So much of our concern during a divorce is in regard to the law, strategy, negotiation and analyzing the playing field as it pertains to your case. Did you pick the “right” attorney? Does the judge like you and your case? Is your spouse going to work with you to resolve the issues through settlement or are you likely going to have to take your case to trial? What does the Family Code have to say about your ability to qualify for spousal maintenance?
These are all relevant and important questions to have as you approach a divorce. However- have you considered the effect that your divorce will have on your children? What forethought have you given as to how your case will affect them? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will detail the extent to which you can take steps to protect your children during a Texas divorce.
Conflict in a divorce can lead your children to not be able to see a positive vision for the future
Your children likely do not understand why you and your spouse are getting a divorce, and probably understand even less about what the divorce will mean for them. In fact, many children have the incorrect impression that they are the cause of their parents’ divorce. How can you avoid causing your children to adopt these sorts of incorrect and extremely hurtful thoughts when it comes to divorce?
Do not put your children in the middle of your arguments. Your children are not to blame for your divorce. A good way to confuse your child into thinking that he or she is the cause of your divorce is to constantly put them between you and your spouse during arguments. Having your child choose a side to fight for can be extremely detrimental to the development of your child. Your child is not in a position to weigh in on which parent, you or your spouse, is in the right on any particular issue. They are not the arbitrator, mediator or judge of your case.
Secondly, even getting into arguments with your spouse while your child is in the room can be hurtful to your child. Hearing how their parents fight and cannot get along will instill a sense of unease and takes away from your ability to foster confidence and self esteem in your child. They look up to you for your ability to resolve conflict and breed a sense of cohesion and calm. If your habits show you to be a person who is constantly at odds with your spouse. It just so happens that your child looks to you and your spouse as pillars in his or her life. Do not rob your child of these pillars in a time where he or she needs you to be a strong role model.
Use your words- in a productive manner
Attempt to talk to your children together- as a team- even if it is difficult. You do not have to see eye to eye on every, or even most, issues related to your divorce. The fact is that you and your spouse likely agree on very little regarding your divorce case. One thing that I can almost promise you that you both agree on is that you both want what is best for your child. Consistency and stability are two of the key hallmarks that children look towards their parents for. Even in the middle of a divorce you can instill these values within your children by being there for them- alongside your spouse.
Sit down with your children with your spouse and talk to them on their level. Obviously the way that you would talk to your teenage children about divorce is different from how you would talk to your child who is in elementary school. The key is to explain things as clearly and objectively as possible without giving your child any false belief about the nature of what is happening. To be unclear is to be unkind as I like to say. Affirm that you and your spouse both love your children more than anything in the world, and that this will not change. Allow your spouse to talk just as much as you do. Avoid getting into the specifics of what your case will look like. Avoid any topic that could lead to disagreements or fighting between you and your spouse. The bottom line is that there is a lot of good that can come out of a conversation like this. If you and your spouse can bury the hatchet long enough to allow for the discussion to take place it can lay the groundwork for creating a sense of stability and consistency in parenting that can be difficult to achieve while in the middle of a divorce.
Parent as a team throughout your divorce
Having one conversation as a cohesive unit is difficult enough, but now I am asking you to parent your children as a team throughout your divorce case. If that doesn’t sound like fun wait until I remind you that once your divorce is complete you and your spouse will be ex-spouses parenting your children- as a team! Why not start practicing the skills that you will need to do that right now as two people going through a divorce.
Setting up common rules and expectations can be an important start. If your child knows that he or she can get away with more at your home than at your spouse’s then he or she will use that to their advantage. Playing you against your spouse, and vice versa, is something that can be extremely dangerous and can be a real threat to the cohesion that I have been encouraging you to foster in your family throughout today’s blog.
Above all else, children look for discipline and structure- no matter their age. In my opinion you would be wise to ignore any voice in your head that is telling you to “go easy” on your children because you are putting them through a divorce. The reality is that your children are a part of your family. When one member of the family goes through hard times, the entire family does as well. You can do your best to shield your child from the harshest side effects of your divorce but you would be wise to reinforce those familiar disciplinary techniques that you and your spouse have hopefully been utilizing since your children were young.
Avoid a long and protracted divorce whenever possible
Most divorces end up settling in mediation long before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. This is both by design and is a result of people tiring of the divorce process and the uncertainty that a divorce trial holds. What a divorce trial also does is cause attention and money to be spent on lawyers and court costs where it could have been more effective to prepare for life after divorce.
You should do your best to assume that your spouse does not have bad intentions when you receive a settlement offer. It is more reasonable to expect that your spouse will want what is best for him or her and your children. So, you can approach settlement negotiations as a meeting of two equals who want very similar results but are coming from different vantage points. Telling yourself this can avoid the creation of bad blood between you and your spouse and can encourage you both to work towards a settlement rather than a contested trial before a judge when it comes to property and child custody issues.
Questions on how to keep your children at the forefront of your divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Many good parents lose sight of the most important things in their lives during a long divorce- their children. If you are interested in learning how to avoid being one of those well meaning but distracted parents please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. Our attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week where you can have your question answered and your issues addressed by one of our licensed family law attorneys.