Difficult choiceA recent Swedish study based on a survey of almost 150,000 6th and 9th-grade students revealed that children who live equally with both parents after parental separation suffered from fewer psychosomatic problems than those living mostly or only with one parent. As might be expected, children of separated parents generally reported more psychosomatic problems than those in intact “nuclear” families.

A group of Swedish university and government child experts published their results online April 28, 2015 in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in the article, Fifty moves a year: is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?

Using responses along the range of “never,” “ seldom,” “sometimes,” “often” and “always,” the survey investigated correlations between parenting arrangements and “psychosomatic” problems including difficulties in (1) concentration and (2) sleeping; suffering from (3) headaches and (4) stomach aches; feeling (5) tense, (6) sad and (7) dizzy and (8) loss of appetite. The students were asked to respond to the survey questions with

The authors noted that during the past 20 years, it has become more common for children in the Western world to live alternatively and equally with both parents after a parental separation. In Sweden, this practice of joint physical custody is particularly frequent and has risen from about 1–2% in the mid-1980s to between 30% and 40% of the children with separated parents in 2010.

Over the same period, however, there has been an increase in self-reported pediatric psychosomatic symptoms. Already, stressful circumstances such as bullying, economic stress in the family, peer and teacher relationships, schoolwork pressure and lack of emotional support from the parents have been shown to be related to psychosomatic symptoms in Swedish adolescents.

Continue Reading Does Shared Custody Result In Less Stress Than Other Post-Divorce Parenting Plans?

Kings County Justice Matthew J. D’Emic, in his April 3, 2013 decision in E.S. v. S.S., blamed both parents for the stress upon their young daughters. As a result, no change was made to the custody and visitation provisions of the parents’ divorce judgment.

Both sides sought changes to the judgment’s visitation schedule. The mother asked to partially eliminate visitation; the father sought sole custody, as well as changes to the pick-up and drop-off location.

Reviewing the parties’ combative history, Justice D’Emic noted that before the divorce judgment, the parents had held onto their strident positions longer than they served a purpose. Therapy for the elder daughter was sought. The father was forced to endure a lengthy and humiliating term of supervised visitation with both of his children.

The long and contentious trial followed,which the father estimated cost the parties more than $1,000,000.00. Not surprisingly, the Court noted, neither parent has recovered, and motions for various relief are submitted on a regular basis.

Several months ago, at the mother’s request, and based on reports of the children’s stress over visitation with the father, the court allowed the mother to seek family therapy, encouraging the father to participate. Neither side was now satisfied with the way things were going.

Unfortunately, courts are never in an ideal position to make decisions for parents. More unfortunate is the fact that courts are too often asked to do so.

The children’s therapist recommended that the whole family, together with a parent coordinator “all meet together and work out a clear agreement specifying the parameters of visitation to provide the children with some sense of security and control over visitation with the father.”

To alleviate stress and to provide consistency and regularity to the children, the Court directed the parents to adhere literally to the visitation provisions of the divorce judgment.

Furthermore, the mother and the father are directed to exercise custody and visitation in a manner appropriate to their responsibilities to their daughters. Maturity must have a role here.

Justice D’Emic made no change to prior award of sole custody to the mother, or to the decision-making rights and visitation schedule for the father.

It is the court’s opinion that any stress to the daughters is being caused by their parents nit-picking, one-upmanship and lingering resentments. If the relationship between father and daughters is strained, it is up to the parents – both parents – to repair it.

The father was opposed to the family therapist. Nevertheless, Justice D’Emic encouraged him to cooperate and participate in the therapy as a step towards repairing his relationship with his daughters.

The Court concluded that the issues between the parents were not insurmountable.  “With a minimum of trust and accommodation these girls can have an enjoyable experience with both parents – an experience to which they are entitled.”

Aurora Cassirer, of Troutman Sanders LLP, of Manhattan, represented the father; Mark Holtzer, of Snitow, Kanfer, Holtzer & Millus, LLP, of Manhattan, represented the mother.