Written by Judy Morse

What you need to know about a divorce with kids

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You are juggling your family, a career, and a divorce with kids. It can be overwhelming, as you strive to maintain a balance. Children can often be the most important concern. Some divorcing parents overcompensate while others undercompensate. The conflict of an in-court divorce can make some parents practically forget the kids completely amid the chaos of making huge changes to their lives and lifestyle. It’s completely normal. But collaborative law allows you to opt out of this chaos and put your children front and center in your divorce.

What Your Kids Would Like You to Know

Growing up with divorced parents has its challenges for children before, during, and after the divorce process. What do they wish their parents had known? Here are six:

  1. Don’t give up on me. Even if your partner has complete custody, even if there’s a step-parent in the picture, don’t sacrifice your time with me. No matter how difficult it seems to overcome obstacles, I need you. I’m worth the effort.
  2. Don’t lie to me to make it easier. Be just as respectful of me and my feelings as you would an adult’s. Speaking in clichés is another way you tell me my feelings are trivial. I don’t care if “it’s darkest before the dawn,” or if “life is like a box of chocolates.” Please be open, honest, and earnest. I deserve your respect.
  3. I need my grandparents and my extended family. I know it’s hard to manage time for everything, including visits with my other parent’s family, but it’s important to them. It’s important to me.
  4. I’ll be okay. You haven’t wrecked my life and ruined my future! Just because we’re a divorced family doesn’t mean we have to be a dysfunctional family. Or at least, no more dysfunctional than most families. Relax. Don’t worry.
  5. Please don’t trash-talk my other parent. I hear everything you say and I’m watching everything you do, and all of it impacts the way I feel. When you run-down and criticize my other parent, it hurts. I need you both.
  6. You’re not a failure as a parent. The fact that you struggled to keep it together for me while you felt like your world was falling apart lets me know I’m important to you. I love you.

Partners Divorce But Families Stay Together

A collaborative divorce with kids is a choice, and it may appear to be the best choice for your family. Okay, it’s not a perfect world. When your ex isn’t on the same page with you about anything, including what’s best for the children, litigation may be your only option. But damage control can minimize the stress and uncertainty your children may be experiencing when your ex is less than considerate:

  • Don’t make excuses for the other parent – Enabling your ex is almost as problematic as criticizing. Give your child a chance to express her or his feelings before you rush in to defend your ex.
  • Have a Plan B – You should make a backup plan if/when your ex is a no-show. Make sure your ex knows how long you will wait before putting Plan B into effect. Say to the kids, “Let’s wait one more hour, and if Mom isn’t here or hasn’t called by then, we’ll see that movie you wanted to see.”
  • Reinforce the other parent’s love – When your ex disappoints the kids by not showing up for an important activity (including quality time), it’s tempting to make yourself look good by bashing your ex. It doesn’t help your kids; it hurts them even more. Reassure them that dad/mom loves them very much but sometimes adults make mistakes.

You Have Choices in a Divorce with Kids

You can find legal, financial, and coping support for divorce with kids with Best Legal Choices, Arizona’s directory of divorce professionals. When it comes to divorce and your children’s welfare, we believe there’s no such thing as too much information. If you have any questions about collaborative vs. conventional divorce with kids, check our resources and links to some Arizona-specific websites that may help. Or take your first step and call 800.338.4765 to learn more about the divorce process.

Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.
-Tatanka Iyotake (1831-1890)

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