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Helping Your Children After Divorce

DISCLAIMER: The advice in this article is for families going through a divorce without specialized problems such as domestic violence, substance abuse issues or child abuse problems. Should your upcoming divorce involve specialized problems, seek an attorney’s advice immediately.

My ex-spouse keeps talking to our children about the litigation. Can I do anything about it?

Children should certainly not be exposed to the details of court actions involving them. If your former spouse is willing, try going to a counselor or sitting down with a mutual and trusted friend to work out how to interact with your children in a positive and appropriate way. If that doesn’t work, then consider court intervention. A judge can make specific order for the protection of children which may include orders to refrain from such discussion or, in some extreme cases, orders which limit or even supervise the access that the offending party may have to the child.

My child doesn’t want to visit with my spouse. What should I do?

Unless you believe your child is being harmed, you should support frequent and ongoing contact with the other parent. Be enthusiastic when you talk about possession periods by the other parent. Talk about all of the activities your children and the other parent will enjoy. The more supportive you are of the visit, the more likely your children will want to go and really enjoy their time.

Our children want to attend their regular sporting practices and games, but some of those events take place during my spouse’s visitation days. Doesn’t my spouse have to take our children to these activities?

This question illustrates the importance of co-parenting. Talk to the other parent about the problem – try to work out an informal solution if you can. If necessary, talk to your attorney, but keep in mind that this type of issue will come up repeatedly as you and the other parent work together to raise the children. Work on give-and-take. Offer compromises.

If you have to go to the Judge, you should talk to your attorney about the realistic outcome of such action before you file a motion.

As a general rule, do not schedule any activities during the other parent’s time with the children unless you and the other parent have agreed to such activities. Do not involve your children in the problem.

My child keeps asking me when my ex-spouse and I are going to get back together. What should I say?

Most children want their parents to get back together. It is important for your child to feel secure, but not to have any unrealistic expectations. Reassure your child that he or she will always have the love of you and your former spouse, but that you are going to be living in separate houses from now on. You should be optimistic about the future of your family. For example, emphasize the positive parts of the divorce such as no more arguing, more one on one time with each parent, double Christmas, etc.

My children constantly talk about my ex-spouse’s new love interest. They have even told me that the new person sleeps over. How should I react?

It is important for your children to feel as though they can come to you about any subject. If you react negatively about a new love interest, then they will likely either not get along with that new person, or feel as though talking to you about him or her is a bad idea, particularly if your children like the new person. Either way, your child loses.

Instead, have a positive attitude. If it’s a new boyfriend or girlfriend of your ex-spouse, encourage your children to give this person a chance. If it’s a more serious relationship, then say things to your child that will let him or her feel good about liking this new person. At the same time, remind your children that they can come to you at any time if there is something about the new person that causes any concern. Not only will it help your relationship with your child, but it might also help your relationship with your former spouse.

If you are concerned about the message it is sending to your children to have a new love interest stay overnight, talk to your them about the choice that your former spouse is making and discuss why it might be a good choice or a bad one. If your former spouse is willing, try going to a counselor or sitting down with a mutual and trusted friend or member of the clergy to work out how to deal with the new love interest in a positive and appropriate way. If it gets to be a real problem or if you are against your child being exposed to adults living as a married couple when they are not, and your former spouse continues to let it happen, then you can seek court intervention. Some judges will see it your way and prevent adults of the opposite sex from spending the night when your children are there. However, if you do that, you must expect the relationship between you and your former spouse to be damaged.

My ex-spouse wants to move out-of-state with our kids. What are my options?

Texas public policy favors the children living in close proximity to both parents. However, these days we are a very mobile society and circumstances change sometimes after an initial custody determination.

Staying very involved in your children's education, extracurricular and social lives after the divorce indicates the children benefit from your close relationship. Additionally, paying all child-support and healthcare expenses indicates to the court you are an involved parent and your children benefit from having you close by.

Your best defense to a future move is to be a very involved parent and able to co-parent and share the children with your ex-spouse. Relocation is a very difficult decision for the court, the parents and the children.

"Making this difficult process as smooth and as successful as possible requires planning every detail before, during and after."

Barbara D. Nunneley