Do you know the answer to the question – How will your children remember your divorce? It’s an important question and unless your children are very young they will remember it. If they are very young they will grow up with the tension or friendliness that you created during your divorce process.
You have all heard the stories; fathers that have limited access to their children, parents that don’t pay support, couples that are in and out of court each time the children are brought back from a visit late, tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and several years have passed only to end up with an agreement that doesn’t meet anyone’s needs…especially the children.
What is the common mistake that most of these parents made?
They ended up in a battle to see who would win!
(Do you think perhaps they lost focus on what was really important? The children?)
Many times differences, mistrust, emotions and/or the inability to communicate cause parents to lose focus on the children’s needs. It is essential during a divorce to separate the adult relationship issues from the parenting issues.
Know Your Goals
Do you want to reduce conflict and confusion for your children?
Do you want to keep some of the family money to be used for your new lives instead of costly legal battles?
Do you want to encourage a good relationship between your children and your ex?
Do you want to be able to go to your children’s extra-curricular activities, graduation and wedding without shooting daggers at your ex? Do you really want to make these exciting events stressful for your children?
Know Your Options
First and foremost, get informed. Read what you can on the internet, there is a great deal of information available. Use your local library as a resource. Visit the Family Law Information Centre available at many of the court houses. Schedule a consultation with a lawyer. Part of knowing your options is knowing your rights and those of your children.
Will it be a friendly divorce where you can work through the issues at the kitchen table? Perhaps a do-it-yourself kit available online will do the trick or you’d like to file the papers yourself. The advantage of course is the cost. However, it can be time consuming, confusing and frustrating.
Can you sort some or all of the issues out by yourselves? Maybe mediation is the best fit for your family. The advantages are that you pay only one professional, you have complete control over the decisions, you set the pace and it is less stressful than court. Mediation allows you to have the legal process as a fall back. This is often not a suitable option if there are significant power imbalances or domestic violence.
Maybe you feel that you are not able to negotiate with your ex-partner and require a lawyer to handle everything but you don’t want to go to court. Collaborative lawyers can help you both work through your issues under an agreement that you will not go to court. This can be less stressful and less costly than the traditional lawyer-lawyer negotiation process. If you do not however resolve your issues and you wish to proceed to court you must retain new lawyers.
And of course there is always the combative court process for divorce. Does the story below sound familiar?
Parents who spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers that didn’t get along. They ended up in court several times only to get adjourned with no resolution to their issues. They lost any remnants of kindness that they once had for each other. They have a great deal of legal debt and are uncertain about their financial future. They are so stressed that they have lost a great deal of weight without ever having to go to the gym!
Did you listen carefully as they told you about how difficult it was for the kids? Mom and Dad fighting all of the time, not knowing whose house they were going to sleep at, who they could say what to or who was going to take them to hockey and swimming lessons.
The reality is that there is no one-size fits all divorce because each family and each set of circumstances is different. What works for your family may not work for another.
Creating a parenting plan, by any means, as a first step in your separation is vital to a successful separation. Staying focused on your children allows you to start communicating and making decisions within the boundaries of your new relationship.
Normally lack of trust and emotions factor into how detailed a parenting plan should be. The less trust between the parents, the more detailed the plan should be. Both parents should have a voice and communicate directly regarding what is best for the children.
Once your parenting responsibilities are sorted you can move on more successfully with other aspects of your separation.
Create a divorce transition plan that works for your family. There is no right or wrong way to go about that, plans can be as unique as your family.
How will your children remember your divorce? Well, it’s up to you. Making positive choices during your divorce is the biggest success factor for how well your children handle and remember the transition.
Julie Gill Q.Med, CDFA
Owner and Principal Mediator
Families First Mediation