My wife and I just got back from chaperoning church's youth retreat. Two days of sleeping on an inflatable mattress, cooking for and hanging out with thirty-three adolescents. (Some of you may have followed my updates on Twitter as we were shopping for supplies this past weekend. If you aren't following my updates, shame on you! Friend me up at www.twitter.com/jeffalford) This retreat drove home some things I already knew; primarily, kids today have to deal with so much more than we ever had to at their age. The other thing that impressed me was how resilient kids are.
This time of year especially family law practitioners hear potential clients talk more about staying together for the children, usually to get through the holidays. As a general matter, I get asked pretty often about staying together for the children, either temporarily or for the long haul, and whether it is a good idea. The fact is, I can not answer that question for anyone, no lawyer can.
There is a wealth of information on the effects of divorce on children. One excellent study was performed by Judith Wallerstein. Her initial study from 1979 showed that children do suffer from a divorce. She performed a follow-up study with the same subjects, this time as adults, and found that children of divorce continue to suffer as adults.
The counter argument is that living in a dysfunctional home with two parents who do not want to be together, is just as detrimental to children and can have just as many negative effects. As a matter of fact, there is other evidence that children of divorce can, and often do, recover and lead normal, well-adjusted lives as adults. A much more in-depth review of the research can be found at the Counselorlink website.
In the end, the decision of whether to stay together for the children and how a divorce might affect the children, comes down to the children themselves. The potential divorce' knows (or should know) their kids better than anyone else and, like all decisions in a divorce, it is a very personal and case-specific decision to be made after much prayer and introspection. If the ultimate decision is to divorce, then the parties should do absolutely everything in their power to reduce the stress and damage to their children.