Is it Better For Kids if Their Unhappy Parents Stay Together, Or Get Divorced? (Pt 1)

A black and white silhouette of a man and woman sitting with their backs to each other and a wall between them

For couples who get married and discover that their spouse wasn’t everything they’d hoped for (or maybe everything they were led to believe they were getting), a divorce is usually in the cards. However, for couples with kids, that solution often isn’t as simple as it may appear on the surface. Divorce can be very hard on children, and the idea that your child grew up in a “broken home” still carries a lot of stigma for some people. So what should they do? Should they stick it out and stay together for the sake of their kids, even if they’re unhappy in their marriages? Or should they call it quits, despite the possible impact it could have on their children’s lives?

The answer depends on your family, your children, and your circumstances

Like everything else in life, there isn’t a single answer that applies to all situations. Every family is different, with unique circumstances. So what’s best for you will be different to what’s best for someone else. However, there are a few basic facts that are the same across the board for everyone, like the fact that children do better when raised in happy homes by both parents. But the important thing to take note of in that sentence, is that for it to be true, the parents raising them have to be happy. So yes, two happy parents who are together are better than one happy parent. But one happy parent is better than two unhappy parents. Because it only counts if the two parents in the equation are happy.

So what happens when the parents aren’t happy? Is it still okay for the kids?

While most mental health professionals agree that children fare better when raised in a happy home (by parents who are happy together), what about when the marriage isn’t so happy? Are you doing your kids any favors by staying in your unfulfilling marriage, where you’re miserable? According to Robert Emery, professor of Psychology and  Director of the Center for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia, the answer to that question has more to do with how much conflict exists in your relationship. Specifically, is your marriage high conflict, or low conflict?

Is your marriage kind of “meh”, or is it a war zone?

In his book, The Truth About Children & Divorce, Emery talks about the difference between low-conflict and high-conflict marriages, and how this distinction should impact the choice you make. Although he acknowledges that children who are the product of happy marriages are a best-case-scenario, when it comes to deciding on divorce, parents should consider their individual marriage before deciding to stay together for their children. Why? Because a low conflict unhappy marriage might not set the best example of what a healthy relationship should look like, it’s not as traumatic or damaging in the way a high conflict home life is for kids.

Sometimes divorce is the best answer, for you and for your kids.

Join us next time for a look at some of the research into how high and low conflict marriages affect children, and when divorce might be a better option for some families. Until then, if your marriage isn’t working out the way you thought it would, or you need to get out of a toxic relationship, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled and experienced family lawyers can help you with every aspect of the process, from asset division and alimony, to custody and child support.