In the last season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” when the Weissmans’ housekeeper gets married and makes clear her plans to leave, it suddenly dawns on Miriam and the rest of the family that they will need to find someone else to take care of the children.

As in the rest of the show, the fact that the children are an afterthought for the divorced couple is played for laughs. How else would it be possible for a stand-up comic who works days as a television writer, and her ex-husband who helps with his parents’ clothing business and runs a nightclub, to manage child care in the late 1950s?

Today, of course, there would be an official custody arrangement approved by a judge and managed by a family mediator, with a number of lawyers needed to sign off on every parenting decision. Hiring a new nanny could require its own hearing in family court.

These formalized features of a modern divorce agreement are also absent in the show “Ted Lasso.” Though Ted seems to think more about his son than the Maisels think about their children, the boy’s presence on the other side of the ocean, where he lives with Ted’s ex-wife, is still largely a distraction. Like the Maisels’, the couple’s arrangement also seems amicable and ungoverned by outside authorities. 

As anyone who has spent time in family court can tell you, this situation is for the best. Family court judges are overwhelmed — often the same courts managing custody disputes are also managing child abuse and foster care cases. The delays are endless. It is hard for court officers to know what is really going on in a family. And even when judges issue rulings, parents often defy them only to have their ex-partner bring them back to court.

The use of mediators, which has become more common in recent years, has relieved some of the pressure. But their services are expensive and almost everyone involved is getting an hourly wage, which means that the party with the most disposable income will probably win. 

Divorce should be avoided whenever possible, especially when children are involved. There is ample evidence that children do better, both in real time and later in life, when they grow up in a home with both biological parents. And research has found that most married people get happier over time if they stay together.

But when couples make the painful decision to separate, the legal process can make a bad situation even worse.

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The difficulty of having strangers adjudicate decisions about your family may have been part of the tragic story of Catherine Kassenoff, who was cut off from contact with her three children, ages 9, 12 and 13, by a court in New York.

Kassenoff committed suicide in Switzerland, where she seems to have gone for help with killing herself (she also had terminal cancer). In her parting note, Kassenoff wrote: “I cannot survive this torment and the grief that comes from such a prolonged separation from my children. … The court system did this to me.”

She went on to describe family court as a “predatory system that functions in darkness — through ‘gag orders’ like the one in my case, through a publicly inaccessible docket, through a closed courtroom, and through ex parte ‘temporary’ orders that are in place for years.”

Though it is hard to know what is going on in any marriage (or divorce), it does seem as if Kassenoff had a point. There appear to have been numerous irregularities in her case (for example, It’s been reported that the judge was apparently friends with the custody evaluator — even presiding at his wedding) and the case had dragged on for four years. Now, tragically, three children have been cut off from their mother permanently.

It is not clear what the policy solution is for any of this. Family court lawyers and judges are often the lowest paid members of the legal profession and they are grappling with staggering backlog. Nor is it clear that throwing more money at the problem would help. As folks in family law have told me, there is a lot of burnout, too. Dealing with all of this heartache day after day is not easy. 

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It might be helpful if we had some minimum requirement for what constitutes a reason to go back to court. Not every disagreement needs to be re-litigated at the drop of a hat, especially when resources may be unequal. But issuing a blanket rule on returning to court will disadvantage the partner who is following the agreement and allow the one who is skirting the law to get away with it longer.

Government has a poor track record for fixing what ails families. But while these agreements are necessary, it might also be useful to think about what other supports families can have. Is it possible for friends or families or religious leaders to step in to help divorced couples navigate some of their disagreements and prevent the children from becoming pawns in these fights?

Divorce can be heartbreaking for all those involved, including extended family. For couples whose relationship is already acrimonious, it may be hard to imagine finding a third party whom both members trust. But just as members of the community are supposed to support a marriage, they may also be a key to supporting, when necessary, a more amicable divorce. 

Naomi Schaefer Riley is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Deseret News contributor and the author of “No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives,” among other books.

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