Constance Ahrons's 20-year look at 173 children from 98 divorced families showed
that when divorced parents were able to maintain a civil and at least minimally
cooperative relationship with each other, the children experienced no long-term
problems associated with the divorce. But when parents remained in conflict or
totally disengaged from each other, their children continued to be distressed
even 20 years later.
In a 12-year follow-up of couples randomly assigned to either mediation or litigated divorce ...as little as five to six hours of mediation had powerful long-term effects. Parents who took part in mediation settled their disputes in half the time of parents who used litigation, and they were much more likely, even 12 years later, to jointly discuss children's discipline, moral training, school performance and vacation plans. Nonresidential parents with mediated divorces maintained much more contact with their children than those who had litigated.
Dollars and sense:
The average cost of a mediated divorce is less than $7,000 ... and about $78,000 for a fully litigated divorce.
And it's not just the financial toll. When a parent maximizes his or her emotional position by undermining a child's respect for the other parent, this "victory" carries long-term costs.
Researcher Paul Amato notes that children who report being put in the middle of their parents' problems are less likely to be close to either parent as they age.
Cooperative divorces deny clients the short-range satisfaction of "beating" their exes, and they deprive attorneys of a lucrative source of income. But the benefits clearly outweigh these costs.