As parents, we decide when our kids will do their homework, what time they’ll go to bed, whether or not Cup Noodles counts as a balanced meal. It’s our role to take charge of our children’s development, without too much interference from the state. Parents can be a hard influence on how kids understand the world and how they get some information such as religion, beliefs, or even idiom.
If you go to court to fight over custody, you’re giving up some significant parental rights, and freedoms. You’re letting a busy judge, who knows very little about your family, decide when and how you’ll parent.
The idea that you go to court to dissolve your marriage is a remnant of the pre-no-fault days, back when divorce was a punishment for a crime. Back then, one spouse had to prove that the other had committed a moral or legal transgression of epic proportions—perhaps committed a felony, or abandoned the family and started a new one.
Today, the law views divorce as a choice, more of a family reorganization than a punishment for egregious moral wrong-doing. The vast majority of divorces do not need to be fought in court. Keeping your family out of court is key to having a decent divorce.
Wendy Paris is an essayist, journalist and the author of Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria Books, 2016). Part memoir, part journalism, part history of marriage, Splitopia looks at how changes in laws and customs over the past 40 years have greatly improved divorce for many, as have women’s increased earning power, advances in psychology and technology, and a greater understanding of child development and the importance of fathers. .