School of Law
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Robert A. Leflar Law Center
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University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701

Phone: (479) 575-5601

Children and Divorce: A Bad Combination and How to Make it Better

By · October 15, 2003 · 2003 Ark. L. Notes 13
In categories: Archive, Family Law

When I started to teach Domestic Relations five years ago, I became interested in the effect of divorce on children, if any. As part of an independent study, a student, Diana Hewitt-Ladd, found a number of psychological and psychiatric studies discussing the effect on the children of their parents’ divorce, and wrote a paper about them in 1999. I also had a local practitioner come speak to my class. In having lunch with him afterwards, he told me about a custody dispute he was handling. I asked him what was the basis for the requested change in custody. He told me that the child had been having worse grades in school since the divorce, and the non custodial parent thought this was the fault of the custodial parent. The hearing had been put off at the moment. I told him that I had read studies that show grades of children often drop with a divorce and this is the impact of the divorce itself, not the custodial parent’s fault. Researchers think this is because the children become preoccupied with their parents’ divorce and pay less attention at school. It lasts about one year. I write this article for practitioners and for judges. The ones who represent clients in divorce and the others who render custody decisions. It would be a shame if a change in custody is ordered because the custodial parent was being blamed for the difficulty the child was having if the difficulty was caused by the divorce itself.

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