Contact Nunneley | Family Law at
(817) 270-6635 with any questions about your divorce or
child custody case.
If we divorce, will it scar the children?
We know that chronic conflict and stress is hard on children – emotionally
as well as physically. Children under stress are more vulnerable to physical
illness, problems at school, and problems with others. As a parent, you
are in a better position than anyone else to answer this question about
your own children.
If you are chronically unhappy, stressed, or depressed in your marriage,
it will have a negative impact on your children. So rather than asking
whether a divorce will harm children, the better question is “Will
divorce resolve or result in more or less stress for the children?”
Once you answer this question, you will have better insight into the potential
impact divorce will have on your children.
Any change – even if it is ultimately for the better – is stressful.
Keep this in mind and make use of community resources such as extended
family, clergy, or mental health professionals to help your family through
the divorce if you decide this action is the best choice.
We have decided to divorce. How do we tell our children?
It’s best that you and your spouse tell your children together, if
possible. It is important to let them know it is an adult decision that
you both believe will make your independent lives better.
Many children have misconceptions about having to choose a parent, not
being able to see the non-primary parent, or even having to go to court.
That is why it is important that you both educate your children together
about what to expect in the upcoming months and reassure them that you
will always be a family, although you will not always be living together.
Listen to your children’s concerns. Encourage your children to talk
so you can address possible misperceptions.
Let your children know that you support their relationship with the other
parent. Tell your children that it’s okay to love and miss the other
parent and that having these feelings is natural.
Most importantly, explain that she or he will not have to choose “a
side.” It’s important to reassure your children that they
still have two parents who love them, that they will eventually have two
homes, and that they will be living some time with each parent.
Remember that your children will look to how you and your spouse are coping
with the upcoming changes. Your confidence and your reassurance about
the new changes in the family will instill confidence in your children.
Our relationship is so strained that we can’t even talk to each other
– much less talk to the children. What do we do?
Conflict between parents is extremely hurtful to children. Find a neutral
mediator or a therapist to help you and your spouse focus on the needs
of the children.
Use your neutral person to help you both tell the children about the upcoming
divorce and your hopes that the strife between the two of you will lessen
by living independently.
Be very careful to keep your children out of the middle. Resist any urge
to draw your children into the divorce issues – children caught
in the middle feel like they are in a war zone.
I am the parent likely to provide the primary home. How do I help our children?
Children tell us they most often miss the parent they are not with at the
time, so you need to let your children know it is natural and normal to
miss the absent parent. Give your children permission to call or see the
Teach your children how to deal with feelings of missing the absent parent.
Show them how to telephone or e-mail, or help them arrange a meeting with
the absent parent. Your showing them how to reach out is teaching them
how to cope. It is also a demonstration of your support for the other
parent – it is a physical demonstration of permission to love the
Eventually, you and your spouse will have legal documents that will likely
provide for set periods of visitation for the other parent. Although your
children don’t need to know the details of the Court’s orders,
they should know that they will be able to see the other parent on a regular
basis. Even though your legal documents will outline specific periods
for both parents, you will have the ability and responsibility to work
with the other parent and be as flexible with the children’s schedule
I am the parent not likely to provide the primary home. How do I help our children?
Frequent contact across a variety of contexts – meals, homework,
sports practice, discipline, bedtime – contribute to a rich parenting
relationship that mirrors normal family life. Try to interact with your
children in these types of natural, everyday experiences – it will
feel good and right to them.
Establish independent lines of contact with teachers, therapists, friends,
neighbors, and extended family. This will help you keep in touch with
your children’s lives without interruption and without infringing
or becoming too dependent on the primary parent. Knowing your children’s
schedules and habits at their primary home will help you normalize their
experience at yours.
Finally, remember that your children have two homes, not just one. Don’t
make the mistake of “taking the children home” after your
period of possession. Keeping this mindset will help you create a fulfilling
family life for the children.
How can we best avoid conflict in the divorce process?
Unlike other lawsuits, a divorce can be accomplished through a variety
of ways. Collaborative law is one of the newest forms of resolution. Even
though both parties have attorneys, it is an avenue of divorce resolution
that avoids formal litigation and the courtroom. The parties are free
to use mediators, financial planners, counselors, extended family, members
of the clergy, or anyone else that might be helpful in resolving the divorce
issues. Attorneys practicing collaborative law must undergo specialized
training that is not available in all areas of the country.
Contact us for further information.
If you use a more traditional and formal approach to the divorce process,
many cases can be resolved in formal mediation. This is a process whereby
the clients are represented by attorneys and a third party – a mediator
– who works with each side to resolve disagreements without the
cost and stress of a contested trial. Because the mediation process is
so successful, many courts make mediation mandatory so that families avoid
the cost and strife of formal litigation.
If your case goes to trial, it is important to educate the children about
the process in a general way. Sometimes a Judge will speak with older
children. Sometimes children believe they will have to choose a side.
Before you educate your children, talk with your lawyer and get guidance
from a professional about what you should and should not tell your children.
My spouse is telling the children negative things about me and the breakup.
What should I do?
First, listen to your children’s thoughts and feelings. Gently learn
about how such information was obtained. It's very important that you
do not criticize the other spouse. Rather, if your child holds misperceptions,
correct the misperception factually without judgment.
Be realistic. Even parents within intact families make critical remarks
of one another. Forgive and try to understand small transgressions. If
possible, talk to your spouse about working together to protect your children
If the problem continues, your children will be harmed, so you must take
action to protect them. Talk to your lawyer about options, mediation,
a therapist, or even a court hearing that might provide needed relief.
Judges generally have little tolerance for parents who say bad things
about the other parent to their children because it is so harmful to the children.
How do we help our children with setting up two households?
Involve your children in the process of setting up two households –
mix old and new from their bedrooms. Avoid having the non-primary spouse
start new bedrooms from scratch. Work together – let your children
Avoid becoming territorial with toys and clothing. Such things belong to
the children, not to the adults.
Invariably, children will unintentionally leave a beloved toy or homework
at one household; work together to straighten out such problems. It’s
best for your children.
How do I help our children cope with the problems of divorce?
Talk to your children, shepherd them through the divorce process, and allow
them to disagree with you or be angry with you – this will pass.
What can I do to make this process work out well for everyone?
Take good care of yourself and your children. Be aware of the effects of
stress and do as much as you can to prevent stress from taking over your lives.
Remember to have fun with your children. Eat healthy meals. Exercise. Make
sure they and you get a good night’s sleep. These stress-busters
will help your children cope with the upcoming changes.
Be optimistic about a better future for everyone – optimism is contagious.
If you cope well with the changes, your children will likely follow your lead.