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Parenting Your Children Through a Divorce: A Family Law Attorney’s Guide

The journey towards effective parenting post-divorce begins with a single step. You’ve likely heard this phrase before, emphasizing the importance of initiating progress towards a goal. But what if your goal is to leave a harmful marriage and ensure a better life for your children? Where do you begin when discussing this with your children?

Depending on your child’s age, you may be best off discussing the divorce with your child openly and honestly. I have found that parents experience good results by talking to their children together as a joint unit. This instills the idea in your children that you and your spouse are still on the same page regarding the most critical aspect of their lives- their children. There will be questions that your children want to be addressed after you tell them about your divorce. This will allow you and your spouse to give honest, supportive answers that indicate that neither of them will leave the children without the care and support that they crave- whether they know it or not.

Make it well known to your children that both you and your spouse are not going anywhere

Even though your living arrangements will change and the life they used to lead will change as well, neither you nor your spouse will be going anywhere due to the divorce. Your love for your children is unconditional, and a change in your marital status will not affect that one bit. Use your words wisely.

The divorce is not your children’s fault. You may understand this clearly, but they may not. Express this in no uncertain terms. Your divorce didn’t happen because your children weren’t well-behaved enough or didn’t excel in school or sports. Consistent and straightforward answers to these difficult questions are the best way to attack this problem and reassure your children in the period right after the conclusion of your divorce.

Do not sugarcoat the situation if at all possible

The fact that you and your spouse are no longer living together will become evident to your children immediately. The questions they ask you about this should also be dealt with directly as possible. It is fair to tell your children that you and their other parents do not see eye to eye on some issues and that, as a result, you and they will no longer be living as married people.

The difficulty here will be to have this conversation without being overly specific and disrespectful of their other parent. Remember- your feelings about your spouse do not need to be (nor should they probably be) the feelings of your children. Allow them to form their own opinions based on their intuition and experiences with each parent. In the meantime, if you and your spouse show respect towards your children, they will be able to adjust to these changes that much easier.

What does co-parenting mean exactly?

You have likely heard the term “co-parenting” before about collaborating and cooperating with your ex-spouse when it comes to your children. The term is often repeated in the media, sometimes to the extent that its original meaning is obscured. How can you define this word to better yourself and your family?

Co-parenting breaks down into sharing the burdens and benefits of parenting children. Accurate life decisions regarding topics both big and small are of concern here. You select the food your child eats, the religious services they attend, and the extracurricular activities they participate in. If you and your ex-spouse agree on what is in the best interest of your children and how to make decisions that reinforce those interests, then that is the definition of solid and effective co-parenting in my mind.

Is it realistic to expect you and your ex-spouse to agree on all aspects of parenting your children? While there are no shortcuts, learning co-parenting skills involves actively collaborating with your ex-spouse to find middle ground when disagreements arise. It’s challenging to agree to disagree and then compromise, but as a divorced parent, that’s the challenge and opportunity you face.

Figure out what is essential and address those issues primarily

We all know that some issues are critical, and others are less important regarding parenting. If you spend your time arguing about every parenting issue that you and your ex-spouse disagree on, you will have no time to do the important job of parenting. Especially in the beginning stages of your post-divorce life, it may be wise to give your ex-spouse some space to figure out their parenting style in whatever environment you find yourselves in.

While you’re at it, why not look for opportunities to defend and promote the parenting choices of your ex-spouse that you agree with. For instance, if you see that your ex-spouse is disciplining your child for bad behavior, it is wise to continue that discipline at your home. This is the sort of consistency in parenting that is a hallmark of effective and loving co-parenting. In doing this, you make your kids aware that there are not two sets of rules that apply to them and that discipline and love will be consistent from home to home.

What happens if your ex-spouse will not co-parent with you?

All of this is to say that co-parenting is effective if both parents are invested in the process and willing to commit to it. It could be that you find yourself in a situation where your spouse is not ready to work with you and instead chooses to go their way to parenting your child. In cases like that, the advice I provided in this blog’s prior sections will not apply to you. What actions can you take to remain an effective parent despite the obstacles posed by a hostile ex-spouse?

For one, keep records regarding all of your interactions with your spouse. If they are on the phone, you should keep a call log and a subject listing of topics you discussed. Furthermore, make sure to log your text messages and emails for potential future reference or use.

Conclusion

In parenting post-divorce, it’s crucial not to waste time discussing non-child-related issues with your ex-spouse. If you sense they’re trying to rehash the divorce, steer the conversation back to matters concerning your children. If they aren’t willing to engage civilly, inform them that you’ll only discuss emergency or essential child-related topics. This approach can save you time and preserve your sanity, especially when both are scarce resources.

Questions about divorce and co-parenting? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you are interested in learning more about divorce and the subjects related to divorce, please consider contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with one of our licensed family law attorneys six days a week. In a consultation, you can ask questions and address issues you are unclear about. Our attorneys prioritize your interests above their own and would be honored to discuss your case with you.

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