Protecting Children Through Separation
Making the Marriage Licence Worth Something?
While the marriage licence is being applied for, we could be reporting to parents on their parenting skills and resources. This is based on financial resources, employment skills, day to day parenting skills and mental health. Family backup is a little part of this equation, for time support, as well as parenting mentoring and financial support.
The arrangement suggested below gives parents good incentives to work together, to develop and protect their children. If one parent wishes to separate, they must obtain the agreement of the other parent, before the children are removed from the marital home. (If DV was claimed to be an issue, then proof would be required, before any sanctions were applied or the care of the children altered in any way.)
Parents who might be tempted to use Parental Alienation would clearly see that if they separate, they will get the lesser amount of care, or even risk having the children removed completely. On separation, shared parenting can be seen to offer better protection for the children, especially for parents with poorer skills.
When the majority caregiving parent has mental illness, then they may not listen and respond as well to the baby or child(ren). This may be a serious problem for the child(ren), at a much lower level of mental illness, than is required to reach formal diagnosis level. (Formal diagnosis of a mental illness is set to match the level at which an adult will generally have difficulties with self care in the community and thus needs hospitalisation. To protect children’s development, the level at which parenting skills are impeded is much lower than DSM 4 formal diagnosis level. Unfortunately, one of the diagnoses which is more hazardous to parenting of babies and young children, is depression. At present, depression is more common in women than men. Different diagnoses have differing degrees of hazard, for children’s healthy development. If a parent is aware of low level mental illness and obtains regular support with parenting, then the risks may be much reduced.. Unfortunately, many parents refuse help and this may leave the baby or children at a surprisingly high risk of damaged development )
If protection of children is given priority, then it becomes clear that economics results in a poorer material standard of living if the parents have to sacrifice income earning, to make sure that the children’s developmental and social needs are being protected. Given that generally we have a much higher standard of living than our grandparents enjoyed, parents should be able to accept this sometimes harsh compromise?
By clearly communicating to a couple their present parenting skills and the prospect of later improvement, they can see what the risks are if they separate. This also gives poor parents a strong incentive to improve their skills and also to appreciate what their relationship is worth to them. In some cases, when the prospective partner’s parenting skills are poor, the person may decide to look for another partner, so that the risks are lower.
Forewarned is forearmed!
The listing below shows the expectations for when children are under 7 years old.
(The % of population is given for NZ existing society. As parents take parenting training that does improve their skills or reduce their problems, then they can move from weak to good.)
Both parents have good parenting skills and resources (40% of population)
Separate the child care plan for young children can be anywhere between 0.1 to 0.95 either way, as long as it is by mutual agreement.
One of the parents has poor parenting skills (30% of population)
Together, your children should not be in care of the weaker parent alone for more than 5 days.
Separate (and there hasn’t been further parenting improvement) the child care plan for young children can be anywhere between 0.4 to 0.95, as long as it is by mutual agreement. The child to be in the care of the weaker parent for no longer than 3 days at a time, unless additional supports are arranged. (Typically for the parents in this situation, 60% of the time the weaker parent is the mother. Parents in this situation need to consider whether they can get by with the weaker parent working?)
One of the parents has very weak parenting skills (20% of population)
Together, your children should not regularly be in care of the weaker parent alone for more than 3 days.
Separate (and there hasn’t been further improvement in parenting skills), then the child care plan for young children can be anywhere between 0.7 to 0.9. The larger amount of the care must be with the stronger parent. The child to be in the care of the weaker parent for no longer than 2 days at a time, unless additional supports are arranged. (Parents in this situation need to consider whether they can get by with the weaker parent working?)
Both parents have very weak parenting skills (6% of population).
Together, your children should not regularly be in the care of either parent alone for more than 3 days.
Separate (and there hasn’t been further improvement in parenting skills), the children will be removed immediately and adopted out.
Both parents have very weak parenting skills and unlikely to improve (3%)
Together with planned social supports, you may have children. While together, your children should not regularly be in the care of either parent alone for more than 2 days. [Parents who were seriously emotionally neglected or abused as children, may be in this category.]
Separate, the children will be removed immediately and adopted out.
Both parents have very weak parenting skills, with children at serious risk (1%)
If you have children they will be removed immediately. [Parents who were seriously emotionally neglected or abused as children, may be in this category.]
(A solo mother would be assessed in the same manner, without relationship and applying the criteria for separation immediately.)
For parents who have experienced separation:
Think through the impact of familycaught$ and separation on your child?
Although your child doesn’t have the life experience to work through the value of that familycaught$ hearing, it is important that someone does. You are the only person who has access to the situation and knowledge of alternatives too.
How good would the parenting environment for your child be, if before separation, before removing the child from a day to day relationship with both parents, the new parenting plan had to be agreed?
If the protection of the children is the important point, then surely it should be negotiated in good faith, not by familycaught$ fait accompli negotiation?
The reason that good faith is important, is that dysfunctional familycaught$ negotiation seriously damages the parenting relationship and the parent’s resources for bringing up the child and their own ongoing lives. Resources are important to be able to parent well.
Why hassle over child support cash transfers, a little more or a little less, when the parents have been asset stripped over much larger sums of money during relationship property separation?
Much of the heat for separation negotiations comes from unrealistic expectations of the marriage and unrealistic expectations of separation too. Could this be ameliorated by requiring a tentative relationship property separation plan to be submitted before a marriage licence was issued? 3 days is all it should take, to change unrealistic expectations to realistic, or to decide that our accountants just never could get on with each other?
I hope that a more careful approach to parenting will allow less surprises, better indication if help is needed so that the right help is given in time for it to be useful and also to dissuade parents who will have great problems from having children at all.