The majority of children are deeply affected by divorce, even if, and more so, if domestic violence is involved in the family dynamic. Children often think the divorce is their fault. One of the best things a parent can do is to assure their children that they are not the cause of the divorce.
Helping Children To Cope With Their Parent’s Divorce
Some of the other ways parents can help to calm the worry and anxiety of their children is to include them in your conversations about the family. For example, reassure them that they are not at fault. You should also discuss such things as who they want to spend most of their time with and do they want to have the other parent included in any extracurricular activities that are relevant to the children. Encourage your children to be open and honest about their wishes for a custodial/visitation schedule with the other parent. If the child is the one who approaches the other parent, the child’s wishes will have a much greater impact on the other parent than hearing it from you.
Don’t overlook the direct approach with your children. Pose a hypothetical question to them and ask what they want if they could choose. This approach will give you a much better insight into what your child or children are thinking.
Domestic Violence and Divorce
If domestic violence is involved in the equation, then the primary goal shifts to one of protection of the children and explaining to them why the other parent may not be able to be a custodial parent for them. Depending on the court order, the other parent may not be allowed any access to the children unless it is exercised pursuant to a plan of supervised visitation. Supervised visitation means that the other parent will not be permitted to have overnight visits with the children and the hours of visitation are limited as well as the days of visitation.
If domestic violence is involved in the family, either parent may want to consider seeking professional help for the children. A mental health professional may be useful to be a neutral person who can explain the situation to the children, including a discussion of what happened and why. This should be considered if any child or any of the children witnessed the domestic violence incident. Most times the parents depending on the part they played in the incident have their own agenda and issues surrounding the incident. A mental health professional can serve as a neutral person to help the children process the incident and to be available to answer any and all questions that the child or children may have. I would also recommend that the abused party seek the help of a mental health professional to help that party process and deal with the harm they suffered.
Child Custody and Visitation Agreement
Assuming the there are no harmful issues to factor into a custody and visitation order, the courts will usually work to give each party as much time with the child or children as that party can handle. Other factors to consider in a custody order is if either party has a work regimen that would interfere with a custody or visitation schedule. The court will consider the lifestyle of each party when trying to work out a custody and visitation schedule either with the children or with the other parent. Lifestyle issues that typically interfere in a custody schedule are the use of drugs and alcohol or dating a new partner that has been exposed to the children. All of these issues are very damaging and harmful to the children.
There truly is no limit on the types and kinds of issues that can affect a custody and visitation arrangement. Be sensitive to the specifics of each case and these issues will vary by case and intensity.
One of the more insidious issues is parental intimidation by one parent to a child using the other parent as the subject of the manipulation. Children strive to have access to and be loved by both parents. They also strive to have access to both parents. Eyes on the other parent is confirmation that they still have two parents and that the other parent is part of the child or children’s life. Keep in mind that children need assurances that they are still connected to both parents despite the dissolution. One of the most interesting dynamics is that most children are very good at appreciating and understanding what the other parent is all about. Sometimes, we as adults do not give children enough credit for the ability to see the good and the bad in both parents.
Contact Our Orange County Family Law Attorney
As you navigate your way through the dissolution process ask yourself if I was my child or my children, what would I want and would their wishes be in their own best interest. That is the standard that is applied by most courts.
Hollie A. Lemkin is an Orange County, California family lawyer who handles international child-custody disputes. Her practice also includes all other aspects of marital dissolution, including spousal and child support, parenting plans, post-judgment modifications, and move-aways/relocation challenges; paternity; domestic violence; and same-sex marriage issues.