According to experts, divorce is the most stressful event that an adult can experience. For most people, divorce is more stressful than losing a job, moving, or even experiencing the death of a friend or relative.
If it is stressful for adults, imagine how stressful it can be for children. For a spouse, the possibility of divorce is always real. But for a child, divorce is unthinkable.
Here are some ideas on how to navigate divorce with children to achieve the best outcome for you and our kids.
There is no better suggestion for how to deal with divorce and children than to hire a good family law firm to represent you and your children’s interests. Ideally, both parents will hire lawyers who will work in their children’s interests even if the lawyers cannot agree on anything else.
When deciding issues that involve the children, judges measure everything against the best interests of the child. Under the ‘best interests of the child’ test, a judge can consider almost anything relevant to the child’s interests including:
Regardless of the issue, you should choose a lawyer who can present a fair but aggressive case for the child’s best interests. This can be difficult. In the heat of a divorce, you might want to win every argument. But in issues that involve your children, you want to fight for their interests rather than trying to score points.
You need to discuss your rights with your child custody attorney and find a way to reach a fair custody arrangement. If you can come up with a fair custody arrangement, you may be able to negotiate with your spouse to settle that part of the divorce case. Eliminating tough issues like custody is one path for how to deal with divorce and children.
Custody has two parts:
When you commence a divorce case, the judge will enter a series of temporary orders. These orders will control the actions of the spouses until the divorce is complete. For example, a judge might give one spouse possession of the family residence in a temporary order.
Many spouses approach temporary orders too lightly. They feel that since the orders are temporary, they are wasting their money by fighting over them.
This is the wrong approach. Judges are very likely to make their temporary orders into permanent orders at the end of a divorce unless something in the divorce proceeding convinced them that the temporary order was wrong. This means that one of the most important steps for how to deal with divorce and children is to fight for temporary orders that you can live with forever.
For example, getting possession of the family home is a very important factor in getting weekday parenting time. Judges do not want to disrupt the children’s lives. They will usually give weekday parenting time to the parent who gets the family home and can take the children to their usual school. Moreover, judges usually want to minimize the parents’ expenditures during the divorce until their property can be divided. By leaving the children in the family home, the parent with weekend parenting time does not need to buy furniture for children.
Divorce does not need to be heated. And reducing the temperature of a divorce can be an important step for how to deal with divorce and children.
Remember that even if you never see your ex-spouse again after the divorce, your children still have both of their parents. A heated divorce can create hostility that your children will sense. Before fighting over the antique rug and who has to pay the local moving company to move it, consider whether the fight is worth having your children hear you and your ex-spouse’s grudges for the rest of their lives.
Instead, keep your eye on the goal. Divorce lawyers are fond of saying that no happy marriage ends in divorce. Divorce is a solution to a broken marriage. You, your spouse, and your children cannot live in a broken marriage. Living in a toxic environment will do long-lasting damage to everyone involved.
Divorce solves that problem. By going your separate ways, you and your ex-spouse have an opportunity to get on with your lives rather than being stuck in a damaged relationship with irreconcilable differences. Both of you could become better people and, more importantly, better parents by leaving the bad relationship behind.
So, instead of fighting a bitter divorce and dragging out the process to fight over every little detail, consider mediation or collaborative divorce.
On the other hand, if your marriage involved abuse, threats, or violence, one of your highest priorities for how to deal with divorce and children will be protected. One way to lay the groundwork for this will be to request protective orders when you file the divorce petition.
Protective orders can cover a range of topics for you, your children, and your family including:
While they are not routine, protective orders can be easily obtained in a divorce proceeding. A judge may require you to provide some documentation of the harassment, threats, or violence. But in the age of smartphones, threatening text messages, voicemails, or videos should be sufficient. Also, past police reports for domestic violence or kidnapping will provide a basis for a protective order.
In some states, you can even file a divorce with your address redacted. If you loaded up the packing boxes and moved away from the family home, the court will take care not to disclose your address, so you cannot be found by your spouse during the divorce.
Another step in how to deal with divorce and children is to prepare for child support. Child support is not punishment for divorcees. Rather, it is a way for the court to ensure children have sufficient financial resources to meet their needs.
Most states have a formula or schedule for calculating child support. The considerations in calculating child support include:
You may need help finding how to deal with divorce and children. If your child seems to be taking the divorce particularly hard, you might consider counseling services. Child counselors are trained to identify potential sources of trauma and help children process the trauma instead of coping in negative ways. For example, your child might need counseling if the child is:
Children often lack the tools to cope with emotional trauma, whether that trauma arises from abuse, a divorce, or being adopted from child adoption services. By getting help for your child, you are helping your child develop life-long coping skills that will serve the child through all sorts of trauma. By addressing the problem early, you may be avoiding later problems.
There is no single approach for how to deal with divorce and children. But preparation before the divorce, planning for collaboration when possible, and protecting your children when collaboration is impossible will provide a good start. Do not be afraid to ask for help from a good divorce attorney and child counselor.
Finally, keep in mind that divorce is a solution for a broken marriage. This idea will put you and your children in the right frame of mind when approaching a divorce.