When served with divorce papers, the first thing many people feel is shock. Even those who knew their marriage was in bad shape are stunned when they finally have the documents in their hand. It has a feeling of finality that doesn't exist in heated arguments or even door slamming. The next thing they feel is usually a combination of sorrow and anger. Frustrated by a relationship that didn't work out, they're determined to get everything that's owed to them and make the other person feel like a loser. Meanwhile as most divorce lawyers know, the real losers end up being the children. Kids have no say in the matter, and often suffer the most emotional trauma from the division of two parents that they love equally. In an effort to remind parents that well being of the kids should be the most important priority, we've put together this list of tips for protecting them.
CONSIDER A SEPARATION AGREEMENT
A divorce isn't the only way to end the troubling fights and chaos of a marriage that's on the rocks. Legal separation is also an option that many couples skip right over. To paraphrase Connecticut state law, a separation agreement is basically the same as a divorce, except that neither spouse has the right to marry again. This makes it legal for you to live in separate dwelling, have separate finances, and to request alimony from one another. Legal separation also involves court ordered child custody boundaries. However, it can be executed more easily than a divorce, and is also easier to reverse, should you decide that a divorce is no longer necessary a few months down the road.
DON'T ASK YOUR KIDS TO BE SPIES
Under no circumstances should children be used as messengers or spies in the event of a legal separation or divorce. Kids feel a tremendous amount of pressure and anxiety during a divorce, and asking them to relay and interpret the nuanced emotions of the situation is absolutely harmful. Both parents should make every attempt to be completely civil to each other in person, and when talking about each other in front of the children.
START THERAPY EARLY
Whether or not your children appear outwardly troubled by the divorce, it's a good idea to start counseling right away. This allows you to talk through the divorce proceedings with a neutral third party every step of the way. If there's any confusion, sadness, or anger lurking under the surface, it's very beneficial to get it out immediately so it doesn't create problems later.
The most important thing to do is constantly and repeatedly tell your children that the divorce isn't their fault. No matter what, you want to retain their trust and love, and allowing them to think that they're at fault is one of the most damaging a parent can do.