We are no longer living in our parents’ America. That is easily evidenced by the absence of Mom’s fresh apple pie cooling on the windowsill and the “woman” with the hairy arms and mustache on line to use the ladies’ room with our sisters and daughters.
Among the most detrimental factors to the decay of our society has been the decline in total marriages, in concert with the consistently higher divorce rates we’ve seen for the past generation.
Where previously nine out of every 1,000 people in the U.S. got married (back in the late 1800s), since 2009 the number has bottomed out to only seven out of every 1,000 Americans tying the knot, according to research compiled in 2016. Conversely, we now see 3.6 Americans divorcing out of every 1,000 — which works out to what sociologists call a crude divorce rate of roughly half the total of married folks.
The most vulnerable victims of these negative trends are the children born into these unstable households. In addition to the unfortunate emotional effects caused by growing up in unmarried or divorced households, the rate of negative physical effects is higher. These include incidents of asthma, headaches and speech impediments at a higher statistical clip than among children whose parents have remained married.
What, then, is the best-case scenario for children growing up in these circumstances? According to studies, a shared or equal parenting situation has been the most effective path to the emotional and physical well-being of the children of unmarried or divorced partners.
Currently, several states are contemplating the implementation of equal parenting bills. In many states, there is no presumption of parental equality — which creates a disparity in influence between parents. In these homes, the secondary parent is marginalized and often feels disenfranchised with court rulings that often, by default, favor one parent over the other as the parent of primary or residential custody.
The lessened influence this creates for the secondary parent also increases the pressure on custodial parents to fill both parental roles. Men and women both have natural and unique differences; and while mothers provide qualities fathers are not best-suited to provide, men also can claim a perspective on parenting best-suited to their sex.
Among the many factors for consideration when addressing the best interests of the children are the dynamics of the parents’ relationship, the level and extent of parental conflict, the educational opportunities available at either location, the developmental needs of the children, and the children’s living arrangements.
The best possible outcomes can only be achieved through a complete and transparent inquiry that reviews the totality of all aspects of both parents’ circumstances.
The antiquated one-size-fits-all approach to litigating child custody is due for much-needed modernization out of necessity. Today’s societal norms require that we re-evaluate the family court system — in the hopes of providing our children the best possible prospects for a healthy upbringing.