Custody and Access Issues with Children Whose Parents are Separated or Divorced
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This article discusses the effects of family breakdown--and the resulting issues of custody and access--on children. It explores trends in child custody and access and issues surrounding those trends, particularly in terms of the benefits and limitations of joint custody. It then identifies the contextual problems of family breakups (including the relative poverty experienced by mother-led families, the unreliability of financial support from fathers, the complications for children which result from step-parent figures, including serial partners of their parents, the implications of interparental conflict, the need to fully address suspicions and/or allegations of abuse by one parent against another, and the problem of Parental Alienation Syndrome). Typical responses of children to family breakup are then considered, including feelings of loss, guilt, and responsibility, and a sense of divided loyalties--particularly in light of intense or violent parental conflict. And finally, recommendations are made to minimize the detrimental effects of family breakup on children: (a) allowing children choice and flexibility, (b) exploring the benefits of mediation for families, (c) promoting parental co-operation, and (d) encouraging an ongoing relationship with the nonresidential parent.
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