Every client I meet tells me with 100% sincerity that their children are the most important people in the world and they would do anything to protect their children from the impacts of divorce. Despite the fact that all parents feel this way, sometimes parents act in the heat of the moment in ways that negatively impact their children. Here are some tips for what to do and what not to do if you are going through a divorce, or if you have a difficult relationship with your children’s other parent.
Thanks to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers for this list of tips for Divorcing Parents and/or Divorce Parents:
1. Do not say negative things about the other parent to your children or in your children’s earshot, and do not allow other adults in your children’s lives allow to say negative things about the other parent. Even if the other parent says negative things about you! Don’t do it! It only impacts your kids!
2. Do not use your children to convey messages between parents. You’re the adult, pick up the phone, send an email or a text message. Worst case scenario, let your lawyer speak with your spouse’s lawyer on your behalf. Let your kids be kids.
3. Tell your children that they are loved no matter what happens, and that they are not responsible for their parents breaking up. Reassure them that both parents love them and always will. Then reassure them again.
4. Encourage your children to spend time with the other parent. Do it even if you think you are the better parent. Follow through by accomodating requests for visitation by the other parent whenever possible.
5. Remind yourself over and over and over again that your children’s needs should be more important than your needs as you go through a divorce.
6. Do not allow your children to act as your caretaker. That’s what friends, family, therapists and other adults in your life are for, this is not your children’s job. Kids need to be kids. They have their own adjustments to make as the divorce happens, they shouldn’t have to take care of parents too.
7. Talk to a counselor. Divorce is a difficult process. Having an independent person to act as a sounding board is always a good idea as you proceed through a very stressful life change. We can make recommendations for you.
8. Pay your child support. Always. On time. Every month. Even if you believe that the other parent does not use the child support directly for the children’s needs. This is a non negotiable item.
9. If you are the parent who is supposed to be receiving child support but are not being paid, do not tell your children about it. This is an adult issue and telling your children will only lead to your kids feeling abandoned and potentially erode their stability. Talk to the District Attorney’s Office about opening a child support enforcement action. Talk to a lawyer about taking your former spouse to Court. Do not talk to your children about financial issues.
10. Try to create as much consistency for your children as possible. Do not change their schools unless it is unavoidable. Having some consistency in their teachers, friends, and daily environment will help your children as their home life is in transition.
11. Do not post anything on Facebook or any other social networking site that you would be embarressed to have your mother, your boss, your children, your former spouse, or the presiding judge read. If your children have access to Facebook, don’t post anything about the divorce or your children or your former spouse. At all. Talk to your counselor, your family, your friends, your lawyer, don’t tell the world on the internet.