Carolyn Hames, Carolyn [faculty advisor, College of Nursing]
family; divorce; children; courts; legal system; Rhode Island
With the continuous rise of the divorce rate in America, there is also an increase in the number of children and adolescents who must suffer through the divorce along with their parents. For some, the divorce is a relief and can be a positive change in their lives. For others, it is difficult and devastating, filled with conflict and tension. Whatever the circumstances, there are permanent effects that children experience as a result of their parents’ divorce. These effects of divorce on children are becoming better known as generations of children grow up in a single parent home. The court systems have become inundated with families requiring their services, and the case load continues to increase each year. Because of this, it is important to examine the legal system and evaluate its measures to ensure the wellbeing of children involved in the divorce process. For my honors project, I chose to examine this problem on a much smaller scale, one that hits a little closer to home. The focus of my project is divorce, children and families in Rhode Island. I did an independent investigation of literature regarding children and loss, divorce, and the legal system. I also spent hours at the Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence, RI. I shadowed a family law attorney, met and interviewed judges, observed courtroom motions and trials, and sat in on mediations. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 8,200 marriages in Rhode Island during the year 2004, but there were also 3,300 divorces. It is necessary to examine this problem at a local scale because it clearly affects many Rhode Island families and children.