Children aren’t possessions

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Children aren’t possessions

Divorce is not a rare phenomenon in Korean society anymore. The newly coined terms for social phenomena, such as “Singles who returned,” don’t sound awkward anymore thanks to the drastic increase of divorced couples in our neighborhoods. Yet there remains an annoying conundrum our society has failed to effectively address so far. It’s about how to prevent indelible mental scarring in young children of divorced parents.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court reached a meaningful decision which would allow couples who want to divorce by mutual agreement to go ahead with it - on the condition that they consult with experts to solve issues related to their young children. The high court’s ruling is tantamount to an order forcing couples heading to divorce to go through consultations with professionals on the impact their divorce will have on their kids; how to share the costs of child rearing; and what they should do for the emotional stability of their kids in the future. The court’s decision is also an extension of previous decisions by the Seoul Family Court.

We welcome the highest court’s decision, which we think goes in the right direction given the dire statistics in our society. In particular, 79.4 percent (91,022 couples) of a total of 114,707 marriages that ended in divorce last year were divorced by mutual agreement. As opposed to divorces through trials, in which a family court steps in, child custody issues in the case of a divorce by mutual agreement falls straight into the hands of the parents involved.

As a result, it is the kids who suffer most from their parents’ divorce. Some parents attempt to use their kids as a “spy” - or prohibit them from meeting the other parent - to have an upper hand in settling such thorny issues as alimony or the division of property. In the case of divorces by trials, too, parents have often vented their fury at their spouses on their children in court - not to mention attempts to coerce their kids to write up false affidavits.

We expect the court’s latest decision to help build a healthy environment for children of divorced couples in the future. In the case of a divorce by mutual agreement, too, the court needs to proactively recommend that troubled couples seek consultations with experts for their kids’ futures. The court is making those consultations mandatory before the divorce can go through.

Parents should not make their children prisoners of their own marital tragedy. As Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American poet, writer and philosopher, famously said: “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”
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