Divorcing with children involved – this is a nightmare scenario no couple foresees happening. But here you are, one half of a divorcing couple, reading this article – perhaps desperate for some guidance. Your wedding day was all about heartfelt vows and dreams for the future. But the reality is, according to completecase.com, divorce with kids is one of the highest types of divorces in the US. The bulk of America’s 73.7 million children live in two-parent households and nearly half of American children will experience the divorce of their parents.
Most children under 18 are impacted negatively by divorce. The extent of the impact varies, depending on a host of factors. The parents involved – being the adults – have the power to exacerbate the situation. Thankfully, just like with most challenging situations, there are strategies and coping mechanisms a couple can adopt. There are also common mistakes a couple can avoid. Let’s take a look.
1. Listening to Friends and Family
I know it’s very hard not to do this. They were there when you were going through relationship troubles; they were there at your wedding and were right there at every other relationship milestone. The temptation to tear down your partner’s character every chance you get is huge, especially when we are dealing with a divorce with kids. Of course, other people’s advice can help sometimes, and emotional support is also valuable. It’s just that friends and family may project their own biases and issues onto your delicate situation.
As well-intended as they are, they may not give their opinions and support in ways that are helpful. Perhaps adopt a balanced approach and take what they say with a pinch of salt. Let them know you are mainly looking for a listening ear and just need to vent. If you send a tactful message that it’s best you figure things out on your own, most reasonable people would understand this.
2. Neglecting Yourself
Let’s face it – divorce is hard. Once the decision to divorce is made, make peace with that decision. How you act during and after the separation is crucial to your well-being. It can be a very volatile time for one’s emotions and mental health. A lot of married couples invest so much energy giving to their kids and partners. The day-to-day stress of working one or more jobs only adds to the stress. Pile on top of that the strain of a crumbling marriage and you have a recipe for personal disaster. It is important that couples take care of themselves to avoid a mental or emotional breakdown.
I’m not suggesting you take it to extremes, like going away on a retreat. This is a sensitive time for the kids and they need both parents to be present physically and mentally. Divorcing couples should consider therapy instead. Professional counseling is great for sorting through the roller coaster of emotions typical of divorce situations. A divorce with children, in particular, is a treacherous course to navigate. A professional counselor, experienced in divorces with kids involved, can help with navigating this course.
3. Making it ALL about You
Even though you should not neglect your physical and mental health, you should realize that divorce is not all about you. This, of course, is referring to a divorce with kids. It’s a myth that kids have some sort of magical resilience. They are NOT an extension of you. Just because you are ok, does not mean they are. They have their personalities, ways of thinking and perceptions of everything that is happening. Be careful not to ignore their feelings and needs. Answer their questions reassuringly, mindful of addressing their concerns in an age-appropriate way.
4. Secretly moving out with the Kids
Unless there is domestic abuse or a direct threat to life, it is a bad idea to hastily remove the children from the family home. Not only is it selfish to deprive your kids of one of their parents, but it could also work against you in the divorce proceedings. The temporary, perceived benefit, is outweighed by all the downsides.
5. Not making Peace with Your Decision
The decision to divorce can be a painstaking one, made after a lot of sleepless nights. It’s not unusual for couples to second guess their decision. There’s a lot of unhealthy stress that takes a toll on the mind and body, as indicated before. It’s important to make peace with one’s decision so you can focus on the way forward. This is a complicated season in your life and you need your wits about you. How you act during and after the decision to divorce is as important as the decision itself.
6. Lack of Planning
It is under-estimated how much disruption a marriage break up can cause to daily routines. This has the potential to cause a stressful and negative impact on the kids. A divorce with children involved means adjustments to mundane activities. It is easy to take for granted how efficiently the marital home ran at the best of times. Where kids are jostling between two homes; management of activities, medical appointments, errands, and household duties, are important. Proper management encourages a seamless, less disruptive transition to the new reality.
7. Having an all-out War against Your Partner
This is one very tempting mistake to make. Many couples fall prey to a very vindictive and ugly behavior during a divorce. Doing spiteful things against your partner, damaging property in fits of rage, manipulating situations and pitting the children against the other parent are just a few examples. This behavior is typical of litigious proceedings especially.
8. Communicating through the kids
If you decide to take the high road and not wage a full-scale war, you still risk doing subtle things that are just as wrong. An example: indirect digs at the other parent to your children. Another form of problematic communication is where you use your kids as convoys for messages meant for your partner. This puts the kids in a precarious position where they act as filters for negativity. They also are taking on the baggage that comes with the information that is being passed on. Learn ways to communicate peacefully with your partner.
9. Not Educating Yourself about Your Options
A lot of couples think going down the court route is the only option. However, there are other options such as mediation and getting an online divorce. If you listen to family and friends and don’t do your own research, you may end up with a regretful or costly outcome. When we are talking divorce – and divorce with children involved – it’s so important to know your rights and understand the implications of whichever route you choose. Your choice is often determined by your budget. Those with access to their own money typically feel they cannot divorce without an attorney. However, there are affordable options available, which will be discussed in more detail below.
10. Hiring a divorce lawyer
Hiring a divorce lawyer can be one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Most families can’t afford to hire a divorce lawyer anyway, yet they still feel they have to go down this path. Couples think, without an attorney, they stand to lose property and custody of their kids. A cheap divorce is thought to be impossible to achieve. However, engaging lawyers often triggers litigious proceedings and fosters battle-like behavior between exes. More antagonism and heightened stress are the least things kids need to witness.
If you are happy to fill out complicated divorce forms, wait long periods for a judicial decision, and battle it out with your ex, then go ahead. However, there are real benefits to all parties – including the kids, to choose an online divorce instead. Here are some benefits:
· An online divorce is inexpensive compared to hiring lawyers
· Not only is an online divorce affordable, but it’s less complicated
· The divorce forms come with easy to follow instructions
· Many services generate the divorce forms instantly once they are filled out
· Without an attorney involved, there are reduced stress levels
It’s worth mentioning again: attorneys do NOT make for a cheap divorce! Avoid the hassle, stress and unnecessary costs by getting an online divorce.
11. Ignoring Court or Mediation Orders
Having your divorce settled by a 3rd party does not always mean you will be happy with the decision. Most divorce proceedings entail a lot back and forth, compromises, and begrudging agreements. Couples argue over custody, time spent with kids, styles of parenting and also property – both expensive and cheap! Litigation, in particular, is particularly antagonistic and drawn out. Typically, the end of litigation means one or both parties are not happy with the end result. This explains the temptation by exes to simply ignore or blatantly go against decisions. Again, online divorce is less likely to foster such antagonism.
Keep Your Chin Up!
A divorce with children is the hardest type of divorce a couple goes through. It’s obviously not a walk in the park. However, if you make the mistakes this article warns about, the damage to you, your ex, and your kids could be very serious. Kids are not as resilient as political correctness makes them out to be. Thankfully, if you avoid the 11 mistakes outlined above, you’ll be one step closer to surviving your divorce. More importantly, your children will be one step closer to surviving your divorce.