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Divorce is a time of stress--unhappiness--pain. Somebody loses and usually it's the children . . . it tears apart the kids. The pain and heartache from a custody battle can be devastating.
Children need parents to continue to work together.
Conflict is normal and natural. Conflict can cause us to look for creative solutions. Keep in mind a difference of opinion is okay. There are two kinds of conflict: destructive and constructive. Destructive conflict leads to ongoing hostility with children caught in the middle. Constructive conflict happens when we put aside our hurts and angers and reach solutions best for our family.
Hiring a lawyer doesn't mean you have to fight it out in court. Lawyers help us understand legal implications of our decisions. Lawyers help us recognize two realities: (1) both parents will have contact with our children, and (2) child support will be paid. Lawyers explain there are no real winners in court. Because of our disappointment we parents can get stuck on issues that have little or nothing to do with our children. The reality is we will be parents for many years to come and it is not realistic to go to court every time we have a disagreement about our children.
Even when parents are generally in agreement, we can need help dealing with our anger and keeping it from getting in the way. Counselors are helpful in communication and along with lawyers can be an agent of reality. Lawyers also advise us about what to expect from a judge, what the potential outcome will be, and advocate for and represent our position in court.
One teenager tells how she was not okay, but how she put up a front as a happy camper and peacemaker.
Parents may want to try mediation and many courts require it when there is a dispute involving children. Mediation is NEUTRAL and CONFIDENTIAL. Mediators do not make decisions--that is the parents' job, or the judge's job. Mediators don't make reports to the court. Parents are not required to agree, but are required to make a good faith effort.
Children have the right to know and love both parents. Mediators are trained to deal with intense anger and hurt. Mediation is hard work and is designed to come up with a way children can be with both parents. Mediation allows parents to make the decisions. It is not magic, not legal, not counseling. When parents feel they don't have any choices, mediators help us find options and choices and help us to focus on the children.
The video shows a brief episode of mediation.
The teenager explains her feelings of lack of stability and confusion.
There are many different ways to work things out. Even if you think you've tried everything possible, keep working at it because going to court should be the very last resort. It is not just the final hearing that polarizes parents, but the process preparing for the final hearing. Children become caught up in this process and can be used like bargaining chips in the process of preparing for a court trial. Litigation can make things worse for parents and children.
Going to court doesn't usually provide parents with what they expect. Parents are disappointed by the process and the outcome. Many times parents are not allowed to present evidence they want to because it is not relevant. Litigation is expensive emotionally and financially and most parents don't feel they get what they want. Going to court gives the right to decide about your children to a judge who doesn't know or love your children and who decides in the children's best interest rather than parental convenience.
Reassure children about what will happen to them, that they are not to blame, that both parents will still love them, and by listening to them. Children's needs change and this requires communication which sometimes makes it necessary to revise the residential arrangements.
Children need a relationship with both parents. Children do best who have a positive relationship with both parents no matter what the motivation is. Although children's feelings and preferences are important, they should never be asked to make the decision about who to live with. This causes extreme stress and guilt about disloyalties. Children should never be a major source of support for or a confidant of parents.
How you make the plans for your family is as important as the plans themselves because of the strong impact on your children. You can fight each other every step of the way or you can work together.