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Support kids through divorce

7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Kids Through Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating, planning, or coparenting after divorce, if you’re a parent it’s vitally important that your children are your top priority. Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, put yourself in their shoes in order to best support your kids. Think about the consequences for them. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen-year-old. Ask yourself, what will they say about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce, or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make will affect your children for years and, yes, decades to come. For their sake, try to take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

Here are some helpful tips for mindfully supporting the children you love before, during, and long after your divorce.

Before Divorce: Avoid Showing Conflict Around the Kids!

  1. Studies show time and again that conflict and tension around children creates the most difficulties for them related to divorce. It’s not the divorce itself! Parents can ease the process for their kids by eliminating battles, disrespectful behavior, and emotional outburst anywhere near the kids. That means no fighting on the phone, in another room, during pick-ups and drop-offs, or when talking with friends within earshot of your child.
  2. When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent, regardless of how justified it may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways.

    Kids innately love and feel connected to both their parents. When you insult their other parent, it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

    Instead, support your kids by reminding them that you will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace their parents either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.

  3. Don’t wait for emotional or behavioral problems to appear. It is often wise to talk to a coparenting coach or family therapist in advance about issues worth your attention when assisting your children through divorce. Or schedule a few sessions with your children so they can express their anxiety, fear, anger, etc., and feel heard by an objective, third party. Ask friends, pediatricians, clergy, divorce coaches, or school professionals for referrals to professionals experienced with helping children through divorce.

During Divorce: Separate without Blaming or Shaming Your Kids

  1. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce no matter how bad their parents’ relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely it is for this to occur. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like:“Sadly, Mom and Dad* don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the things are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child we both love. We disagree about some things—but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”
  2. Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be challenging. Others will be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. It is important to address these issues. Remind the kids that the family is changing in some ways, but change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything around us keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

When is it Parental Estrangement and when is it Parental Alienation?

Read more and learn the difference.


As challenging as it may be, always keep from pointing fingers or blaming their other parent when talking to the kids about the divorce. It bears repeating: they love both parents and shouldn’t be judged nor shamed for this. Remember, it’s your divorce, not theirs!

After Divorce: Coparent with Mindful Love and Attention to Support Your Kids!

  1. Prioritize spending time and attention with your children. With all the stress in your life, it’s easy to overlook your kid’s need for stability and security. The best source for that support is you. It’s easy to take solace with friends or bury yourself in work, but keep in mind that your children need your support more than ever right now. Your love and attention are the most valuable resources you can share with them. Make sure you are generous with both!
  2. Let your kids still be kids. That means never burdening them with adult responsibilities beyond their age level. Your children should not become your messengers. Use texts or online scheduling tools for that! They are not your confidants either. Contact coparenting coaches and counselors for vital support you need. Never share adult content with them, as tempting as it may be, even with your teens. It halts their childhood innocence and throws them into your parental drama. Their brains aren’t developed enough to digest it. And they certainly can’t fix your damaged relationship. So, it’s not only foolish, it’s selfish.

Remember, divorce imposes changes within the family that your children never asked for. With these suggestions in mind, support your kids in ways that deepen your relationship at a time when they need it most. They’ll thank you when they are grown!

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach. She’s the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About The Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her coaching services, programs, e-courses, and other valuable resources along with her free ebook on co-parenting success strategies, visit her website here.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. For simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Custody Battle - How to Avoid Custody Issues During a Divorce

What is a Custody Battle and How Do You Avoid One?

A custody battle occurs when divorcing or divorced parents disagree about who should retain legal or physical custody of their children. Unfortunately, this is a common cause of litigation in family court, second only to litigation over support payments.

Custody battles are costly, both emotionally and financially, and can wreak havoc in the lives of the children involved. It’s important to educate yourself about the common causes of custody battles, how to avoid one, how to defend your child’s best interests, and what to do if you must file one.

How is Child Custody Awarded?

Absent any evidence that a parent is unfit, family law judges in most states will apply some form of a “best interests of the child” analysis. They will also factor in the rights of each parent to maintain a relationship with their children.

In determining the best interests of a child, a judge will consider:

  • The child’s age (younger children need more hands-on care);
  • Any evidence of the parenting ability of each parent;
  • What parenting arrangement will maintain a consistent routine for the child;
  • How any proposed change will impact the child’s current routine or lifestyle;
  • The child’s wishes, if the child is mature enough;
  • What parenting arrangement best protects the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being.

Historically, family law judges automatically awarded custody to mothers, but this is not the case today. Unless there are compelling reasons not to, judges will award parents joint legal custody, and either joint physical custody or physical custody with one parent, the other to have liberal parenting time.

When one parent wants to change the custody arrangement for any reason, they may choose to go to court. If the other parent disagrees, this is what is called a “custody battle.”

What Happens in a Custody Battle?

In a custody battle, also called a “custody dispute,” one parent seeks to change the child custody arrangement by filing a motion in family court and seeking a court order. The reasons parents need to do this may vary and can be any of the following.

One parent is:

  • Unfit
  • Emotionally abusive or absent
  • Physically or sexually abusive
  • A drug or alcohol abuser
  • In a living environment that is unsafe for any reason
  • Suffering from mental health problems
  • Unable to financially support the children
  • Attempting to alienate the children from the other parent

With the help of a good divorce attorney, the plaintiff parent must prove that for whatever reason, the children’s well-being is endangered by the defendant parent. “Well-being” includes physical safety as well as emotional and educational nurturing. Defendant parents often bring a counter-suit alleging that the plaintiff parent is unfit.

It’s important to know that the plaintiff parent faces an uphill battle to persuade the court that the defendant parent should not have custody of the children, because the law favors joint custody and the rights of parents to have relationships with their children.

Custody battles can be drawn-out and expensive. Not only will you pay court fees and ongoing attorney fees, but you will probably pay fees to experts for their evaluation and testimony, and perhaps fees to investigators. Custody battles also take an emotional toll on the entire family, especially if the children themselves have to testify. Pitting children against their parents in court can cause life-long emotional damage.


Wondering how to coparent when you absolutely “hate” your Ex? You’ll want to read our post about coparenting with an ex you hate.


How Can I Avoid a Custody Battle?

A parent having sole or joint custody of their children can try to avoid a custody battle by allowing their coparent the custody or parenting time ordered and by doing their best to cooperate and collaborate with their coparent.

Unfortunately, disputes arise. Your coparent may disagree with your parenting style or decisions you make and may make an allegation of abuse or unfitness, even if untrue. In this case, you will not be able to avoid a custody battle.

Consult with an attorney if your coparent files a custody dispute. Although your coparent must satisfy a high burden of proof of parental unfitness, you will need to assert your rights immediately. In cases where abuse of any kind is alleged, your children can be taken from you before it is proven in order to protect the children from possible harm.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Are Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

If you have a history of drug or alcohol use, this does not automatically make you unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have sought treatment and have been successfully treated for drug or alcohol dependency. This evidence can include proof of attending rehabilitation and negative drug or alcohol tests. Agreeing to continued drug or alcohol testing will help you retain custody of your children.

What to Do if Your Coparent Alleges You Suffer From Mental Illness

If you have a history of mental illness, this does not necessarily mean you are unfit to parent your children. You should gather evidence that you have recovered or are being successfully treated. This evidence can include the testimony or affidavits of psychologists or psychiatrists or the testimony or affidavit of the doctor who prescribes your medication.


How do you feel anchored when you are thinking about divorce and also spinning with all the information and unanswered unknowns? Check out “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband.”


I Want Sole Custody of My Children, What Can I Do?

If you feel that the best interests of your children dictate that you have sole custody, you must file a custody dispute. Be advised that this will be expensive and may take months if your coparent defends.

Gather evidence that shows your coparent is unfit. If the reasons your coparent is unfit include any form of abuse, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse of your children, contact your local police and file a report. This can expedite the removal of the children from the coparent’s care and keep them safe while the court decides whether or not to change the custody arrangement.

Although a custody battle can be expensive and ugly, sometimes you cannot avoid one. Put your feelings aside about your partner as a spouse and ask yourself, is s/he generally a good parent? If so, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your children deserve equal time with him/her. On the other hand, do not hesitate to file a custody dispute if you suspect that your children are unsafe or unattended to while in the care of your coparent.

 

About the Author

Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia, USA. She frequently works with Lee Schwartz, a noted child custody lawyer in Philadelphia.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

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