Divorce and Children: Experts Say Don’t Stay Together for the Sake of the Children

Nobody enters a marriage hoping it will end in divorce. Not only does divorce typically represent the end of the relationship, but it can also often turn into a messy process, leaving a wide range of emotional scars on both partners. The idea of separation and divorce becomes even more complicated when a couple has children together.

How should parents handle divorce and children? Many parents seem to feel that by proceeding with the divorce, they have somehow failed their children. Recently, however, marriage and family counselors have started to recognize that, sometimes, divorce may actually be in a child’s best interest. This refutes the old philosophy of staying together for the sake of the children.

There are vast amounts of research to indicate that a family unit in which parents are married is the ideal situation for a child to thrive. Dr. Robert Emery, Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia acknowledges that “children fare best if they grow up in a happily married family,” but cautions that “happily married” is the key. “I believe that no parent should stay together (or divorce, as many parents have told me they did) ‘for the children’s sake,” Dr. Emery said. “This is a grown-up decision, and parents need to take responsibility for their own choices.”

A failing relationship and a poor family situation do very little to contribute to the well-being of a child, regardless of the parents’ marital status. Popular television host and retired psychologist, Dr. Phil McGraw explained, “Research shows that kids who grow up in an emotionally barren, abusive environment don’t do as well as kids who grow up with one well-adjusted single parent.” He also noted a study that found that three-quarters of children with divorced parents are ultimately as happy and well-adjusted as those from intact families.

Barbara Greenberg, Connecticut clinical psychologist, and contributor to Psychology Today agreed, “The term ‘broken home’ is dated. The measure of brokenness or damage isn’t based on whether the parents are still married but what’s going on in the home.” While it is extremely important for children to realize they are not to blame for their parents’ failing relationship, if a divorce will allow the parents to be happier, children will benefit from a more positive environment. Postponing separation or divorce plans may only serve to place strain on the entire family and creating a false impression for children of how a healthy family is supposed to look and feel.

To be clear, divorce is not an easy decision or one to be taken lightly. In cases where the marriage can be saved and the relationship can be made healthy again, family experts agree that couples need to invest the time and energy to do so. Rejecting the idea of staying together for the children only applies to relationships that are beyond repair and have begun to negatively impact everyone involved. Courts today consider the best interests of the child when making determinations that affect them.

If you live in Illinois and find yourself in such a relationship, you have options. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney today. We will review your case and help you make the best decisions for your family’s future.