3 key tips when divorcing with kids
If you are divorcing with young children, 3 key things to keep in mind.
Divorcing by itself is difficult. Divorcing while you have young children can be much harder. You are processing the end of your relationship with your spouse, and your former way of life. On top of that, now you have to navigate a time schedule and decision-making for the children with someone who is no longer your intimate partner. You need to figure out a time-table, juggle daycare pick-ups and drop-offs, then plan what your Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and all long weekends will look like.
The children can be having a difficult time with it all and the emotions may seem overwhelming. The decision-making responsibility for the children’s life decisions do need to be sorted out. Who will decide what school they attend, what religion they will be raised in, what language they will be taught in, and what other significant life decisions will be made for them? The issues can be challenging but often made worse by the emotional roller coaster you may be on. You can be grieving the loss of the marriage. You can be past that point and have moved on with a new partner, but remember your spouse may be grieving. You may have discovered your former partner cheated on you. Not many couples with young children mutually grow apart and settle things with no emotional hiccups. Even still, we expect that working through your changing relationship with your former partner will be difficult, no matter what was the end of the relationship.
Those tensions and the quick ease with which you can respond emotionally with cellphones, tablets, and laptops, instead of stopping and thinking first can get you into significant trouble in this process. Trouble that can be damaging if you end up in court.
There are at least 3 key things to keep in mind while you are going through this change.
- Never say anything in anger.
Particularly on a cellphone by text, on a tablet on by e-mail. Anything that comes on a device to your former spouse, by text, e-mail, or social media (Facebook and Instagram for example) is able to be printed, screenshot, and saved. Do not deceive yourself that a text is just a quick shout-out of your feelings, being frustration/anger/whatever, whether provoked or not will just disappear. You need to keep one thing in mind – when you text or message or e-mail something to your spouse – STOP. Ask yourself this question: if a judge was reading this, what would that person think of me? That text or message is likely being saved and your former spouse is stockpiling them should he/she not be able to work out an agreement with you. They can print them out and put them under the nose of a judge in court in a heartbeat. And if you have said horrible angry things, they will come back to bite you.
- Always ask yourself – Am I being child-focused? The second thing is the flip side of point one.
If you believe you may end up in court, make sure that all your digital messages and social media are positive messages. No matter how bitter you may be towards your former partner, do not, let us repeat that, do not ever, put that in writing anywhere. We are not saying do not be human. Not at all. What we are saying is that if you are angry with your spouse, you feel victimized, cheated on, whatever it is, you deal with that away from social media and texts and away from your children. If you feel like you have to go out into the woods and throw things to vent frustration, do it. Just make sure the kids (and no animals) are around. We recommend you look after your mental health and get counseling. People often fail to acknowledge how much hurt is caused by the ending of a relationship. Counseling can help you work through the anger, grief, shame, embarrassment, loss, and the multitude of other feelings you are going through. The law, however, will always look to the issue of which parent is more focused on the child and the child’s best interests, not what is in the interests of the adults. If it is your weekend, then be child-focused. Engage with your kids. They are likely hurting too. They may be bewildered and need support. Do not put them off to a sitter, especially if you are the parent who has less than half time. Even if you are the parent with the kids more, make sure you engage with your children in a child-focused way. If you do not, and you end up in court, it can cause you serious amounts of trouble.
- Always take the children on your time.
Make sure every time you are to have your scheduled parenting time with the children that you exercise that time. Especially if you have less than equal parenting time. If you are in a dispute before the court and the other parent is alleging you are not acting in the best interests of your child, you can be sure they will parade your flaws to the judge. Every time you canceled an evening with the kids, a dinner with the kids, or a weekend with the kids, because you wanted to do a different activity focused on you, they will make a note of it. Focus on what your child needs, even if it gets in the way of your lifestyle wants (going out to that show with your friends, going out with your buddies to a football game, etc). Never say you do not want the kids for a weekend because it interrupts with your plans. Take the children for your parenting time without fail. These days, the only way you should say you cannot take them is if you have a positive virus test or exposure. Other than that, be with your children.
If you are in the unfortunate place of being in court on a custody/parenting dispute, follow the above to the letter and you should fare well.
If you need some advice or personal support to get you through the process, book a call with one of our family law advisors.