Parental conflict can have a profound impact on a child's well-being, and recent research suggests that it can even threaten a child's long-term physical health. Parents can harm their children’s physical health by staying together rather than separating, if the parents are constantly arguing. Studies show that when parents argue all the time, children may find significant relief after the parents separate. See e.g. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9894063/, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10939225/.
However, if the arguing and conflict continue even after the divorce or separation, especially within the context of litigation that emotionally and financially depletes both parents, children continue to experience elevated risks of physical health problems even into adulthood.
One way that parental conflict may harm a child's health is through the release of stress hormones. When children are exposed to high levels of conflict between their parents, they can experience chronic stress, which can lead to the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. See e.g. https://royalsocietypublishing.org, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008. These hormones can have a negative impact on a child's physical health, including impairing their immune systems and increasing their risk of developing health problems such as heart disease and diabetes later in life. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/stress-and-health
In addition to the physical effects of stress hormones, parental conflict may also have a negative impact on a child's mental health, which can lead to physical health problems. For example, children who grow up in households with high levels of conflict may be at increased risk of developing anxiety and depression, which can lead to physical health problems such as sleep disturbances and stomach problems. https://mind.help/news/parental-conflict-affects-a-child-brain.
Parental conflict may also disrupt a child's sense of stability and security, which can lead to physical health problems. https://www.webmd.com/depression/how-depression-affects-your-body, https://www.healthline.com/health/physical-symptoms-of-anxiety#symptoms.
When children are constantly exposed to conflict between their parents, they may feel uncertain about their home environment and may have difficulty forming secure attachments with their parents. This can lead to problems with physical and emotional development, including delays in reaching developmental milestones and difficulty regulating emotions. https://sites.psu.edu/kmh6360/2017/03/27/parental-conflict-can-cause-development-issues-in-children.
In short, parental conflict can threaten a child's long-term physical health in several ways, including through the release of stress hormones, the negative impact on mental health, and the disruption of stability and security. It is important for parents to work on resolving conflicts and creating a supportive and nurturing home environment for the sake of their child's well-being, whether or not they choose to stay living together in the same household.
Sometimes a necessary step to protecting children from parental conflict is separation or divorce. If parents create separate homes where the children are shielded from parental conflict, that arrangement can be far more healthy than “staying together for the kids” in a home where the children experience constant conflict. https://www.healthychildren.org/How-to-Support-Children-after-Parents-Separate.
After separation or divorce, parents must be mindful of the potential harm to their children if they continue to expose the children to conflict. A summary of the adverse costs of parental conflict on children’s physical health can be found here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15119687/. Another resource on the topic of physical effects of childhood exposure to parental conflict is the book The Body Remembers.
For the sake of the children, parents do not need to stay together. They do need to create peaceful homes and peaceful relationships that enable children to thrive.
In Washington state, legal separation is an alternative to divorce. It is a court-ordered agreement that allows you and your spouse to live separate lives, but you are still legally married. A legal separation can be granted for a variety of reasons, such as religious beliefs or a desire to keep health insurance benefits.
Like a divorce, a legal separation is controlled by RCW 26.09. The same forms are used in both cases, and the same issues are addressed. Legal separation involves dividing assets and debts, and if appropriate making arrangements for spousal maintenance, child custody and child support. However, you are not allowed to remarry while you are legally separated; you must first obtain a divorce to end your marriage. Either party can file a motion to convert the legal separation decree to a divorce decree and that motion will be granted.
Divorce, on the other hand, is the legal dissolution of a marriage. When you get a divorce, you are no longer married and are free to remarry. The process of obtaining a divorce is similar to that of obtaining a legal separation, but the end result is that your marriage is completely terminated.
In short, the difference between a legal separation and a divorce is less than many people would assume based on the names. Sometimes people choose to file for legal separation instead of divorce because the name “legal separation” seems less harsh than “divorce.” In reality, the two processes are almost identical. For those who file for legal separation, it’s not unusual for the petition to be converted to a divorce petition even before final orders are entered. Nonetheless, "legal separation" may feel softer than "divorce," so sometimes that's a more desirable starting place for divorcing couples at the time of filing.
If you are thinking about getting a divorce but unsure, you should consult a therapist and a lawyer. The therapist can help you sort through conflicting emotions about your relationship, whereas a lawyer can tell you what you need to be thinking about to plan ahead and make the path through legal separation or divorce as smooth and pain-free as possible.
Books can be a great resource for finding comfort, gaining perspective, and learning how to live through and move forward from a divorce. Here are ten book recommendations for people going through divorce:
1. "The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness" by Pema Chödrön - This book offers practical advice on how to stay present and open-hearted in the face of difficult emotions.
2. "The Grief Recovery Handbook" by John W. James and Russell Friedman - This book is a step-by-step guide to moving through the grieving process after a loss, including the end of a relationship.
3. "Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha" by Tara Brach - This book teaches the practice of radical acceptance as a way to find peace and healing.
4. "Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself" by Melody Beattie - This classic book helps readers identify and change codependent patterns in their relationships.
5. "The Healing Power of Emotion: Affective Neuroscience, Development & Clinical Practice" by Diana Fosha - This book is a bit more academic, but it offers a deep understanding of the role of emotion in the healing process.
6. "Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After" by Katherine Woodward Thomas - This book provides a holistic approach to healing after a breakup or divorce, steering you away from a bitter end and toward a new life that’s empowered and flourishing.
7. "The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World" by Alan Downs - While this book is specifically geared towards gay men, its insights on shame and resilience are applicable to anyone navigating a difficult breakup or divorce.
8. "All About Love" by Bell Hooks - This book provides a new path to love that is sacred, redemptive, and healing, and is especially geared toward women who are leaving toxic relationships.
9. “Mom’s House Dad’s House: Making two Homes for your Child” by Dr. Isolina Richards - This classic book includes examples, self-tests, checklists, tools, and guidelines to help separated moms and dads with the legal, emotional, and financial issues they will encounter as they work to create happy and stable homes for their children.
10. “Between Two Homes: a Co-parenting Handbook by Bradley Craig – This book teaches parents to remain or become coparents (instead of opponents) after a divorce and how to help your child grow and thrive while living between two homes.
These are just a few suggestions. What's most important is finding what resonates with you and supports you on your healing journey.
Have you read a book that helped you along your healing journey in a time of difficult family transition? Please share in the comment below.
Deciding what to do with the marital residence in a divorce can be a complex and emotional process. The marital residence is typically one of the biggest assets that a couple has and can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. Different options are available for a married couple when deciding what to do with their marital residence.
1. Buyout of one spouse. If one spouse wants to keep the marital residence, they may offer to buy out the other spouse's share of the property. This can be done by paying the other spouse a lump sum (often via refinance) or through a series of payments. Buyout can be a good option if one spouse has strong emotional ties to the property and if the other spouse is willing to receive a lump sum payment instead of retaining ownership. In order to make this option work, the spouses must be able to agree on the value of the house, which can be a challenge if the real estate market is volatile in regards to pricing and mortgage interest rates. Emotions can easily influence a spouse’s perception of the value of the house, regardless of the appraised value. To agree on a buyout, both spouses must be able to overcome fears that the market will (or has already) unfavorably shifted at the time the buyout is executed and instead take a long-term, big picture view of the buyout as the best option in support of both spouses’ (and the children's) long-term futures.
2. Sale of the Marital Residence. One of the most common options in a divorce is to sell the marital residence and divide the proceeds between the spouses. This can be a good option if both spouses are willing to sell the property, or if they are unable to agree on a fair buyout price. The sale of the marital residence can also help resolve any outstanding debts of the marital community, or liens that may be associated with the property. When there is a dispute about the value of the house, the sure way to settle the dispute is to sell the house. The market will answer the question “how much is the house worth?” more accurately than any appraiser or realtor ever could.
3. Continued Joint Ownership. Another option is for the couple to continue to own the marital residence together, either as co-tenants or as tenants in common. This can be a good option if the couple is still on good terms, and if they are able to work together to manage the property. However, this option may not be feasible if the couple has a strained relationship or if they have different plans for the future use of the property. There is also the risk that the relationship will deteriorate over time, especially when one spouse moves on to a new romantic relationship. Generally, joint ownership is considered risky for a divorcing couple due to the couple's inability to make ongoing decisions together. Nonetheless, some couples choose to continue joint ownership of the martial residence beyond the divorce.
4. One Spouse Keeps the Marital Residence. In some cases, one spouse may receive the marital residence. This is typically done when one spouse owning the property is in the best interests of the spouse and especially their children, and there are enough martial assets to offset the other spouse's interest in the house. The spouse who is awarded the marital residence may receive less of other marital assets, or more martial debts to offset the other spouse’s interest in the marital residence.
The best option for handling the martial residence will depend on the unique circumstances of each case, including the emotional and financial needs of each spouse and their children. When deciding what to do with the marital residence in a divorce, it is important for a divorcing couple to consider their individual and collective needs, as well as their financial and emotional well-being.
To help make the best decision, it may be helpful to ask the following questions:
These questions can help a divorcing couple to understand their options and make an informed decision about what to do with the marital residence. It is also important to seek the advice of a divorce attorney who can help to guide you and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.
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