We all know that divorce affects everyone, but children are the most vulnerable. If you are in the process of going through a divorce – or considering one – and have children in the home, these are the types of situations you may encounter. We advise our clients to prepare as much as possible, and follow these helpful tips so that you may limit the effects of the divorce on dependents.
Schedules & Disruption
- If you’re planning to move, consider your children, as moving is a big deal to them. Minimize the disruption to the lives of the children, like pulling them out of school. Try to keep them in the same school they’ve been attending all along. Or, wait until natural transitional moments like moving from elementary to middle school or middle to high school. Avoid mid-year changes as children like and need stability and continuity.
- Make as few schedule changes as possible for the children. If they are playing soccer, let them keep playing. If they are learning instruments, let them keep doing it. If they are in school, keep them at the same school.
- Work out carpooling or bus schedules. If you’re at a new home, you may need to set up a new form of transportation to and from school. Consider carpooling with friends in your new neighborhood.
- In the instances of split custody – as a provider – understand that your lifestyle is most likely going to change as you are now paying for two households instead of one.
- Couple that with the fact that children need to spend as much time as possible with both parents, so schedules will change as well. Remember our point above about limiting these changes as much as possible.
- Avoid using the word, “visitation”, and watch your vernacular with children. Set up a united front.
- Your children will be living in two separate houses, and that may mean needing everything at both houses, like clothes, toys, bikes, etc. Some are fortunate in being able to provide two of everything, but there are many that are not going to be able to do that. Consider overnight bags in those instances. To the extent possible, we recommend basic needs are met at both homes and duplicate their surroundings at both places, so both feel like home.
- Parents should be supportive of the relationship with the other parent. Remember a child’s identity comes from both parents. If one is the “bad guy”, then they may start to feel bad about themselves. Divorce can affect them psychologically.
- Know who has the right and authority to choose doctors and schools. As mentioned, this should remain unchanged if possible. Don’t change doctors unless someone moves away, or if the practice is not covered under (new) insurance. In order to maintain the continuity they need, keep the same doctors they’ve been seeing all along.
- Avoid using the children as bargaining chips by moving them away to other doctors, counselors, schools simply to prevent the other parent from getting information about what is going on. We recommend that both parents have open access to all information about the children – counseling, medical, academic. We strive to finalize a divorce under amicable terms.
- If one parent agrees to pay for college, make sure it is clearly written, along with the amount, in the settlement agreement so it is a contractual agreement and can be upheld.
Words Hurt or Heal
- We’ve seen many divorce cases unfold during our 30 years of experiences, and many times parents have chosen to “indirectly” speak about their ex-spouses to friends or family members within an ear shot of a child so that they would conveniently overhear. Cunning and devious tactics cause more harm than good for children and their emotional state of mind.
- Avoid tit-for-tat tactics. If one parent is speaking poorly, do not speak poorly back in the presence of children. Take the high road and speak positively about the other parent. Many people don’t understand the effect it has on their kids.
- We understand that our clients have zero control over what third parties – particularly adult friends and family members – say to other adults. But, those who choose to speak within an earshot of their kid’s friends usually gossip about them at school. This brings us to our next important tip…
- Be proactive with adult acquaintances. Minimize the impact by contacting friends, neighbors, family members and teachers proactively. Email them, call them, set up conferences or private get togethers, and discuss the impending split up or divorce. Ask them to refrain from engaging in gossip. However well intentioned, avoid talking about the situation in the presence of children. Acknowledge that it’s a hard time and the help from those close to the family is greatly appreciated. Refraining from gossip is for the benefit of the children.
- We’ve seen many children blame themselves for their parents split up. It is an important time to get across to the children that it isn’t their fault. The parties to the divorce are adults and take care of themselves mentally and emotionally. However, children are minors, and they do not have the capacity to take care of themselves financially, physically or mentally. It seems important for parents to understand that about their children and to be sensitive and accommodating to it. Be aware that a divorce is going to be upsetting, and that may be reflected in behavioral or academic issues at school and friendships with other children.
- Don’t think that a split up or divorce isn’t impacting the children. Even if they do not show it early on in the process, it may resurface. Consider providing emotional support from the beginning.
The bottom line is that children need to be protected. We genuinely care about the families of our clients and hope these suggestions will minimize the impact of divorce on children as much as possible. When appropriate, our team is happy to provide referrals for therapeutic or financial needs.
Please contact our divorce firm – located conveniently at the center of Mount Pleasant – with legal divorce questions. We’re here for you.