Divorce; your choices and your children

By Lynn Waldman, MFT

Reality starts to slowly set in; your marriage is over, as you begin to contemplate the divorce process, you may struggle with the idea of what life will be like as a divorced, single parent. Many things will change, but your priority is your children and maintaining their normalcy and consistency. You contemplate the best ways to co-parent your children, but so does your soon to be ex-spouse and you find you are at an impasse about how to proceed. Both of you may consider hiring an attorney; the divorce process can be so overwhelming, especially as you each have different ideas about how to share the children.

Maybe you have been the stay at home parent, responsible for caring for you children every day. As their parent, you have taken them to all of their doctor appointments, prepared most of the meals, driven them around to different sporting events and activities, attended school meetings, dried their tears, and celebrated their triumphs. Therefore, you may believe you should care for the children the majority of the time. Your spouse points out that he has coached the kid’s soccer teams, taken them to other sporting events, helped with homework, paid the mortgage and medical bills, paid for family vacations, even found a way to pay for private school because you both wanted the children to have the best education possible. He believes he could not have spent as much time with the children because he was earning a living to finance the family lifestyle, a plan you once both agreed to, but that does not mean his relationship with the children is not as important or as relevant as yours; he would like to care for the children as often as you do.

In many similar situations, parents wonder, “Why does the mother want to push me out of my kid’s lives? Why does the father all of a sudden want to start parenting the kids when he showed no interest when we were together?”

When parents begin to discuss a parenting plan, it can be one of the most difficult, emotional, and frustrating matters for divorcing parents to settle. The process can become even more complicated when parents realize their parenting time is a determining factor in child support.

When parents are at odds, they are more susceptible to fall into a mindset of wanting to win… at all costs. They may decide to proceed with a litigated divorce and see this as their only option. They forget their original intent was for the well-being of the children, and maintaining the family’s consistency and normalcy.   The parents’ disagreement ends up having the opposite effect and negatively impacts the children and their relationship with both parents. As a result, children feel pulled in both directions; they do not want to hurt either of their parents. Now, the weight of the world is on their little shoulders as they feel they are in the middle of mom and dad’s divorce.   Commonly, the outcome is children’s grades start to fall, they become aggressive and sassy, or quiet and shutdown. Children may end up in counseling focusing on difficult feelings they have about their parent’s contentious divorce.

Years later, parents who have litigated their divorce anecdotally report regretting their decision to fight it out in court. Upon reflection, they say their children were damaged, they were damaged, and they ended up spending excessive amounts of money.

Many parents are often thrilled to learn there is another option. That option is mediation, and it can work for you! Parents can mediate their divorce, avoid the heart ache, trauma, and emotional roller coaster of litigation and court involvement. Mediation is an opportunity to work through disagreements, no matter how contentious, even if you think agreement will never be possible. Parents are finding out they can work with a mediator and realize it is one of the best decisions they could make in the face of divorce.  A well-trained mediator (particularly a therapist-mediator) understands the emotional aspects of divorce, it’s impact on the parents and children, and the importance of guiding the family through the process with dignity. Mediation allows you and your soon to be ex-spouse to maintain your authority over your life, have your voice heard and understood by a therapist, and keep the best interest of your children in mind.

For more information about your options and to discuss your situation further, please see the California Divorce Mediation website at www.cadivorcemediation.com and feel free to contact one of our experienced mediators for a free, one hour consultation.

One thought on “Divorce; your choices and your children

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