Like the habits, practices and attitudes of the generations who came before us, children of divorce are shaped by their own life experiences. Even in South Florida, Nowhere is this truer than with children of 1970s and ’80s divorces – and how they handle issues of timesharing, joint custody and parental involvement. Now that they’re parents of young children, how has divorce affected Generation X – those Americans born between 1965 and 1980?
As youths, Gen Xers experienced a new type of divorce – where Dad may have been distant or part of a new family, Mom may have been disaffected, and both may have seemed detached as they tried to discover whom they would become.
The children? They often were an afterthought.
“Growing up, my brother and I were often left to our own devices, members of the giant flock of migrant latchkey kids in the 1970s and ’80s,” wrote Susan Gregory Thomas in her new book, “In Spite of Everything: A Memoir.”
“Our suburb was littered with sad-eyed, bruised nomads, who wandered back and forth between used-record shops to the sheds behind the train station where they got high and then trudged off, back and forth from their mothers’ houses during the week to their fathers’ apartments every other weekend.”
The passage was part of an adaptation in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Divorce Generation” [http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303544604576430341393583056.html
]. The essay raises serious questions about how generations are affected by divorce, and how each carries forward the lessons learned from its own experiences.
IF they get divorced, it seems Gen Xers have strived for divorce different from that of their parents. Those raised as the product of divorce have struggled in their own way to make divorce – when it happens – a dramatically different event than that which they endured.
One result is more joint custody. In Ms. Thomas’ research and in our family law practice, we find that joint custody makes for happier, friendlier parents who fight less. This inarguably filters down to the children, both in what they witness at home – and how they handle conflict resolution in their own lives.
Moreover, joint custody – or a 50/50 timesharing of the children between each parent – is only possible among friendly parents.
This should be the norm that both parties strive for.
In our practice, we counsel our clients that money, property, possessions and other “things” amassed during marriage might seem worth “fighting for” in divorce. Devoid of real incidents of abuse or neglect, where one parent is trying to protect the children from a truly abusive situation, the children are not possessions to be fought over.
To be sure, the ill effects of dysfunction or instability are not reserved to households of divorce; homes with married parents can nonetheless be dysfunctional to the extent that it affects the children’s character, personalities and futures.
Yet, 50/50 timesharing between loving, caring, nurturing parents should be the norm, not some remarkable exception. It’s an idea we all can endorse.