Divorce: putting the needs of children first

October 13, 2015

When a marriage ends in divorce and there are children involved, both parents need to put aside their differences and concentrate on the best interests of the children. Here are some important considerations.

Divorce: putting the needs of children first

Kids can adjust

In general, kids actually handle divorce fairly well over the long run, as long as their well-being is a strong focus throughout the process. Divorce adversely impacts most children in the short term, but it's primarily kids whose parents never resolve their issues in a reasonable manner who have problems later.

Often, youngsters even see divorce as a relief if there was a lot of fighting or emotional distress in the relationship. To help their children adjust to the divorce in the best way possible, parents should make a plan of action that puts their children firmly at the centre.

Children should never be used as a weapon or tool

One of the fastest ways to damage children whose parents are divorcing is for the adults to try to punish the other partner by using the kids. Unfortunately, this happens too often. That's why courts and child advocates have such a strong role to play.

Ultimately, however, the parents are the ones who will have the most influence on how children experience a divorce. Always bring the focus back to the children when developing a custody outline and never try to use the children as a lever for diminishing the other parent.

Stay involved

After one year, nearly half of fathers in a divorce never see their children again. This is a tragedy. Unless there is a very compelling reason, each parent needs to commit to their role as father or mother and to the raising of their kids.

Divorce rates in Canada are close to 50 percent, translating into millions of children who must deal with divorce, for better or worse. With supportive parents, the chances of a divorce ending in a relatively positive outcome for the children are much higher.

Get it on paper

For divorced parents, there may be a temptation to make verbal agreements in an attempt to get along or perhaps foster goodwill. However, there is always a risk that circumstances will change and that individuals who were once amicable can suddenly become combative.

Custody, support, visitation and other important details need to be spelled out in a legal document. Changes to the arrangements can always be considered later, but always make sure that everything is legally documented. This is not the best situation for a do-it-yourself approach, so obtaining sound legal advice is advisable.

Divorce is often a highly stressful event for any family going through one, but parents can make the process more manageable for their children by always keeping the needs of the children front and centre.

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