Divorce creates crisis in families with messy painful situations to overcome. The separation can leave the couple and other family members dealing with grief, guilt, loss, and a sense of failure. Unfortunately, when children are involved, the pain may be exasperated as they deal with their own loss and need help in coping with all the changes that occur when the family breakup. In lesbian relationships, this may be even further complicated by social misunderstandings and lack of legal rights in this population.
Divorce changes the pattern of communication, and people who once shared their lives together can soon become enemies. Researchers have described lesbian divorce with children, as women being torn between letting go of their relationship and holding on at the same time to their children. They argued that women separating have to stop loving one another but continue to express love towards their children they share. This is an extremely taxing emotional task for parents during divorce.
In terms of the family and grieving the loss of the relationship, the couple must allow themselves to feel the failure that the collapse has surfaced, such as the sadness, anger, and disappointment. In addition, the parent must cope with the floods of emotions that occur in divorce without falling apart in ways that are unhealthy and maladaptive (e.g., using substances or alcohol, leaving the family, and fighting in front of the children) (Clunis and Green, 2003).
Lesbian relationships also have unique legal issues they have to come to terms with, unlike a heterosexual couple. As marriage for homosexual couples is not a legal right in many states, both parents may become victims when it comes to the dissolution of the union. In addition, lesbian couples who had children in “legitimate” marriage may lose custody or rights to their children if they are not the biological parent.
The divorce crisis goes beyond the children, but also redefining the self without the other; they have to let go of the “we” identity and find out who they are again by rediscovering the self. This can be difficult considering that certain communities and societies do not even acknowledge the loss and pain involved in the termination of a gay relationship. In addition, the pain may be reinforced and the person may become isolated by society using the break-up as a justification as to why homosexuality is wrong and dysfunctional. The children of gay relationship may be affected by this lack of understanding and discrimination and negatively affect the individuals. The need to make a commitment to the well-being of their children may become increasingly difficult.
Since the 1950s, the families have become increasingly diverse with an increased number of singles, cohabitation, divorce; gay and lesbian unions, living-apart-together, more long-distance relationships; non-marital births, and lone-parent families. He describes that our understating of divorce needs to change in terms of where we find ourselves today, and ignoring homosexual divorce is a disservice to those families and their children.
The divorce cycle, which is defined as the family structure of origin that influences the effects of marriage formation and stability. It has been suggested that the children of divorce are much more likely to end their own marriages in divorce. He suggested that divorce regardless of the structure of the family; the system is transferred from one generation to the next. This phenomenon is important to research, because the divorce cycle affects a wide spectrum of issues in the family system, such as the role modeling, the lessons’ children learn about relationship skills and marital commitment.
Although couples separating with children encounter extreme pain those children of gay families may face further challenges. Among the issues for which psychological research has been seen as particularly interested with over that last few decades. It is especially of interests in the issue surrounding child custody after divorce, same-sex marriage, adoption, and foster care. The argument provided an impression of the current legal concerns for homosexual parents and their children in the United States. Research findings on lesbian and gay parents and their children suggested that they did not deserve the discrimination they experience in the legal system, which exasperated the emotional crisis of divorce.
Divorce in lesbian couples may involve child custody cases when previously married heterosexual parents are divorcing after their wife has come out as a lesbian and the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation arrangements. In some cases, the crisis in the individual arose when their sexual orientation is taken into question regarding custody and visitation decisions for their minor children. Furthermore, when lesbian couples have adopted a child and subsequently separates, custody and visitation may become a legal issue. Lastly, homosexual parented families may evoke a variety of legal and policy issues, including those involving issues concerning the use of reproductive technology, surrogacy, adoption, and foster care .
Understanding the complexity of lesbian and gay relationships and their children can give insight to those working with these families during the crisis of divorce- but it is also our duty as members of our community to fight for our rights. It can be easy to miss the difficulties a person is facing when their legal rights are not supported or ignored. The crisis can move from family issues to an internal problem with the self and their world.
Lesbian step families can consist of children from an earlier relationship; her children; and partner, who may or may not have children from a prior union. Most children are conceived from previous straight relationships. In addition, lesbian families experience similar difficulties with any other heterosexual blended families, such as rejection, jealousy, and problems between children and step-parents. However, there are unique problems in lesbian families; such as fears about losing custody, having their sexual orientation exposed to other families perhaps even their own children. This type of exposure creates a crisis and a sense of isolation that is notwithstanding greater for their children than themselves, because their children as they do not have peer support. Children of gay parents may have to keep their parents’ sexual orientation a secret, which can be isolating from peers and their community.
Lesbian couples enter therapy because of a crisis with boundaries, sexuality, balancing power, stage differences in coming out process, children and co-parenting, difficulty with family, and the dissolution of the relationship. However, because of the lack of legal and social support this can create numerous problems when those families separate. Because there is no judicial structure of the division of property or determination of custody and financial support of the children, problems could arise. Unfortunately, there is often a parent with no legal relationship with her children who when a break-up occurs, she may lose all contact with her children.
Educate yourself about the matters and the consequences that could arise when lesbians’ relationship fall apart, and children are involved.
- Find a clinician or therapist that is able to mediate with you and your partner before proceeding with custody suits.
- I recommend my lesbian clients to draw up a relationship and parenting contracts that can be used in the event of a separation.
- Recognize that your family will encounter stigma, and not ignore that both parents share parenting roles.
- The problems you may encounter during their separation may be worsened by social stigma and homophobic attitudes, be aware and build a social support system and get help from people and places, such as family, friends, and therapist, LGBT centers, support groups.
Don’t act in fear or hide in shame. Unfortunately, everything in life comes to some type of end. The most important thing to remember is that as the seasons change in your relationship you have to continue to take care of yourself. If mama is happy- babies are happy too.