Spouses contemplating divorce often factor into their decision as to whether or not they should end their marriage the potential harm a divorce may cause to their children. Some parents feel that by staying married they are honoring a commitment or setting a good example for children. Other parents, however, do not necessarily focus on the impact of divorce on their children but instead view divorce through the lens of their own concerns which may include infidelity, loss of interest, growing apart, finances or a better quality of life.
The question of whether it is in the children’s best interest to stay together is complex and there is no simple answer. In most cases, the decision is more personal than legal.
An argument can be made that staying together in spite of serious marital difficulties shows children that a commitment made is a commitment kept and that divorce, even in tough circumstances, shows weakness in character. On the other hand, an argument can also be made that staying in a bad marriage sets a terrible example for children. Often, when couples separate after living together in a dysfunctional marriage, children will say to one or both parents “What took you so long?” Children are both perceptive and resilient and it’s likely that they have friends whose parents are divorced.
In Illinois, as of January 2016, grounds for divorce are simplified and consist only of irreconcilable differences. In other words, a spouse does not need to prove fault to obtain a divorce and the reasons a couple are getting divorced have no bearing on the process or outcome. Therefore, at the end of the day, whether a parent elects to stay in a marriage for “the children” or not depends upon the benefits compared to the detriments that will result from the decision. Generally, this is not a quantifiable calculation since there are many subjective considerations. Guilt, the uncertainty of being a single parent after the marriage is over and future finances usually all play a role in each person’s decision.
Since so many of these factors are more personal than legal, every person considering divorce should know that there are a variety of professionals that can help them make the best decision for their situation. These professionals include psychologists, therapists and family law attorneys. Moreover, understanding the financial ramifications may make the decision less difficult or, in many cases, should help a person make their decision from a position of knowledge rather than fear. A good divorce lawyer can provide much of this guidance.
All of these factors should be considered prior to making a decision about divorce, and each person considering what to do in their situation should lean on a team of advisors, personal and professional, to ensure that they make the best decision for themselves and their family.