When a marriage dissolves, navigating the divorce process with kids can be far from simple. At the very least, your top priority should be the wellness of the children and dealing with the fallout from the split.
These include thinking about what’s best for the kids, not letting them choose a side, staying involved in their lives, maintaining their routine, showing care for what they feel, and asking for help if needed.
To help you navigate this difficult divorce process, here are a few steps you can take to make it more favorable.
Think of your Children’s Best Interest
Navigating a divorce with children in the picture requires careful analysis of the situation. Unlike divorce between childless couples, where settlement is less complicated, the court will look closely into what’s best for the kids. That said, it should also become your highest priority from the moment you serve or are served with divorce papers.
To do that, you must set aside any hostility and bitterness towards your spouse and devise a logical plan and agreement for raising your kids. But divorce is a difficult process not to mention a confusing time, so this is easier said than done.
As such, we recommend having an experienced child custody attorney from Parousis Law by your side to explain divorce laws and handle all aspects of the divorce process, leaving you with plenty of time to grieve the loss.
Don’t Let Your Kids Choose Sides
Even if you think you should have sole custody of your child or children, don’t pressure them to get on your side. More importantly, don’t let them choose sides, especially when you’ve sprung it on them. Doing so will only complicate the custody dispute. Plus, it causes psychological distress to your kids, which they could carry for the rest of their lives.
Avoid bringing up the topic of custody with your kids, especially if your emotions are high. This could trigger guilt or the sense that your children should love one parent more than the other. Instead, assure them that your divorce will not lead to your children losing one parent.
Make Sure You and Your Ex Remain Involved in Their Lives
Custody battles can be tedious depending on factors considered in court. But what remains true is that parents should strive to spend time with children and stay involved in their children’s lives. This will bring stability, reduce stress and guilt among children, plus increase their self-worth and sense of security.
To do this, produce a viable parenting plan. If you’re unsure how to do one or agree with your spouse on parenting time due to resentment, have a mediator (typically your Needham heights divorce lawyer) to guide you. In the end, understand that having strong individual relationships with your child can potentially offset the damage of divorce and family separation.
Don’t Change Their Daily Routine Too Much
Divorce is already an astronomical change in your kids’ life. Adding more adjustments and alterations to their regular routine can overwhelm them even more. While nobody expects you to continue living under the same roof, keeping a routine and basic structure that can be salvaged after the divorce is important.
For instance, don’t change your kid’s school, their regular weekend activities, or scheduled vacations with the grandparents or extended family. These aspects of their life will give them a sense of normalcy and help with the transition after divorce.
Don’t Pressure Them to Accept the New Setup
It’s a huge mistake forcing your kids to accept the divorce as soon as it’s legally processed. According to research, on average, it takes two years for children in divorce to adjust to their new family structure.
The new setup may take time to sink in, and emotions will run like a mill for quite some time. Instead of putting pressure on the situation, offer support and encourage the other parent to do the same.
It’s important to assure the children that you love them. Answer questions as truthfully as possible without bringing down your wife or husband.
Validate Their Response to the Divorce
More often than not, children are devastated that their parents are divorcing. Emotions range from anger, confusion, depression, anxiety, and guilt. Kids in middle and high school may have a stronger response to the split than the younger ones.
When they exhibit the said reactions, remain level-headed and allow them to process the change. Tell them it’s okay to feel what they feel. Additionally, you can expect them to go through a series of steps before finally accepting the divorce. These may involve denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, and depression.
Assure Them That They’re Not Alone
The worst feeling children of divorced parents can feel from the situation is the sense of abandonment. The gradual loss or degradation of a relationship with the absent parent lowers their self-esteem as they carry that feeling of being unwanted. In most cases, the parent they start to feel detached from is the father.
Avoid the psychological effects caused by abandonment by reassuring the kids that they are not alone. Neither parent will fade away from their lives. Of course, express this with complete honesty and commitment.
Seek Professional Help When Necessary
Navigating a divorce with kids will be tough for everyone, including you and your spouse. If the reality suggests that you may need to seek help from people close to you like your family, community, or your church, don’t hesitate to do just that.
If your kids begin to exhibit behaviors such as academic negligence, depression, rebellion, and other unusual demeanors, consult a psychologist. In these cases, professional intervention may help them understand their emotions and the situation, as a whole.
Legal Process Involved in Navigating a Divorce With Kids
The legal proceedings involved in divorce for couples with kids depend on how complicated the situation is. For example, if domestic violence is involved, you may request a restraining order, which can be easily granted if you have solid evidence including a doctor/hospital record or threatening texts.
Alternatively, if it’s an amicable divorce (no-fault divorce) without the complications of abuse, the legal process can be completed in the following steps:
- Filing for divorce includes child custody and support.
- Come up with a divorce settlement or separation agreement.
- Fill out and file the necessary paperwork and pay the fees.
- Attend the hearing set by the court.
Living in Massachusetts? Know the steps to secure a divorce from your spouse including the legal forms and work required to keep your kids on top of mind during the divorce proceedings.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you stay close with kids after divorce?
You can retain a good and healthy relationship with your kids after divorce if you and your ex-spouse come up with a parenting plan to support your new family life. If you share custody and are co-parenting, it’s easier to stay active in your children’s life. But if you don’t have custody and are only entitled to visitation rights, plan your day in favor of what you and your kids can bond with.
On top of that, be friends with your ex. An amicable split and friendship that goes beyond obligation can be favorable for your kids. It may be challenging to maintain an amicable relationship with your former spouse, but if you’re both determined to raise your children without the baggage, you could be on better terms as time goes by.
Is divorce harder on an only child?
Divorce for parents with a single child tends to be tougher than for those with siblings as the feeling of abandonment is heightened. An only child won’t have anyone else to share the burden, anxiety, and confusion of divorce.
As a result, parents often book sessions with a psychologist to help the kid process the changes. Likewise, let the teachers know about the situation to monitor any alarming changes and seek the support of your immediate family.
At what age is divorce easiest for kids?
Infants are toddlers tend to receive the least fallout from divorce, only because they don’t have the fully developed cognition to process their parents’ separation. Children under three won’t have established memories of the conflict, split, or even fond moments. So, they won’t associate negative emotions with the divorce.
On the other hand, children aged six to twelve typically have the toughest time dealing with divorce as they already have core memories of the family unit. They also tend to blame themselves as they try to trace their involvement in the breakup.
You may hear questions such as:
- Do you not love me anymore?
- Why can’t you stay together for me?
- What do I do now?
- Did I do something wrong?
Consult a Divorce Lawyer Today
Divorce is a delicate and difficult time when children are involved. But with careful planning, sound agreement, and unwavering cooperation between the two parties, it may lead to effective co-parenting that offsets the psychological damage of divorce.
Navigate your divorce with kids by getting in touch with Attorney Michael S. Parousis, a premiere family law attorney with hundreds of satisfied clients. If you’re in Massachusetts, book a free consultation!