Children thrive on stability and consistency. Statistics back up a host of problems associated with upheaval in children’s lives, from acting out to trouble in school. Divorce is a significant destabilizing factor in children’s lives, even though it may ultimately be beneficial if the marriage itself is toxic to the children. In this blog, we provide some tips to help you make this transition easier for the children.
Perhaps most common approach for parents is to jointly tell their children are divorcing and are still loved by them and will continue to be actively involved in their lives. The “unknowns” of divorce, or worse, the surprise of a divorce where one parent simply abandons the other with the children, can have life-long consequences. Truly committed parents, who want to minimize the implications for their children, should talk with a therapist or clinical psychologist as to the best way to approach this matter given the children’s ages and maturity levels.
Once the children know about the divorce, there will be many questions. Parents should answer these questions in an age-appropriate manner, always reinforcing that there will continue to be a healthy relationship with both parents. Common questions are what school they will attend and where and with whom they will live. Again, depending upon the age of the children, the answers may vary but be reinforced with the fact that the children will continue to have time and a relationship with the other parent. Depending, again, on how the children react to the news about divorce, therapy may be necessary.
Obviously, this is the appropriate way to handle divorce with the children. However, many parents are bitter and angry with the other parent and use the children in a much different way. They may only communicate adult topics to the other spouse through the children. Worse yet, they may disparage the other parent in front of the children or go so far as to cast the blame for the divorce on the other parent. This not only hurts the children, but hurts the respective parents’ chances in prevailing in his or her custody or parenting time objectives in court.
Specifically, while lack of cooperation and/or isolated acts of misconduct by a custodial parent cannot serve as a basis for custody modification, a parent’s egregious violation of a custody order or behavior toward the other parent, which places the children’s welfare at stake, can support a modification of custody to the other parent.1 Ultimately, if you have anger or resentment as a divorcing parent, this should never be played out in front of the children or you may lose custody.
Ultimately, both parents love their children and wish the best for their future. However, there is an appropriate way to address a divorce with the children and a wrong way. Although it is human nature to cast blame and doubt in the upsetting context of a divorce, the children should be left out of it. Else, you may lose ground in the trial court. If a parent’s behavior and dynamic is significant and harmful to the children’s well-being, it could also lead to supervised visitation.2
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle domestic cases of all types throughout the state. This blog was written by advocates at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. It is for general educational purposes only. It is not legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.