I’ve been an attorney for over thirty years, spending most of that time in family law. I know that the present can seem overwhelming when couples are going through a divorce.
But right now, if you’re a parent, I want you to stop and time travel into the future—10, 20 years from now, when this divorce is an image in your rear-view mirror.
Imagine you’re at a college graduation or possibly a wedding. Your ex and her parents are there, and maybe you have other children with you, perhaps a new spouse. It’s peaceful, and you’re proudly watching your son or daughter take another step on life’s journey.
Everyone shares the excitement and is there to support this unique young adult. You are proud of your child, and you can congratulate yourself on navigating the years between now and that moment in the future.
Keep a picture like this in your mind.
Effective co-parenting makes a difference between kids who survive and those who thrive.
Children are resilient, and divorce doesn’t have to be devastating. Regardless of your kids’ ages, here are five things to help parents have a child-centered divorce.
1. Realize that conflict between parents hurts children far more than the divorce.
Cooperative co-parenting models the skills of compromise and communication that children can learn from. Support your children so they can be kids first, not just children of divorced parents.
2. Parents can still be good partners in the tough job of raising their children.
You both love your children and want them to be happy. Parenting can be challenging, exhausting, and expensive. But when you work together and share the responsibility, it’s better for everyone.
3. Children go through many developmental stages. Your parenting plan can change, too.
Your infant daughter won’t play with the same toys and wear the same clothes for five years. And there is no way you can make a parenting plan now that will remain static, either. Determining the best interests of your child requires both parents to be flexible.
4. While romantic love may end, parental love does not.
You want your child to know, beyond any doubt, that both parents love them and will put their needs first. Even when it’s tough or when you’re angry—you care more about them than winning a fight or being right.
5. You need a parenting plan that lasts a lifetime.
No two children, even in the same family, are precisely the same. Parents are all different, too. But what doesn’t change is the need for parents to understand their child’s development and changing needs and to collaborate on making the best decisions for their child.
Nobody ever said getting a divorce is easy, especially with children.
On top of the usual responsibilities of work and home, you now have to consider legal issues and practical changes to your life. Your feelings may include anger, fear of the future, confusion, and even grief.
But experience has taught me there is hope. You will get through this, and my team and I are here to help.
Suppose the mother or the father has been the primary caregiver. In that case, the other parent may not be as familiar with the child’s physical and emotional needs.
It’s critical that both parents understand the developmental stages of childhood, from infancy through adolescence. An effective plan shows an awareness of long-term, child-focused parenting. If you need some guidance, there are plenty of books by qualified experts and community resources that can help.
Besides considering how much time children will spend with each parent you’ll also need to think about financial support.
Other vital issues you must discuss will be elective medical care and whether your children will attend private or public school. Some families strongly value religious education, and effective co-parenting may include spiritual practices—or not.
You may need to consider saving for college or decisions about participation in extra-curricular activities.
I know you can’t foresee all the situations your family will face. Still, my goal is to get you thinking about the need to work together with creativity and compromise. You want to treasure the years of childhood, not spend time arguing.
Start thinking about some of these things, and you’ll be heading to the new life you’re looking forward to.
I believe parents genuinely love their children and want what is best for them. We settle many divorces in Texas out of court through negotiation, which can include mediation or collaborative law practice. Contact a member of our team today to learn more about our child-centered approach to divorce and custody.