Post divorce advice on maintaining a strong relationship with your children
divorce, no matter how amicable, takes a strain on a family. You may be sitting
at home and reading this blog post thinking, “My divorce will be
the exception. Nothing but smooth sailing once the paperwork gets filed with the
judge.” To that I would wish you the best, but it is unlikely that you
and your spouse will be able to terminate your marriage and have no residual
effects on your family at large. There are emotional and relational aspects
to a divorce that even the most contentious and observant parent may overlook.
The attorneys with the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan see parents go through all different sorts of divorces in our representation
of southeast Texas families. From our experience people come out a divorce
shaken- no matter how strong you are as an individual and no matter how
resilient your children are. This isn’t meant to scare you or to
intimidate you. Rather, it is intended to impress upon you how critical
it is for you to make sure you do everything possible to make sure your
relationship with your children does not suffer after the divorce is finalized.
There are some
mistakes that we see parents make in cases that can make that goal more difficult
Money is not a subject to discuss with your children
No matter how angry, upset, hurt or bitter you are towards your ex spouse,
the State of Texas, your ex-spouse’s attorney or the judge, discussing
any of the proceedings with your children is not a winning tactic or even
something appropriate to do. This goes doubly when it comes to the subject of
money. You will undoubtedly be in a different position financially after a divorce
is complete compared to where you were before the divorce began. Wherever
you find yourself on the spectrum of wealth after the divorce, your children
don’t really care. They want you to be their parent- not share angry
details about what the divorce
Perhaps the most frequent complaint we will hear from opposing attorneys
even before the case is over is that our client is telling the children
that a new pair of shoes, a trip to the beach or any other “luxury”
is no longer possible because the client now has to pay child support.
We make the same call on behalf of our clients when we hear the same thing
coming from the mouth of an opposing party.
Even if your children are young they understand tone and context better
than you might think. While it may be therapeutic for you to let it all
out and share your thoughts and frustrations with someone regarding money,
your children are not an appropriate outlet for this activity. There are
lots and lots of people (many with the letters Ph.D. after their name)
that would be happy to have you sit with them for a half hour and open
up about the divorce. If you’re a church going individual your priest,
pastor, etc. can offer the same type of service for free.
The bottom line is your kids want you in their lives and want the
stability of knowing that things are going to be ok. Constantly raising the specter
of financial gloom and doom around every corner will not help repair your
relationship with the kids and will do nothing to put them at ease in
the aftermath of a divorce.
Your ex-spouse is not a matter for discussion with your children
Piggy-backing off the prior piece of advice, your ex spouse is not your
ex spouse to your children. That person is their mother and father. The
children see this person in a much different light than you do most likely
and they will not be happy to hear you speaking so badly of their other
parent. For one, it is highly likely that your
final decree of divorce bars you from speaking negatively about the other parent while in front
of your children. This covers your family members as well, so
Grandpa and Grandma can’t engage in the put downs while you sit in the corner and smile
silently to yourself.
Again, the children may or may not be old enough to understand why it is
that you and their other parent are no longer married. They are almost
certainly old enough to understand the way you speak about another person.
Be careful here. Your children look to you as their example of how to
approach the world and relate to the other 7 billion persons that inhabit
it. By speaking about your ex spouse in less than flattering terms you
are indirectly giving them permission to do so with the people in their
own lives. On a more basic level, you may be building up a resentment
in your child towards you if they feel that you are being hostile or unfair
towards their other parent.
Your children are not conduits for information about your ex-spouse
It’s normal to be a little nosy about your ex-spouse’s activities
after you divorce them. After all, you have been married to them for some
time and suddenly having them out of your life can be a shock to your
system even if you wanted the divorce in the first place. The most direct
means for you to learn what they’re up to is your children but I
would advise against pumping them for intel on your former spouse. The
same principles that apply to the prior two pieces of advice apply here
as well. Again, your children don’t want to be put in the middle
of the situation after the divorce any more than they wanted to be a part
of the situation during the divorce. A simple “How’s your
Mom doing?” is fine to ask but peppering them for information regarding
a new boyfriend is inappropriate.
More advice on how to maintain a strong parent-child relationship is forthcoming
As it happens with many topics written about on the blog for the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, there is more advice that I would like to share with you all than what
was done today. Look for the second post detailing additional advice on
relationship strengthening and rebuilding with your children after a divorce
set to be posted tomorrow.
If you have any questions about this subject or anything else in the field
of family law in Texas please do not hesitate to contact the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan to set up a free of charge