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Question of kids key in marriage and divorce

Many Washington couples with marital problems can trace the argument back to the question of whether or not to have children. Couples who never openly discuss their hopes to have, or not have, kids run the risk of divorce.

Although it may not be realistic to expect resolution of the question before marriage, therapists advise at least talking about parenthood early in the relationship.

Conversation can help accommodate changed minds as couples get older. Psychologists suggest that the basic question of whether to have kids is a good place to start, but that couples really should also be talking about other factors such as how many children to have, how far apart they should be, which parent, if any, might stop working and where the family will live.

Even in couples with high incomes, the question of kids is also a question of money. A recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study indicates that a middle-class family can expect to spend about $295,560, adjusted for inflation, over 17 years for shelter, food and other needs for a child born in 2011.

The data from the study represent a 3.5 percent increase since 2010, with the largest increases in child care, education, food and transportation expenses. The cost of clothing, housing and health care also increased during this time.

Sometimes one partner can feel deceived when the other partner's feelings about having kids shift in one direction or the other. Relationships resting on an agreement, implied or otherwise, about parenthood can be seriously strained when positions shift.

Regret can make for a contentious dissolution of marriage, complicating other negotiations including property division, spousal support and, if there are children involved, child custody and support.

With the stakes so high, couples should consider taking on these difficult questions as early as possible so that they are able to communicate when their relationships are challenged.

Source: The Washington Post, "Divorce attorneys, therapists: Closing the deal on kids before marriage not always realistic," Aug. 20, 2012

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