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Voices of Children of Divorce - The Book

Now also available as an E-book

Buy Voices of Children of Divorce

"Dr. David Royko's Voices of Children of Divorce provides sage observations from the children who have been the witness of adult folly. The book is truly wonderful in that it allows children with vastly different experiences to share their perspectives with clarity and focus, in the process teaching adults how to better manage divorce."

Bennett L. Leventhal, M.D., Irving B. Harris Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Chicago

"At last we hear from that silent majority, the children, who are always the victims in divorce. Dr. David Royko's collection of their candid observations should move divorcing parents to reevaluate their priorities and their behavior."

Jenny Garden, author of The (Almost) Painless Divorce: What Your Lawyer Won't Tell You

"Among the scores of books concerning divorce, rarely have the voices of the innocent victims--the children--been heard. In Dr. Royko's deeply moving assemblage of the kids' sometimes troubled yet revealing thoughts, we hear them at last"

Studs Terkel, author of Working

"The silent sounds of family breakups are captured with startling clarity by Dr. David Royko, who helps us to hear the observations and intimate revelations of those who have the least control of the process and who are most affected by it. By giving voice to these silent witnesses, Dr. Royko confirms for us working in the field--lawyers, judges, mediators, social workers, and therapists--the devastating impact of divorce on those least able to cope, and the need for divorcing parents to develop an awareness of the child's perspective." Benjamin S. Mackoff, former presiding judge of the Cook County Domestic Relations Court and director of family mediation services, Schiller, DuCanto and Fleck



Voices of Children of Divorce (author)

Golden Books Adult (hardcover), 1999

St. Martin’s Press (paperback), 2000

Macmillan (eBook), 2012

Marriage: Just a Piece of Paper?

Eerdmans Press, 2002

Anderson, Browning, Boyer, ed.

Interview subject of chapter titled David Royko


Innovations in Court Services

AFCC Press, 2010

Cori K. Erickson, ed.

Co-author (with C. Levitz and S. Zingery) of chapter:

Screening for Domestic Violence in Family Mediation Cases


Royko in Love: Mike's letters to Carol

University of Chicago Press, 2010

Edited by David Royko


The Chronicles of Ben: Adventures in Autism

Smashwords eBook, 2013

Music (writing)

The Grove Dictionary of American Music

(second edition, 2013, Oxford University Press)

Contributor (5 entries)


Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Bluegrass Unlimited,

New York Times, others;

Hundreds of features, reviews, articles on bluegrass, jazz, classical, rock music: 1992-present


CD liner notes for:

Buell Neidlinger; Ron Spears; Ralph Stanley; Don Stiernberg; Bob Amos; the Waybacks; Jimmy Sturr; Chris Jones; Wayfaring Strangers, Special Consensus


Contributor to annual Village Voice--Pazz & Jop critic's poll

Contributor to annual Nashville Scene critic's poll

Writing (non-music)

Parents Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, others articles on autism, children and divorce, additional subjects, 1999-present


Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Illinois

Since 1991



People Magazine, Chicago Parent, others;

TV, radio, print interviews on divorce, music, autism


WRMN-AM, Elgin, IL

Royko's Shrink Radio

Co-host, weekly call-in radio program: 1999-2000


This American Life

National Public Radio

Segment: Hit Me With Your Best Shot (writer, voice): 2006


All in the Mind

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

Episode: Love Is a Battlefield

Follow-up to our This American Life story: 2009


Children of Divorce in the Classroom:

Two-Day Workshop for Education Professionals

Designed & taught for SkyLight Professional Development & Training



Keeping Cool When the Game Gets Hot:

Youth Sports Parental Rage Workshops: 2001-2005

Co-Director, developer and presenter


Autism Boot Camp

Co-Director and presenter


Lake Forest College

Sterling Price Williams Prize in Psychology: 1981


Roycemore School (Evanston, IL)

Distinguished Alumnus of the Year: 2000


International Bluegrass Music Association

Print Media Person of the Year: 2002


International Bluegrass Music Association

Final Ballot Nominee

Best Liner Notes: 2014

[For: Special Consensus: Country Boy]

(Won by Neil Rosenberg)


Family Mediation Services

(FKA Marriage & Family Counseling Service) Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois - Mediation, Intervention, Parent Education, Custody Evaluation

Mediator/Conciliator, 1988-1992

Director, 1992-present


Ravenswood Hospital

Community Mental Health Center

Community Connection Programs, Chicago, IL 

Staff Therapist, 1986-1988


Michael Reese Hospital

Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Institute Adjunctive Therapy Department, Chicago, IL 

Therapist and Supervisor Evening/Weekend Adjunctive Therapy, 1984-1986


University of Illinois at Chicago

Student Counseling Service

Intern, 1985-1986


Lakeview Community Mental Health Center Chicago, IL 

Therapy Practicum, 1984-1985


Cook County Department of Corrections Cermak Hospital & Residential Treatment Unit (RTU)

Chicago, IL 

Diagnostic Practicum, 1983-1984


Ravenswood Hospital Day Treatment Center Chicago, IL 

Undergraduate Intern, 1980


Huffington Post blog

October 2015-present


Juggling Autism: The Chronicles of Ben Royko blog

May 2011-present Blog (this website)

January 2024-present


Illinois School of Professional Psychology, Chicago

Psy.D. (1989)


Lake Forest College

BA, Psychology (1981)

Mediation and my Epiphany in an Elevator

Illinois State Bar Association's Family Law Newsletter 
Another View
January, 2001
Volume 44, Number 2
by David Royko, Psy.D.


Last week, I learned that elevators can be great little rooms for big epiphanies, or at least re-epiphanies. This shouldn't surprise me since I've come to appreciate those brief descents for the opportunities they provide for feedback and quality control.


As the Director of Marriage & Family Counseling Service (MFCS), the Office of the Chief Judge's department that provides, among other things, mediation for custody and visitation disputes filed in Domestic Relations, I am the person who gets the occasional call of complaint from a client who is displeased with how their mediation proceeded, or how their attorney is handling the case, or how that idiot they are divorcing is evil, or how nobody has ever really had a chance to hear their side of the story, or all of the above rolled into one wrenching,

woeful tale.


But the elevator eavesdropping in which I can't help but engage frequently provides a candid take on how a client's MFCS experience felt to them. Sometimes I share these overheard comments and impressions with our staff. Funny how people will say some things -- positive or negative-- in a crowded elevator that they might not express directly to the people they are talking about. At least they give me a

good excuse for not taking the stairs.


But last week, a young woman expressed something that she was willing to say directly to the person at issue--me.


While we were waiting for the elevator to take us down, she held the hand of her 4-year-old son. I said hi to the boy, and inquired as to

the identities of the characters in his hand, even though I was already well-acquainted with both Big Bird and Cookie Monster. As he told me that they were his favorite Sesame Street "people," the elevator arrived. As we stepped in, his mother asked if I was a mediator, to which I answered "yes."


"I thought I recognized you, especially your voice," she said. "I think I might have been one of your clients." Not recognizing her, I asked when that was.


"When I was 13."


In the remaining moments of the elevator ride and a few more on the first floor, she explained that her parents had gone through a divorce.

She didn't realize it at the time, but her parents had been gearing up for a custody fight, and were ordered to go through mediation in our department. I was their mediator, and as part of our mediation process, I had interviewed her, 12 years ago. She was now 25, going through a divorce herself, and had just completed mediation.

"We reached a full agreement, just like my parents did, thank God," she said through a sigh of relief. Her boy tugged on her hand, bored and eager to get outside and to some place more interesting than the lobby of 69 West Washington.


But before she let him lead her off, she thanked me, and got a bit teary, probably brought on by what she was going through as a divorcing parent stirred together with what she went through herself as a child. Or maybe for what she did not have to go through as a child.

She explained that, when she met with me as a kid on the cusp of adolescence, she didn't even know her parents were arguing about custody. Her mother only informed her of that part of the tale when she herself filed for divorce earlier this year. Her mother warned her not to let things drag on, to work through the problems quickly, to settle things before they got out of hand and hurt the child, and to take full advantage of mediation. "Without mediation," her mother said, "who knows what would have happened, to all of us."


The woman finished by telling me that, after their divorce, her parents did a great job of "keeping things cool," and that was her goal as well.


A depressing story? Not to me. Yes, it does represent the all-to-common divorce cycle of history repeating itself, but that is something that I have seen thousands of times in the years I have done this kind of work. I long ago accepted, despite the admonishments, if not scolding, of researchers like Judith Wallerstein, that divorce is, was, and always will be a reality for many families, and cycles will repeat.


But my re-epiphany--re, because it was one that I first had early on as a mediator--was just how important it is to keep conflict away from kids, and also that, even if divorce rates remain high, maybe the message of alternative dispute resolution is getting through.


Here was a woman whose mother prepped her for mediation by stressing how different life might have been had the family slogged through litigation to settle what they themselves had the power to settle

themselves. Divorce and the aftermath, like marriage itself, can be for better or for worse: mediation is usually the best bet for "better," while litigation is often the recipe for "worse."


Having worked for 13 years with families going through what is usually the most stressful period of their lives, I am still reminded of the importance of mediation on a daily basis when I see parents and

children as they enter our offices, their faces tense, sad or angry. What has been heartening is how many more attorneys are interested in mediation now as opposed to when I entered this field. I am frequently contacted by lawyers who are seeking advice on where they can receive high quality training in mediation. Some of these lawyers are not even planning on being mediators themselves, but wish simply to add mediation skills to their toolbox for the legal work they perform for their clients.


One detail that the woman in the elevator mentioned to me was that her attorney had "prepped her well" for mediation, encouraging her to enter into the process seriously and to keep in mind what is at stake--her child's well being. "He sounded just like my parents," she said to me. You may be tempted to insert your own lawyer-joke punchline here. Me? I just smiled, thankful for solid advice from good parents, and good attorneys.

Co-editor's note:
David Royko is a licensed clinical psychologist, author of the book, "Voices of Children of Divorce " (St. Martin's Press), and has been a mediator with the Circuit Court of Cook County's Marriage & Family Counseling Service since 1988, and Director since 1993.

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