children of divorced parents showed degrees of upset which required outside help at some time.60
1.36Garber commented on the failure of many non-custodial parents to sustain their involvement as parents in the face of their children’s anger and disappointment.61 Clulow and Vincent posited that there are three main factors mitigating the effect of divorce on children: a continuing relationship with both parents, the quality of parenting from the residential parent, and the quality of what is created to take the place of the past marriage.
1.37There is some evidence that men find it more difficult than women to come to terms with divorce.62 Ambrose found that many were still angry, even years after the divorce, even if they had custody of the children.
Conclusions from research
1.38These conclusions from the research need to be addressed by those professionally involved in the divorce process - that is, lawyers, judges, mediators or counsellors. It is clear that boys and girls have different needs and their adjustment is also age related. So, Wallerstein and Blakeslee suggest that males have a critical need for paternal involvement, once when aged 6 to 9 and again in late adolescence. “In contrast, females need such involvement in early adolescence and in addition have a greater need than males for family structure”.63 Older children’s concerns also need to be addressed. An important point is that it is not the divorce per se that causes the problem for children but the post-divorce conflict.64
1.39Benjamin and Irving suggest that it is useful to regard families as moving through a function/dysfunction continuum in the divorce process. This perspective is useful as family lawyers can be frustrated by the fact that their clients in a divorce case do not behave rationally at times.65
1.40In England, Scotland and Australia there has been a shift towards parental responsibilities being shared after divorce and the avoidance of orders which appear to award custody to one parent and only access to the other parent. This shift has occurred to a certain extent in some parts of the United States, though the language of custody, albeit joint custody, is still being used.
1.41There has been considerable academic debate as to whether joint custody orders are more in the interests of children than orders of sole custody with access to the non-custodial parent. The term “joint custody” has been interpreted to
60 Ibid at 19.
61 Garber, “Parenting Responses in Divorce and Bereavement of a Spouse”. In Cohen, Cohler and Weissman (eds) Parenthood: A Psychodynamic Perspective (1984).
62 The authors query the methodology which elicited responses by advertising for respondents as it might attract those with an axe to grind. Ambrose, Harper and Pemberton, Surviving Divorce: Men beyond Marriage (1983).
63 Ibid at 84.
64 Ibid at 440.
65 Supra at 442.