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Will your adult children dread visiting you?

I attended a hearing yesterday in which two seemingly caring parents of teenagers were, perhaps unwittingly, doing their best to destroy the other’s relationship with these children.  At the conclusion of the hearing the judge addressed the parties with advice that I had never heard before.  I paraphrase:

I am the father of adult children.  One of my great pleasures is when they spontaneously invite me to join them on activities.  Your children are only a few years away from being grown and out of the house.  When they are older do you want them visiting only on Christmas and Thanksgiving, and only with a sense of obligation and dread?  If you continue on your present pathway, that is likely what your relationship with these children will become.

As the father of a twenty year old daughter, this judge’s wisdom was intuitively obvious but something I’d never heard expressed so clearly.  I am lucky to have a relationship with my parents in which I enjoy their company and spontaneously seek them out.  I keep waiting and hoping that my daughter reaches a point in which she will reach out and invite me on some of her activities.  As parents we invest substantial time, money and energy in raising our children and our expected payoff is adult children who truly enjoy our company.  How sad it must be for parents whose adult children dread spending time with them.

In every family, and especially in families in which the parents do not live together, the temptation exists to tear down the other parent to selfishly pursue one’s own agenda.  It is the children who suffer when parents act this way and these children rationally develop a sense of dread of one or both parents.

There is nothing wrong with custody litigation motivated by a reasoned difference of opinion about what is best for the children.  However custody litigation motivated by sheer hatred and disrespect of the other parent is ultimately damaging to the children.  Such children are likely to develop into adults who dread both parents.  It’s a legacy no parent would wish for.

In pursuing custody litigation, parents should consider whether their actions towards the other parent are likely to lead to adult children who spontaneously seek out their companionship or to adult children who dread their company.

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  • The Judge is right. We’re three full generations into divorce now and unmarried parents is the norm now.

    We know that college educated people in their 20s and 30s aren’t forming traditional families with children, or non traditional families with children at anything approaching the replacement fertility rate now.

    All the noise about family values in this state is utterly fraudulent. From healthcare to education, the state’s right wing power structure hates the family unless it looks exactly like theirs and serves their economic agenda and it can meet all of it’s own needs without resorting to the support of society, community or government.

    There has never been a society like this before in the history of the world which wasn’t the temporary product of warfare or chaos of some sort. Noone has ever attempted to deliberately sustain such a social and economic structure.

  • joe mendelsohn

    Greg, great article. Can I have your permission to pass it on to my clients who will benefit from it’s commentary?

    • Sure. Feel free to pass on anything I write to your clients.

  • Ruth Forman

    Greg, a very fine, classic piece and thank you for your kind words.

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