Research shows that, in America right now, about 25 percent of families are single-parent families with children younger than 18. Additionally, each year more than a million children experience their parents' divorce.
Divorce is extremely emotional, and it's understandable when parents get caught up in their own personal struggles and aren't exactly sure of how to proceed in a constructive way. While there are methods of dispute resolution that can minimize spousal friction, conflict between divorcing spouses is still a reality.
Different couples handle divorce in different ways. For many people, divorce is the most stressful if not devastating time in their lives, while for other spouses, putting the marriage behind them will be a great relief. For children, however, their parents' divorce is always a confusing and overwhelming time.
Children want and need both of their parents, but historically child custody has been handled in the courts in such a way as to make the parents adversaries. This creates a situation in which one parent wins and the other parent loses. Despite the court's intention of protecting the child's best interests, the win-or-lose approach too often greatly limits a loving and capable parent's time with the child.
You don't have to look far to find stories of celebrities going through contentious and expensive divorces, often involving heated and public disputes over child custody and property division. The stories are so headline-grabbing that one might have the impression that every divorce has to unfold as a court battle.
Understandably, parents who are going through divorce often have a difficult time meeting each other on common ground in terms of child custody arrangements. If this is your situation, then it may be a good idea to make a list of things, no matter how small, that you both can agree on, and then try to build from there.
We recently discussed the positive shift from the idea of "winning" child custody to the more collaborative approach of time sharing and co-parenting after divorce. Today courts in Florida recognize the importance of having both parents in a child's life, rather than creating a court-ordered void where one parent might have been.
The commonly used terms used to be "visitation" and "child custody." There was something controlling about them. They suggested a situation in which only one parent had control and influence over a child, while in another situation only the other parent had control and influence over the child. The terms suggested little, if any, overlap.
In the last 10 years, much has changed in Florida law with regard to child custody arrangements in divorce proceedings. It used to be that the judge's job was mainly to divide up the parents' control over their children. The result was that one parent was essentially awarded more rights than the other.
Simply because parents are divorced does not end their obligations to work with each other in the best interest of the child. Contention between the parents will ultimately hurt the child. It's because of this that Florida legislators have allowed for judges to appoint a parent coordinator that can mediate disputes after the divorce has been finalized.