Staying Together for the Kids
It is a common refrain from traditional spouses in a long-term marriage with three or four children:
We decided to stay together for the children’s sake.
Now that the children have “launched’ and are on their own, we’ve decided to divorce.
With winter holidays approaching and extended family gatherings being planned, these can be tough times for some family members. Clients reaching out for advice about the cost to separate now or early in the New Year has become a commonplace annual event for Lorisa Stein, the senior Toronto collaborative family lawyer.
Here are two viewpoints as expressed by adult children identifying the harm they experienced as the family stayed together and the benefits of remaining under the same roof as explained by the parents interviewed. What those parents aren’t always capable of experiencing first hand is the emotional consequences felt by the children. And the children weren’t aware of the parents’ wanting to maintain one home for the whole family rather than being divided into two separate households.
What’s the harm?
Speaking with adult children whose childhood memories included absent and unhappy parents they offered these sentiments:
- “While I appreciate that our parents believe they may have spared us the stigma of being children of divorce, it’s very common. Many of my friends reside between two homes.”
- “All it meant for me is that we had to endure a decade of their fighting, long periods of silence, and an angry household. That wasn’t what I thought my childhood would be like.”
- “There wasn’t an authentic family sense of belonging and sharing. Our parents took separate vacations with the children. Our parents each worked late to avoid being around each other at home. The result? We didn’t have a lot of family dinners together.”
- “When special occasions came along our father always picked a fight with our mother. I’ll never understand why he did that. But that left the special occasion not so special.”
What’s the Benefit?
The benefits parents often expressed relate not only to the financial burden of a large family but they also raise arguments supporting the better standard of living they were able to offer the children. Here is a selection of their remarks:
- “We had one house and one steady income for the needs of six people. If I left, there were insufficient funds to make do in two homes located at opposite ends of the city.”
- “By staying together I realize it wasn’t the best arrangement but I was able to see my children every single day.”
- “On one hand, I couldn’t face that I was in a bad relationship with my spouse. I couldn’t face living on my own and having to negotiate when and for how long I would be seeing my young children”.
- “It worked just fine in my opinion. I avoided my spouse as much as possible. I deferred to their ability to continue to make family decisions. Children are resilient and they turned out fine.”
This sampling of feelings and opinions elucidates a small array of factors parents consider and children may experience when a decision is made to stay together under trying circumstances. The whole family sitting down to share a regular meal or during special occasions rang out as a lost experience for the children. Those children may not have knowledge of financial restraint which may have played a factor in the parents’ decision not to separate with young children still in their care.
While it may be a difficult exercise to undertake when children are quite young, with older children parents may consider a family meeting to share their intention to separate and to support their children’s needs. Many times children are aware of their parents’ unhappiness and feel excluded for not being included in what the future may hold.
Lorisa Stein is an experienced senior family law lawyer based in downtown Toronto, Ontario. She has utilized the collaborative method to help countless spouses and families to resolve their conflicts. To schedule a confidential consultation with Lorisa, contact her at www.LorisaStein.com, call her direct line at (416) 596-8081 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.