When parents are at loggerheads, there should be much more done to sustain the interests of the father and child. When a mother turns her child against the father, when a mother refuses to comply with a court order on contact, nothing is done because it is felt sanctions against her would not be in the interests of the child. But is the situation as it stands in that child’s interests? We pay only lip service to the rights of a child to have contact with a father and we need to do better.
This article is another one to address the findings of the Mishcon de Reya report on the impacts of divorce in the United Kingdom (The Times, 11/17/09). I discussed another article in the Telegraph in a previous piece, but this one adds information and some suggestions.
For example, the report found that more than one-third of children lose all contact with their fathers after divorce. It goes on to report just why that is.
But what makes keeping in touch so difficult?
One answer could be suggested by a finding of the Mishcon de Reya report — one in five divorcing spouses admitted to having the primary objective of making the experience as unpleasant as possible for his or her former partner.
Parenthetically, I wonder what all those people who deny the existence of parental alienation of children have to say about that. When 20% cite that very thing as their “primary objective” post-divorce, it’s hard to figure how they can pretend parental alienation is a figment of some evil FRA’s imagination. My guess is that we’ll never know since they’ll probably give that datum a pass.
And given that it’s fathers, not mothers whom children are losing, and it’s mothers, not fathers who get primary custody in 85% – 90% of cases, it’s not hard to figure out who’s doing most of the alienating.
But the article goes on to site some fairly commonsense things divorcing fathers and mothers can do to make things better. Unfortunately, many of those seem to assume some sort of residual goodwill between the exes. And if that existed, the problems children have stemming from divorce would probably be much fewer and less severe.
I suspect that there is a large percentage of parents who truly do their best to get along after they split and who mostly succeed. I also suspect that there is some percentage who will remain out to get the other regardless of everything. And I finally suspect that there are a lot of parents for whom counselling and mediation would be a great help. It’s not that they’ll feel much better about the other spouse, but they can learn to focus on the child’s wellbeing and understand that, while he/she may want nothing to do with the other spouse, the child doesn’t feel the same way.