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One couple, divorced many years, lived in separate houses on the same property, but the reality of each other fueled their continued legal hostilities and helped to keep them apart.Some couples maintain the bond by depending upon their ex-spouse for physical or emotional support.In more dysfunctional families, the system may close out one parent entirely.This appears to be a good solution to constant conflict, but it actually causes the parents and children greater stress and depression, and may have severe impact on the children's long-term development and mental health. Although stress reaches a peak at eighteen months, particularly for women, who may still experience daily mood swings, by the end of the second year, the legal and economic issues are usually settled.

Throughout the first year, both parents continue to feel anxious, angry, depressed, rejected, and incompetent.

By now, both spouses begin to seek sexual relationships, which is particularly difficult for the single parent of young children.

When a parent remarries, it is helpful to the children if the stepparent is integrated into the parental system with the ex-spouse.

The parents must redefine a new, non-intimate, co-parent relationship and independent relationships with the children. One who was over-functioning becomes irresponsible; the under-functioning spouse tries to be the perfect mom or dad.

The custodial parent may take on dual parenting roles, and the children, particularly boys, challenge the new regime, especially their single mothers. The non-custodial parent must adjust to the lost time with the children, as well as loss of control.

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