Joint Custody, From a Distance – NYTimes.com

MOST divorced couples would probably prefer not to see each other. Ever again. But when you share custody of your children, you have to assume a certain amount of face-to-face time amid the endless back-and-forthing.

Think of the clashing summer vacation plans, the who-goes-to-Lucy’s-birthday-party, the “Max forgot his homework again” at Dad’s. And those devilish contretemps that can arise if Mom, for example, decides to keep her house kosher while Dad serves the children pork chops. Or if her new boyfriend is suddenly sleeping over on “her” nights to host the children.Let’s just say that no matter how well ex-spouses and still-parents coordinate, there’s a good chance of teary phone calls, angry exchanges during drop-off, and all-out fights about who’s not saving enough for college, often played out smack in front of the children.

Unless, of course, it’s all done remotely. These days, the cool aloofness of technology is helping temper sticky emotional exchanges between former spouses. And for the most part, according to divorce lawyers and joint-custody bearers, handling the details via high tech is a serious upgrade.

It’s joint custody — at a distance.

via Joint Custody, From a Distance – NYTimes.com.

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6 thoughts on “Joint Custody, From a Distance – NYTimes.com

  1. Though the article makes the stance that communication via technology is a benefit for the children of divorced parents (so that fights don’t play out directly in front of them), I can’t help but think it is just a disguised means of allowing the parents to avoid uncomfortable interaction. The sort of problems this article cites (“clashing summer vacation plans, the who-goes-to-Lucy’s-birthday-party, the “Max forgot his homework again” at Dad’s” etc. etc.) don’t go away with a change in communicative forum. And the disputes that play out in front of the children don’t happen necessarily out of simple proximity of the parents, but rather–unfortunately–as a means of demonstrating the involved arguments TO the children. The parents could just as easily avoid fighting in front of the children by speaking in private as they could by speaking online. Face-to-face interaction is inevitable in drop-offs, school activities, sports, etc. Indeed, the children could very much benefit from learning how to converse civilly with those with whom they may have disagreement; they can learn this by the example of their parents better by seeing them speak rationally face-to-face, instead of avoiding all unnecessary contact in favor of online communication.

  2. I had never thought of technology playing a role in divorces until this article. The article has a good point that technology can act as a way for the parents to communicate without acting up in front of the children. Technology could, perhaps, be considered a mediator in this situation. But, technology cannot avoid all face to face interaction; the children will still need to be dropped off/picked up and the parents will still have to see each other live in person. Also, technology might make matters worse, because people often misunderstand the wording of emails or text messages and need clarification on these matters with voices and faces. Plus, having a paper trail of your heated arguments with your ex may not be in your best interest. I think that, like in all matters of life, technology can greatly improve the divorce situation, but it can also complicate it. I believe that people should utilize technology, but, especially in this case, they should not use it as a crutch. Parents are still going to have to discuss certain things with one another in person and they should not use technology as a way to hide from reality.

  3. I can thoroughly understand the benefits that the author is attempting to address within the article, but I really don’t agree with her idealistic ideas at all. I can see how many couples who are divorced would want to avoid each other – but remote communication like skype or emails make the interaction change on so many different levels.

    Text only conversations, such as emails, messages, or whatever else, can leave a lot of interpretation up to the reader for the tone that the author is writing in. Many times, divorcees like the ones in this scenario probably won’t have the best manners. If the father is using sarcasm, for example, the mother may pick up on it and take offense, not see it, or take it too far. This can lead to more issues in the long run. And beyond this, authors of these text only forms of communication will have issues conveying feelings and tone compared to a verbal or video form.

    Video messaging, like Skype, seems to change the dynamic as well. Skype somehow conveys an essence of intimacy by the direct one-on-one interaction between the users. The experience is interesting in that individuals stare directly at one another without any other distractions. Divorcees may not feel comfortable with this form of communication, as well as the hassle it may entail.

    I feel that phone conversation is still the best form of communication for individuals like those stated in the article. Tone can be understood, there is no awkwardness in the intimacy of the communication, and I don’t feel that any other forms of communication have any benefits over telephone communication.

  4. I have a lot of issues with the tone of this article. It makes email and texting seem like a savior, and the only way to protect children from the ugliness of a parent’s divorce. Quite frankly, I find this to be completely opposite of true. Hiding behind the mask of a text-only conversation like email may make it easier on the parents, but it does not help the child. Eventually the parents will meet face to face and have to put their differences aside for their kid’s sake. If I can’t stand the sight of my ex, and only communicate curtly and to-the-point via email, what happens at my child’s birthday party? I will have to see my ex live and in person and having not learned how to control my emotions and get past the disagreements, I can foresee a lot of problems arising at a time that supposed to be the child’s day.

    It is a parents responsibility to maintain some sort of working relationship with their ex. If it can’t be friendly and at least cordial, then you’re setting a terrible example for the child and putting him/her in a terrible place stuck between the middle of your bickering. Long-Distance communication doesn’t solve any of the issues, it just puts a curtain over them for the time being. Eventually the house of cards will fall, usually on the innocent child. It is up to the parents to learn how to interact with eachother for the benefits of the child, not to spite one another. No amount of emails, texts, or mobile apps will change that. The only thing that can change is behavior and attitude.

  5. This article demonstrates how technology can be used to help a sensitive communication issue that has always sort of existed in society. The problem with the way this article does it, is that it doesn’t address the concern like others above have mentioned of the incidences where the two parents would need to see each other and where it would actually benefit the child to see their interaction together. But I think what some reading this article have mistaken is that the child is not apart of the interactions that occur when the ex parents talk on the phone, to arrange meetings etc and I think this is what the article is referring to when it says that technology can help. Unfortunately most interactions with the ex parents are uncomfortable, emotional and can be damaging to the child if they overhear them. Although it is true that there would need to be some physical interactions present, most communications between parents would be over long distance since they no longer live together anyways. Therefore technology, especially email I think would be a helpful medium to use to communicate, not ex parent to child, but ex parent to ex parent. It is important to remember the distinction between the two. Email often allows a person to express their opinions in a manner that is more informational than emotional. In addition, technology like email can keep records of the conversations to prevent the abusive language that is prone to happen between divorcees. Phone conversations are legally unrecordable with out that persons consent so often don’t provide the protections and accuracy that an email can. On top of that, as this article mentioned often hearing the ex spouses voice can be damaging to the other spouse who once loved them. Technology integration of this manner is not trying to change the way ex parents communicate to their kids nor how they have to meet in person to exchange custody. Instead it is focused on helping to ease the pain and difficulties that divorcees, not the kids, have when communicating with each other in incidences when they aren’t face to face, and for that reason I think it is a great idea.

  6. I have mixed feelings about this article. My parents are divorced and always got along well, up until i was in highschool. I think technology played a major role in the ability for me to communicate with my dad and not involve my mom in it anymore. Once I had my cellphone I could communicate with my dad and not have to worry about long distance charges or my mom complaining about me being on the phone. On the flipside however, with texting I get like 100 a day from my dad, which can be extremely annoying as well as hard to gauge on what is really being said. So I can see the plus sides and downsides of it pretty well.

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