Divorcing Parents : The Do’s & Don’ts
Getting a divorce is by no means easy — it’s very complex in fact — and when children are involved there is an added layer of difficulty that should never be taken lightly. Not only have I been practicing law in Texas for 30 years, but I’ve also been fortunate enough to be a single father and raise my children. With that in mind, I have developed strong beliefs on what divorcing parents should and shouldn’t do.
This post will not cover every single avenue and detail about a family going through a divorce but it will cover three core areas to pay attention to and key do’s and don’ts to consider when you’re going through a divoce with children involved..
LOOK AT THE WORLD THROUGH THE EYES OF THE CHILD(REN)
This concept is challenging and requires maturity but it is what is in their best interest and will keep you focused on what’s important. There will always be challenges in dealing with a relationship and with a divorce there’s not much time for grieving over the relationship. The children should be put first and proving to the court that you care most about what’s in their best interest; not wrapped up in emotions that will arise during the divorce.
One common theme to pay attention to is fear. It’s very scary for a child to witness the two people they feel as their security no longer together. Depending on the age and the personality, the child’s fear will manifest in their own ways and it’s up to the parent to pay attention. One child could try and impress the parent while the other child might rebel and act out. One child will be outgoing and “always busy” while the other will isolate and keep to him/herself. One child might talk to each parent about why/how they can stay together while the other child might give the silent treatment. One thing that’s inevitable in the divorce is change and let’s face it — change is never easy for anyone whether you’re a child, adolescent, young adult or adult. In childhood, it’s even more difficult because you don’t have the experience, tools or mental development to navigate it all. Children find security in their parents and when a divorce occurs they will experience a wide range of emotions. If the child is of age that they want to talk about it, let them express themselves and process it with you. There may be times when seeking outside help is necessary and that can be very helpful during this difficult life changing time.
EVERYTHING YOU DO WILL BE SCRUTINIZED
This goes for anything that will affect the children in a positive or negative light from your finances, managing money, deciding what lawyer to hire, who you’re going to date, where you’re going to live, everything. The court will be looking at everything in great detail and it all boils down to one thing; making sure everything is about putting the children first. Where you work matters. What school you choose matters. Even who you date matters. Dating someone who you can’t defend in public who has either a criminal record, drug or alcohol issues, and/or doesn’t have a job, will not look good for you in court and, more importantly, will not likely be good for your children. So be mindful and remember the core principle when making lifestyle choices — look through the lens of the child.
SHOW YOUR CHILDREN YOU RESPECT THE OTHER PARENT
You are painting a picture for your children on how people should treat each other (especially when it comes to relationships). Not only this, but each parent is important to the child no matter how you feel about one another. They shouldn’t hear any negativity about the other parent. The only time this is remotely acceptable is with exception of danger or illegal conduct.
Have common courtesy and be respectful. Don’t withhold information about the kids to gain any advantage. Remember, even though you’re splitting up, you’ll be parents together forever.
Do’s and Don’ts of Parenting During & After A Divorce
Many of the do’s and don’ts of parenting during a divorce stem from the three core areas already discussed above. Here are some of those critical ones that I have seen over the course of my career as an attorney and in my own personal experience as well.
Don’t talk negatively about the other parent in front of the children. You can’t take back the marks you make on a child’s mind with your words.
Don’t get so caught up in your grieving of the relationship and negative emotions that you put the child in the path of emotional harm by retaliating against the other parent.
Don’t jump into another relationship for the wrong reasons . Remember that even the person you end up dating during the divorce will be scrutinized through the process.
Do be mindful of who you get into a relationship with and set expectations that it
will take time for your child to accept a new relationship.
Do put yourself in the children’s shoes and look at the world from their perspective and what’s in their best interest. This is scary for them and how you handle it matters.
Do give the children space to express themselves about how the divorce is affecting them but on their terms. If age appropriate let them know they can talk to someone and set them up with a therapist.
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Ken Bigham Jr. has nearly three decades of experience navigating the law to protect his clients from unfair treatment by insurance companies, the government and corporations. He believes that Bigham Law’s purpose is to provide outstanding value to its clients and compassionate service to its community.
I was in the middle of a custody battle for my daughter back when I hired Ken Bigham to be my attorney. I needed someone willing to fight for justice for my daughter. When it comes to right is right and wrong is wrong, he is the one I turned to. He is very honest and takes pride in his client’s situations. It’s more than just a job to him in his heart.