Child-Friendly Divorce

Divorce can be very good for (some) children. A Spanish colleague was discussing the effects of the 2004 changes in Spanish divorce law — which require only a six-month waiting period in uncontested cases and no separation of living arrangements before the divorce becomes final.

In many Spanish cities there is substantial excess demand for places in some public elementary schools. Entry into the schools is on a first-come, first-served basis, but some preference for those places has been given to children of divorced parents.

Apparently parents have caught on to the incentives involved: Some parents are filing for divorce in January and February (the legal costs of a divorce are very low), with the divorce becoming final in the summer, so that their kids then acquire top priority for entry into a desirable elementary school. The parents re-marry shortly after the child is safely in a desirable school in September; and once in a school a child has the right to remain there.

It took several years for parents to realize the nature of these incentives, but even with complex incentives like these, parents can eventually take advantage of them to their own benefit.


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  1. Wyatt says:

    What a great example of the power of incentives!

    As a soon-to-be father who is struggling with trying to find an opening in a local day-care (most have waiting lists that are nine months long in my township!), I can easily imagine a similar pattern emering in the U.S. if the laws were slightly different.

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  2. AaronS says:

    “Divorce can be very good for (some) children.”

    I doubt that. Unless there is some terrible abuse or such going on in the home, I doubt that divorce has ever been “very good” for any children.

    It wreaks its vengenence in so many ways, I am told. Children wondering about why this or that parent did not “want them.” Parents suddenly on a very different, an unsound economic footing. The introduction of new people into their parents lives that the children are not familiar with. The back and forth between parents, sometimes getting to help carry the emotional baggage of each parent.

    No, divorce if never VERY GOOD. It may be the only course of action at times. But it is a troubling, punishing ordeal, and is never VERY GOOD, I don’t believe.

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  3. Chris H says:

    AaronS: Read the article.

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  4. kip says:

    AaronS: I think you’re overreacting. The only children he said divorce benefits are those whose parents are getting a fake divorce to get their kids into a better school. He said nothing about real divorces. Lighten up a bit! :)

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  5. Gene Shiau says:

    (Aaron, read the 3rd paragraph, please… You jumped onto your platform too soon.)

    The surprise of this story is that Spain is supposed to be rather Catholic. Divorce can’t possibly be good in the minds of those scripturally faithful. How do those couples get around the Church to divorce and remarry each time they have a kid?

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  6. John G says:

    I would think they get around it because divorces are civil (i.e., through the secular legal system) and not religious/institutional (i.e., through the Church by way of an annulment).
    Presumably, as long as the couple maintains their religious “sacramental” vows, what they do from the secular civil side would not be relevant.
    It’s a dual system.
    This is probably what goes on in the mind of those “good” Catholics doing working the system. Not sure whether the Church would endorse this; we’ll have to wait for the next Catechism.

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  7. Ben says:

    While you are all correct that Aaron misunderstood the story, what I found interesting is that he said “(divorce) wreaks its vengenence…I am told.” Obviously his parents did not get divorced, so he is not speaking from a position of experience. My parents divorced when I was 16, and it WAS a very good experience for me. There was no more yelling/fighting in the house, my stress level was lower, and my parents actually got along better after the divorce was final. I honestly wish they’d done it ten years earlier!

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  8. Ann Marie says:

    I find this whole idea fascinating. I work for, it is an online community of support and help for women navigating through the various stages of divorce and life thereafter. It is interesting to see that people willingly go through a divorce, even though it has not baring on the relationship. One of our contributing authors wrote an article on this topic called “The Things We Do For Love” check it out at

    Just my two cents
    Ann Marie

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