An Orange County child custody attorney has seen various types of divorces. From the litigated front lines of a contested child custody dispute to the direct and non-confrontational approach of parents reaching an agreement together, each type affects the children in different ways.

Numerous studies show that long confrontational litigated divorces can be particularly harmful to children. On the other hand, parents that cooperate and minimize conflict can help their children get through the divorce process in the best manner possible.

A child-centered divorce creates an environment that is best for both children and parents.

What Is a Child-Centered Divorce?

As the name implies, a child-centered divorce focuses on the children and what is in their best interest. Through every step, the parents work together to make the decisions that will affect their children for years to come. 

Parents help ease children’s fears and keep them first and foremost in their minds as the family navigates the waters of a divorce. By addressing issues and concerns in a nonconfrontational manner, they become positive role models for their children.

While the children may experience some emotional hardship, they see that their parents are focused on maintaining a healthy relationship and remain active participants in their lives.

How Are Children Affected by Divorce?

The first two years following a divorce seem to have the greatest impact on children. How parents communicate and co-parent during this time, and all the proceeding years that follow, greatly affects how children perceive and are altered by the divorce process. 

Research shows that children do better when parents maintain a cooperative relationship and make joint decisions that are in the best interest of the children. As a child support lawyer Orange County, we’ve witnessed both well-adjusted children and those that experience emotional conflict.

Pre-school-aged children tend to experience more anxiety and fear around abandonment issues. They also tend to adjust to the situation quicker than their older siblings, particularly when parents focus on consistency and security and the continuation of family routines.

Older children tend to dwell on the past when compared to the present. They look and examine the changes in their lives and the disruption that the divorce has precipitated. For this reason and because they have not yet had the opportunity in life to develop good coping skills, a divorce can have long-term effects. 

These may include behavioral disorders, trouble in school, and lowered self-esteem.

Ensuring children that they are loved and cared for, and showing them that their parents will always be there for them, regardless of a divorce, goes a long way in easing their fears and eliminating long-term consequences. 

How Can Parents Create a Child-Centered Divorce? 

The main goal is to keep your children in the forefront of your mind during the divorce process and when it’s time to make those critical decisions in the divorce settlement.

Here are a few considerations that result in a child-centered divorce: 

  • Mediate, don’t litigate. Litigation or obtaining a divorce through the courts can be costly, time-consuming, and combative. These types of divorces are almost always harder and more stressful on the children. They can be asked to testify, called into the judge’s chambers, or interviewed by a court-appointed minor’s counsel who will then make recommendations to the judge. The result is that a judge will decide what is best for the children, not the parents. Mediation with an Orange County child custody attorney provides a safe space and a third-party facilitator that can help steer the parent’s toward a peaceful resolution that is best for the children and themselves.
  • Stop fighting. Heated exchanges between parents can have long-term effects on children. In many cases, the fighting has a greater impact on their long-term happiness and health than the divorce itself. Children need a sense of stability now more than ever. To this end, make a pact to never argue in front of them.
  • Don’t belittle the other parent. Putting down the other parent in the presence of the children only serves to confuse and sadden them. Taking sides should be for game night and not divorce proceedings.
  • Don’t put your children in the middle. Asking a child who they want to live with and why can leave them feeling torn and guilty. Keep your children out of the details of the divorce.
  • Talk to your children honestly and directly. If possible, when it’s time to let the children know that their parents will be divorcing, talk to them together. A united front will help ease their fears. Let them know that they will still have a family, that they are always loved, and that you will keep them safe.
  • Consider counseling. If the children seem to be experiencing difficulty processing the ramifications of their parent’s divorce, consider counseling. Going to a counselor can provide them with the space to vent their fears and anger and obtain coping strategies. Parents should also consider reaching out for help if they need support processing their emotions.
  • Try not to relocate. A parent relocating following a divorce only serves to alienate the children, and the relationship with the noncustodial parent becomes that much more difficult to retain. Life, of course, has plans of its own and some parents find that they have no alternative. In this case, be honest and understanding and determine a visitation schedule before leaving.

How Can Parents Compose a Child-Centered Parenting Plan?

In a child-centered divorce, the focus rests on the children and reaching an amicable agreement that provides for them in a manner that leaves them feeling secure and loved.

Keeping this in mind when creating a parenting plan will help develop the details in a way that serves and protects the children.

A parenting plan details physical and legal child custody. It determines when the children will live with each parent, visitation rights, and where they’ll spend vacations, holidays, and school breaks.

A parenting plan defines if one or both parents will be responsible for the decisions that affect their children for the rest of their lives. These include educational, religious, medical, and other considerations central to a child’s upbringing.

By going through a mediation process with a neutral third-party facilitator who is also a child support lawyer Orange County, parents can develop this plan together in a collaborative approach. They, and not a judge, make the decisions that will affect themselves and their children for years to come.

We always put the needs of the children first in any divorce situation. As a certified divorce mediator and family law attorney, we can help you find a peaceful divorce resolution through mediation.

For a complimentary consultation, contact us at the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin today.