The Corner

Good Dads, Bad Dads

Lisa, I hear you, but I’m not insisting that bad men be handed their children, nor am I suggesting that shared parenting is always ideal. I think shared parenting should be presumed as best for children, but the shuttling you describe is idiotic and difficult on everyone. The ideal is that parents do what’s in the children’s best interest and stay away from courts. 

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Studies show that if shared parenting is the standard, many parents don’t divorce. As some of us know, divorce is the easy part. Sharing the rest of your life with someone whose company you no longer enjoy is a special kind of hell. Nevertheless, children didn’t choose it and parents ought to be able to figure out what works. Toting school children back and forth to sleep in Mom’s or Dad’s house several nights a week can’t be in the best interest of children — unless they’re like some of the more unusual parents I’ve known who live within a few doors of each other so that co-parenting is at least geographically more convenient.

A few years ago I interviewed a Florida family judge (can’t recall his name), who was conducting an experiment that made great sense to me. Divorcing parents couldn’t enter his courtroom until they had completed a series of explorations that included counseling and role playing. My memory is vague on details, but the goal was to allow the parents to see themselves through each other’s and their children’s eyes. The judge recognized that when people are divorcing, they’re in the midst of a psychological meltdown and need help sorting through the anger and pain that often interferes with clear thinking. By the time the parents were ready for legal proceedings, they had softened the edges of their anger and were able to proceed with divorce (though some apparently changed their minds and stayed married), without reducing the transaction to a zero sum game.

Sounded sane to me.

As you say, many fathers do move on and start new families, forgetting the ones they left behind. Some are just plain losers. But my experience tells me that those judgments are less important than that children feel loved by both of their parents, even if helping them get that message requires an act of self-sacrifice.

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