Am I wrong for not wanting to split my twins? Is that really what is best for them? Are there any other options?
I have twin girls who will soon be 4. Their father and i split before their 1st birthday and since then we have only had verbal agreements on who they stay with and for how long. Now i have recently married a Marine he is stationed 12 hrs from our original home. I have agreed with the girls father on trading the girls month by month until school starts and then they will stay with him for the school yr. After long nights of no sleep stressing my decision I have come to the conclusion i don't like that idea. Some people have told me that my only other option is separating the girls and he'll keep one and I the other. But I have also heard that separating twins can sometimes cause emotional and mental damage long term? what options do i have? I don't want to be completely unfair and take the kids from their father he really is a good dad. or at least i know he tries hard to be.
It's tough to have a blended family, and even harder when you moved 12 hours from your original home. I can't make a decision for you, but I can give you some facts and also some choices.
When parents divorce, remarry, move to new homes, and the kids move back and forth between the homes- the only thing that is consistent and stable (in the child's mind) is their sibling. Children of divorced and remarried families are very close to their siblings. Their siblings are the only ones who are going through the same experience with them and truly understand what they are feeling. With that in mind- I would strongly recommend keeping them together. It will keep them both more emotionally healthy.
As far as visitation choices:
They are still young, and not in school yet- so you can be more flexible. Your current agreement, month by month is a good system for now. (Whatever the parents agree on is fine.) As the twins enter school, it will be more important for them to have a home base and then a visiting parent's house.
If you lived closer together you could continue moving the kids between the houses more frequently, but 12 hours is a burden to you financially and difficult to transport young children this distance very often.
Once the kids are old enough for school, one of you (mom or dad) should be the home base, and the other biological parent would be the noncustodial parent. It's important to talk with a mediator and get a visitation agreement written down, agreed upon, and in place. You may consider the twins visiting the noncustodial parent once a month (or once every 2 months, etc.) Also set aside time for the holidays and summer for extended visits. A mediator or attorney can give you standard examples of visitation agreements, and then you and their dad (and any spouses) make the final decision.
It would be great if your ex could move closer to you, but I know in this economy it may not be possible (and your husband could be transferred again in a few months.) I wish you the very best. The good part is that all involved want to be the best parents you can be- and that's a great start!
Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC
Founder of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center
You are considering some very important decisions, and I think it is wonderful that you are seeking help and support from others to cope with this challenge.
I think that you should weigh the information you get in this and other forums, but I also believe that you should listen to your instinct. In this case, I believe that your instinct is correct. I do not think that it would be advantageous to separate the girls. I wouldn't advocate for splitting siblings for custody, in general, but I am especially concerned about splitting twins. Although your marriage is a happy life change, it will be a transition for your daughters, and I believe that they need as much stability as possible at this time. Children typically benefit from the love and support that they receive from their sibling who "gets it" and understands what it is like to go through divorce, remarriage, and custody changes in the family. Siblings need each other during this difficult time, and twins are especially likely to benefit from the special bond of support that a twin offers. Thus, I would listen closely to your gut at this point. You know your children best, and you understand what their needs are.
As you consider other custody arrangements, it may be useful to know that research has shown that one of the single most important factors in facilitating healthy and positive emotional and physical growth for children of divorce is a cooperative and cordial relationship between divorced parents. The quality of the divorced parent's relationship is even more important, in many cases, than the specifics of the custody arrangement. It sounds as though you and your ex-husband have managed to maintain a positive working relationship, and I would encourage you to continue to foster that dynamic. For more on this, please see the articles below.
I would invite you to sit down and speak with your ex-husband and new husband to revisit the custody conversation. Is there any way that the two families can be closer together for the sake of the children? If not, what kind of custody arrangement can be developed that would allow the divorced parents to each have more time with their daughters?
I wish you well and encourage you to continue to listen to your instinct.
Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Child Psychologist
Hi, Adding to the excellent insights shared by Dr. Laura Kauffman and Shirley Cress Dudley, I would like to suggest that you talk to your daughters' pediatrician and/or get referral to a local child/family psychologist in your area, who can meet with your daughters in person, assess their emotional well-being and make specific recommendations for your family. Meeting with a family counselor could also benefit you as you (and the girls' father) struggle with this difficult decision.
I'm including below some other resources that may also be helpful for your family.
I would not separate the twins. Whether it be twins, or just plain siblings, I would consider keeping them together. The children should be your main priority at this time ( meaning well being in all areas). Emotionally they must be able to bond and stay together. Also, dad must have time with both of them as well. Hope this helps :)