According to a report published by the Institute of Family Studies, only one-half of graduating seniors reported that they lived with their married birth parents. The data was gathered from the U.S. Department of Education.
Conversely, and for my purposes in this blog, the other one-half of graduating seniors were raised in split households, single family households, or by non-parents. And this says nothing about kids that did not graduate high school. I say with absolutely no pleasure: job security for a divorce and custody lawyer.
Ok, those are some stats, but what is the effect? The report cited numerous analytical studies and summarized, “students with stably-married parents are more likely to do well in school and less likely to cut classes, repeat grades, be suspended or expelled, or drop out.”
I can attest, from my almost ten years of practice as a divorce and custody lawyer, that the statistics and effects are real. Certainly not in every case, but in many if not most, children from split households struggle. There may be analytical evidence from case studies of scholastic records, but I deal with the more personal level. My clients constantly complain about behavior and discipline problems with their children. Children are confused about where is home, who is this new guy at mom’s house or girl at dad’s house, is the divorce my fault, etc. Eventually, children figure out how to manipulate the situation for their own ends. Kids scream and cry not to leave mom’s house because dad is mean, and then the very next day do the same while leaving dad’s house. They will bring homework to one house and not the other or use the other parent as an excuse why homework was not done.
I should differentiate the extreme cases from “normal” cases. The extreme cases: custody battles with physical/mental abuse, neglect, or God forbid, sexual abuse cause obvious and apparent problems for the children involved. Those cases require heightened attention by lawyers and the court. Saving those children, stabilizing their futures, is most difficult. That will be a subject for another day.
In this blog, I want to focus on the “normal” cases; the cases where mom and dad simply cannot get along and ultimately separate. I want to focus on the children of those cases. We can save them. If I had to nail down the one problem that destabilizes the children’s environment it would be a lack of communication. In a united household (mom and dad living together), parents have daily opportunities to discuss, coordinate, and strategize how to raise their children; they can chat over dinner, in the car, or at bedtime. In a split household, those daily opportunities are lost. They have to be intentionally arranged. And if there is conflict or animosity, and there almost always is if a lawyer is already involved, those conversations are oftentimes impossible. Without those conversations, children grow more confused and more manipulative.
It is terribly unfortunate. I must admit, as I read and write about this topic, it is with a tremendously heavy heart. I wish only the absolute best for our youth. I truly believe we need to re-educate our culture. I hold out hope that we can revitalize the importance and sanctity of marriage. I hold out hope that parents find ways to work on their marriage, before and after problems arise, in order to maintain united households. First and foremost for our children.
But, I realize separations happen. It is not the end of the world. Hope remains. If I can offer any generic advice, across the board for all custody cases, I would want parents to establish an open line of cordial communication. Children can thrive in split households; it is absolutely possible. But it takes much more work than before. Despite past feelings of anger, betrayal, even hatred, parents have to communicate effectively about their children; this means respect, gratitude, and love.
So, that is where we come in. The Jones Law Firm has been helping divorcing or separating couples navigate custody and support since 2009. My program is unique among lawyers. Just as I recommend communication between parents, so must I incorporate communication with clients. I offer time, compassion, and understanding. I represent you, but I fight for your children. If you need advice or representation, contact my office, read our reviews, and give me a call at (318) 442-1515. Until then, be safe and God bless.