Dissolving a marriage with children involved is complicated, and a suitable custody arrangement will have to be agreed upon by all parties, including the judge.
I’m not just a lawyer. As a divorced mother of two, I understand what it will take to move forward both legally and emotional.
A divorce is not the end of your obligation as a parent. Being a parent is forever. Both parties should make every effort to become part of the lives of their children. They need affection, interest and the concern of their parents. They must feel that they have parents who love them even though they could not live with each other.
Child Custody Guidelines for Parents
The information in this below will help parents to help the children cope with divorce with minimum hurt. These guidelines follow the many years of divorce attorneys, judges and the counseling professions. There are numbers of ways to minimize the damage to your children. Here’s how:
• If you think getting divorced will get rid of your spouse, well think again! As long as you have minor children, you will still need to communicate with the other parent. As long as the children are minors, your marriage will never fully over.
• Don’t forget the best part of your marriage. Share these experiences with your children and use them constructively.
• Make them understand that they are not to blame for their parents’ separation and they are not being rejected or abandoned. Children often feel that they have done something wrong and they are the reason for their parents’ separation.
• The feelings you show are as important as the words you use so do not continue or show anger toward your former partner because it can also injure the children.
• Do not criticize your former partner. It is necessary to respect both parents for a child’s healthy development, discipline, happiness and mental well-being.
• The fundamental need of the children is to see both parents as sources of moral authority, capability and reliable strength. Destroying this belief deprives the children of one of the essential elements of their well-being.
• Seeing a parent humiliated is disturbing to a child and it has long lasting damage to them.
• Never ask your child to choose between you and the other parent because they will regret it. It may take time or years, and may happen only in the late teens or young adulthood. They will almost always endure agonies of guilt and it will cause them to turn bitterly against the parent who allowed this to happen.
• Putting the child in the middle and trying to make them feel guilt for being fair, decent or affectionate toward the other parent will damage their psychological well-being and character. This is a cruel way to take advantage of one’s own child.
• The only decision maker is the judge, so giving a child the false belief that the child will decide in the matter of custody is not only unfair and cruel but a serious misrepresentation of the law.
• Children need a sense of continuity so try not to upset a child’s routine too abruptly. It is disturbing to them if they need to cope with too many changes at once. Always maintain consistent parenting. Parents should communicate frankly and directly with each other on disciplinary issues in order to provide consistent rules and limits for the children.
• When there is a financial crisis, parents may keep the issue to themselves instead of letting the children know the issue. The healthier way is to be frank especially when the children are expected to help. It will be hard not to blame the other party but doing this will resolve in landing you back to court.
• Divorce is always hard for the children. They may not show their feelings but parents should be direct and simple in telling children what is happening and why in a way that they will understand it depending on their age and comprehension. Unpleasant events need explanation, which should be brief, prompt, direct and honest.
• You need to repeat the reason for your marriage dissolution to your children when they get old or matured. But it will be unwise to present either party as a martyr or to pretend there are no regrets and that dissolution is so common.
• A child needs consistent control and direction so don’t let the guilt you feel about the marriage breakdown interfere in how you discipline the children. Over-permissiveness, or not settling something or making something final or certain and being whim and impulse will interfere with the children’s healthy development. They need to know what is expected of them because they feel more secure when limits are set. They will get confused when adults seem to permit behavior that they know to be wrong. Children need leadership and authority and parents must be ready to say “No” when needed.
Parental behavior has a great influence on the emotional adjustment of their children especially after the dissolution of a marriage. Here are the visitation guidelines have been found to be helpful to children:
• Visitation should be pleasant for both parents not just for the children because this will help your children maintain a good relationship with their other parent.
• Visits should not be limited to the children’s home alone unless otherwise decreed in unusual cases. It may include trips and outings elsewhere.
• Visitation is a time for the parent and the children to be with each other to maintain strong relationships. If other people participate, it may dilute the parent-child experience during the visitation. It may also appear to the children that the visiting parent does not have time for them and does not care to give them undivided attention.
• Always keep your visitation schedule and always inform the other parent if you cannot keep an appointment. Not notifying the other parent may be construed by the child as rejection. Keeping your visitation schedule are duties owed to the child and to the custodial parent and also the rights that the custodial parent should expect to have respected. If for an instance that a last-minute schedule changes for emergencies should be agreed to and facilitated. Schedule adjustment should be agreed by both parents in advance but too many missed visits and schedule changes will lead to bitterness and conflict and that will ultimately hurt the children.
• Depending on the children’s ages, health and interest, both parents may need to adjust the visitation schedule from time to time.
• Frequently, the noncustodial parents thinks that visiting the child or thinking that they are no longer needed is understandable but wrong because it will just saddens the child. Visitation is one of the few times that the parent has personal contact with the children, for that reason, it should be meaningful. Even though the parents have not been able to get along, still, the children need both parents to grow up normal.
• Visiting parent should not think of places where to bring their children to amuse them particularly if they are young children. Doing some activities with children may add to the pleasure of a visit but involvement with the children is most important. Giving your time and yourself is more important than material things. Too many fun activities will probably not be appreciated by the child. Massive assault of special treats and gift-giving may annoy the other parent and it will give the children the wrong idea about life and what parents are for.
• The visit should not be used to spy on the other parent. The parent should not pump the children with this information because this will cause them to have the perspective that their parents hate each other and most likely the children will suffer because of this. In the mind of their children, they’ve already lost one parent and they are fearful of losing the other. Parents should always show respect for each other.
• In case the children left with many problems following visits. Both parents should make every effort to discuss and to agree on ways to deal with natural result of a highly unnatural and uncomfortable situation.
• Both parents should strive to agree on matters pertaining to the children, especially discipline, so that one parent is not undermining the other parent’s efforts.
If You Need Help
If you decide that dissolution of the marriage is the only answer to your marital differences and that help to restore the marriage is no longer what you want or need, you may still need professional help to get on the right road. Advice from well-meaning friends and relatives, in many cases, further aggravates the situation. Friends or relatives can seldom be objective.
Professional counseling can assist you in dealing with your problems and your children’s problems at the same time. A psychologist or other counselor, with professional academic training, can offer insights drawn from the experience of counseling hundreds of parents with problems much like yours who have gone through this process before you.
source: Virginia State Bar Association