Divorce has a funny way of bringing out some of our worst emotions. Many people wallow in a pool of anger and make all their decisions out of spite. Others feel so guilty that they turn into wet blankets and allow everyone to walk all over them.
With kids in the mix, making decisions from heavily emotional states can make matters worse. No child wants to be in the middle of a contentious divorce. No child benefits if one parent is no longer acting like a parent.
Remember that divorce has two end goals:
- To allow two people to separate and move forward with their lives.
- To make sure any children are taken care of.
To help that process, there are some Golden Rules of divorcing with kids. Keep in mind that showing respect and treating people with care, even when you have bitter feelings, can go a long way toward keeping the children in a good place.
- Don’t use the children as a messenger service. Adult conversations are for adults, not children. You can always email or text if you don’t want to speak to your ex in person. The children do not need the drama.
- Don’t badmouth your ex in front of your kids. Children have a natural tendency to want to think the best of their parents. They often know each parent’s faults and don’t need you to point them out. Talking bad about your ex only makes the children respect you less.
- Don't tell the children all the things that your ex is not paying for. “The reason you don’t have school supplies…” or “The reason you don’t have new shoes….” are not appropriate statements for your children. If your ex is not living up to their responsibilities, discuss it directly with them or consult your attorney.
- Don’t discuss court-related matters with your children. Discussing the ins and outs of your ongoing court case can cause a lot of stress for your children. It’s much better to discuss these issues with your lawyer. They can tell you whether it’s appropriate for the children to hear and how best to present it.
- Settle on a custody arrangement that minimizes movement. No one likes having to uproot every few days, especially children. Too often, due to poor custody planning, children get their bearings in one location only to have to bounce over to a different one. If it can be done, try to allow the children to spend longer blocks of time in each location for greater stability.
- Don’t pressure the children to tell you who they want to stay with and when. Unless your child is an older teenager, this is too adult of a decision to discuss with the kids. Not only is it a lot of pressure to decide, often children will feel guilty about dissing the other parent. Work out a good custody arrangement with the help of your lawyer, stick to it and do your best to help the children adjust.
- Don’t allow the kids to play parents off each other. If you allow it, kids will switch locations when they need to escape one parent or another. If it’s a safety issue, that’s one thing. However, you don’t want to teach the children that escaping conflict is a better solution than working it out.
- You also don’t want one parent to be perceived as the “easy” parent. Both parents, even when estranged, should still be able to support each other appropriately as parents for the overall well-being of the children.
- What goes on at the other parent’s house stays at that house (within reason). It’s one thing to ask your kids what happened on their visit to see your ex. It’s something totally different to grill them for details about what your ex is doing and who they are doing it with. Be respectful and don’t try to pry personal details about your ex out of your children after a visit.
- Use an divorce attorney to help you through the divorce process. Because divorce can be such an emotional process, you need to have a third party who can help you advocate more strongly when you’re feeling guilty, and ground you when you’re acting out of spite.
An experienced family attorney knows that following these Golden Rules of divorce not only makes things smoother for you and your children, but also helps you put your best foot forward in front of the judge. Trusting the advice of your attorney can help you show the court that you are a stable, trustworthy parent.
For more information on divorcing with kids, contact the Family Matters Law Group using our convenient online contact form. If you are in Henry, Clayton, or Fayette counties, as well as the greater Atlanta metro area, we’d love to sit down in a consultation and hear your story.