Divorce is never an easy choice to make, especially when there’s children involved. Divorce is tough. It’s tough on adults. It’s also not surprising that the breakup of a marriage can be even tougher on children.
As a divorce lawyer, I see a lot of heartache when parents who have children decide to divorce. Often times, that heartache has been brought on unnecessarily by both parents. While you can’t make your children’s hurt go away instantly, you can help them cope with divorce by following a few guidelines below.
Is divorce the right path?
Divorce isn’t the only path if a marriage is breaking down. Divorce is always an option, but it may not be the best option especially when there are children involved. It’s easy to get out and leave the marriage, but children deserve more than the easy option.
Many times married couples who decide to divorce don’t fully think through divorce and what life will be like after divorce. Life after divorce means living in separate households, splitting parenting time with their ex, and seeing less of their children. It’s not easy to do.
It’s not uncommon to see couples dismiss their divorce action after months of back and forth negotiations. Those couples realized during the middle of the divorce action that divorce wasn’t what they really wanted and they wanted to make their marriage work. Marriage counseling would have been the better option for those couples to pursue first.
You only hurt your children if you hastily jump into a divorce without fully weighing all your options and considering what life will be like after divorce.
Explain why you are getting a divorce – answer their questions
Children aren’t oblivious. They are going to have questions. When they have questions about what’s going on or about the divorce it’s best to sit down with them and answer their questions. Calmly explain to them what a divorce is and how it will affect them.
Also, be sure to clearly explain the divorce wasn’t their fault. Children will often put blame on themselves for not being able to keep mommy and daddy together. Don’t let them do that to themselves. Explain to them this was a decision that mommy and daddy made after a lot of thinking.
Be sure to reiterate that BOTH mommy and daddy still love them more than anything.
Don’t put your children in the middle of the divorce
While divorce affects everyone in the family, including your children, divorce is no place for children. Parents shouldn’t discuss the details of the divorce or have arguments in front of their children. That only makes it tougher for your children.
Don’t use your children to relay messages back and forth. Speak directly to your spouse.
Children shouldn’t be asked to “take sides” in a divorce. Many times parents try to pit their children against the other spouse, or guilt their children into signing an election to live with them versus the the other spouse. Children end up signing an election for both parents, not wanting to disappoint or choose one over the other.
Parents at their worse – parents who want to “win”
Divorcing parents often lose sight of what is most important – their children. Divorces drag out longer than necessary because one party wants to “beat” the other party. No one wins in that situation. Everyone loses, and the biggest losers are often the children.
I’ve seen clients spend months fighting over furniture or trivial appliances – the blue crockpot versus the red crockpot – for the sole purpose of making the other party angry. This only increases the pain that the the children have to endure during a divorce.
I’ve seen parents fight for more visitation time with the children just to get back at their spouse. After the divorce, that parent will rarely exercise his or her visitation. That person allowed a painful divorce to drag out for months, and put the children right in the middle of it, just to anger their spouse.
Divorce can bring out the worst in people. Try not to lose sight of how your actions will affect your children.
Parenting after divorce: co-parenting
In every divorce in Georgia, each parent must take a Families in Transitions class prior to the divorce being final, but that is only the beginning. Parents are going to see each other at extra-curricular activities, etc. and will have to work together for many years to make decisions regarding their children’s future. Parents must work to forgive by putting aside the pain of a broken relationship and let bygones be bygones for the sake of the children.
Children deserve to have both parents in their lives.
Be willing to be flexible – altering the visitation schedule
Let’s face it. As much as we try to control our daily or weekly schedule, sometimes life throws us a curveball. An important deadline at work must be met, an ill family member, etc.
In every divorce, the court will order a set visitation schedule that the parties must abide by. However, the parties can agree to alter the visitation schedule to take into account for unforeseen circumstances that may arise. Both parties simply have to be in agreement. Don’t be so rigid that you are never willing to alter the set visitation schedule when those unforeseen circumstances or emergencies arise.
Parenting isn’t easy, especially after a divorce. However, being flexible can sometimes make things easier on your children, and on you.
Pickups – smooth transitions
If it wasn’t ordered in the divorce, you and your ex will have to agree on where to pickup and drop off your children at. Pick a location that is convenient for both sides and be on time. It’ll help make for a smooth pickup or drop-off which helps make it easier for your children.
Your children are just getting used to the idea of having to split time between their parents. Don’t argue. Calmly discuss any important issues with your ex.
Make sure you send your children off with a smile.
Don’t badmouth your ex in front of your children
This applies both during the divorce and afterwards. Children are attached to both you and your ex-spouse. They share the same physical qualities as each of you. Badmouthing your ex is essentially badmouthing your children – or at least that’s how they may feel.
Badmouthing your ex can also cause your children to defend your ex, even when they are clearly in the wrong. Even though you will have moved on from your ex, your children will still love both of their parents. They won’t like hearing you say bad things about their mommy or daddy.
Badmouthing can also lead to children choosing one parent over the other. After receiving less and less of their set visitation because your children don’t want to see them, your ex may decide to file an action for contempt based on this lack of visitation. If during the course of the contempt action it is revealed that you have been going out of your way to badmouth your ex, the court may end up awarding them more visitation or maybe even physical custody.
Be an adult. Be mature. Let your children be children.
Divorce Lawyer – Macon, Georgia
Ashley M. Brodie handles divorce and other family law cases throughout Macon, GA and surrounding region. She maintains offices in North Macon and in her hometown of Gray, GA. Call her offices today at (478) 239-2780 – Macon or (478) 936-9842 – Gray to schedule a confidential consultation.