Friday, April 16, 2010

An Anniversary That Deserves No Champagne

We have just passed the 40th anniversary of that much vilified institution, the no-fault divorce. "It is an appropriate moment to re-evaluate how divorce affects families, and particularly children," states Ruth Bettelheim in a recent NY Times Op-Ed.

Here are some excerpts from the Op-Ed:
"As child support is often linked to the proportion of time the children spend with each parent, the days and hours of their future lives become tools for one parent to extract payment from the other. This is a recipe for warfare, with the children’s well-being both the disputed turf and the likely casualty.

In an adversarial custody battle, no one wins, but children are the biggest losers of all. Intelligent legislation could promote the one thing that children of divorce need most: peace between their parents." (It is interesting that no-fault divorce is now practiced in every state except New York.)

As good as Bettelheim’s Op-Ed was, Elizabeth Marquardt’s letter to the Editor was even better:

“Re ''No Fault of Their Own,'' by Ruth Bettelheim the argument seems to be that because parental conflict is bad for children, the solution is to make divorce easier. If only it were that simple. In our nationally representative study of adult children of divorce, Prof. Norval D. Glenn of the University of Texas at Austin and I found that even successful young people are profoundly shaped by childhood divorce.

They described how they had to travel between two worlds, and make sense of their parents' different beliefs and ways of living, something their parents were no longer required to do. Most said their parents did not have a lot of conflict after the divorce. Yet these grown children of divorce report a profound and lonely inner conflict, even when their parents did not fight.

As a culture, we can do better.”