FAQs on Collaborative: How to Help Your Children Through Divorce

Collaborative Divorce has many finer points that clients and students often ask about. These FAQs posts clarify some of these muddier details, giving you the opportunity to accrue as much helpful information as you can. Whether you are considering your divorce options, seeking more knowledge about the process you’ve already chosen, or hoping to learn more about Collaborative Divorce more generally, the FAQs on Collaborative are a straight-forward teaching tool to answer specific questions you might have. If you have more questions, please feel free to contact the Miller Law Group at 914-738-7765.

What effects will divorce have on your children, and what can you do to protect them and nurture them through the process? What can be done to protect children whose parents are divorcing? There are two separate but related tactics parents can take to protect their children while they are in the process of divorce:

1. Parents can effectively deal with their own emotional fallout from the divorce. I do not think that it is possible to separate what some people call the “emotional divorce” from the legal divorce. My experience is that emotions influence thinking and that the best way to prevent emotions from taking over is to get help processing the emotional impact of the divorce. Everyone has an emotional response to divorce. Even the partner who chooses to end the marriage has feelings that come up around that decision and its repercussions for the family. Dealing with what comes up emotionally will help parents to protect their children from their own anger, sadness or other reaction to the divorce — both the end of the marriage and the resolution process.

2. Parents can separate the resolution of the parenting plan from the financial negotiation. Of course, the entire settlement or resolution of a divorce must all work together, and any parenting plan must be financially supported by the rest of the settlement. Yet, if the parents can make explicit their intention to support the parenting plan they choose — actually setting forth a written parenting plan that involves both parents in the lives of the children as frequently and thoroughly as possible — this strategy is likely to result in a plan that truly puts the children first.
Neither of the above guidelines is easy to do, and they work independently of each other—although working through your own emotional fallout does make separating the parental responsibilities from the financial details far easier.

Divorce is a scary thing to go through. It is sad, expensive and incredibly disruptive for the entire family. Finding a way to protect your children will likely not be easy. From the outside, it seems like it should be. Everyone talks about protecting the children as something to which they aspire — either as professionals or parents. In reality, it takes courage and self-honesty. Ask yourself: how would you want your children to describe you as a parent going through your divorce? That answer will set you on the right path.
Fortunately, research suggests that the majority of children of divorce go on to lead normal, healthy, emotionally adjusted lives after their parents separate. For the first three years or so after a separation, children in general do tend to show signs of distress: their performance at school may drop, for instance. But most children prove resilient.
One risk may be rapid repartnering. In his book, The Marriage-Go-Round, Johns Hopkins University sociologist, Andrew Cherlin, argues that divorcing parents may put their children at risk when they repartner too rapidly, because this behavior can create instability at home. Sometimes, divorced parents think that children should ideally be living with two adults. As a result, many people who get divorced feel obligated –for the sake of the children–to repartner fast. Cherlin’s research, however, suggests that such a strategy can backfire. It’s bad for the child’s development if partners continually enter and exit the family (e.g. a string of boyfriends or girlfriends come and go), because this activity can be destabilizing.

Katherine Miller




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