Of all the difficulties associated with a divorce, the one that we don’t commonly think about right off the top of our heads is the difficulty that a case will have on a child. Whether your little one is not so little or teeny tiny, you should be planning out how to manage the case from their perspective. Not only are you working towards doing what is in their best interests when it comes to a wide range of topics related to their life but you can also work towards building a post-divorce life for them that is structured, loving, and hopeful. I know that this may sound easier said than done at this stage but it should be a goal and it can be one that you and your family reach for consistently throughout your case.
Nobody is perfect. I’ve researched myself and every other person that I’ve ever met, and this seems to be the absolute truth. While you may never get everything right, there are some aspects of your family law case that you cannot afford to miss. One of those areas is doing whatever you can to build up your child’s well-being during a divorce case. Whether it be by spending time with him, talking with him, keeping him up to date on the case, or just listening there is a wide range of activities that you and your child can engage in which will stand to help him go through life after the divorce as a happier and better-adjusted person. The key for you will be to identify what is most important for your child and what methods should be employed.
While you may be doing your best to shelter your child from the worst of your divorce it does not necessarily make sense to try to hide the entirety of the case from him or her. Eventually, your child will come to find out that their life is not going to be the same after the divorce as it was before the divorce. The earlier that your child can begin to grapple with these changes with the help of you and your spouse the better off he will be. Hiding the details of the case from him and then being surprised at how he reacts once he does find out about a certain aspect of the case is sure to be s negative surprise. You can ask yourself now: what can you do as a parent to help your child manage the difficulties of divorce?
For starters, you can begin to try and manage the relationship that you have with your co-parent. No, I am not recommending that you try and do anything that you think your spouse will find over the top or offensive. If you and your spouse are not speaking for a good reason right now, then you may want to assess the situation and attempt to come back later to try and work on that relationship. However, if you and your spouse are going through problems like anyone else in a divorce then you still can be mature, set aside your differences, and work together to do what you think is best for your children.
It makes sense to try and do this now at the beginning of your divorce given that your relationship with your spouse is not going to end just because you are getting divorced. True, your marriage may be coming to an end, but you will still be expected to raise a child with your co-parent. This is a relationship that will need to persist for years and years into the future. Especially when your child is young the involvement of both parents is essential. Your child will not make an exception for you and your co-parent because you are divorced. He will still expect both of you to play an active and involved role in his life to the extent that you are able. Even if he is not used to both of you doing so, you can still maximize your role in his life by listening, being attentive, and doing what he needs rather than what you want to do.
This is another difficulty that parents encounter routinely in family law cases. It is easy to confuse what is in your best interests and what is in your child’s best interests. There are guardian ad items and attorney ad items that sometimes must be added to family cases in complicated custody circumstances. If you and your co-parent are at odds with one another and cannot seem to get on the same page then this may be necessary for you, too. I will let you know that doing so adds expense and time to your case. Two resources will be in short supply for your case. Rather than put you and your child in this situation you can work together with your spouse on these topics even when it doesn’t seem like that is going to be much fun.
Where can you start when it comes to working with a spouse that you may not have much in common with now? Well, you can start by expressing a desire to turn the page or do whatever you think is best when it comes to your child and starting a relationship with their other parent. You may be having trouble even looking at your spouse in the face right now. However, if you can manage to set aside your differences right now you can make a big difference in the life of your child. How you and your co-parent go about doing this is up to you all. Every family is different, and the needs of your child are unique. However, you can and should explore improving your relationship with your spouse even during the divorce. It is easier to do so now rather than to wait to see if things improve on their own or improve after waiting months or even years to have that conversation with your spouse.
You can start slow and start small if that is what your family needs at this moment. How does your spouse like to be communicated with? If you have been trying to get their attention through personal visits that may not work any longer. Rather, you may need to try emails, text messages, or phone calls. Just something to get on the same page with him or her. You don’t need to make a grand gesture as you would see in a movie. It just must be something earnest and honest. Help your spouse to see that you are trying your best to do what it is is best for your child. If your spouse can see that you are trying to set aside your ego and ambitions to do what is best for your child then he or she may be able to start building a trusting relationship with you that is centered around your children rather than around each other, your marriage or anything else for that matter.
It would be great for your children to be able to hear from both of you at the same time about initial information about your divorce. Again, some of you may not be in a position where you can do something like this. For whatever reason, you may be unable to be in the same room as your spouse or even tolerate seeing the other person. If that’s the case, then you can delay or shelf this idea. However, for everyone else reading this blog post, you must be able to act as a united front and a team with your children. They don’t need to know the extent of your issues. What they do need to know is that the two of you are willing to lock arms and attack a problem together as a unit. There is a great deal of value in being able to see you and your spouse together, as far as your children are concerned. That is an image that can stick with your child during difficult times in the divorce process.
Divorce is a time of transition for your child. Rather than giving in to feelings of hopelessness or the malaise of doing nothing to prepare for a case you and your spouse can actively work to promote the relationship that each of you has with your children. Things like parental alienation are a huge problem in many families who are going through divorce even though you rarely hear about those issues. Parental alienation is a situation where you and your co-parent are working against each other to try and damage your child’s relationship with the other parent. Talking bad about that parent behind their back, encouraging the child to not take advantage of time with their other parent or outright instructing the child to be disobedient or to refuse to go to the other parent’s home can be signs of alienation. Thus, the alienating parent is trying to sabotage the relationship of the child with the other parent. It is devious and very difficult to keep an eye on this behavior since it occurs outside the courtroom and without the direct knowledge of the other parent in most circumstances.
Rather than engage in behavior like this, you can choose to take the opposite approach and instead encourage your relationship with your co-parent and your child. Make sure your child is always on time for pick up or drop off. Refuse to say anything negative about your spouse or their family in front of your child. Make the same promise to yourself that you will not engage negatively with their family on social media or anywhere else for that matter. Children have a sixth sense for when they are in an odd situation. They know when the feel of a room is off or if you are being dishonest with them. Children can often pick up on the attempts to alienate which can lead to the child turning against the alienating parent. Whatever side of the relationship you find yourself on, you can do yourself and your child a favor by not giving in to the temptation to alienate your child from your co-parent. This is not a contest for the love of your children. Simply by being your authentic self you can bring your child closer to you than you’ve ever been before.
In the long run, you want your child to have a good relationship with you and with your co-parent. Parenting, if you have not yet noticed, is hard. Having assistance is helpful. If you can encourage your co-parent to be the best parent, he or she can benefit your child. Do not rely on your co-parent to make the first move toward this type of relationship. Communicate your interest in being a good co-parent even if the two of you could not manage to make your marriage work. In looking at how people that we have served here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan have managed this transition, it seems like the earlier you all choose to make this conversation happen the better off your child will be. There is no guarantee that any attempts to co-parent will be effective. However, the more honest and humble you are about wanting to establish a cooperative relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse the better chance you have of being able to build a productive relationship that can benefit your child now and in the long run.
Where can your child go for help with the divorce?
There are different resources available for your children depending on their age and your willingness to let them use the computer when it comes to learning how to cope with divorce and excel despite the challenges that the process presents to children. YouTube is a resource with a nearly unlimited supply of videos on children and divorces that you may be interested in looking into. You can review this information with your spouse or by yourself before just directing your children to search for these videos themselves online.
There may also be support groups, counseling, and youth groups available to you in your area where children whose parents are going through a divorce can talk to one another in a supportive environment. Additionally, you can investigate family therapists who specialize in divorce and helping children transition into a different phase of their lives. One of the biggest points that I like to make to people when it comes to helping children deal with divorce is that your children are not as well equipped as you are to handle the transitions that come with a divorce. Keep in mind that your children lack life experience and very likely only know life from their perspective. It would be rare to find a young child who can think outside of their situation and be better prepared for a difficult circumstance like a divorce. With that said, your job is to help your child prepare for the divorce in any way that you can.
There are nearly countless books and different guides that your child can take advantage of with your guidance. While it may be tempting to send your child out onto the Internet with little guidance on where to start their search for help it is much more responsible for you to do the research first rather than allow your child to investigate these videos themselves. or, you may not even be comfortable with having your child go online. In that case, the public library has many books that can help your child transition into a divorce.
As you may have been able to tell, you and your co-parent are the best resources for your child to rely upon during a divorce. It may not feel that way all the time but working with your parents to benefit the lives of your children during a divorce will be good for your mental health and will help to improve the quality of all your relationships with one another. It may seem like the last thing you want to do at this moment but improving the nature of your relationship with your spouse is something that will eventually improve the quality of your relationship with your child. If you go the extra mile to be a resource for your children, then that is something that your children will always remember and that you can feel good about even during times of your divorce that are difficult. working with experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will also help you to focus your energy on your kids.
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 consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.