Divorce is terrible, right? It is characterized as destructive and emotionally devastating. So how can a couple strive for a ‘good’ divorce? Some may consider getting the house, the cars, the boat and the kids as ‘good’. Winner take all, right? But you have to ask yourself, is this in the best interest of my child?
As with most things in life, there is an infinite range of outcomes. Within that we will characterize ‘good’ where the dissolution of the marriage, emotional closure is generally amicable, the child has regular access to both parents and they have moved onto respectfully rebuild their lives. The co-parents move on to make new friends and possibly new intimate relationships while maintaining a healthy and loving closeness with their children.
The concept of shared parenting or co-parenting has been growing in popularity over the past several years and becoming formally recognized by international parenting organizations, health professionals and the court system.
To this point, Edward Kruk reporting the Third International Conference for Shared Parenting sites one of the many key findings on the topic of clear benefits to shared parenting;
“Dr. William Fabricius spoke on the benefits of shared parenting and increased father-child involvement on the mother-child relationship. His second paper focused on children whose mothers relocated, decreasing fathers’ parenting time, resulting in damage to the father-child relationship. These children were shown to have more delinquency and drug and alcohol abuse, and greater incidence of depression and anxiety”1
Let’s look at the DNA of a good divorce as defined by Sam Margulies a 30 year seasoned veteran in mediation and dispute resolution;
- Emotional closure for both partners. This means that there is no unfinished emotional business and they have both disengaged from the relationship and the conflict.
- A successful post-divorce social life. Each has achieved a place in the community or has developed a network of friends. If they are interested in a new relationship, each has begun to date or has found a new mate.
- A sense of economic justice. Both have a sense that the settlement was fair. This does not mean that one or both does not feel strapped from time to time, but that the disparity between them is not glaring or dramatic and neither feels victimized by the other, or by the divorce process.
- Basic trust. This means that neither has demonized the other and gives the other the benefit of the doubt when disputes arise.
- Communication skills. They can communicate effectively, and their style is conducive to cooperative parenting.
- Mutual goodwill. Each can wish the other well and support the children in accepting, if not liking, the other’s new mate or lifestyle.
- Conflict resolution skills and a mediation clause. Both came out of the divorce process with a reasonable capacity to settle differences themselves, or with the occasional assistance of a mediator.2
These may be ‘life goals’ for some, yet out of reach for others but for those with a healthy amount of each of these you can consider yourself ahead of the curve.
We fully understand those in an abusive or high conflict situation a ‘good’ divorce may mean something altogether different but still have the best interest of the child in mind. It may mean clear legal closure and rebuilding your life and your family in SoloMode. And while this is different from the shared responsibility of co-parenting it will protect the child from the damaging effects of a toxic home. With extended family, friends and community help create stability and provide the opportunity for positive role models to fill any gaps left from the toxic ex.
- Understanding Children’s Best Interests in Divorce, Edward Kruk, PhD | Psychology Today
- Is There Such a Thing as a “Good Divorce”?, Sam Margulies PhD | Psychology Today