Are you thinking about how to divorce with children? Alternatively, are you wanting to leave your marriage and worried about the impact divorce will have on your children? Ask yourself, how can I leave my marriage with children involved? This article will provide answers to your questions on how to leave a marriage with children.
Being in a marriage that is not working is difficult, but it is every more complicated when you have children. Leaving a marriage with children is not an easy choice, as the impact extends far beyond you and your spouse. Divorce has a serious impact on children. I know personally, as I am a child of divorce. You may have pressure from family and friends to “make it work” for the children. You are likely asking yourself questions about whether you should make your marriage work and whether your children will be happier if they can be in one home or two homes with more peace.
When you decide to file for divorce, how will you tell your children about the divorce; when will you tell your children about the divorce; and when will you decide to leave the marriage? Our team can assist you in answering these questions and finding the right way forward for your family.
How to Divorce with Children
How to Divorce with children should never be an impulsive decision. Additionally, the manner and timing of your leaving the marriage should be after much consideration and in a way to minimize the negative impact on your children, if it is safe to wait.
The final decision to seek a divorce is your decision alone. However, you may want to discuss the issue with your spouse prior to filing the divorce. Your divorce will not be final until a divorce decree is entered in your district court divorce case; however, you should begin planning to file your divorce when you know in your heart that it is the right decision. I can tell you from the experience of assisting many spouses facing a divorce that children can be very happy after an unhappy divorce is finalized. There is no question the divorce process may be difficult for your children; however, your children may be hurt more in the long run by living in the home of a loveless marriage.
Children of all ages are smarter and more observant than we often give them credit. In marriages that are at a high risk of divorce, the children often recognize the imminent divorce sooner than the parents do. The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has completed research indicating that children are often aware their parents will be seeking divorce before it happens.
The act of getting divorced alone is rarely traumatic for children. Many children have been through their parent’s divorce, and have done just fine. What is traumatic for children of divorce is their personal involvement or experience in the divorce. Additionally, anything you say about your current or former spouse that is negative is likely to be burned into the mind of your child for years to come. Therefore, it is important to find someone else to confide in about your issues with your spouse.
Considerations on Seeking How to Divorce with Children and Telling your Children about Divorce
The following are helpful tips and things to consider on how and when to leave a bad marriage when you have children. The following tips may help you decide whether it is time or not to leave your marriage with children. Once you have overcome the decision point on seeking divorce with children, the next and equally important step is how to leave the marriage with a minimal negative impact on your parent-child relationship.
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Be Honest with Your Children
As stated above, your children, dependent upon their age, are likely aware of the fact that your marriage is not in a good space. Therefore, it is important to give them a clear picture of what is going on without overinforming them. You choose to determine how much detail you share based on the age of your child, i.e. a six-year-old may only need to know that mommy or daddy will be living somewhere else; your teenager is likely mature enough to know that you and your spouse are seeking a divorce and will no longer be living together as husband and wife.
Tell your Children about the Divorce from Your Spouse
Whether it feels like it or not, your children are not to blame for the divorce, even if they have impacted your marriage. They deserve to transition as smoothly as possible through this process. Therefore, it is important to present one concerted message to them with your spouse. It may be difficult to agree on what you tell your children about divorce; however, you should take the time to discuss or even argue about it, before your children find out.
When Do my Children Need to Know about my Divorce?
Your children need to know about your divorce when you decide to move forward and both parties have initially processed the fact a divorce action is imminent. You should not wait months after the decision to file has been made. Kids are smart, they will pick up on the fact that mommy or daddy are not coming home at night or not sleeping in the master bedroom.
Again, the amount of information you provide your children should be determined by their maturity and in the setting that will reduce the likelihood of stress on them, i.e. tell them on the first day of a long weekend or a break from school, so they will have time to process the information before returning to class. Alternatively, it is important to not allow your children to be isolated from their friends or support network during this time. Consider what is best for your specific child and their maturity before you determine when and where you will tell your kids that you are getting divorced.
What Should I tell my Children about Divorce?
Tell your children that you are getting divorced and put it in terms that they understand without sharing the reasoning or too much detail. Ensure them at every step of the process that they are completely innocent in the situation and that you love them now as much as ever. Tell your children that just because you are getting divorced, nothing changes about how you feel about them as your children. Inform them of the new living arraignment between mom and dad and that they will always have a loving home with both their parents.
However, if there is abuse, domestic violence, or some other factor that makes the previous statement not true, refer to the above about only providing as much information as necessary. Protect your children in divorce and protect their hearts.
Again, ensure at every phase of the process from the first time your children learn you are getting divorced and on, that they are not to blame, your children have nothing to do with your getting divorced, and that you love them.
Resolve Divorce without Fighting
You may be wondering; can I take my children and leave when I file for divorce? Can my husband take the children when he files for divorce? Can my wife take the kids from me? However, your focus needs to be on the best interests of your children. You should immediately consult with an experienced divorce attorney if you fear that your spouse will hide or kidnap your children. However, this is a rare event and the courts/law enforcement have tools to protect you and your children if necessary.
After representing hundreds of clients facing divorce, I can assure you, it will be better for you and your children if custody and your divorce, in general, can be resolved without a fight, with the assistance of competent family law counsel. However, that is not always possible. The less contention in your divorce, the less impact the process will have on your children, and the smoother the process will be for everyone involved in your divorce with children.
The more you and your spouse can resolve out of court the better. Family law courts are jammed to the breaking point across the country and you are rarely provided more than 30 minutes of the Court’s time to evaluate any issue in your divorce with children before trial. Additionally, trials in divorce cases with children take over a year on average to be heard. All this to say, the more that can be settled by agreement in your divorce or through the assistance of experienced divorce counsel, the better.
The only way to know what will happen in your divorce and more importantly in the custody decision for your children is if you reach an agreement with your spouse. You would be wise to retain an experienced divorce attorney or child custody lawyer to assist you in the process, as their experience in evaluating divorce cases with children will be invaluable to you at this time.
Negotiating How to Divorce with Children
A little give and take can go a long way toward a peaceful resolution of your divorce with children. You should receive fair compensation and a substantial amount of time with your children in the divorce; however, remember family courts are courts of equity. Divorce court judges across the country are tasked with reaching an outcome that is in the best interest of the children in the divorce, which may mean something completely different to the divorce judge than it does to you or your spouse.
You have the opportunity for reaching the best possible outcome in your divorce with children if you consider negotiating a settlement in your divorce with the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney. You do not have to accept a settlement offer or ever settle for that matter; however, it is an option to evaluate all fronts of the divorce before leaving your future in the hands of the judge.
Prepare Children for Divorce
In many cases, children have no understanding of how your divorce will impact their life. Therefore, you and your spouse are responsible for helping them through the process. Let them know that you will be there for them no matter what and that they are not losing a parent, rather their relationship with both parents will simply be different. It is important to host birthday parties and other important events together during the transition, if possible and safe to do so.
Some children will benefit from individual counseling during and/or after your divorce. You may consider providing this option if available in your area. Additionally, give your children a safe space and time to ask you questions about the divorce and what their future will look like after the divorce. Your answers to your children’s questions about divorce should be focused on what is best for them, not what puts you in the best light.
Create New Bonds through Divorce
The transition to seeing a parent in a new home is difficult for children of all ages. However, you can soften the blow or reduce the difficulty of the transition by making a space for your children in your new home. You should be familiar with the interests of each of your children and putting some of their favorite things in your new living space or new home will help ease your child’s transition.
As a result of you or your spouse moving out during the divorce, you likely have some or most of your personal effects in your new living space. So, consider bringing some from the marital home or purchasing new toys or things that your children will like. Of course, it is important to follow this advice for parents going through a divorce within reason. You should not spend thousands of dollars on your children in your new home, unless you reach an agreement with your spouse and/or it is financially responsible to do so.
Do Not Put Your Children in the Middle of Divorce
It is important to be pleasant when you are around your soon-to-be ex-spouse and your children. Remain calm and try to be pleasant when you meet for custody exchanges. Obviously, you should follow the advice of your divorce attorney and meet at a safe space, such as a police station, if safety or outbursts are a concern.
Respect your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s access to your children and your children’s access to them as well. Encourage your children to speak to your spouse during the divorce process, even during your visitation or time with your children, so long as it does not negatively impact your time with the kids. Your children are learning a new way of life. Make it as easy as possible on them by keeping lines of communication open for them, at all times or on a routine schedule.
Forgive and Move On after Divorce
Your decision to seek divorce with children is your issue and not your children’s fault. Your children will know if you hold a grudge or cannot get over the divorce. They are not your counselor. Your children are not responsible for your mental health, it is the other way around. You need to get the assistance of a counselor or mental health professional if you are having a difficult time letting go or forgiving your spouse. You do not need to confess your continued love or anger towards your ex to your children. That is a weight that is not theirs to bear.
In the same respect, in some instances, and with the assistance of marital counseling and other resources, it may be the best decision to stay in your marriage. You should consider trying to repair a broken marriage if you and your spouse are willing to try and it is safe to do so. However, it is never the best option to simply live through a painful or loveless marriage. When you know your divorce is over, you should move on to the divorce process, but do so in a way that minimizes the negative impacts of the divorce on your children.
Your Next Steps
When you know that your marriage is ending and you have children, your focus needs to be on how to safely move forward with divorce with children and minimize the impacts of the process on your children. Contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.