Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

How to make your divorce “kid friendly”

Many people believe that divorce has to be an all out war with family members, friends, and even the children taking sides. They wage battle after battle, and allow the anger and hostility to impact every nook and cranny of their lives. No doubt, going through a NJ Divorce process is a stressful time. When there are broken hearts and hurt feelings to manage, a divorce can get downright ugly. However, what happens in these cases is children get caught in the crossfire. The negativity seeps into their little lives and often they suffer tremendous emotional strain as their developing psychological frameworks cannot handle the pressure. As a New Jersey divorce lawyer, I see all too often how the battles parents wage create an unhealthy atmosphere for themselves and their families.

I have previously discussed ways the many ways you can help protect your children from divorce. Now, I turn my attention to the actual divorce process so you can make it as child friendly as possible. This will be of great benefit to you as a parent knowing that an atmosphere of peace will be of great psychological benefit to your children.

While your children will not (and should not) be involved in the negotiations of your divorce, there are three ways to handle your divorce proceedings to ensure the process is child friendly.

First, demand an atmosphere of respect between you and your soon to be ex-spouse. A former client of mine referred to this as “taking the high road.” Each and every time there was any communication throughout the divorce process (email, face-to-face meetings, letters, texts) she and her now ex-husband did not allow each other to get nasty or raise their voices. There were some rough discussions, but each and every one was handled with a very impressive high level of professionalism. And no, this was not easy, on either one of them at times. However, as hard as it was to keep even the most contentious parts of their divorce calm, out in the real world they were able to then civilly deal with each other because there were no hard feelings.

Second, always put the best interests of your children first. I have watched many divorcing parents use parenting time and financial support as bargaining chips in both divorce proceedings and in their lives. Rather than look at what is truly in the best interest of the children they negotiate with hate and manipulation. “I won’t tell the kids you cheated if I get more time with them than you,” or “You pay more child support or I’ll make sure our daughter knows you’re the reason she isn’t going to ballet anymore.” It isn’t healthy for one parent to threaten the other. Missing from these statements is what is in the best interests of the children. Parenting time and child support negotiations should be contingent upon what is best for the child.

And lastly, accept and promote the fact that it is healthy for your child to have a relationship with his/her other parent. Once I represented a father, who worked long hours in New York City and was not going to be able to care for his children during the week. During their marriage, the family spent most weekends at his parent’s house at the shore. He wanted to preserve this tradition but was nervous he might lose some of that time to an every-other- weekend custody plan. During discussions of parenting time, his now ex-spouse actually stated that it was in the best interests of their children to maintain that tradition. We were shocked.

I realize this all sounds well and good and in a perfect world you would be able to maintain complete emotional control at all times. As you get on the emotional rollercoaster of a New Jersey divorce, you may at one time slip, and that is perfectly natural. Apologize both to yourself and across the table and then pledge again to move on in a more productive manner with the very clear intention of bringing as much peace to your children at this time.