Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From Minnesota: Thirty Years of Joint Custody

I will again state my opinion that joint custody promises much but delivers little. Yet when reading something like Looking Back at Joint Custody, 30 Years Later, I am reminded that its promise is much.

It was so revolutionary then that The Minneapolis Tribune ran a story about the family in 1979 with the headline “After Marriage Break-up, Children Can Still Live with Two Parents.” It seemed almost an answer to the bitter divorce portrayed in that year’s Kramer V. Kramer.

Four years later, Brom’s mother decided to move from Minneapolis to Upstate New York. So Molly lived with her dad for a year while her mother got settled. Molly moved to live with her mother, but came back to spend summers with her father. In high school, they swapped again, with Molly living with her father because the schools were better.

Bujan called his family's flexibility the "ultimate joint custody."

Mother and father always did what worked best for their child. If her mother visited Minneapolis, she would stay with Molly and her father. Her parents always had a good time, Molly said, but having her two worlds collide like that made her uncomfortable.

Molly, who grew up to be a nurse and the mother of two daughters and a stepson, now understands how hard joint parenting can be, especially because her stepson moves between his parents’ homes. The biggest difficulty for parents, she said, is putting the children first, and hiding any negative feelings from them.

I emphasize that last sentence. Therein lies the point on which joint custody fails - the parents putting their own resentments ahead of their children. Only when more parents can put their children ahead of their own concerns will joint custody work as theorized.

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