At Magic City Law, LLC, we focus on the needs of children in divorce or custody proceedings. We both have a background in protecting the interests of children. We are all certified Guardians Ad Litem meaning that we are advocates for children in multiple different types of hearings from shelter care hearings, adoptions, to divorce cases. When advising our clients, we want to ensure that our clients, and hopefully their exes will take their children’s interests into consideration when making their decisions. We, as your attorneys, put the children in a divorce as priority, not as a second thought. While going through many different cases, we’ve noticed that the children are often forgotten, or worse, used as punishment against the ex.
People often forget that at one time, they cared enough for this other person in order to make new human being with them. Children are impacted through divorce because the heavy emotion blinds both parties of the toll it is taking on their children. We realize that there are many times when there is emotional or physical abuse, drug use, mental instability, or neglect, but in the majority of cases, the child’s best interest lies in both parents taking part in their lives. These are our tips to help you keep your child OUT of your Divorce in those situations:
1.Do not use your child as a pawn in the Divorce Game. Children are often used as “the prize to be won” in the Divorce. They are more often seen as the number one prize as opposed to a living breathing being who can feel pain and make their own opinion based off what they are witnessing. (This will be discussed later). Often parents are ready to fight based off of who has been doing the main job of taking care of the children. They are being trained and coaxed on both sides of the fight to prove that they are the primary caretaker and the other parent has no clue as to what they’re doing. This may be the truth from time to time, but is this what’s best for the child? Consider this before you do everything in your power to belittle the other parent and “win” custody.
2.Do not discuss your case with your child. The fight is between you and your spouse/ex. The child should not be used as the go between in order to tell your spouse/ex what the papers say. Your child should have no clue as to what the papers say or whether the papers are in place. Your child should be Switzerland regardless of how you feel. If your spouse or ex is the devil, then only she/he, his or her mignons, the lawyers, and the judge should be aware of this. There are a few moments involving criminal matters, abuse, or drug use, in which your child should be aware of your significant other’s faults. Besides those times when your child is in danger, your child should always think that their other parent is someone to look up to.
3.Consider joint custody. This is the default in a relationship. In marriage, in life, and in theory, parents should share the custody and care of minor children. Both parents should be able to work together to raise a child. However, we understand that this isn’t utopia, but that doesn’t mean that simply because the two of you can’t stand each other, that your children should have to spend less time with one of their parents. Consider not only the faults of the other parent, but their benefits that they could teach your children. Maybe one of you is better scholastically – perhaps that person should be in charge of education. Maybe one of you goes for a run every morning- that person should be in charge of athletics.
4.Take into consideration your child’s school and activity schedule when discussing visitation or custody schedules. This is really hard for parents to do because once they receive their visitation or custody schedules, they really want to go by that schedule specifically. They will point to their papers and yell “It’s my weekend! I don’t care if she has Kangaroo Petting Camp!” It’s hard for parents to stop and think about the benefits of whatever it is the child has planned because they are guaranteed that weekend. What parents don’t realize when emotions are high is that there is give and take. There should be negotiating in which the visiting parent can receive time (perhaps when then Kangaroos aren’t around) that they can get their time with the children and the children can still get the benefit of their planned events. Parents should work with each other because social events are important, but so is spending time with their parents. It takes time and understanding to keep a relationship going.
5.Realize that child support is for the child, not for the parent receiving it. This is for both the parent receiving the support and the parent paying the support. The child support belongs to the child not to the parent receiving it! Children are expensive, and child support is ordered because of that very fact. As lawyers, we often hear parents fighting over child support, but it’s simply because people view it as alimony not child support. Those checks should be used for a multitude of things such as living expenses (toothpaste, underwear, lunchables, Kool-Aid, etc.) for your child not for spa trips or gym memberships.
6. Unless there are allegations of abuse or drug use, the parties should avoid having the child testify. Can you imagine having to testify in front of your parents in order to decide where you want to live? This is forever burned into the child’s memory and the parent’s. Unless the child’s testimony would go to prove the other parent is neglectful or abusive, the child should be left out of it.
7.Do not interfere with the relationship of your child and their other parent. Children are like sponges. They will absorb and take in everything you say. The fight is between you and your ex. Do not try to convince the children that they should be on your side. That is for your friends. You do not need children as teammates. Could you imagine if you showed up to a basketball game with a 2 year old and 5 year old? No one would be scared of you. It doesn’t make your case. It doesn’t make you a better person.
8.Consider a parenting plan. Think about Utopia that we mentioned earlier. Think about a time, past all this fighting, past all this heartbreak and anger. Think of a time where you can run into your ex at a football game and both be there to cheer your children on without making stink eye at the other person. If you can think ahead of a time where we can all get along, then you can sit down and write up a parenting plan for the both of you that will ensure a foundation that will keep your children feeling secure and happy.
9. Consider a Counselor. We cannot stress enough how important emotional health is for you and your children during a divorce. If you have a counselor to help you throughout the divorce it will help you by allowing you a place to vent while also helping you see the other side of the argument. Your counselor isn’t there to fight for you or to win, they’re there to help you become emotionally healthier so that you can be a better parent. Also, getting a counselor for your child will help them through this emotional time as well.
10. ALWAYS remember, the children are watching. (Reiteration of the above points).