Equal physical custody? You try it.
I started a bit of a kerfuffle on another site the other day and I decided to write an opinion piece to reflect it. I didn’t think I would be writing these, but the topic is interesting and I’d love to hear other people’s perspectives:
Child custody. There aren’t many topics as polarizing as this one. Really. It ranks right up with politics and religion. And debating it is not for the meek or faint hearted. I knew that, but it’s not what I was thinking about as I wrote my comment. I had just finished reading an interesting blog post over here and it really caught my interest. The piece highlighted the author’s belief in equal physical custody of children after divorce. She relayed a bit of her own personal experience as a divorced mom. She stated that her ex husband chose not to have a role in her children’s life and that it of course was damaging to them. She then listed a smattering of studies, detailing the detriments to children from absent fathers.
Now I don’t think anyone can dispute the importance of fathers for all children. Children of divorce are no different. But equal physical custody? You know what that means, right? It means three nights at mom’s house this week and four nights the next. Or maybe it means this week at mom’s, next week at dad’s. Having all your time split evenly down the middle. Living precisely one half of your life in one residence and one half in another. Sound like fun? Would you want to do it?
So I wrote my comment. I simply questioned the need for a 50/50 split and stated that although I had extenuating circumstances that made my paternal visitation less than most, I was glad not to have had to endure that. And boy, the father’s came out swinging! It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. I hadn’t paid close enough attention to my wording. And in a polarizing argument, wording of course is everything.
I thought I was being misunderstood. It seemed the father’s were mostly angry that the courts tend to automatically choose the mother as the primary custodian, when they were just as capable. And to that I can only agree. If they want to be primary caretakers, they should have an equal opportunity for that. If it’s legal reform that’s needed; go lobby. Chances are, they’d find me supporting them all the way. I don’t really care which parent the child resides with. Only that in end they reside with one of them.
Because we all need a home. A place that is ours. And I feel that no matter how well you try duplicate it, a 50% arrangement robs a child of that sense. Not to mention the continual upheaval; the back and forth. I also brought up how difficult it would be for kids to answer one of the basic questions of kid-dom. “Where do you live?” The question that answers whether they reside in close enough proximity to be playmates. I know things have changed. That children of divorce are more mainstream now. But this is a gateway question for kids! Who wants to explain their family drama after initial introductions?
Well, at least the moderator was nice enough to pull down the few comments that had name calling in them. Because the response to that second comment was certainly passionate. Amidst the profanity, there were examples of how well equal custody works and mentions of child support. And I’m going to ignore the support thing. Because a father wanting to spend time with his children should never be motivated by a desire to reduce their price tag. And I’m going give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume it never is. I’m making my point from there.
Because in the end I don’t really care about the fathers who feel slighted and disadvantaged at being called ‘secondary’ or feeling like a visitor. And I don’t care about the mother’s who feel that being primary during marriage entitles them to remain primary through divorce. I know both ache to be with their children. I know it kills them to give up any time. But I care about the child. Whatever age they might be. And the biggest problem here is that you can’t ask them. Because the child of divorce aches to be with both of their parents too. And they will always put their own needs aside in the name of time with a parent. So if continually jumping from house to house is the price of spending time with them equally; it will be paid. Without nearly a thought and even dressed up with assurances that they’re okay. They’ll pay the price and make it look like it cost them nothing at all.
And there is my point. Why must they pay? Can’t the child of divorce have both? Mom and dad present in their life and a stable ‘home base’? Don’t they deserve it? Oh I know it won’t be easy, parents. You want to talk co-parenting? There it is. It would require whoever is ‘secondary’ to make more phone calls, attend things their child is attending, have them over for evenings and (oh no, not the dreaded!) visit their child at their ex spouses home along with enjoying their scheduled visitation. It would also require the ‘primary’ to aid, accommodate and welcome those things. Equal parenting doesn’t have to depend on equal physical custody. All it really depends on is co-parenting.
Is it a pipe dream? Do I ask too much of divorced parents? I hope not.
Because mom and dad were mature enough to get married. Then they were mature enough to have children. After which they were mature enough to get divorced. Can’t they be mature enough to put their own issues and wants aside and give their children everything? Shouldn’t the price be theirs to pay? I think so, but that’s just my opinion. From a grown up child of divorce.
Polarizing. I can almost feel the heat coming though my monitor as you twitch towards the comment button. You may agree with me completely or want to wring my neck. And that’s okay. I’d love to hear from you. Because I’m not meek. And I’m not faint hearted. If anything, I’d call myself an…advocate.