The thought of going through a divorce is both heart wrenching and frightening for most people. Further, it is very common to feel like you have failed, or that you wish you could have done things differently. Support groups exist in many areas that can help with the emotional issues associated with divorce, and they can provide practical suggestions on how to move forward. The last thing many people want to deal with are the procedural issues that are associated with a divorce action.
If the parties getting divorced have minor children, one of the most difficult issues involves how to restructure each parent’s relationship and time with children. While kids are generally resilient and will adapt to the new situation, some may take the divorce especially hard. The key is for each parent to maintain a sense of normalcy with the children, to provide a strong sense of stability, and to refrain from putting the children in the middle of the parties’ disputes. The following tips might be helpful:
Remember that your kids still have two parents
It is common that one parent is commonly the “on duty” parent while the other is less involved due to work commitments outside of the home. In some cases, one parent is constantly absent from home, and the other is almost 100% responsible for childcare duties. During a divorce, the less involved or even the “absent” parent may suddenly become much more interested in spending time with the children. Sometimes, this increased interest generates tension between the divorcing couple. The parent who stayed at home resents the newfound interest and may view it as nothing more than a cynical legal ploy or strategy to hurt the parent who stayed at home. The other parent may view that resentment as an attempt to interfere with that parent’s relationship with the children.
While each of these views may have merit in certain cases, oftentimes, the tension is simply the product of both parents trying to cope with a very new situation. The key is for each parent to remember that he or she should do what is best for the children, and always put the interests of children first. Both parents should stress that each parent loves them. The children should understand that they did not cause the divorce (in many cases young children will believe they caused the divorce). In addition, the parents should work hard to make the parenting time transitions smooth and tension free.
Remember to be a parent, and not a friend
One common mistake in a divorce situation is for one or both parents to stop acting as parents and start acting more as friends. Parents are concerned about the impact the divorce is having on their kids. Sometimes this results in a breakdown of discipline and constant questions to child about what they want to do.
It is important to parents to help their children get through the transitions associated with a divorce. However, children still need structure in their lives. Further, by asking the children to make many critical decisions, the parents are unknowingly putting the children in the middle of the divorce. Even though some parents find it very difficult to communicate with the other parent during the divorce, such communication is typically critical for the children’s wellbeing.
Use patience when introducing the children to a “new” person
Transitioning the children into the new living situation is sometimes made more complicated by introducing a new girlfriend or boyfriend into the mix. First, introducing the children to a new “friend” during the divorce will frequently cause significant tension between the parents. The issue is no longer the children’s relationship with the parents, but also the children’s contact with a new person. Second, many new relationships will not last. Introducing the children to new people, only to have those people disappear from the children’s lives, can create a heightened sense of instability for the children. Finally, if you do not know the new person very well, you may not correctly anticipate how they interact with the children and how the children interact with them.
Each parent should exercise good judgment with respect to when and how the children meet a new “friend.” In most cases, the best approach is to wait a good period of time before introducing the children to a “friend.”
Don’t involve the kids in the divorce
It is rarely, if ever, appropriate to involve the children in the divorce. Involving the children means much more than taking them to court with you. Parents should not discuss the divorce case, the financial issues between the parties, motions filed by the other parent, positions the other parent has taken in court or the parenting time issues the parties are negotiating. It is widely recognized that children want and need to feel loved by both parents. When issues concerning the divorce are discussed with the children, they can feel forced to pick a side. This puts significant stress on the children.
Related to this issue, is the need to refrain from saying negative things about the other parent in front of the children. Neither parent should disparage the other parent to the children and should not let anyone else disparage the other parent in front of the children.
If you have issues concerning your divorce matter, you should contact an experienced family law attorney today.