"THE CHILD-CENTERED DIVORCE"Trade promotion newspeak from the therapeutic jurisprudence collaborative parenting coordination lawyer therapy interdisciplinary advertiser mental helping professionals (Research below)
The latest divorce newspeak being bandied about in and among "interdisciplinary" trade promotion groups is the "child-centered divorce". Don't put children "in the middle" but have a "child-centered divorce". Don't use children as pawns, but make the divorce all about -- not the adults (and their relationship with each other and disentangling their financial and legal ties) -- but the children. Have a "child-centered divorce".
God forbid one of the parents leaves the family home, leaving the children's world otherwise intact with one parent remaining and everything otherwise familiar to them, and continuing to provision it and support it. No. Instead, have a "child-centered divorce" in which the children flip-flop back and forth, eternal part-time residents in other people's houses, with no permanent homes of their own or stable family lives. If the parents divorce, if one parent splits, if one parent wants out, then completely disrupt everything else that was left, and break what wasn't broke and did not have to be broken. Break it all up, mix it all up, create chaos and focus the litigation, the dispute, the dispute resolution... on the children. Have a "child-centered divorce".
Hire a team of divorce professionals, including therapists, evaluators, lawyers, mediators, GALs, divorce coaches, parenting coordinators, social workers, parenting class instructors, self-styled "experts" who learned their (often newly invented) professions going through their own miserable and mistake-riddled divorces, and all manner of additional nincompoops to swoop down, enjoy a feeding frenzy on the family financial security and the kiddie's future college funds, and... have a "child-centered divorce".
Divorce isn't about the breakup of an adult relationship. It's not about adult wrongdoing. It's not a remedy for a failed marriage, or a set of laws to assure state enforcement of support for dependents. No. Forget things like abuse, abandonment, assets and liabilities. Just think of the children. It's all about the children.
Concerned about the impact of the divorce on the kids? Of course you are. You've been told how horrible it is and yet how normal and no-fault it also is. Three lies and zero logic. Words without thought. Nonsense. Babble. One would think that parents who are in fact "child-centered" simply would not GET divorced -- or behave insufferably driving the other parent to a divorce -- unless they were damn sure that it would create a preferable family situation for the children.
But don't worry about that. The peace mavins will make it all okay. You can smack the wife around, spend or gamble the family into bankruptcy, sit in a stupor on the couch for years, or run off with coochie-coo -- and throw everyone else's life into pain and upheaval -- and all you have to do is stamp your feet and demand that you get your shared parenting rights because you care so much about the welfare of the kids. (They "need" you. To "stay involved".) If the children get upset and resentful because (congratulations) they aren't imbeciles who can't see your self-absorbed priorities coming through every insincere word you utter and every fakery you put on, can't smell your real attitude dripping through every pore, don't worry about that either. You can just blame it on the other parent as "parental alienation". You will be hailed as "child-centered".
Grow up. There is no book you are going to read, no rationalization you are going to be able to make, no talk you will have with the kids about how Daddy and Mommy love you and it's not your fault -- the "how do I tell the kids talk" -- that will change reality. If and to the extent one of the parents sought a divorce or precipitated a family breakup for reasons other than "it will be better for the children this way", there's not a book in the world will change that. No psychologist either. And so maybe it's a bit deranged to profess that the other parent must prove to perfect strangers how cooperative, friendly and "child-centered" she or he is by pretending the other is the "child-centered co-parent". Orwellian.
If having a "child-centered divorce" means anything at all, it would seem to be a description of the laws that now enable irrational adults to be children. And enable idiots to talk at those with a history of actually putting their children first as if these parents were incompetents, children themselves. "No-fault divorce" as originally coined was supposed to mean allowing mutual consent (uncontested divorce) as a ground for divorce. But it has transmogrified into "no-responsibility marriage", an ugly idea widely held that there should be no responsibility assigned for breaking vows or contracts, and no legal remedies for wrongdoing in marriage. Simultaneously, with the rise of the fathers' rights backlash and the therapeutic jurisprudence movement, divorce has transmogrified from something between adults into something all about the children. It's a government-created captive market for yentas and knowitalls, profiting where the resolution of real issues has been denied, displaced into a pretext of creating and attending to problems that need not have existed at all or are altogether imaginary (so much easier to solve). This is game playing.
It's newspeak, designed to enable a growing divorce industry of psychic vampires and bottom feeders plying their trades and giving advice, all going to relieve artificially-induced and misplaced guilt. For those who did wrong in their marriages, see, it's all okay now: just have a "bi-nuclear family" and a "child-centered divorce" and you need not worry about whether you did or are doing right or wrong by your ex-spouse or children. For those who did right, and who consequently don't have enough guilt, let's create some guilt by obfuscating the issues and blaming them for at least half of whatever misery occurs post-divorce, the actual cause of it be damned. Such as their not wanting to have a "child-centered divorce".
God forbid a parent who has been abusive, irresponsible, adulterous, or just selfish should suffer even a modicum of consequences. Not getting your "child-centered" way? Call a divorce coach. Hire a Guardian ad Litem. Move for appointment of a custody evaluator. Go to a therapist and get yourself validated or invalidated. Spend your time trekking down unproductive tangents. Divide up the children in half like they were inanimate property, and have a "child-centered divorce". Conversely, if you thought you were one seeking justice, why now you're a person who is really irresponsible and so unfriendly, so "un-child-centered". And "angry" (shame), likely personality disordered, and the real cause of "conflict"...
Don't fret too much about anything tangible. Instead of (or in addition to) a nasty fight in court in which the dirty laundry of adultery and marital waste gets aired in public, try a gentle divorce (or do prolonged gentle blood-letting post-divorce). Instead of (or in addition to) a big explosive but temporary battle now, you can have endless but less public skirmishes through all of the kid's remaining childhood years. It's much more pleasant and lucrative for everyone else, like the divorce professionals. See a shared parenting mediator or collaborative lawyer who believes that your divorce is all about the children.
Forget alimony. Forget justice. Forget who was responsible and who was not. Forget closure, or "getting on with your life". With gender-neutral and history-blind political correctness, pretend that parents are fungible, and that divorce just happens for no good reason out of the blue. And take note, the reasons for a divorce never have anything to do with anything that is indicative of parenting capacity, however disconcerting that may seem. Because that's the essence of the "child-centered divorce". If you don't get this, use a psychologist to help you create an optimal "parenting plan". (Never mind that the optimal "parenting plan" used to be called a "marriage".) It's a "child-centered divorce". Clapclapclapclapclapclapclap.
Let the children do the adjusting to these hallucinations and machinations. Bring them to a therapist too. Under the guise of pretending that divorce is devastating for the children (unless, of course, it's "child-centered"), and that the divorce is the problem (not the remedy for something worse), and that everyone only cares all about the interests of other people's children, hide the reality that all of this newspeak is really about divorce rights for adult wrongdoers.
Hide the reality that all of this newspeak also is in furtherance of the incomes of those apologists and enablers who churn their trades by re-creating their own family mediocrities. Call it "family rights" activism, or "children's rights" activism, and say that it's all about the kids. Believe in the notion that it's difficult or impossible for judges to figure out who was "at fault" (except if it has to do with allegations of maternal gatekeeping, "enmeshment" or parental alienation -- in which case it's strict liability upon a showing of any weak or fabricated evidence). Have a "child-centered divorce".
Don't leave the children in a home in the custody of their primary caregiver. Pretend there is no such thing. People will believe anything if it's repeated often enough, even without particularly clever language or specious rhetoric. Forget having an authoritative head of household. Make a market for the helping professionals: a floundering family system, endlessly harassed, in endless unsettled float, a blended extended abstract and vague something or other that requires years of meddling, tweaking, saving and proclaiming as "family".
Instead of giving one of the parents authority over decision-making, instead of any healing (actually the better way to assure friendly relations in the future), make sure the children have no parent at all with such authority (it's called "joint custody"), no parent who has a complete picture of what they are doing or how they are doing (it's called "joint custody"). Pretend, with Orwellian expertise that this is necessary for "keeping both parents involved". Even better, appoint a third, for hire, called a "parenting coordinator". Or seek the advice of a child custody evaluator who has never been a primary caregiver of any children in his life.
Do equitable distribution of the kiddies and call it "timeshare" or "timesharing". Set it down on a "child-centered" internet calendar and call that a "parenting plan" delineating when each parent has "possession" or "access". Forget the words "custody" and "visitation" because that upsets the childish ertswhile noncustodial parent who wants to pretend that everything centers around him. Words like these are fraught with meaning.
Use instead the language of property law in referring to the children. Property doesn't get visited. It doesn't need a home, and it doesn't matter to the property where it is or who takes care of it. Or not. It gets "shared" and "possessed" and "enjoyed" by equal owners. This is being "child-centered". Punt those kiddies back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Bod-a-bing. Now isn't sharing fun?
It's also important to euphemistically call something that doesn't even exist at all a "bi-nuclear" family. Do this because it has such a clever ring to it, and in appreciation for Constance Ahrons, who coined the term, and who had such a difficult time coming to terms with her own divorce and getting over her own f*-up family dynamics and issues. Nevermind that "bi-nuclear" pretty accurately describes what an intact marriage is, and that uni-nuclear (if minds haven't been lost completely) applies to separate cells post-division. Being ridiculous and denying reality and suffering fools is how to be "child-centered".
Every con job injects little truths. Research indicates that divorce per se isn't the cause of harm. Crappy family situations are. And this all happens before divorce, during divorce, and after divorce. Divorce was supposed to be a remedy, not a cause of strife. But not now. If you are being "child-centered" about your divorce, you must recognize that it was the divorce that will assuredly create problems if you do not believe or at least pretend going forward that the marital problems never existed.
You may have heard that children having only one parent, and only one home has not been demonstrated by any research to be a cause of harm to children. That's why, e.g., we allow single parent adoptions. That's why, e.g., such a significant portion of U.S. presidents have hailed from " fatherless homes". That's why, e.g., that children of widowed parents do just as well as children of two-parent families (Biblarz et al.). Please get off this kind of thing. Have faith. If you must read research, read only agenda'd summaries and media spins.
"Conflict" indeed can be harmful. Especially if it's unresolved. But what is conflict? (Careful now...) What kind of "conflict"? How prolonged? Whatever issues caused the divorce, whatever conflict there was, the newspeak way to resolve them is by pretending they weren't really there and never existed. It's easy. Distract from them by creating some new and different conflicts and complications where there need not have been any. Strive to make sure that divorce is not a remedy for conflicted marriages and homes. Make new issues that facilitate ignoring the old ones by diverting attention from the reality that "no-fault" is a fantasy that only buries unresolved dysfunction and injustice where other people won't be bothered by them. But that's being "child-centered". Children love make-believe.
So make divorce something that's "all about the kids". And have the conflict and upheaval and stress continue through the remainder of their childhoods. Don't end it all by leaving one peaceful, one-parent intact home alone. No. Instead, bring in the therapeutic jurisprudenchers to make everyone's lives going forward (especially the children's) all about the divorce; limit their choices, harass them, stress them, preach bullshit and pablum and nonsense, and make them negotiate constantly over irrelevant and stupid and time-wasting pointless and ultimately unproductive minutiae. Where necessary, play up the misguided guilt trips of the innocent, and convince the wrongdoers to get epiphany. Insist that everyone exalt the tedious and strive for the useless and impossible. Demand that everybody endlessly confer with, pay attention to the needs of, and cater to the wishes, wants, whims, and desires of adult ex-spouses, new spouses, hired professionals, and third parties telling them what to do. And when they miss a step, that's the cue to speak in tongues, make them crazy and call them crazy -- and obviously not "child-centered". Have a "child-centered divorce".
Why it's all a big cheerful bi-nuclear big-tent love-in worshipping the co-parenting god. By the time the children are grown (so fast) and the patsies realize they've been taken, and that (at best, for the lucky) no benefit was conferred... it will be too late. The evangelists will be gone and centering their attention on something else. (And the concessionaires were just hawking fruit juice and hotdogs.) Nothing personal you understand, just business. In the meantime, go with denial, and resolve that cognitive dissonance. Believe oh believe oh believe that what's causing the pain has something to do with it being all about the kids -- as long as the money keeps coming in.
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Have a child-centered divorce.
For more on newspeak, also see Ministry of Truth.
For more on propaganda, see For the Children (Politics):
"For the benefit of the children" is a rationale/explanation that is sometimes given for why something should or should not be done. In addition to being a rationale, it can also be seen as a rationalization/justification, as a political tool, as a rhetorical phrase (e.g. "but think of the children"), and as an appeal to emotion.
RESEARCH AND CITATIONS
ADDITIONAL READING ON PARENTING COORDINATION
"...a forum in which sniping can continue unabated... [M]ost jurisdictions do not sufficiently address issues of due process... When neither evidentiary rules nor due process protections apply ... the probability of unjust decisions is increased... Can those who are being paid to render a service objectively evaluate the need for or effectiveness of that service... we must not lose sight of the various elements of the process that create a risk of iatrogenic harm."
A common theme underlying nearly all the problems in the family courts is the sloppy float away from the "rule of law" to "rule of man". The "rule of man" describes such things as dictatorships, decision-making by whim, discretion without oversight, vague standards that cannot predictably be anticipated or applied, faux-expert recommendation-making and opining such as with mental health professional parenting evaluations, and the panoply of therapeutic jurisprudence interventions such as parenting coordination and special mastering. All of these abrogate due process, and the fundamental principles on which our system of jurisprudence was founded. The ideas have been pushed by the mental health lobbies and by individuals who either don't understand or don't care about some higher priorities.
"Rule of man" is a concept that we ditched with the formation of this country in favor of "rule of law". Our founding fathers recognized that there is no way to regulate or oversee individuals given too much discretion or dictatorial authority. With regard to the family courts, I keep hearing and reading what are essentially inane pleas to fix the various misguided ADR programs via "guidelines" (aspirational only, and with immunity from sanction for misfeasance), and for "trainings", and for getting rid of those who are "incompetent" -- all of which suggestions exhibit an astonishing lack of appreciation for the stupidity inherent in these extra-judicial ideas -- ideas which Thomas Paine and our founding fathers would have abhorred (see, e.g. Common Sense). Dictatorship cannot be permitted not because there couldn't (theoretically) be some wise and beneficent dictators who would be better and more efficient than the messy system of due process and checks and balances we idealize, but because under that dictatorial system we inevitably and primarily will suffer the fools, the tyrants, and the corrupt. And that's without addressing the panoply of other constitutional defects. Besides, no scientifically sound research actually establishes "harm" from the adversarial system -- or benefit to families' well-being from applied therapeutic jurisprudence. These ideas were invented in mental health trade promotion groups as lobbying talking points. (If you doubt this, feel free to contact me for more information.) Yikes. What are we doing. To the extent we've been sold a bill of goods, swampland, snake oil and the voo doo of "expertise" by the mental health professions, at least until relatively recently, the stuff wasn't harming our legal system. Now it is. Wake up, and wise up.
What we do need are some realistic changes in the substantive laws addressing divorce and child custody. What we don't need is a revolution in procedural rules and the overthrowing of individuals' constitutional rights.
For my list of rants, see the index to this section of the website on parenting coordination.
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