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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Have the Divorce Before The Kids

The Problem:
Many people have forgone the pleasure of raising children because they did not want to risk the pain of divorce and the poverty of being an abandoned single parent. Even knowing that their track record of possibly successful primary relationships is deplorably short, some people feel their only choice is to merely hope this time it will "work out" long enough to raise a child. Divorce comes as a rude awakening.

The Social Invention:
My idea is, rather than waiting until they have found the "perfect soulmate," those who want to have children can skip the marriage and instead have a child with a long-time friend of the opposite sex and pretend they have already been "amicably divorced."

Instead of agreeing "to death do us part," a more practical agreement, (one no less easy to keep over the twenty years) would be to live as near to each other as possible and to agree on such issues as schooling, college funds, etc. By living near each other, logistics of passing the child back and forth would be convenient and eventually the older child could choose their own schedule of parental supervision.

The parents of a child agreed to be conceived in this situation would eventually intend to couple up with another partner or already be in another relationship. Obviously, this might be quite a challenging idea to "sell" your current partner on.

The divorce arrangement, which for most couples with children involves legally determining at who's home the kids will live, and who's home they will be "visiting," could be determined by the parents-to-be by written agreement.

Many people believe this practical arrangement deflates the hope and commitment that a marriage will work out; but in my opinion, it's a more practical answer than "hoping."

If the divorce "template" is what happens when people do not "get along," why not start with amicable separate households to begin with?

It has many advantages as a practical way to raise children. When a small child is away at the other parent's home is a good time to get uninterrupted work done and privacy. Having built-in step parents means the child has more role models and practical help. Being in the arrangement by choice that most couples are forced to assume after divorce takes a great deal of pressure off to be a parent 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The parents wouldn't have to agree about parenting styles and differing "house rules" and many other benefits of living separately. More importantly, the pressure would be off your relationships to work out forever for the "sake of the children." Of course there will be losses when any primary relationships splits up; but your child losing a step-parent when the relationship splits up may not be as traumatic as losing a father.

Of course, it's possible for this sort of arrangement to not work out also and for one of the participants to sue for single custody if the arrangement began with shared custody, etc. But I believe, with some careful thought, such an arrangement for child rearing is more likely to result in an amicable experience for all concerned than traditional marriage and divorce.

If you're a person who wants to have children and knows that you're more likely to be divorced than happily married for twenty years, you might consider this idea.

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