I’m a child of divorce. I may or may not have mentioned this before. My parents split when I was 10 and the divorce was final after I turned 11. It’s not a pretty story, but my mom easily got custody. There wasn’t a battle because my dad (at the time) wasn’t fit to have custody.
I didn’t have to hear my parents fight over splitting time or who was going to have my sister and I over the summers. We lived with our mom and I was the only one that went to visit our dad every other weekend.
I stopped that once I hit high school, because, you know, boys, friends and roller skating. I had my priorities straight at that point, and hanging out with my dad in the cornfields of Southern Indiana was not on the list.
I am not kidding. My dad and former stepmom bought a house outside of a small town and the neighborhood was so new that there was nothing next to it except cornfields.
I didn’t really like the area- when your dad’s black, your stepmom is white and the nearby town is known for its dislike of interracial marriages, it’s hard to like.
I may have escaped this battle, but many kids don’t.
Moving Into A New Way of Parenting
Everyone has a different situation in which they have to decide custody, and many need to go to court to make sure things go okay. If you can work things out without having getting the courts involved, that’s the best scenario for everyone.
Many people around you may want to give you advice on how to proceed, but only you and your co-parent know what is best. I give you these tips, courtesy of Parents.com to give a starting point.
Making things easier for everyone:
- Do not speak badly about the other parent around your child. This can be extremely difficult in some cases, but it’s important that your child(ren) doesn’t hear the mean things you have to say about their other parent. They still love them, no matter what may be going on. They may internalize what they hear- if you can’t stand certain things about your ex, and your child shares that trait, they may think you don’t like them either. This can cause a lot of emotional damage.
- Do not drag your child into adult issues. Kids already have a lot going on in their minds during a family split. They do not need added pressure to choose between a parent (the worst thing you can do if you ask me), have to worry about money, housing or other adult- related issues. If you need help sorting things out, please take it to someone you trust and/or a therapist.
- Keep realistic schedules in mind. Look at the factors that may impact your time with your child, and try to make adjustments where you can. It may not be possible to spend as much time as you are used to with your child. This is hard to think about, but trying to make everything go your way can be hurtful in the end. Be flexible and open to change as your child(ren) grow and needs change.
- Find a good way to communicate with your ex. There are websites, apps and other ways to communicate that don’t require seeing each other. You can talk through texting, email or even use Google Calendar to help keep schedules straight. Your lawyer can recommend good communication paths.
- Let your child have a voice. My brother and sister in law recently divorced and because they were able to work things out among themselves, plus letting their kids (who are 10 and 13) have input on the custody part, they did not have to set foot inside a courtroom. The kids didn’t get everything they wanted, but they did get to pick the day of the week that they see their non-custodial parent, holiday visits (somewhat) and other things. I thought this was great and so far, it’s worked. If your child isn’t old enough for this option, this may have to wait.
Special Circumstances Require More Thought
If you have a child with special needs, there may need to be more paperwork and planning. I did a 5-part series with Bonnie Price last year, one part of which can be found here
This series details how to handle divorce in this circumstance because it is a reality. Parenting will put a lot of strain on a marriage- throw in special needs and the chances of divorce go up even more. It’s a thought-provoking series.
This situation may be the first time that you and/or your ex have even thought of long term planning for your child, depending on their needs.
For example, I hadn’t thought very far into the future for Julian’s needs until I was looking into a divorce. He is higher functioning, but he still may need assistance when he’s older. It happens to the best of us. My marriage obviously improved, but I have been looking into the future, so that is one of many lessons I took away from that experience.
How Do We Make This Work?
This information comes from Help Guide
Co-parenting can be stressful but it’s better for everyone involved if both parents can get along, even if only for the kids.
Communication is KEY. Tips to make it effective:
- Try not to demand things from your ex. This can set a negative tone for the situation that you need help with. Making requests may be an easier way to set the tone for getting assistance.
- Show restraint. This might take some time, depending on the situation you may be in. It can be hard to hold back the anger, pain and other feelings that come up. Try some calming techniques, deep breaths, using communication that you don’t have to see your ex to communicate. This may help.
- Keep the conversation focused on the kids. The two of you may not want to know about the other’s lives, and it might become counter-productive. Keeping the conversations between you solely about the kid(s) will help from things going badly.
- Stay open. Things will change and both parties need to remember this. Rigidity will not help anyone involved. Compromise will go a long way in co-parenting.
- Listen. Try to hear your ex’s side of things and try to solve things together. Even if you don’t agree, you can at least acknowledge their view. Listening can help during intense situations.
Families form and change in different ways. The best ending for divorce (with kids involved) is that the parents are able to work together to make sure life stays as stable as possible.
Sometimes, this doesn’t happen and courts have to get involved. This isn’t a failure, but a different way to solve things. Life after divorce is not an easy path for anyone, especially not kids.
Do you have experience with custody battles? How did it work out?