Of all the issues relevant to your family law case, I can't think of a single one that is more important to parents than the effect of your case on your kids. The simple truth is that a family law case will change your family's outlook- at least for a short period. The composition of your family changes when you go through a family law case. That is what makes these among the most intimate and impactful of any legal matter.
If you have not given serious consideration to what a divorce will mean for your children, then today is a good day to begin taking a hard look at your circumstances and those of your family. It is not an overstatement for me to say that your child's outlook on adulthood and their relationship with you and their other parent can be forever altered. With this sort of overview, I think you can tell how much thought needs to be put into this subject.
What causes some children to be affected by divorce more than others?
More than just stating that divorce can be harmful to your kids, it is helpful to know how harm could befall them and what may lead your child to be susceptible to harm compared to other children. Your kids may be challenging and resilient in ways that you may have not even begun to consider, but the effects of a divorce can be far-reaching. However, take heart in knowing that from my experience, I have seen most kids tend to adapt and do well in life after a couple of years of adjusting to their new lifestyle.
Co-parenting and not forcing the kids to pick sides
A phrase you have probably heard a time or two in connection with divorce cases is "co-parenting." This is a term used to describe the process after the divorce is over with you and your ex-spouse raising your child together despite not living in the same home. This will present challenges that you and your ex-spouse will have to adapt to in order so that your child can thrive in their new life.
The difficulty that divorce presents you as a parent is that you will be expected to end your marriage yet build on the foundation of raising your child together with your ex-spouse. You are simultaneously removing the bonds of matrimony between the two of you and strengthening the co-parenting bond. If you fail to do the latter, your child will only suffer the adverse effects of your divorce.
How full of conflict was your marriage?
When you and your spouse were living together, did your child witness the fights that occurred between you and your spouse? Were your arguments visible to everyone who lived with you? Could a seemingly mundane subject lead to back and forth arguments that shook the walls of your house? If so, then yours was likely a very high conflict household.
On the other hand, if you were in a marriage where fighting and violence never occurred, but there was a degree of hatred; nonetheless, yours was probably a shallow conflict marriage. This doesn't mean that there were no problems in the home, just that your children probably never had to witness any fights. You may not think so at first glance, but the children of these types of low conflict marriages often suffer the most in divorce. The reason is that children in high conflict households often see divorce as a (temporary) de-escalation of the hostility that was common in their home.
What characteristics do your children possess?
To fully assess the potential impact on your children, you should also consider their characteristics. How well are your children likely to adapt to new lifestyles and new ways of doing things. It is unavoidable that change will be a part of their young lives. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging this and focusing on it to nurture your family after divorce. Avoiding these considerations is probably dangerous for you and your family.
Are your children resilient? Are they old enough that you can even assess resiliency? Stress and change are a part of post-divorce life (at least in the short term) for children, and your child's mindset and temperament will go a long way towards determining how well they adapt to your divorce. The social skills that your child possesses at school will go a long way towards showing you how well they can change along with you after divorce. If your child is warm with other kids, they will likely be friendly to any new people brought into their life.
How well are you set up to parent your child after the divorce?
This is probably the most critical aspect of the parent-child relationship after a divorce. We can go on and on about these other factors, but if you are not willing or capable of putting forth the effort necessary to raise your child as a divorced parent, then they are going to suffer the consequences. Keep in mind that due to the stresses of your divorce, you will likely not be able to parent at your fullest potential for some time after the conclusion of your case.
Do not lean on your child during your divorce for emotional support. This is where I see many strong parents begin to falter under the stressful load of a divorce. If you need someone to talk to during your divorce, you should seek counseling or, at the very least, the help of a family member, friend, or religious leader. Your child is dealing with the problems associated with the divorce that you and your spouse created.
Parenting needs to be at the top of your priority list after the conclusion of your divorce. It does not matter what personal issues you have; you must be able to set aside your problems and focus almost entirely on your children. You need to ask yourself whether co-parenting your children with your ex-spouse will be your top priority once your divorce is completed. Co-parenting is the case regardless of whether or not you get a divorce. It amazes me just how engaged some parents are in the lives of their children. It seems to me that those families rarely are the victims of divorce or marital problems. Everyone has a shared, wholesome goal- in this case, the development and well-being of the children.
The emotional security of your children as a function of your divorce
When you go through a divorce, the emotional well-being of your children will be put to the test. For instance, if your child is young, they may not understand what life will look like after your divorce concludes. Are you going to be there for them? Is your spouse? You must be able to identify a child's expression of their genuine and legitimate emotional concerns.
Does your child lash out at you in anger over seemingly minor things? I have seen parents talk about this occurring more during a divorce than in the prior 10, 12, or 14 years of their child's life. We are talking about very young children up to teenagers who are capable of showing anger to get the attention that they crave. If you observe that your child is exhibiting behavior like this, it could be their way of coping with the issues surrounding your divorce. If nothing else, it allows you to learn how your child feels about your divorce and to help them begin to learn how to lead a good life despite adversity.
If you find yourself back in the workplace after your divorce, you must make sure your child spends their time wisely. Whereas before, you may have been the person to spend time with your child after school, they may now seek out friends and classmates to spend their afternoons with. If you can shift your child's focus to extracurricular or other school-oriented activities, it is less likely that your child will find himself in trouble.
Can your child struggle academically after a divorce?
We have not even begun to discuss the most critical area of your child's life- their schooling. If your child was already struggling in the classroom before your divorce, their performance academically is likely very high on your priority list after your divorce has concluded. On the other hand, even children who have done well academically may find themselves struggling to concentrate or put forth the same degree of effort in the classroom due to a divorce that their parents are going through.
Again, even if you are being pulled in more directions than you are used to due to your divorce, you need to be able to devote sufficient time and energy to your child's schooling. It is not just a temporary phase that your child may be going through. Rough times academically tend to get worse, not improve, unless checked by a parent.
Will there be religious/spiritual impacts of your divorce on your children?
This is a topic that I have not seen very much written about online, so I wanted to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you. There can and almost certainly will be a disruption to your family's traditions and habits while a divorce is ongoing. Whether or not your attending religious services will be among those habits that become disrupted is often up to you and your spouse. A child's religious beliefs and the strength of those beliefs tend to be tied directly to the parent's beliefs. If you display your religious faith with regularity, it is likely that your child will as well.
In what ways will your divorce impact the rest of your adult life?
You will be a changed person after your divorce. If you believe that your divorce has been a long time coming and is not something that you are overly concerned about, I am here to talk to you about what happens to your life after a divorce. Again, I have been practicing family law long enough to have seen a lot of different people handle post-divorce life in a lot of different ways.
I suppose the question that we need to ask ourselves about post-divorce life for adults is what causes some adults to thrive after divorce and what causes other adults to suffer in various ways. Divorce is not easy for anyone who goes through the process, but some folks seem better equipped to handle post-divorce life than others. In tomorrow's blog post, we will discuss this topic in greater depth.
Questions about Texas family law issues? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
One thing that you need to know about our law practice is that we have attorneys who have not only seen and experienced a great deal as far as how the law impacts Texas families, but we are also compassionate and understanding of the difficulties that you are likely to experience in your divorce case.
If you have any questions about the information contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. We offer free of charge consultations that allow you to ask questions and receive direct feedback about the circumstances that affect your life. A consultation with one of our attorneys is an excellent chance for you to hear from a practicing family law attorney about your particular issues and how they may impact your life now and in the long term.