Re: Divorce: shared custody should be mandatory

From: Stephen D. Williams (
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 15:05:37 PST

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

I'm somewhat puzzled by this. Even without shared custody you
presumably have regular visitation and the parents and the children
always have to learn what is fair to talk about and what not.

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

I should have clarified that it wouldn't necessarily involve split
physical custody, although the barriers for that should be lower also.

(I have shared legal custody which I insisted on without reserve (my
first wife hid my daughter from me for years), but not shared physical
custody during the year because my (second) ex moved 500 miles away back
to Ohio.)

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

This is a problem anyway. At least with shared custody the parents have
to agree rather than 'mother rules'. Tiebraking can be done with an

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

Not much different from sole custody is it?

> 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?

It allows the children to continue to have two parents. The current
situation encourages single-parent families in effect. Although the
laws are far better than the appalling lack of legal support fathers
received before 1989, mothers can still effectively cut off fathers.
This is almost never in the interest of children and usually due to
selfish or spiteful reasons. Then they get to play martyr about how
fathers are so terrible. Makes me sick. I went into debt fighting to
see my first daughter and setup golden handcuffs (i.e. overpaying
support) to make sure it doesn't happen again. (What can I say, my life
is a soap opera... I think I'll base a novel on it some day.)

> 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.

That's the apparent theory of the current system; I disagree with it.
I'll agree that there's a qualitative difference between sane, mature
parents and the probable remaining majority. Tough, find a solution to
that problem. Change the expectation. Teach them to get along and take
care of the children.

Since I'm spilling my personal info as anecdotal evidence, I'll point
out that, largely through my insistance, I have a pretty good
relationship with my younger children's mother. Because she wanted to
move back to Ohio and wanted a house again, we have a series of
agreements that got her a down payment and that, informally, I stay with
the kids at the house when I visit every month. Since I normally work
flextime as a consultant, I fly to see them for 4-6 days a month over a
weekend. (The first year I visited every 2 weeks.) I'd rather they fly
to me, but it's more expensive and disruptive to school, clubs,
activities, and sports. My ex is my friend along with being my
co-parent. She seems like a sister or cousin to me: she's always going
to be my relative, just not my love.

This was fine until I had a new love. My girlfriend doesn't like our
arrangement and insists that 'it isn't normal'. She'd be happy if we
were enemies and never talked. I simply don't understand why I would
treat a former mate that way and to me normal is what is 'most optimal'
(like a good engineer). I have adjusted the relationship to be less
close and therefore less threatening, but I think the principle is good.


> lisa
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: []
> > Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2001 1:47 PM
> > To:;
> > Subject: Re: Divorce: shared custody should be mandatory
> >
> >
> > an even better solution would be to require Dr. Laura Schlesinger
> > to share
> > the bed with the happy couple for the year--
> >
> > I quite agree about custody, though there are often cases where the child
> > becomes a weapon; in those custody leads to the poor kid being
> > stalemated--mommy says yes and daddy therefore says no, or vice versa. In
> > such cases forcing one to give up control is better.
> >
> > Basically, I think there should be a bias in that direction (shared
> > custody)--but from what I've seen, every case is different. These
> > need to be
> > worked out on a custom basis, couple by couple, judge by judge.
> >
> > T

Stephen D. Williams         Insta, Inc./Jabber.Com, Inc./CCI
43392 Wayside Cir,Ashburn,VA 20147-4622 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 

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