Though ostensibly about racial equity for Black fathers, "Do Black fathers matter in Minnesota?" (Opinion Exchange, Feb. 4) is really about changing custody laws. I would argue that the real "slaves" in this are children who are treated like property in custody laws, and that the real harm is not these laws but divorce itself.
Matthew Larson's conclusion that shared and equal parenting can prevent the primary harm to children from divorce is simply not shared by many children who have been interviewed about their parents' divorces ("Between Two Worlds" by Elizabeth Marquardt; "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce" by Judith Wallerstein). The primary harm to children is the divorce itself, which negatively affects children at the time of the separation and for the rest of their lives.
The author asserts that it is not the separation of the parents but the loss of a true relationship with one of their parents that does harm: I disagree. My stepchildren had equal time with their parents and struggled just as much as I did when I was a child of divorced parents with a different custodial arrangement. They also have some of the same ill effects — insecurity, fear of attachment/abandonment, fear of failure, fear of conflict, fear of love, fear of disaster — that I and others with divorced parents suffer from well into adulthood.
Those who espouse the "good divorce" as the answer to children's well-being post-divorce are adults who clearly don't understand the harmful effects of their actions on their children. No matter how "good" the divorce arrangements (low-conflict, cooperative, shared parenting with equal time), the breakup of families causes deep identity wounds in children that no amount of intervention can prevent ("The Children of Divorce," by Andrew Root).
Wallerstein wrote "For children, divorce is a watershed that permanently alters their lives. The world is newly perceived as a far less reliable, more dangerous place because the closest relationships in their lives can no longer be expected to hold firm."
She goes on to say that the safety net that post-divorce co-parenting provides for children is irrelevant in adulthood. "Contrary to what we have long thought, the major impact of divorce does not occur during childhood or adolescence. Rather, it rises in adulthood as serious romantic relationships move center stage."
No matter how equal the time is with parents, a child still has half the face time with each parent, and sometimes even less when new families or parental stress factors come into play. Kids often reveal how split homes are a burden, having to navigate two different sets of values, rules and parenting styles, in addition to having to carry their belongings back and forth between homes.
The author's goal to permanently change custody laws to a one-size-fits-all approach without taking individual family situations into account is dangerous and misguided. Casting joint physical custody into law could endanger the lives of children who may be forced into unsafe situations.
Divorce is devastating for kids. There have been a host of studies, 67 of which were compiled by researchers Paul Amato and Bruce Keith, that conclude, "In particular, children with divorced parents achieve lower levels of success at school, are more poorly behaved, exhibit more behavioral and emotional problems, have lower self-esteem, and experience more difficulties with interpersonal relationships" ("Children of Divorce in the 1990s: An Update of the Amato and Keith  Meta-Analysis").
Over 1 million children experience the divorce of their parents each year in the United States. What we really need is for parents in low-conflict marriages (67% of divorces) to find a way to work on and preserve their marriages and stop spending time and energy talking about "good" divorces. For children there is no such thing.
Sandra Howlett, of Stillwater, is a volunteer for lifegivingwounds.org.