Just about every parent who goes through a divorce in Texas would agree that their child’s needs should come before their own needs. Whatever you want to accomplish in the divorce takes a back seat for just about every parent, and your child’s needs are put first. At least, this is the goal that parents have as they begin to consider their divorce case. However, what can happen in a case is that sometimes the needs of the children can inadvertently take a back seat to other circumstances that come up in a divorce.
It’s not that parents suddenly forget how important their children are to them, and in your divorce, I wouldn’t anticipate that you would wake up one day and lose track of your children or what their needs are. However, it is human nature sometimes to lose track of what is essential if you take your eye off the ball. Trust me when I tell you that there is plenty to lose track of in a family law case if you do not have a plan. Having a project that you can follow through with to achieve your goals is probably the most critical step any person who goes through a divorce can take.
Without a plan to accomplish goals in your divorce, you are at a significant disadvantage compared to your spouse. It is not as if your divorce will have to be a battle between you and your spouse. However, what can happen is that when you lose track of your goals, there is no one there to keep you in line other than your attorney. So, just as you need to create plans for yourself within your divorce, it is also necessary to make sure your attorney is aware of those goals. If your first goal is to put your child first both during and after the divorce, your attorney can help you create a path and a map to achieve that goal.
This is what I would like to discuss in today’s blog post. The difference between those who accomplish goals in life and those who do not achieve goals in life is often straightforward. We can think about whether or not a particular purpose was created with a plan in mind or if that goal was pulled out of thin air in contemplated amongst many other destinations. It is easy to lose track of your goals and time within a divorce, as I mentioned before. Often a lot is going on, and a lot is happening that can divert your attention from the objectives of your case. Rather than risk losing sight of what is most important to you, I recommend you engage in serious goal setting and create a path to accomplish those goals.
How can you put your child first during the divorce?
This is probably the most practical question we can ask about your child in the divorce case. You will get ten answers if you ask ten people to put your child first during the divorce. The reality of the situation is that there are probably many answers about putting a child first during a divorce. The trick in this entire discussion is that you must figure out what putting your child first will benefit your family the most.
We talk a lot on this blog about how each family that files for divorce is unique in its way. As such, what would work best for your neighbor’s divorce may not work best for your divorce. With that in mind, you need to determine what needs your children have and how to meet them during a hectic divorce process. Here are some of my thoughts on putting your child first during the divorce and how doing so will help you put them first after the divorce is completed.
First of all, you can talk to your children on their level about the divorce and what it means for you and your family. To speak to children on their story means to meet your kids where they are in terms of their maturity and age. You would not talk to a four-year-old about divorce in the same way you would speak to a 14-year-old. Different kids can experience and contextualize divorce in different ways. For younger children, your best bet may be to provide only the bare essentials of the divorce and to prepare them for splitting time between parents in different households. Older children may tolerate better information about the divorce and what it means for the family on a long-term basis.
The most significant concern that I see from parents regarding their children in the divorce is that it is all their fault somehow. This may seem like a silly concern for children to have about a divorce, but the reality is that children may feel like your divorce is their fault. Remember that kids don’t see the world through the same eyes as adults do. Your children see your relationship with your spouse through the spectrum of themselves being the most critical part of that relationship. As such, it is reasonable to think that your child believes that they have played a significant role in the breakup of your marriage.
From the outset of your case, you can assure your child that you and their other parent will be there for them despite the challenges presented by the divorce. Splitting custody time in between houses will be a change, but it will be a chance that you will help them to manage their way through. Keep in mind that if you talk with your kids and show them that you will put them first in the divorce, that is much more important than telling your kids that you will put them first in the divorce.
Negotiate based on the best interests of your children
It can happen within the context of divorce for you and your spouse to negotiate not only with the best interests of your children in mind but also with your egos in mind. Here’s what I mean by that. Sometimes when you and your spouse are going back and forth on a particular issue related to your children, it would be possible to imagine a scenario where you have put yourself in a position were to come out on top in that negotiation, you rely on what your ego is telling you rather than on what is actually in the best interest of your children. Sometimes what would make you feel the best is not always the best for your kids.
For instance, at the beginning of your divorce, you may learn that your wife wants to be named the primary conservator of your children. Being the primary conservator of your children means that your kids would be able to live with your wife primarily and that you would have visitation rights with your kids. Initially, this may strike you as being unfair. The word “primary” has certain connotations attached to it, which means that someone must be non-primary if their spouse is primary. It doesn’t feel to be a non-primary parent, and your ego may cause you to push back against this designation.
However, if you set your ego aside, it may work out for the best that you and your attorney accept this negotiated point from your spouse and move forward to do what is best for your children. For instance, even though you may not want to be the non-primary conservator of your children, deep down, you may understand that your wife has always been the primary caretaker of your children and maybe better equipped to do so because her job schedule allows her greater flexibility. This doesn’t mean that you are giving up on a meaningful relationship with your children; it just means that you are reasonable based on the circumstances of your life in what is in the best interest of your children.
The other point that I would make with you is that it is always a brilliant idea to talk with your family law attorney about the stages of your case and their opinion on what is best for your kids. Again, your attorney is a guidepost and someone to provide you with context for your case. While your attorney does not know your circumstances better than you do, your attorney knows about the law and has been exposed to more claims other than yours. You can rely on your attorney to talk to you about the details of your case, which may cause you to feel better about issues that initially caused you some alarm.
The bottom line is that your divorce is a relatively short time. While it may feel good to you to go back and forth with your spouse and during the divorce, the post-divorce fact remains. In your life is much longer than the divorce. If you keep in mind that the decisions you make now will have long-term consequences in impacts on your children, you will be better off. Lean on your attorney and do your best to step into your spouse’s shoes whenever possible to take things from their perspective. If you do this, you will almost assuredly make better decisions for your kids in the divorce.
Putting your children first after the divorce
The other point that I think bears mentioning is that you can’t continue to put your children first after the divorce is through. First, you can show respect to your ex-spouse and not drag their name through the mud when your kids are with you. The old saying that if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all is applicable here. You may be as upset with your spouse on the last day of your divorce as you were on the first day. I can’t tell you for sure how you would feel after your divorce about your spouse. However, I can tell you that your kids don’t care what your opinions on their mother or father are.
Your children are looking for consistency and stability in their relationships with both parents. This means that if you want to do what is best for your kids, you should respect your ex-spouse and respect your children in their affection and love for your co-parent. Do not use your children as mediators to help you and your co-parent settle disputes. Instead, communicate directly with your ex-spouse on any issues impacting the kids; if one parent has disciplined the child while at their own home, that parent should share the behavioral infraction and discipline that has been handed down. If parents can be consistent with discipline, constant with love, and consistent in their support for their children, you can rest assured that your children and their best interest will be served after the divorce has ended.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about our law practice and the world of Texas family law. Our attorneys and staff take a great deal of pride in serving our community here in Southeast Texas, and we look forward to the opportunity to help you and your family in the future.