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What about your kids? What you need to protect as your children deal with divorce

It is natural to be concerned with the well-being of your children as you begin a divorce case. In many ways, you may even be telling yourself that you are divorcing your spouse to provide some benefit to your kids. Your home life may not be what you want it to be or your kids may have even seen violence in the home. There are a lot of issues that you could argue have led your divorce to be essential and even beneficial for your children.

Whether you are right or wrong, with your divorce moving forward you need to be aware that even in the best of circumstances your children will still pay a certain price for your divorcing their other parent. Many parents are contentious of the challenges that their child faces as a result of their divorce. Others are only able to focus on themselves due to the personal conflict and internal struggles associated with divorce. Wherever you fall within this spectrum, the fact is you need to be able to put forth some energy towards helping your child make it through your divorce. 

Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will seek to share with you some of the essentials as far as assisting your child through a divorce. These are tips that I have developed in my time representing the families of southeast Texas through various sorts of divorce cases. While no two divorces are created equally, I can tell you that all children deserve the same level of love, discipline, consistency, and structure. It isn't easy to provide all of these things in a divorce but they are no less essential because of it. 

Don’t put your child in a position where he or she has to choose between you and your spouse

This is a point that I probably don’t have to make, but is incredibly important and needs to be mentioned. The fact is that intellectually you likely understand that it is not a good thing to ever put your child in a position where he or she is going to have to choose between mom or dad. Some situations like this may be unavoidable such as in a situation where both you and your child’s other parent are attempting to win primary custody. In other situations, this type of predicament can be avoidable. 

For instance, if you know that the next weekend is one where your husband is going to have court-ordered time with the kids do not set up a family event with your own family that you expect the kids to be a part of. You are forcing your kids to tell their father that they need to be elsewhere during one of his weekends. This will put your children in a messy situation because they are knowingly going to hurt their father's feelings. Another aspect to consider is that you are worsening the ability of you and your spouse to co-parent your kids.

Do not bar your children from communicating with your spouse 

Most temporary orders and final decrees of divorce will contain some provision relating to the ability of your children to communicate with each of their parents at all times. You should be able to restrict that communication during particular periods, especially if it is interfering with your periods of possession. However, allowing your kids an opportunity to call your ex-spouse can show your support of their relationship with your ex-spouse as well as a certain level of trust.

One way that I believe is a smart means to begin this process is to communicate directly with your kids. Make them aware that you support them having a relationship with your ex-spouse. However, you can and should make your child aware that there will be certain limitations applied to the ability to communicate with their other parent. Making those limitations known from the get-go will cause fewer problems down the road. You can even set up designated times during the day when your child will need to call their other parent. You know your children better than men, but the bottom line is that you need to make sure your child does not believe you don’t approve of them contacting your ex-spouse. 

Don’t fish for information about your ex-spouse from your child

Here is one that I see parents violating with some regularity- even good parents, by the way. It is only natural to want some information on the comings and goings of your ex-spouse after you divorce him or her. After all- that person was (or should have been) the center of your life for the duration of your marriage. It is a huge change to one day go from waking up next to that person in the morning and going to bed with them at night to no longer having much in the way of meaningful contact with him or her. 

However, you should resist the temptation to want to access that information by asking questions of your child about your ex-spouse. It puts both of you in an uncomfortable situation. It also forces your child to possibly disclose information to you that is frankly none of your business. Ultimately you are not going to find out anything beneficial to you or your child. Use your energy towards things that can help your child, rather than pursuits that will satisfy curiosity.

Communicate directly with your ex-spouse whenever possible

The other thing that I will note here is that I do not recommend that you attempt to have your child be a messenger pigeon between you and your ex-spouse. Be an adult and communicate changes in your schedule, questions about your child or anything in between directly to your ex-spouse. Do not expect your children to be able to effectively play messenger for you. This puts your child in an uncomfortable situation. It invites a situation where your ex-spouse is going to fish for information from your child, and can also put your child in a position where he or she has to choose between your desire to relay information to your ex-spouse and a desire to not upset or anger their other parent. 

Allow your child to express their frustrations or feelings with you about the divorce

I have found that parents who allow their child to speak freely (within reason) about the divorce tend to do better in terms of growing a post-divorce bond with their child. I'm not here to say that there should not be limits on freedom of expression when it comes to your children. If your child shows disrespect to you or to your ex-spouse that is something you will need to handle. No amount of free expression should inhibit your ability to raise a respectful child. By the same token, making it impossible for your child to express their feelings about your divorce can be a huge mistake and can have lasting damage on your child. 

Both you and your ex-spouse have a right to visitation with your child (most likely) 

The presumption is that in Texas both parents have a right to be able to build a long-lasting and fruitful relationship with their child. This is the case no matter if you are married to your child's other parent, were never married or are currently divorced. Public policy in our state says that your child stands to benefit from having this sort of relationship, in addition to the benefits that you can derive as well.  

I said that you most likely have this right under the final decree of divorce in your case since some parents have this right taken away due to it being found that it is not in the best interests of your child to have a relationship with you. This could be that you have been violent with him or her in the past. However, if you are reading this blog post then I can pretty safely assume that you have this right enumerated in your decree of divorce. 

What significance does it hold for you moving forward? Well, you have a right to see your child no matter what the circumstances may be for your family. You will very likely have a detailed possession schedule as it relates to your child. You are entitled to these periods of possession. If your ex-spouse denies you these periods of possession you then have the right to file an enforcement case against her to have a judge address those denied periods of possession. 

What does this mean for your child? He or she will no longer be denied the opportunity to spend time with you as may have been the case in earlier years. I have worked with many parents who take a great deal of peace of mind from having a divorce decree that allows them to spend time with their children regularly. Before, many of these parents were consistently denied visitation by an ex-spouse.

Do not bad-mouth your ex-spouse in front of your kids

This is one that is hard for you to enforce but is nevertheless incredibly important. I think so much harm is done to your child when he or she constantly hears you bad-mouthing your ex-spouse. It is assumed that you are not on the best terms with the other parent. After all- you did get a divorce. Your child, no matter their age, understands this on some level. However, to constantly be told something negative about that parent over and over can be enough to cause your child to start to hold those same beliefs about your ex-spouse.

Even if the things that you say about your ex-spouse are true, they likely are not relevant to your child. If you hated how your ex-spouse communicated with you then that is reasonable. However, consistently harp on this in front of your child will cause him or her to think less or your child's other parent over some time. What it will also do is likely cause your child to think less and less of you over time.

It could be that your child is a tenuous place after the divorce as far as their mental health and self-esteem are concerned. Before you brush this aside, remember that we are talking about a child here- not an adult. I’m not telling you that the self-esteem of an adult is overly important but I am here to tell you that the self-esteem of your child is incredibly important to their development. By bad-mouthing your child's other parent, you may cause your child to feel like you are bad-mouthing him or her. Don't put your child in that position. Keep your child's other parent and their name out of your vocabulary when it comes to speaking with your child.  

Questions about family law cases in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

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If you have any questions about the material that you have read 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 here in our office. Our attorneys can answer your questions and provide specific feedback about you and your family and your circumstances.  

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