Custody of the House

I was talking to a good friend of mine who has a whole herd of grandkids.  Unfortunately, one of his children recently went through a divorce and now the lives of several of his grandkids are turned upside down.  They are always moving from one “home” to the next, never really feeling any of the security of a real home.

My friend said this: “If I was the divorce judge I would have awarded custody of the home to the children.  Then, once ‘visitation’ rules were ironed out, the parents would be the ones packing and moving to spend time with the kids, not the other way around.  The parents wouldn’t be allowed to disrupt the lives of the kids by bringing their new ‘friends’ to the home.  The kids would get the security of a place to really call home, and the parents would have to deal with all of the moving.  After all, adults are much better able to understand this and it would make a difficult situation much easier on the kids.”

For some reason this really struck me as Common Sense 101.  Why?  Because immediately it would make the parents realize the amount of hassle and turmoil their lives would be in, since they would both have to set up a new place to live and they would have to be packing and moving all of the time.  If it’s too much trouble for them, then it’s too much trouble for the kids!

Maybe the main reason I would love this idea to be common practice is it would help selfish parents understand that once you have kids, it’s about them, not you.  (Please note, I am not advocating this in the case of abusive or addiction family issues, just in cases where “I don’t love you anymore” is the primary reason for the divorce.)

Your thoughts and comments on this sticky subject would be great!

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20 Comments on “Custody of the House”

  1. Laurie Says:

    Yes, I totally agree! I’ve had to tell two family members to put their kids first and actually think about THE KIDS instead of only themselves. Children should be granted legal rights so they have some power too. Great post!

  2. Brian Webb Says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Well said.

  3. Brian Says:

    Tom, I couldn’t agree more with your post. The parents seem to forget it was their choice to start a family. As it says in the Love Dare, Unconditional Love is eagerly promised at weddings, but rarely practiced in real life.

  4. Brandon Says:

    While I would agree that being a good parent entails giving up a big part of yourself every day, I also know that you cannot give what you don’t have. If you are not happy, your children will undoubtedly feel that and suffer on some level as well, even if you don’t think your unhappiness shows.

    When you stay in an unfulfilling, unhappy or even abusive marriage, children come to believe that relationships are experiences that entail suffering, pain and even a slow death. You are not happy, your spouse is not happy and, in turn, your kids are not happy. The world doesn’t need more married couples for the sake of having married couples – the world needs more happy people!

    • AJ Buerer Says:

      Brandon,

      I believe that you are correct, when it comes to abusive relationships, that staying together can cause more damage to the children than a divorce. However, this does not hold true in cases of merely (or even severely) unhappy marriages. Yes, unhappy, arguing parents do negatively affect children. But divorce is devastating! Having no father in the house dramatically increases boy’s chances of going to prison later in life, of dropping out of school, and of joining a gang. Girls whose fathers leave are more likely to have sex before they otherwise would, often before they even really want to. And these are just a few examples of the problems that become more prevalent.

      To argue that divorce is better than making children live with unhappy parents ignores both the fact that the divorce won’t likely make the parents any happier and the incredible pain caused to the children by the divorce.

      Flippantly throwing commitments out the window for the sake of convenience (read: “happiness”) cannot be for anyone else’s benefit but one’s own. I would hope that parents would at least think about the importance of demonstrating integrity by keeping promises (e.g. marriage vows). What does it teach children when their parents quit, break their promise to be faithful until death, because it’s not easy to stay together (i.e. doesn’t “make them happy”)? Does this give us any indication why dropping out of school, committing crimes, and other forms of taking the path of least resistance are more prevalent with children from divorced homes?

      Okay, I’m done rambling. What do you think? Does any of what I’ve said make sense?

      -AJ

      • Brandon Says:

        How a couple divorces does more to determine how well children fare than the mere fact that they divorced.

        Quite often, those who feel committed to keeping things together to this degree are children of divorce themselves. They swear that they will not put their children through what they had to endure. What they don’t understand is that they can get divorced differently than their parents did and spare their children much of what they experienced.

        Remaining married or leaving is a very personal choice to and I highly encourage those who are contemplating divorce to get professional guidance and find or create a tight support network of friends and family.

  5. John Says:

    Amen!! I so love this concept!

  6. Rebekah Says:

    I agree with Brandon. My best friend knew she was in trouble on her honeymoon…and stayed in the marriage for 30 years under “Christian” law. Now, her 6 children are behind her as she finally divorces the man that stripped her life, identity and potential right out from under her. She is 50 years old, and I applaud her for her bravery.

    Personally, I am 35 and am in a long-pending divorce to a very cruel, abusive man. When I took our 3-year-old son and ran for our lives, my estranged husband filed for divorce and gained physical custody through much money and deception. I now owe thousands of dollars in medical and legal fees due to abuse…and the husband the church claims I am to stand by continues to abuse his now almost 6-year-old-son.

    Marriage on the whole–with most, is a far cry from what I believe God intended.

    There are many orphans and widows out there do to abusive and neglectful husbands…and laying down the law on marriage and parenting to those orphans and widows is cruel.

    Walk in my shoes, and I believe you would see things very differently. My life and my son’s life is hell, but far less than it was within the marriage.

    • Tom Ziglar Says:

      Rebekah – my heart breaks for you. Our family (like most, unfortunately) has experienced some of what you have gone through. That is why I included in my post that I don’t believe this concept applies in cases of abuse or addiction in the marriage. I don’t find anywhere in my Bible where it is ever permissible for either spouse to ever physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse the other. It saddens me when I hear of stories like yours, and unfortunately they are far to many. I find it hard to understand how people can “say” they worship Christ who laid down His very life for them, and then turn around and abuse the very ones He commanded them to protect and sacrifice for. I use the word “say” in quotes, because true worship is reflected in your behavior to your fellow man and loved ones, and last time I checked abuse is not worship. Thank you for your post, and know that many who read your words will lift you up in prayer.

  7. Deborah Says:

    Thank you, Tom for sharing that. It sounds like a terrific idea!

    I only wish adults could understand, and I, also, make exception here for abusive situations, that marriage is a work in progress.

    We don’t always “feel” love, or happiness, or even like, for the person we’re married to. But love is an action, it’s putting another persons best interest ahead of our own…nor forsaking who we are, but just putting them first.

    Even if we aren’t “happy” with someone, if we just take that one action of putting them first we begin to change a marriage.

    I’ve heard it said that if a man loves his wife as Christ loved the church, in that He gave Himself for it (from Eph 5:25, paraphrased), there’s not a woman alive who could resist that man.

    I know in my own marriage, I almost always set the tone. If I’m kind, my husband responds favorably. There are quite a few days when I have to “choose” to be nice, because I don’t feel it. And I think that is normal.

    Again, I know none of this applies to an unreasonable, abusive mate. We, too, have heartache in our family due to this type of behavior.

  8. Robert Says:

    In the 30 plus years of teaching, I have only seen an arrangement made for the children like this once, and it worked great. This is only if both parents are functional parents.

  9. velocitydesign Says:

    Genius! The purpose of marriage is to glorify God not to have one person be responsible for making you happy! No one can or ever will live up to that. No man or woman can fulfill every desire in the same way a child will not make any marriage better. Life is hard all marriages consists of two sinners – how does that equal anything easy. I have several friends that have gone through divorce and kids were involved. I love the idea of putting the kids first if the parents decide to move on and focusing the “home” around them. I would love to see a set of parents take on this concept and get the court system rethinking the way this typically plays out.


  10. RE: CUSTODY OF THE HOUSE
    (Our comments here are long…because the challenge before us today in America is BIG. Over 1/2 of this nation could read your blog post and ‘feel’ something because they’ve been impacted personally)
    ———–

    Rebecca and I very much enjoyed your thought provoking post. Our hope is it did stimulate the thoughts of many as to the plight of children of divorce, and marriage in America.

    We;ve been personally touched. Many responses or comments above, about your question, reflect the pain so many have felt. We understand. We also are working to be part of the solution for a nation desperately seeking hope.

    If indeed we could MOTIVATE and INSPIRE our America culture to not stand by and let the American family structure spin further into brokenness, we could change generations of Americans to come for good.
    In America today, governments spend $1,000 for post divorce government programs to every $1 that is spent upfront with preventative ways to serve or educate families facing challenges. Somebody switched the price tags. We have the values wrong.

    Divorce, especially with children, can create such wounds and have such an impact, that even strong Christians often say and do things to each other that we wouldn’t do or condone elsewhere.

    Rebecca and I are committing our lives to being about God’s call to get all people to seek God, trust Him, look UP to the Lord for strength through ALL things. God hates divorce (Malachi) because He knows the consequences and the long term damage to His people. He doesn’t want anyone to go through such pain because He loves us. We personally have walked through huge challenges in our lives and know fully God’s goodness and his grace. This we know and want to share. The BIBLE is the life instruction manual, the marriage handbook, the parenting workbook, the love tutorial, the dispute reconciliation guide, the ‘how to’ book of books, the ‘prayer coaching’ through all circumstances…and more!

    At The Bonded Family ministry we fully share the frustration that innocent children are being adversely affected long-term by the short term, often impulsive, decisions of adults.

    The more one ponders the fact that almost half of our nation is in some form of divorced, single parent or stepfamily, the greater the attention to offering resources, encouragement, education Maybe even a restructuring of the legal system and family courts regarding the ‘ease of divorce’.

    An excellent point you touched on reflects the true brokenness of our current America culture. It’s the damaging myth that parents can divorce because “I don’t love you anymore”. It is indeed an act of selfishness when children are involved. (unless as in some posts here abuse or other danger is present)

    “Stinkin’ Thinkin’”(picturing Zig saying this, as a smile comes to my face) is often the foundation of a divorce. It could be a financial crisis that causes a divide, a discontent with marital closeness or sex, an addiction of some sort by either party, or sadly, the seemingly romantic allure of another person.

    The root of the divorce is often an inability to commit to the marriage vows. For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…

    What may be the case in the Grandparents story you wrote of, is that the divorce is fresh, still the first year of reasonably normal hurts still to be overcome. 8-15 months is often normal for post-divorce wounds to heal. After that, intervention to ‘change the parents behavior’ is suggested, because again the children remain victims of poor decisions by parents to be in conflict.

    NOTE: GRANDPARENTS… TO ENCOURAGE YOU. YOU GRANDPA AND GRANDMA can be a key source of stability and wisdom for children. Try not to enter into the arena of feeding the problem, instead be a ‘peaceful pasture’. Remember again what Zig Ziglar shares…”The dog that will win the fight is the one that been fed the most!”
    What I am trying to say is feed and nurture love, joy, understanding, cooperation, respect, peace, sharing, patience, perseverance…etc. Feed THOSE dogs. Attempt to not just see only your own flesh and blood – son or daughters – viewpoint. Wounds of divorce cause the tongue to slice and dice. BE A WISE LEADER AND A HEALER, GRANDPARENTS. Yes, support and comfort your loved one, but rise above the ‘dance of anger’ or ongoing emotions that will only damage and keep a cycle spinning.

    Rebecca and I discussed the ‘CUSTODY OF THE HOUSE’. Rebecca was a ‘child of divorce’ and has a keynote message on ‘what children see, hear and feel’. Together we have six children and have joint custody with their other respective parents. We know first hand the challenges. We’ve been joyfully married 13 years and invest or time, talent and treasure in helping others find encouragement and hope from a faith-based perspective.

    With the foundation in this ‘Custody of House’ question that Rebecca and I can’t know all the facts, circumstances, issues, emotions, finances or other areas impacting this particular divorce, we can only extend a ‘big picture’ experiential commentary.

    So here goes our thoughts…

    Your Grandparent friend’s message comment that we really applaud is that parent’s should feel and experience themselves more what their children are feeling. We study this. It is major. My wife Rebecca herself has lived through that life experience and uses it to help children and their parents. The legacy of wounded children can extend into future generations of a family. The Grandparent was right that parents, and the court system, should find a way to improve the lives of children of divorce.

    While at first glance a concept of ‘sharing the house’ and making ‘the parents’ go back and forth does merit thought and consideration, the long term impact may not serve the children in every case.

    We believe that a ‘real home’ is not the brick and mortar. It is from the heart and in the relationship depth of the children with their parents. To have one single ‘real home’ (i.e. Custody of House lie with the children) could inadvertently foster an even more divided house emotionally, and hold the potential for further high conflict, which damages the children. Seeing Mom and Dad, perhaps still in conflict, when there is parenting time exchange only deepens challenging dynamics for all. Seeing Mom and Dad leave ‘the home’ again and again, could create an image that might leave more visual wounds.
    Conflict potential then creates more lawyers and court time and that is NOT the solution. God’s precepts are the way through it, not the court.

    We do strongly recommend that parents create a special place for their children in their own homes. Not a ‘visiting’ room, but a child’s own full and complete room or space of the house or apartment. So the children feel fully connected and whole in their respective parent’s home. So they have a safe place to call their own. Especially for teens.

    Children desire and need to see stable and emotional strong parents. That’s what we parents are to be. Seeing Mom and Dad continue to be loving, nurturing, caring and stable in their own respective homes will provide safety and security.

    A presumed stability of one location as the ‘real home’, could actually foster greater instability. There is a big picture potential of an upside down world with the ‘responsibility’ of owning or leadership of ‘the house’ is with the children by the fact they are the continual resident, and Mom and Dad are the ‘guests’. Sometimes also, children can become adept in the ability to see opportunity to ‘work the parents’ emotionally. This is real. We’ve studied this and teenage kids ‘get it’ when we discuss it, because they know what they have done. Children are very smart.

    At The Bonded Family we often see an inability of divorced “co-parents” to get along and share ‘parenting time’ well as a key ingredient in children feeling uneasy. This often produces the ‘going back and forth’ inner struggle for children. They often are keenly aware of a sense of a negative spirit in both homes toward the other parent. They become aware and often know what parents want to hear, and to ‘please’ a parent, make comments that appear to align with that respective parent. Then they go to the other house and ‘please’ that parent. Often both parents think the child is better off at ‘our house’. Thus a ‘back and forth’ image and commentary becomes heightened.

    Children simply want love. They want to know ‘it’s gonna be okay’ and that they are loved, and free to love both their parents. Parent’s behavior often can be a ‘Mom vs. Dad’ and that is more to blame than any physical House structure. “Stinkin Thinkin” by the parents is the behavioral culprit. Society today teaches point the finger, blame and assures it’s ‘the other sides fault’. That is lose-lose thinking.

    The core issues that frequently challenge good co-parenting relationships, in this case could still exist with a ‘custodial house’ and then create even further ‘instability’ for the children. There could the possibility of continual conflict about ‘parenting time’ – now becoming ‘house time’. Or maybe then disagreement about the furnishings for the house, property in the house or taken from house, legal and financial rights to the property, freedom to create new surroundings or traditions special and unique to a new family. What if one parent wants an area for Bible study with the children and the other parent wants only pillows and incense burners for meditation? While two extremes, I hope it points out the potential. The conflict then becomes added too.

    FOREMOST…the children require time, unconditional love, stability, safety, assurance ‘it’s gonna be okay’ and the ability to see that their two parents are respectful of each other. God created Mom and Dad. The children’s DNA is 1/2 Mom and 1/2 Dad. Children need both Mom and Dad as equally as reasonably possible to discover who they themselves are. Children don’t have ‘visitation’, they have parents. Unless some serious issue of addiction or danger, both parents are to be respectful and supportive of the other…leaving their own emotions out of the children’s hearts. The ‘real home’ will come when the parent spends time talking, sharing and investing into the life of the child and the child feels ‘safe’ to love both parents openly.

    We do need a national debate and discussion on divorce and it’s impact on the nation. We spend a TRILLION dollars a decade on divorce impact. (I have the report if any one wants it) Ziglar Inc may just be the respected source to lead it. We’d be honored to help.

    Here’s an idea we’ve found to be mega-successful and stems from nurturing a faith in God. We encourage a special prayer time connection for creating ‘home’. We pray with our children ‘The Blessing’ right before the go to their other parent’s home. It keeps us connected by God and hearts. Try this. Watch what happens. If anyone would like a sample copy of ‘The Blessing’ write us at: info@thebondedfamily.com and we’ll send a sample you can re-write to your specific family.

    WOW! This post was indeed long…THANKS if you finished it. 🙂

    Pray for our nation. Pray for families. Pray for our ministry. GOD CAN take any situation ‘from Broken to Bonded! Bonded to the Lord!

  11. Joe Says:

    What a marriage needs is two unselfish people. Not just some of the time, but all of the time.

  12. Brandon Says:

    Exchanging vows of being together forever is a very powerful exercise. It is a wonderful ideal and it is wonderful that most people do take this commitment seriously.

    But let’s examine REALITY again.
    Seasons change.
    Tides change.
    Relationships change.
    People change.
    Life situations change.
    EVERYTHING changes. That is life. That is what is supposed to happen.
    not changing isn’t really something to aspire to!

    Until you can predict your future, you cannot promise anything truthfully.

    The plan in any relationship is to change and grow on your path while allowing your partner to change and grow on his or her path.
    Too many couples hide behind these misguided reasons to remain married believing they are “doing the right thing.”

  13. Sven Markert Says:

    This is a wonderful post. I agree with Joe when he says that marriage needs two unselfish people all of the time. Focusing on meeting the needs of the other person is where it is at.

  14. Audrey Says:

    I smiled reading your post. I knew two people who actually did just this. They rented a small one bedroom apartment and for the first 2-3 years of divorce they shared the house and apartment so that the kids never had to move and the kids never had to be worried about which belongings were at whose home.


  15. It’s just so nice I came across this blog. I am a single parent but I was not married. It is difficult to be a mother and a father at the same time, but reading this made me realize that I made the right choice of keeping my son though the father wouldn’t give any form of support as long as he is with me. he wants my son with them as suggested by his mother in order for them to help, and will just send the kid to me every weekends. I chose not to give my son, and I did my best to raise him by myself. Sometimes I think that I made the wrong decision, especially when we are experiencing tough times. But then, I have been receiving confirmations that I did the right thing. I am the mother. My son now has his concept of home. Not with a father who doesn’t even bother to visit him, but at least a home with me.

  16. Dale Says:

    As a recent divorcee, I must say that I agree that “how” you divorce is definately key to how much it affects the children. Even if only one parent takes the so called high road, kids are smart and know where security/stability lies.
    In any case of abuse, there is absolutely no tolerance and a fight to end all fights should ensue, while taking every measure to protect kids from the sights and sounds of the battlefield.
    We all hear that divorce is high because it’s so much “easier” now. Well even in my highly civil seperation, it was not “easy” and it has taken it’s toll financially and emotionally on everyone involved.
    The institute of Marriage cannot become an “I do, until….?” or viewed as anything less than an oath before God. It’s misuse within society is why we have become numb to divorce, and how organizations unmentioned are trying to re-write the definition of marriage. Marriage is a lifetime vow and should require serious emotional validation, thought, conviction, and a detailed study of the person you plan to marry before commitment. Such a commitment does not mean you’ll be perfect, but that you will seek counsel and intervention and take every precaution against those forces that WILL undermine your “Marriage”. Because I guarantee they WILL.
    If such a commitment is not something you can make…fine, do yourself and the world a favor and don’t make it.
    I am however sympathetic as one of many who did make every attempt at keeping such a commitment, only to be left standing on the sideline asking what went wrong.
    Yet my trust remains in God’s purposes.

  17. Nicole Says:

    Your post was very true. A friend I run in to periodically was in a good marriage. They had three beautiful children and were “happy”. Believer’s, raised in church, they lived a beautiful life together. One day the wife spoke to her husband and stated that she wasn’t sure if she “loved him like she should” anymore. A few months later he had a girlfriend, she had moved out, and a divorce was in the works. I have ran into this beautiful woman who loves God over the years, and my heart cries for her. She did not know what she was saying, or the devastating consequences that would follow. She loved her husband without question, but may not have been feeling those “oh my goodness you are the most handsome man I have ever seen” feelings at the time. It is so important to understand love is a choice we make. We choose to love each other regardless of how we “feel”.

    When I ran in to her a few months after the seperation, she was so broken. She could not understand or believe how quickly things had changed, and how he had moved on. She admitted she had pushed him away, and cried over her regret of saying anything so foolish.

    A few days ago, several years after the seperation, I ran into both the woman and her ex-husband on the same day. He was shopping with his new wife at the grocery. They were dressed in nice clothes, bought many things, and drove away in a new minivan. That evening my oldest daughter and I were out for some special alone time. She loves Taco Bell, so I took her. As we entered, the former wife was in the drive-thru. She called to me and spoke so lovingly. She told me how nice I looked and how good it was to see me. My heart went out to her. She was driving the same car they had during the marriage, with the paint now peeling off the top. Her face looked as if she had aged twenty years, and she was eating at the taco bell drive thru alone. I was grieved for her. I know if she knew then what she knows now, I would not be writing this comment. She and her children and her husband would be happy. Their home would not be broken, and neither would their hearts. Think before you speak. Administer grace and forgivness. Choose on purpose to love your mate. A wise woman builds her house, and a foolish one tears her’s down with her own hands. Let us be wise woman.


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