Parenting through divorce

Sadly, the two of you have decided to split.  In the old days, the baby would have been split too, in a sense.  Divided between two warring households, children would be shuffled back and forth begrudgingly by parents who put them in the middle.   Fortunately, children of divorce are now adults.  They can now tell their story.   What these adult children say to parents divorcing today is, “Stop! Act like adults!”

The word now is COPARENTING.    When parents split up, they divorce each other but not their children.   Parents are expected to formulate a parenting plan which affirms and supports the parenting role of each.

Like it or not, most of the time it is in your child’s best interest to maintain a deep bond with his or her other parent.  Each parent has something unique and special to offer the child, and hopefully the two of you will figure out how you will appreciate having another adult to be part of the parenting team too.

Divorce is rough on everyone, but don’t make it more so by putting your children in the middle.  While one parent will likely have primary physical custody, that parent needs to take affirmative steps to help the noncustodial parent maintain a strong bond.  Similarly, the noncustodial parent needs to take special measures to keep in touch in ordinary, everyday ways and not just to become a “Santa Claus” equivalent.

Find a middle ground.   And by all means, support and nurture your children throughout the divorce process and beyond.

Divorce is like a door that the family steps through.  Relationships are redefined, but it it is merely a transition.  Relationships continue.  Get used to the idea that you will be coparenting for a long time.  You will be attending school events, graduations, weddings.  You will even share the same grandchildren.  Find a way to make it work, and continue to parent your children wisely through divorce and beyond.

The following resources will help you and your soon-to-be ex formulate a parenting plan. 

First of all, a child psychologist is an excellent investment.  A typical scenario will involve an initial consultation in which the parents meet together with the psychologist, the psychologist meets individually with the children, then talks with the parents again.  The psychologist can help everyone through the transition, help everyone understand what to expect, suggest age appropriate expectations for parenting and parenting plans.  For about the same hourly rate as what you are paying your attorney or mediator.  So first of all, get some expert advice rather than just relying on the “he said, she said” of opinions.  It is well worth your while to invest some family resources  into this type of guidance that will help both parents learn more about what is reasonable, establish reasonable expectations, and prevent trouble down the road.

There are also excellent resources available on the internet.  An internet-based worksheet for parents working through decisions related to parenting plan, the web site UpToParents  allows you to share goals, values, and vision with the other parent so that you can develop common themes.  Click HERE

For a brochure about coparenting after divorce, click HERE

Two articles about effect of high conflict divorce on children, click HERE or HERE

Sixty-eight page resource for developing a parenting plan, published by State of Arizona, click HERE

Age appropriate visitation guidelines, published by Missouri court system, click HERE

Scheduling “wizard” for coordination of parenting issues such as schedules, school records, medical records, etc., click HERE

And here is a 17 minute video with guidance, including interviews with n0w-adult children of divorce:

Published by the Virginia State Bar Association
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2 Responses to Parenting through divorce

  1. Callie Bond says:

    Hey Skinner,
    This question may be a little off-topic, Divorce is complex for most people. Divorce affects the two grown ups concerned, furthermore their young children, but it also has an effect on extended loved ones. Regardless of who “wins” custody, regardless of where the young people are living, these children have two sides to their household.
    I’ll be back to read more next time

  2. Skinner says:

    It is my view that any time parents take the viewpoint of “winning” on the issue of custody, everyone loses, but most especially the child. The child should never be put in the center of conflict between the parents. Parents who fail to do everything they can to ensure that the child has opportunity for loving and close relationship with each one, are putting their child at risk. Ideally, the parents will stay together but sometimes staying together is worse than the alternative In those cases, the parents need to continue to work together to ensure their children have relationship with each one and suffer as few effects as possible as the parents separate their married life. In other words, even after the parents have divorced, they will continue to be parents together and a family in that sense. That is why, in my mediation practice, we talk in terms of a “parenting plan” rather than “custody.” When they develop their parenting plan, the two parents themselves work out ways for their children to spend time with each parent, and do so in ways and times that are appropriate for the age and developmental stage of the child. It is not always easy or convenient for the parents to do what is best for the child, but in the long run there is huge benefit.

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