VANCOUVER — Everybody knows that divorce can have damaging, life-long effects on children‘s psychological development, especially when there’s high conflict between the parents. Yet the notion of “staying together for the sake of the kids” often isn’t a good idea either, because the continuing tension between the parents may cause even more harm than divorce would. How can parents end their marriages with minimal trauma for their children?
That’s the question Vancouver-based filmmaker Maureen Palmer asks in her new documentary, How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids, which airs throughout Canada on CBC-TV next month. Palmer, who has produced several independent docs for Bountiful Films, wrote and directed this film, which follows three Canadian couples as they try to keep their children’s needs first while working out their divorces.
One of these couples, Sally and Lionel, has three young sons from 17 years of marriage. Their divorce is bitter because he wants the split and she doesn’t. However, they agree to use Collaborative Divorce — a relatively new process in which spouses and their lawyers negotiate a settlement confidentially, without court as an option — as a way of keeping the boys’ best interests first.
Another couple, Roland and Carolye, decide to go the Do-It-Yourself route. While their separation has been amicable for the most part, Roland wants them to share 50-50 custody of their two children. “If it wasn’t for the kids,” he says, “there would have been a cleaner break. I wouldn’t be sleeping on her couch, that’s for sure.” The spouses try to work out an agreement without professional help.
A third couple, Mike and Melissa, have been married for only five years and have three-year-old twins. Despite the disagreements and communication barriers between them, they decide to mediate their divorce in order to establish that they will both have a strong presence in their twins’ lives.
You can see the trailer for How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids here:
According to Palmer, only five percent of separating couples take the trouble to sit down with their children and talk with them about the divorce. The frequent problems children of divorce face include problems with interpersonal relationships; depression and low self-esteem; drug use; and poor academic performance. However, Palmer’s film also points out that divorcing parents can raise emotionally healthy children if they work together and minimize conflict.
How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids airs on CBC’s Doc Zone on Thursday, January 8 at 9:00 p.m.
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