The 5 factors that determine the outcome of divorce for children come from working as a child custody evaluator for the courts for almost 13 years. Honestly, it's yuck work, not fun. When bitter, angry, divorcing people can't figure out how to share their kids, it gets messy but I learned a lot of things in that context. These 5 factors that I'm about to share with you can make the difference for your kids. In fact, they've been shown through the research to be the 5 factors that determine the outcome of divorce for children. The resource for this is Dr. Elizabeth Ellis. She wrote a compiled book called Divorce Wars. Not a fun read. It's pretty academic. She has pulled together all of the research that had been done in this area, and suggests that these are the 5 factors that determine the outcome of divorce for children.
Factor number 1 is conflict. Honestly, there's not even a close second here. I'll tell you what 2, 3, 4, and 5 are in just a minute, but conflict is way up there. And specifically, conflict about or related to the children between the parents. We're set up for failure here, because in a divorce situation, the conflict can get very intense between the parents, and it's usually about the things that are the most important to them. That’s the kids. There are other things too, like money, property, and assets. But really the kids are the most important thing. To you as a parent you know this already. Number one factor that determines the outcome of divorce for kids. There are other conflict-related issues like behavioral problems with the kid, for example, that sometimes creates conflict or tension between the child and the parent. There are conflicts about schedules, about time sharing, about decisions related to education or medical care. All of these things can raise the conflict.
Now, as a child custody evaluator, I was often in a position where I was helping the parents to try to resolve conflicts about how they were going to share the kids. One of the primary things I looked for in making a recommendation to the judge is the willingness and ability of that parent to minimize the conflict. Which basically comes down to being a decent person. Don't get all wound up and uptight about things that you don't have to. You're going to have to let a lot of things roll off your back. Especially in that kind of a context. Hugely important. Number one factor, conflict.
Factor number 2. Now, I said there wasn't even a close second. Actually, this is fairly close. The quality of the parent’s relationship with the child, obviously that's going to be affected by the conflict. But it's also affected by factors like access. How much do they get to see that parent? There was one family that I worked with where the father was deployed and gone for months. That is an access issue that affects the children's relationship, and therefore their adjustment to the divorce and visitation arrangements.
Richard Gardner is a psychiatrist who studied parental alienation and I think coined the term, alienation dynamics. It's an active or even a kind of subversive attempt to alienate the child from the other parent. This is not healthy for the children. It hurts their adjustment and their development, and still, parents do this. There is a thought pattern, though faulty, that well-meaning parents use, follow me. “That person is so nasty and mean and awful and pathological that I cannot remain married to that person. Why would I ever want my children to be around a person like that?” That's the faulty thinking that gets us into that track in the first place. And so there's an attempt now to sabotage or alienate that child's relationship with the other parent. What you're doing is hurting your child. Knock it off. If you were here in my office and I said that to you, you would probably fire me. But you have to hear this because it's true. You're hurting your child if you try to alienate your child from the other parent. That harms the child's adjustment to the divorce. So, I got to shoot straight with you, okay? And hopefully you'll forgive me for that. Be aware of it. Don't be guilty of something that is damaging so many children around the world related to this whole alienation dynamic which is hurting the kids. This is going to irritate and annoy some people too. Really you need to live your own life, stop blaming the other parent for where you are.
The other person might have hurt you, in fact, I am sure they did if you are divorcing. But you focus on their weaknesses and the ways they hurt you in the past. Your preoccupation with the hurt creates a dilemma for your child that affects this particular factor. The quality of the child's relationship with either or both parents.
Factor number 3 is the emotional stability of the primary caretaker. This is something that I paid a lot of attention to when I was an evaluator because I wanted to make sure that whoever's taking care of these kids can meet the needs of the children. The emotional stability of that primary caretaker also affects that child's sense of security, their ability to have a relationship with the other parent. Their freedom to simply be children and not have to take care of mom or dad and their emotional needs. This is huge.
Factor number 4 that affects the outcome of divorce for children is economic or financial stability. When we take one household and create 2 households it creates some challenges, right? There are also litigation and attorney fees involved. Its enormously expensive to get divorced. Makes therapy or coaching look a little more affordable. Well, I've got opinions about that. But the financial hardship that sometimes hits the primary caretaker. Mom, for example, has been home with the kids, but now that the divorce is happening, she needs to return to the workforce and that changes the dynamics of the family. Sometimes there ar,e moves that occur to accommodate employment or other needs of the family. All of these things affect the kids. And the more we can mitigate that or at least consider it as we make decisions then the more likely our outcomes are going to be favorable.
Kind of along the same lines. Factor number 5 is actually about the number of disruptions to the children. They're schedule, their residence, how they interact with people. These are all changes from what they're used to. And those disruptions affect how kids adjust to a divorce. The more we can keep them in a stable predictable environment, the less they're going to have to deal with this particular factor. I'm not saying that you should keep everything the same because you can't once a divorce happens, but let's take a look at that one.
It helps to know these 5 factors I have shared with so many parents as they are anticipating or going through a divorce. It helps to be aware of these things as we do the very best things that we know how to do with our kids. I did another video about helping our children to cope with divorce. You can click below to view that one.
I hope that you found these factors helpful. Knowledge is power, and that's why we are here. There are so many other resources available to you at Live On Purpose TV on YouTube, please go take a look at some of the playlists that are relevant to exactly what you are looking for. And let us know if we can be of more assistance to you. We have coaching and other online programs available to you. Go to www.drpauljenkins.com/breakthroughcall to talk to one of our coaches.