Re: Divorce: shared custody should be mandatory

From: Chuck Murcko (
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 15:30:51 PST

Speaking from experience...

Domestic relations (as explained by experienced lawyer) is set up basically to track down delinquent dads, assuming they're a) noncustodial and b) deadbeats. His words: they assume the stereotypical "inner city welfare mom" scenario where dad splits. At least here in PA, the DR folks are absolutely baffled by scenarios not conforming to this mold.

The best working arrangements I've seen involve the parents themselves arranging the custody and/or support and telling the state to piss off, effectively. Unfortunately, such rational behavior isn't so common, and is not encouraged at all by the present system.

On Thursday, February 22, 2001, at 05:34 PM, Lisa Dusseault wrote:

> I was composing something along these lines, but since T expressed the first
> part of my mail I'll cut it out and proceed with the subsequent thoughts...
> If judges forced joint-custody, I would suspect that many of those
> situations would be simply awful for the kid. Even without the child being
> abused by one or both parents, even without the child being used as a
> weapon, it can be a difficult situation:

> - Mom and Dad have to be _incredibly_ circumspect about asking or
> commenting about each others new lives (loves) in order not to cause
> conflict in the child

That's no different than under the present system, actually.

> - Having two sets of friends, one in Dad's neighborhood and one in Mom's,
> is difficult

Yes, but managable AFAICS. Kids seem to have the least problems having extra friends, even if they don't see them on a daily basis.

> - Coordinating two sets of rules is difficult and things are bound to fall
> through the cracks

The assumption here seems to be that neither parent really gives a crap about the child, only themselves. Coordination (and by implication communication) should result in only one general set of rules if both parents really give a damn about how the child develops, instead of being control freaks with their own belief systems axen to grind, or beat up the other parent with by proxy (the child). Which often develops after the usual initial rancor of the breakup wears off - can take years, though, for the parents to grow up enough to do this.

> - Grandparents, aunts/uncles, other relatives of the kid can cause
> nastiness even if the parents are behaving

Again, true in the present arrangements as well.

> At least today, parents who think they can manage it can arrange joint
> custody, whereas parents who don't trust each other can fight for (or
> relinquish) sole custody. In situations where the parents don't want joint
> custody; what is the system achieving by forcing it?

They are removing the implicit assumption that the noncustodial parent is always the guilty party if anything goes wrong with the arrangements. That's an important legal point in the way domestic relations bureaucracies work.

And they're starting from a neutral legal standpoint instead of the current highly prejudiced one.

> In many cases, though it ain't PC to say so, I wonder if kids wouldn't be
> better off having one solid allegiance to one parent, and the other parent
> being fairly completely absentee. Sure it's difficult for the kid to live
> with the worry that the absentee parent "doesn't love me", but as I've
> already pointed out, there are difficulties in any divorce situation.

This misses what the child needs. Girls and boys go through differing "allegiance phases" with both parents as they grow up, and need both parents available for best results. Once into adolescence, girls tend to hang w/Mom and boys w/Dad, from what I've seen. Of course by then both parents are always wrong anyway. 8^)

And, yes, I've seen exceptions to all these things. I'm talking about the situations in the fat part of the bell curve here, not the lunatic fringes.


Chuck Murcko
Topsail Group

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