Effectively Putting the Kids First in a Divorce
In Episode 22 of the Family Matters podcast, Kate Reese said, “Even though I work for the parents, I am always mindful of the children in my case: how old are they, what do they need, how are things going at home for them.” Throughout this informative and insightful episode, Kate and her guest, mental health counselor, Phyllis Palombi, shared their professional experience and insights into the parties least likely to be represented in a divorce – the children. And yet, these are the ones most likely to suffer repeated traumas, long-term because of the divorce. Together, Kate and Phyllis offered some important considerations for divorced parents.
Divorce Can Feel Like It Never Ends
For kids, the parents’ divorce presents a major change and an end to life as they know it. This is inevitably going to be traumatic, so the questions are the extent of the trauma and whether it will be prolonged. Phyllis pointed out that every time kids are confronted with the tension between their parents – in person or when one is speaking about the other – it reopens the initial wounds caused by the divorce. Every time. Parents need to be aware that this is the impact that they are having on their children and take measures to shield the children from adult conflict. This means doing as much as possible to manage co-parenting in a civil and civilized manner.
Finding A Way to Communicate
Co-parenting in separate households can sometimes feel like being a part-time single parent, but the truth is that the well-being of the child is improved by good communication between the co-parents about the essential needs of the child. This goes beyond the basics and includes the child’s emotional well-being, developmental progress, and other information that will help each parent to be more effective in their choices and approach to parenting. Kate and Phyllis pointed out that there are many solutions for effective communication, regardless of the level of tension between the parents. This can be a weekly email that answers specific questions about each child or the use of an app like Our Family Wizard. They also agreed that it’s important to avoid text or other “shorthand” forms of communication where nuance and tone can get lost, which can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements.
Everyone Needs a Voice
For children in a divorce, it can feel like their wants and needs are not important to their parents. It’s important to counter this by giving children a say in their lives. It may make planning a little more complicated when a child prefers staying home during the summer to attending camp, but this can be an essential empowering moment for the child. In addition, both parents should have a say in plans that might deviate from the customary schedule. For instance, if a family wedding is happening, notify the other parent as soon as possible about the event so that they can be prepared for the possible disruption. Giving everyone a chance to participate in decisions helps to reduce conflict.
A Word About Collaborative Divorce
When parties opt for a collaborative divorce, they are agreeing to work together to resolve marital and parenting issues. The structure of collaborative divorce includes trained professionals in each aspect of the change. The lawyers play a critical role, but equally important are the other trained experts who can facilitate the process, including therapists and parenting coordinators who can work with the family to reach clear, acceptable solutions to help the transition to a new normal. These experts are there for the couple and the family rather than advocates for the individual parties, which helps make their suggestions and guidance feel neutral and helpful. Kate recalls that couples who go through collaborative are more likely to leave the marriage and embark on co-parenting together instead of at odds.
Reese Law takes the well-being of children seriously. Whether they are representing a parent, participating in collaborative, or acting as a neutral mediator, they will always make a point to ask how children will be impacted by any position or decision being taken in the process. To learn more about how Reese Law can help you with your family law matter, contact us for a consultation.