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The Hawkins Law Firm

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Arab, AL 35016

Tips for Navigating Divorce with Children

Conflict and divorce in the family. Sad children and parents turned away from each other

Divorce is never easy, but when children are involved, extra layers of emotions and legal complexities enter the picture as well. Dissolving the marriage while getting what you want and need regarding issues such as alimony or marital property division is important, but the emotional well-being of your children is paramount. Choosing the right family law attorney can help you accomplish this goal, focusing not just on legal matters like child custody and child support but also on how best to approach the divorce process itself. Below are some general tips to help you navigate divorce with children in a way that minimizes their emotional stress while making sure their needs and yours are being met.

Keep Open Communication with Your Children

  1. Be Honest but Age-Appropriate: Children are perceptive creatures and know more than you think. They’re likely already aware that something is going on in the household, even if you haven’t yet told them about the divorce or even made the decision yourself. Be honest with them about what is going on, but keep the information factual and age-appropriate. Check out books from the local library or look online for guidance if you are unsure how to approach telling kids of different ages about divorce.

  2. Reassure Them: Make sure to emphasize that the divorce is not their fault and that both parents still love them unconditionally.

  3. Avoid Bad-Mouthing Your Spouse: Children can internalize negative comments about a parent. Keep your opinions about your spouse to yourself or share them with a trusted adult like a close friend or counselor.

Consult a Family Law Attorney for Custody Arrangements

  1. Understand Custody Types: Familiarize yourself with different types of custody—joint custody, sole custody, split custody and shared custody—so you’ll be prepared to make an informed decision about what works best for you and your family.

  2. Consider Mediation: Some states prefer that parents undergo mediation to come to an agreement on custody, which can be less confrontational and stressful for children. Whether voluntary or court-ordered, go into mediation with legal advice regarding what the process entails and an open mind toward reaching an agreement that works for everyone involved.

  3. Put Children’s Needs First: Think about your children’s daily routines, schools, and social lives when negotiating custody. While in your heart you might want them around you as much as possible, considering your children’s needs to maintain contact with both parents as well as continuity and a stable environment will help you find a reasonable solution.

Create a Co-Parenting Plan

  1. Establish Routine: Children thrive on routine. Work with your ex-spouse to maintain a consistent schedule for them.

  2. Be Flexible: While it’s good to have a plan, be willing to make reasonable adjustments. There will be times when you need to make exceptions, and if you’ve agreed to reasonable change requests in the past, you are more likely to see that attitude reciprocated.

  3. Set Boundaries: Create clear guidelines for interactions between households. This can include rules about communication and visits. Computer programs and apps like Our Family Wizard and others can facilitate this process.

Pay Attention to Emotional Needs

  1. Consult a Child Psychologist: In certain situations, talking to a child psychologist can help your children cope with the emotional fallout of divorce.

  2. Keep Tabs on Their Behavior: Watch for signs of stress, such as changes in performance at school, sleep issues, or altered eating habits.

  3. Open Emotional Channels: Encourage your children to talk openly about their feelings, fears, and concerns.

Keep Records and Document Interactions

  1. Track Child Support: Make sure that all child support payments are made on time and keep a record. This can be crucial in legal matters.

  2. Record Visitation: Keep track of any missed or altered visitation dates.

  3. Compile Evidence: In contentious divorces, it’s useful to have a record of interactions, communications, and events concerning childcare.

Final Thoughts

Navigating divorce with children can be a complex process that involves not only legal concerns but also emotional and psychological ones. Consulting a family law attorney can provide you with personalized legal guidance tailored to your family’s needs. And remember, the goal is to ensure the well-being of your children—something that both you and your ex-spouse undoubtedly want. Making well-informed, collaborative decisions can help achieve this aim.

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