Conflicts with your child’s other parent over custody are a delicate situation and should be treated as such. No matter the dispute between the parents, the children shouldn’t suffer because of it. Never make a bad situation worse by putting the children in the middle of your argument.
The needs of children should come first in a custody decision.
The most difficult, and yet most important consideration, when working out a parenting plan is protecting your children. If there is domestic violence, drug abuse or criminal activity by the other parent, this behavior must be addressed for the children’s safety. However, most cases simply involve parents who need to resolve who will be the primary caregiver or negotiating a shared arrangement.
When both parents have been living with the children, here are a few tips to minimize the strain on all family members.
First and foremost your children will be affected by any breakup of their family unit so putting their needs first is the ultimate expression of love by a parent. No matter the reason for the break-up, protecting your children should come first. This may be the most difficult thing for a parent, who is also facing the end of a relationship, will face in their lifetime.
Talk with them. No matter how young a child is they can still sense conflict. Your first instinct may to avoid discussing the matter altogether but chances are that by the time divorce or break-up is in progress your children know things are bad. They’ll only become more confused if you withhold information. Stress repeatedly that the break-up is not his or her fault and that that mommy and daddy will always be here for them and love them very much. All they need to know is that they will be loved and cared for, no matter what. Encourage them to talk and express their feelings. Strongly consider family counseling and allow a professional to guide you.
Children are not pawns to seek revenge or inflict pain. If you are in court simply to “win” your children perhaps you’re there for the wrong reasons. Closely examine your reasons for seeking custody and if you truly are the best caregiver for your children.
Refrain from speaking badly about the other parent in front of your children. Don’t attempt to alienate them from the other parent. Not only does this reflect badly upon you in court the consequences to the relationship and the child’s emotional well-being could be far reaching. Advise any other relatives, friends or caregivers that you will not tolerate any negative comments about the other partner
Keep a sense of normalcy whenever possible. Continue with sports, after-school activities or visits with friends. Young children especially have a difficult time with change so reassuring them that life will go on is critical. If possible keep them in their homes as familiar surroundings will bring some comfort.
Consider the benefits of mediation– courts are increasingly mandating attempts at mediation because it can be better for all parties involved, especially the children. It can help to avoid the resentment that parents might feel following a long drawn out custody battle.
Be open to working with the other parent. After all, you will have to co-parent the children for a long time. You don’t have to like the other parent, but you do have to at least develop a business relationship with them for the sake of the children. You will need to continually work together to make important decisions about how best to raise the children. This includes everything from where they go to school, to medical decisions, to vacation times. Again, this may be exceedingly difficult but remember that you love your children and want what’s best for them.
Connect with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible and closely question them on their child custody methods and experience. If you find your attorney using phrases like, “we’ll crush your ex,” instead of reassuring you that your children are his or her first consideration you should probably look elsewhere.
A study starting in the 1970s shows that only 60% of children of divorce marry and 40% of them will divorce. Among adult children from intact families, 80% marry, and only 9% of them divorce. Long-term emotional damage may result from a mishandled custody dispute or spouses who continually use their children as a means to inflict pain on each other. Divorce or break ups are the dissolution of what was once a happy and promising life and no one “wins”.
The family attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine are compassionate and experienced in all aspects of custody arrangements. We know how difficult and emotional these situations can be and our goal is to help your and your family reach the best possible outcome. Please contact us today and let us answer your questions and put you at ease.