Nancy S. Caplan, Esquire

Nancy S. Caplan, Esquire
Bend Don't Break- Mediate!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Launching A Child of Divorce

The pain of contentious divorce or post-divorce disputes is a pain that keeps on giving, and young adult children are not exempt from the negative effects. Consider the young adult child who is going off to college for the first time. The packing list? Clothes, bedding, desk lamp, the burden of worry for the parents left behind in a state of fear, anger and agitation due to the vicious back-and-forth of the adversarial process and the uncertainty of outcome guaranteed by the judicial system process.

The good news is that the college-bound child probably has enough distraction to put it on the proverbial back-burner for a semester…that is…until Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving then becomes a dreaded event instead of a joyous homecoming. It is the pain that keeps on giving, because the chances of the judicial process having been completed in those two months is near nil. Even the phone calls home or the normal requests for spending money become an exercise in revisited pain, worry and guilt.

Do you think you can “hide” the turmoil from the child? I haven’t taken any polls but I venture to guess that the number of children oblivious to parental turmoil/financial hardship is pretty close to none. Home is the place to vent. It’s hard to hide the bad mood from an ordinary “hard day” so imagine hiding a dark mood caused by a scorch-the-earth ex who is bankrupting his or her ex for blood sport. And so, as the son or daughter watches his or her friends’ parents hold on to one another as they tearfully launch their 18-year old off to college, yours is stoically saying goodbye either to only one parent (“please Mom, let Dad take me, I can’t take the stress of the two of you in the same room”); or perhaps both parents are present asserting his or her parental territory, guaranteeing the child’s elevated stress level on an already nervous day, that was supposed to be joyful even if coupled with normal trepidation.

And so, when divorce or post-divorce disputes are handled contentiously, with an aim to destroy the other out of spite, (which goal, if achieved, will not provide the imagined victory lap one might imagine in fantasy), the children suffer, suffer and keep on suffering. No matter the age of the child, or the stage of life, or the joyous life event, whether it is a bat mitzvah or a college launch, the ambiance of hatred permeates. A parent can “suck it up” for the day, put on a false smile, a “how do you do” for the enemy-ex, but no one is fooling the adult child. That child is far too wise to the destructive force of parents who seek to continue to wage war instead of signing the treaty and living by it.

Mediation is the path to the treaty. Litigation is the sour stomach that travels with your young adult to his or her new destination. One thing is for sure: the memory of the launch will be forever tainted by the environment of hate caused by parents who chose war over peace, and the missile launcher may be sorry for the unintended casualties which are his or her beloved children. What else could they reasonably expect?

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