Protecting Children in Divorce

Upset child from arguing parents

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

You can make a difference when it comes to insulating your children from the harmful effects of unavoidable divorce.  Children of divorce are most affected by ongoing conflict, absent parents, and financial shifts in lifestyle.  Moreover, how the child responds to the divorce is modeled by how each parent deals with it.  Generally, if the parents are coping well, the children are coping well.

Even though one is angry and needs to “declare the truth” by criticizing their ex, children pay the price due to ongoing conflict between parents.  Children and adolescents see themselves as extensions of their parents, and so negative comments directed at a parent impact the child, probably more than it does the other parent.  The result may be that the child has difficulty remaining close to either parent.  Particularly harmful is creating a situation which kids have to hide information or their feelings. Another way kids are impacted by divorce occurs when a parent “projects” their anxiety or depression onto the kids, assuming that the kids feel the way the parent feels.  Or, if a parent is transparent about their anxiety or depression, children and adolescents worry about it. Not giving your children more to worry about when it comes to adult problems is a gift that keeps on giving.

The loss of parental involvement leaves children and adolescents mired in self-blame.  Developing a new “normal” with consistent involvement from both parents reinforces that the child is worthwhile and lovable.  For the child who loses a parent in a divorce is a deep loss.

Though one parent may resist the cost of child or spousal support due to their own fears of financial ruin, parents should consider both sides.  On the one side, the nonresidential parent may have difficulty maintaining financial stability, or the residential parent may have difficulty.  Even though one may be blamed for the divorce, punishing your spouse financially punishes the children.  One way divorce mediation can be helpful is by increasing flexibility to create a balance for both parents financially for the benefit of the children.

One sign to watch for are changes in the children.  Are they suddenly “helpful” and over-responsible?  Are they withdrawn or is there a loss of interest in usual activities?  Any change in sleeping or eating patterns?  Are they more emotional than usual? See Depression Screening.

Here are some rules that protect children from some of the harmful effects of unavoidable divorce:

  1. Foster affection and respect between the children and the other parent.
  2. Refrain from discussing the conduct of the other parent in the presence of the children except in a laudatory or complimentary way. Do not call the other parent disparaging names or subject the children to others that are disparaging the other parent.
  3. Protect the children from parental conflict. Don’t discuss financial matters, or disputes with the other parent, either directly to or in the presence of the children.
  4. Avoid sending or soliciting information about the other parent through the children.
  5. Subject proposed activities or vacations with the children to mutual approval before discussing plans with the children.

Divorce Mediation FAQ About Finances

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Here are some questions that need to be answered in the best financial interest of the family:

1. Have I consulted with an attorney and/or a tax accountant specializing in divorce so I understand my best options when filing for taxes?
2. Who will claim the children for dependent tax exemptions?
3. What is the value of the marital residence?
4. What is the value of any vehicles?
5. What are the values of all the bank accounts?
6. What are the values of the retirement accounts?
7. What is the value of stock options or other investments?
8. Are there any other bonuses or assets not accounted?
9. How much spousal support is needed?

What about the children?

Divorce Mediation FAQ About the Children

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Here are some questions that will have to be answered not by the mediator, but by the parents in the best interest of their children:

1. What is in the best interest of the child when determining custody?

2. Will child care be needed?

3. What religion will be modeled for the child?

4. How will parenting time be divided in the best interest of the child?

5. How will holidays, vacations, and other special days be divided?

6. Where will the parents live?

7. How much child support is in the children’s best interest? (A guideline is 20% of net income for one child, 28% for two, 32% for three, and 40% for four).

8. How will school fees and extracurricular activities be paid?

9. What about saving for college?

10. How will medical bills be paid?

Who is going to pay for this?

Is Divorce Mediation Worth It?

 

Angry wife showing bills

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Two of the main goals for divorce mediation in unavoidable divorce are to save money and time in a long process, and reduce antagonism and stress that can come from an adversarial process.  Two well-attested facts are:
1. Kids are most damaged by the fighting between the parents.
2. The money spent in litigation could be used for more desirable things, and for your kids.

Often litigation is the only option.  But if divorce mediation is used, the benefits are worthwhile. Divorce mediation:

  • Reduces the negative effects of divorce on children
  • Increases satisfaction with the outcome compared to litigation alone
  • Reduces the chance of returning to court after divorce
  • Reduces costs. Mediation can be used for all or part of a divorce.
  • Customizes agreements based on unique situations.

QUICK ANSWERS ABOUT DIVORCE MEDIATION

What does a mediator do?

The goal of mediation is to create a way to communicate and resolve issues that are unresolved.  All agreements are finalized without coercion or pressure.  The mediator will document agreements in a Memorandum of Understanding that will be reviewed by your lawyer before divorce is finalized in court.

What does a mediator not do?

Both parties will be encouraged to seek advice from attorneys, accountants, counselors, etc. so accurate information is available.  The mediator does not act in any of these roles.  The mediator also does not break confidentiality unless there is written permission or a legal mandate to do so.

What will we talk about?

Decisions that have to be made in a divorce process include (but are not limited to) parenting, custody, division of assets/liabilities, child and spousal support, insurance, and tax filing.  Blair Counseling and Mediation can mediate all or part of a dispute.

Is mediation appropriate for me?

All parties to a dispute must be willing to participate and capable of informed decision-making based on full disclosure of information.  Each party must be comfortable disagreeing with another party in the same room and not fear retaliation.  Neither party must be subject to domestic violence or threats.