By SAM SHAWVER, Special to The News and Sentinel
Photo by Sam Shawver
Divorced parents Matt Hively, left, and Jorun Picciano share custody of their children, Jacob, 15, Michaela, 13, and Jacynda, 12. At center is the Piccianos’ dog, Max.
MARIETTA - An estimated 15 to 20 percent of divorced moms and dads share the parenting of their children in the U.S., according to statistics from the Washington, D.C.-based American Coalition for Fathers & Children, a nonprofit organization that supports shared parenting.
But shared or joint custody of children after divorce is becoming more popular as courts realize the importance of both birth parents to children's lives.
That's just common sense, according to Matt Hively of Marietta and his former wife, Jorun Picciano of Williamstown, who have shared custody of their three children, Jacob, Michaela and Jacynda for the last 10 years.
"The first thing you have to decide is what's best for the kids," Matt said. "If more people would focus on their kids and not try to play them against one parent or the other, things can work out."
"Just because Matt and I couldn't live together doesn't mean we can't be friends and be there for our kids," she said.
Jacob, 15, Michaela, 13, and 12-year-old Jacynda share two homes with their parents, but are equally at ease with mom or dad.
"We each have our own homes, but have set them up so the kids can show up at either house without having to pack anything," Matt said.
One thing that makes their situation unique is that both Matt and Jorun have remarried and all four spouses are close friends that have a hand in caring for each other's children.
"Matt's more like a brother-in-law to me, and we are good friends," said Jorun's husband, Nick Picciano.
"And having another guy's perspective in the family is really helpful sometimes," Matt said.
Matt's wife, Diana, completes the team.
"If anything would happen to Matt, Diana would still be there for the kids," Jorun said.
In addition to Matt and Jorun's three biological children, Matt and Diana have a daughter, Megan, 9, and Nick has a 12-year-old daughter, Lucia, from his previous marriage.
"All five see each other as siblings," Jorun said.
Matt, a Marietta firefighter, and Jorun, a paramedic with Medcorp of Marietta, work staggered schedules of 24 hours on and 48 off, which means one or the other is always home for the kids.
"People are going to read this and think, 'are they insane?'" Nick said, adding that most people would have a hard time believing divorced parents like Jorun and Matt could provide a stable environment for their children.
"But they've put their differences behind because they realized it takes both parents for this to work, and the kids are the glue that holds it all together," Nick said.
Matt and Jorun are quick to acknowledge that it wasn't always easy, and takes some work to maintain the family environment with two households.
"It probably took at least six to eight months for us to work out all the logistics at first," Jorun said.
"There was a lot of trial and error at the beginning," Matt said. "It's a process and you really have to work at it.
"But I didn't want to be a 'weekend' dad. You hear about kids who end up in jail or in trouble because they didn't have their dad around, and I didn't want our kids to grow up that way," he added.
"You also have to consider that, no matter what, you're always going to be these children's parents, even after they're grown," Jorun said.
She said they worked hard to make the transition as seamless as possible for the children after the divorce.
"We know we're fortunate to have this situation," Jorun said. "At the end of a ball game, Jacob doesn't have to be concerned about which parent he should go to - we all sit in the bleachers together and have a good time."
And the kids have learned there are some benefits to having two homes.
"We get to have Christmas twice," Jacynda said.