isn't ideal, you do what you have to do, and you make the most out of it.

I do hear what you're saying about the problem when one spouse isn't a Christian. We've dealt with this in our extended family, too. There's concerns that the child will witness too much alcohol consumption, and really inappropriate movies, let alone inappropriate behaviour. But there really is nothing you can do except for pray.

I guess that's when we learn what it is to truly trust God with our kids. But it still must be a hard way to learn it! Here's wishing you the best on your journey.


At 2:35 PM , Blogger Nancy said…

I have not had experience in this issue, but I have always felt so sorry for the children. I think that in most divorce situations the root cause is selfishness. If parents could only see what a mess they are making of their children, they would try harder to work things out with their spouse.


At 2:58 PM , Blogger Christie Martin said…

Sadly, divorce is easier than marriage these days.

The terrible truth of joint custody is that a child is never home. They are either at mom's home or dad's home. I grieve for my niece and nephew who suffer from a lack of stability from both the divorce and the joint custody.


At 3:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Going anon. for this. My sister-in-law's first husband was a p0rn addict, refused to stop or get help, basically told my s-i-l that he was sick of trying to be a good husband and if she didn't like it, she could file for divorce.

It's the most frustrating thing in the world that he has the legal right to take the kids basically whenever he wants. AUGH.

So, no, I'm not a fan of joint custody.


At 3:56 PM , Blogger LauraLee Shaw said…

I canNOT even imagine what my life would've been like if I had been tossed around from parent to parent. I'm so thankful I didn't have to go through that.


At 4:36 PM , Blogger Ashley said…

There is a family I know that made the house the kids house and the parents were the ones to come and go. The dad had his own apartment but when it was his turn with the kids he came to their house. The mom stayed with her other family members when it was not her turn. That at least kept the kids in one place. But that unfortunately doesn't fix the part time parenting problem. Divorce is just so hard especially when kids are involved.


At 11:04 PM , Blogger Kimberly Hurd Horst said…

Welcome to my life. I am a teacher, a mother and a person who is going through a divorce. The word is through, I think there is supposed to be an end to this, but I don't see it..the string is getting longer....

My request is that if you know people like me, in situations like mine, you cover her (him??) in prayer from morning to night. Post a watch over them with prayer. And be available to minister to them in the name of Jesus.

It is a fear filled time, it is a scarry time, it is a sad time, it is an emotional time. God wants to speak his word into this time and heal...and bring peace. It is a confusing time, but God is not a God of confusion. He is a God of order and so you pray that ORDER would be restored.

Join hands with others over those whom you know in a divorce situation and pray for them. They need it. (i need it.)


At 11:05 PM , Blogger Belinda said…

Last year I had the anguish of watching two of our granddaughters enter this lifestyle of constant transition. On top of the heartbreak (for them) of their family breaking up, they never had all the people they loved in the same place at one time and always were saying goodbye to someone. It was a hard adjustment but a year later, they seem to have adjusted to being with mommy during the week and daddy on the weekends. I think that's because both parents love them and whatever is best for the children is their heart (other than being together in a miserable marriage.)

I bought a book called "The Switching Hour," by Evon O. Flesberg, to help me understand the how it felt to the kids. It's a good book.


At 3:45 PM , Anonymous Beth Moore said…

Well, I can only hope that my ex husband and I are part of a very small group of divorced parents that share custody and do it well. I'm not saying that it is ideal or the very best thing in the world for our son, but neither was it for him living in a loveless home with parents that just simply couldn't get along. We tried many things to make it work, and it just never did. The only thing we were both sure of was how much we loved our son and wanted the best for him.
We work VERY hard to ensure we have similar parenting styles, all of his equipment for things, plenty of clothes, toys and whatever at both homes.
His teachers have made comments to us year after year that he is one of the best adjusted children of divorce they have ever seen. His dad and I made a vow that we would always put him first, and I think we've quite successfully done that.
I wish the situation were different, but I find that I can only concentrate on giving him the best situation at this moment.


At 1:41 AM , Blogger heidi jo said…

you're right - divorce is messy. period. it will never be easy on children... i do not think a wash statement about custody will work on this one. every story is different, every family dynamic is different, even every 'wrong' is different... some spouses just have lying cheating hearts... others have been battered or bashed for years and fall into (or dive, whatever the case may be) into more tender-hearted arms... adultery is wrong, period... but i still think the details of each story are significant and need to be weighed VERY carefully before a decision about custody is made. i definitely don't think cancelling joint custody is the best option in EVERY story

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

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.

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