Most people know that a divorce order cannot and does not end your responsibility as a parent.
Being a parent is forever, and both parents should make every attempt to play a vital part in the lives of their children, and allow one another to do so. Children should have the ongoing affection, interest and concern of both of their parents whenever possible. After a divorce it’s critical that children know they have two parents who love them, even if they can no longer live happily with each other.
Furthermore, if one parent thinks a divorce will fully and permanently rid them of having to deal with their former spouse, they are far from right. As long as you have minor children, you will always need to have a speaking relationship with their other parent. This can be challenging, but it’s important be constructive about your former spouse in the presence of your child and to assure your children that they are not to blame for the breakup, nor are they being rejected or abandoned by either of you.
Choose Your Words Carefully
Young children are especially likely to mistakenly feel as if they’ve done something wrong and that the problems in the family are their fault. Always try to look at the issues from their perspective and their desire to please and receive love from both parents. Continuing anger or bitterness toward your former partner can injure your children almost as much as the dissolution of the marriage. The feelings you show are as important as the words you use. Refrain from voicing criticism of the other parent. It is difficult but absolutely necessary from a child’s healthy development, discipline, happiness and mental wellbeing.
Children have a need to see both parents as sources of moral authority, capability, and reliable strength. Trying to destroy the child’s belief in the other parent deprives that child of one of the essential elements of his or her wellbeing. Seeing a parent degraded and humiliated is deeply disturbing to a child. It inflicts long lasting damage in ways that a child — even an older one — does not fully understand. When you are with your children, choose your words about the other parent carefully, and ask that your family and friends do the same. This also applies to things you post on social media – assume that anything that you post may eventually be seen by your children.
Perhaps most importantly, never make your child choose between you and the other parent. Children who take sides in the battles between their separated parents invariably come to regret it. It may take years, and may happen only in the late teens or in young adulthood, but the child almost always endures agonies of guilt.
Collaborative Divorce Options
If you are facing a divorce and feel you need the assistance of an attorney but are concerned it will lead to litigation, then collaborative family law may provide the environment to negotiate your differences without the threat of litigation. In collaborative family law each client retains a lawyer trained in collaborative law. The parties agree to work toward settlement without threatening to go to court, to share all needed information, and that neither lawyer can represent you in contested litigation of the case if the case does not settle and you go to court.
Davis Law Group has an active collaborative law practice and highly encourages the use of this process. We are here to help you and can assist in arranging a relationship with the proper professional to help you with your parenting issues.
This information has been modified by Davis Law Group, P.C. for use by its clients from materials revised and reprinted by the Family Law Section of the Virginia State Bar originating from a handout obtained many years ago from Judge Jack T. Ryburn of the Los Angeles, California, Supreme Court.