How to Reduce the Emotional Impact of Divorce on Your Children
Going through a divorce is never an easy decision to make or experience to go through. When kids are involved, things get all the more complicated and sometimes even heartbreaking. As a parent who feels that your marriage is close to its end, you may begin to wonder whether “staying together for the kids” is the best thing to do. For others, divorce is the only option. Either way, when you have decided to go through with the separation, you need to cater not only to your emotional state but that of your children, too.
So, what can you do to reduce the emotional stress of your children during and after a divorce?
Talk with Your Children About the Divorce
Once you’ve made sure that you and your partner will go your separate ways and that the divorce is irrevocable, you need to explain your decision to your children. Plan the conversation. Your goal is to let them know that it’s not their fault that you’re divorcing and that you love your children no matter what. Do your best not to put the blame on the other parent, and try to have that conversation together as a family.
Don’t Fight in Front of the Kids
When a marriage begins to disintegrate, conflict can be an easy habit to fall into. You’re emotionally drained, hurt, and disappointed, and that can easily translate into constant fights. You can say things you don’t necessarily think are true in the heat of the moment, and if your kids are there to hear them, things can quickly escalate. Spare your children’s feelings and prevent them from experiencing a deeper trauma by seeing their parents quarrel daily. You know your partner well enough, and you know their emotional triggers. Do your very best to avoid them and to show your kids you can communicate with your partner productively and civilly. This will reassure them things will be okay after the final separation.
Create a Co-Parenting Plan with the Other Parent
Just because your relationship has come to an end, it doesn’t mean you’re no longer parents to your children. You need to continue prioritizing your kids’ well-being, including their health, education, hobbies, and interests. To do that, you need to work out a co-parenting plan with the other parent (unless there is a valid reason to exclude the other parent from participating).
Even if you don’t get shared custody of the children after the divorce and you’re not the primary custodial parent, you still have responsibility for your children. Multiple studies have shown that kids generally do better when they have ample access to both their parents after a divorce.
Explain the Process, Not the Cost
It’s not nearly enough to sit down and tell your children: “Kids, mom and dad are getting a divorce.” You need to also explain what is going to happen and how much time it will take. Set realistic expectations about the future and that especially sensitive part of their lives. Don’t sugarcoat things, but also stay away from bitter disputes about the overall cost of divorce which your kids can hear. Protect them from any excess negativity that may have come between you and the other parent.
Wait Before You Introduce New Relationships to Your Kids
If you had a particularly heartbreaking divorce and separation, you may be quick to find solace in a new relationship. Or, you might meet someone years after the divorce. Either way, do not introduce a new romantic interest to your kids unless you are confident that the relationship is serious and has potential. Of course, there are no guarantees in love, but as a caring parent, it is your job to ensure your kids feel comfortable and loved at all times. If you fear your new partner may not fit well in your family, you need to take things slow and wait before you make any permanent decisions.
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Family Law FAQ
With major life events and changes, it’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer. Getting through a divorce may also be a very stressful project and you need someone experienced to protect your rights as well as protect your children’s rights (if you have any). Here at Legal Chiefs, we can get you in touch with someone current with the laws in your state concerning divorce, marriage, marital property, child custody, visitation, and family support
The grounds for divorce may be based on no-fault or fault depending on the state, but no-fault divorce is available in some form in all 50 states. Most of the states also have fault-based grounds as an additional option.
A no-fault divorce is one in which neither of the partners blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage and common bases for no-fault divorce may be “incompatibility,” “irretrievable breakdown,” or “irreconcilable differences.” Suppose the parties have lived separately for a certain period with the intent that the separation is permanent. In that case, it is another common basis of no-fault, but once again, the specifics vary from state to state.
With a fault-based divorce, the list of grounds may include physical cruelty, mental cruelty, adultery, attempted murder, habitual drunkenness, desertion, use of addictive drugs, impotence, insanity, and infection of one’s spouse with venereal disease.
While every divorce starts with a bit of bitterness, statistics show that most of the cases are settled without the need for a judge to decide on a property or other issues. In most cases, spouses are free to divide their property as they see fit in what is called a “marital settlement agreement”, a contract between the married couple that divides property and debts and resolves other divorce issues. However, having a family law attorney is still recommended, and in case the division of property cannot be settled, then the court must make the determination. Once again, the specifics vary from state to state, but many states allow both parties to keep their separate and nonmarital properties as a starting point.
Another thing to know about assets and divorce is how dividing marital or community property works. Again, each state has its specifics, and some states are community property states by definition. For example, the state of California divides equality marital property unless a premarital agreement specifies otherwise. However, most states apply the “equitable distribution” concept where the court divides the marital property as it thinks fair. This doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 division. The common factors considered by the court include the amount of nonmarital property, each spouse’s earning power, waste and dissipation, fault, services as a homemaker, duration of the marriage, age, health, and others.
When parents can’t agree on custody of their child/children, the court will decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.” There are many factors involved, not one of which is considered the most important.
Joint custody has two parts - joint legal custody and joint physical custody, and a joint custody order can have both or one of the parts.
● Joint legal custody refers to both parents sharing the significant decisions regarding their child/children, which usually include school, health care, and religious training. Other decisions may include summer camps, extracurricular activities, the age for dating or getting a job, discipline methods, etc.
● Joint physical custody refers to the time spent with each parent. The amount of time is flexible and can range from dividing the time between the two parents’ equality to visits every other weekend, and so on. The residing addresses of the parents are often considered, and living close is important, especially in situations where the time spent with both parents will be divided equally.
Since 1965, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation enabling grandparents to petition the courts for visitation rights with grandchildren. However, granting such rights is not automatic, and in most cases, grandparents merely have grounds for asking for a visitation order. Most commonly, a grandparent may petition for visitation after the death of a parent or upon divorce of the parents. Some states allow petitions when the child has previously lived with the grandparent, a child is born out of wedlock, and when a parent is incarcerated.
Unlike most legal matters where specifics depend on the state, talking to a judge separately is prohibited in all 50 states. All communication with the judge takes place on the record during a hearing. This is a way of ensuring fairness to both sides, and just as you would not want the judge to talk to the other party without you being present, the judge is not allowed to talk to you without the other party being present.
Only before a judge has done anything on the case, each party files one “peremptory challenge.” It costs $450, and there is no way to waive this fee. A new judge will be randomly assigned to your case, meaning you cannot pick the new judge. Be careful with the strict timing requirements for filing a peremptory challenge, as the money spent on a challenge is not refunded.