Divorce and Child Custody: My Unconventional Take

Thank God is Monday. I love Mondays. It speaks of freshness. It is the beginning of the week and it comes with energy and grace for daring new challenges and surmounting them. I am here this day with a freshness of spirit and mind to do the battle of advocacy aimed at bringing to the very first front burner of private and public conscience and consciousness the rights and responsibilities of the African child for due respect in the best interest of the child.

I am particularly elated today that I am bringing to a close the discussion we began a long while ago: 12 Attributes of a Child-Friendly Workplace. Today, I bring you the 12th Attributes of a Child-Friendly Workplace: where a staff’s marriage breaks down, a child-friendly workplace should be interested in intervening in disputes relating to the custody of the child.

custody

For me divorce is a plague.  Its consequences are dire and almost irreparable, particularly for the children. I once sat as a mediator as consultant to UNICEF in reconciling street children to their parents. I shed tears as I found that most of the children we were reconciling to the parents were from broken homes. Like ninety-eight percent of them were products of broken marriages.

In my years as child protection specialist, I have found that when most couples come to the point of divorce, they have become very bitter. In the midst of their bitterness, their children are always the last consideration. Even when they fight for custody of the children, the last thing on their minds is the best interest of the child. Bitterness blinds a man or woman from reasoning. The only thing that makes sense when parties are bitter is revenge. The child at the point becomes a tool of revenge. They contest custody not because they have a better plan for the child, but they want to make sure they deny the other party any joy of having the children in their custody. The truth is that children hardly recover from the impact of the acrimony, which follows divorce because the parents make copious efforts to involve the children in matters, which does not concern them.

Another issue I have found is that when couples decide to divorce, they have rejected every voice of reasoning in their lives. When I talk of voice of reasoning I talk about family members, friends, counsellors, religious leaders and all. In some cases, some of the people, who were once voice of reasoning in the lives of the couples, take sides with either of the party. In moments like this the couples are on their own and the children are pitifully at their mercy.

In situations like this one entity, which may intervene is the workplace. The reason is very simple, there is every tendency that the parties may respect the intervention of their workplace as it relates to the custody of children, because the workplace have economic power on the parties. Please note that I am not taking about the workplace issuing threats. I am talking about the workplace finding a way to mediate in the matter, where the workplace has information on the matter.

Please note that this is not bringing a strange fire or idea into the workplace. My simple philosophy is that the community must at all times do all to protect the best interest of the child. It is an abomination not to deploy every tool at our disposal in matters relating to child protection. As matter of fact, because of the unpredictability of our times and environment, we must be unconventional about taking measure that will secure child protection. Therefore a child friendly workplace should have it in its child protection policy earlier advocated that it will intervene in child custody matter in cases of divorce of its members of staff.

I think I should rest the train of my advocacy here today. It marks the glorious end of this series. The attributes of a child friendly workplace series is an attempt at an advocacy, which will ensure the birth and sustenance of a child friendly workplace in Africa. Tomorrow, I will be sharing with you basic rules of Key Household Practices. Please make it a date with me. I urge you friends, Think the Child, Think Today, Think the Future.  Do have an INSPIRED Day.

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