I recently read an article about post-divorce parenting. The article made suggestions that I thought were important to echo. In my practice, I see and meet all types of people and parents. Divorce often brings out the worst in people. It’s an emotional time – separation from a partner, equitable distribution, visitation, sale of the marital home, separation from children, moving, dividing of assets, alimony, infidelity, child support, negotiations, court, motions – the list goes on and on. Hopefully, these things will be resolved at some point. But the most important thing when all is said and done is that the children of the marriage are emotionally and mentally unharmed and continue to have a good relationship with both parents.
Without reciting the whole article, I thought I would make some observations about the matters I have handled. One thing I often see in a divorce is when a parent begins to treat their child like a friend. Parents going through a divorce should not tell their child the intimate details of the divorce as if they are an adult. Divorce is an adult matter. Parents should avoid discussing the legal intricacies of a divorce with their child. It is important to explain to the child that you will be living apart and that both parents still love the child and it’s not the child’s fault. But there is no need to explain who will be receiving the retirement accounts or how much alimony will be paid.
This brings me to my next observation – parents speaking ill of their former spouse either to their child or while the child is present. It’s natural for a spouse to be angry at their former spouse following a divorce, but a parent should not try to poison a child against their other parent.
Don’t play the “gift game” with the child. Affection that is bought from a child will only foster a child to attempt to manipulate their parents to get what they want. Often children will complaint to a parent about how they are being treated unfairly by the other parent. Naturally a parent wants to help their child, so they go to Court and seek a change of living arrangements. Sometimes the child is correct. But before a parent just reacts to their child, they should think, why is this happening, is the child just manipulating me so they can stay out later, or go on a trip, or watch more TV – why is the child seeking a change?
This brings me to the most important thing I tell clients when they have children – act in the best interest of your children. When it comes to the children, try to be fair and reasonable, and put yourself in their shoes. If you think going through a divorce as an adult is difficult, image how a child must feel?