Life happens. Sometimes life includes divorce. Although the old adage about 50 percent of marriages ending in divorce is no longer accurate, divorces still happen for a variety of reasons, from the simple to the profound. Apart from the obvious acrimony in any failed relationship, divorces often require lengthy settlements where property and finances are divided between the two parties. When a dissolving relationship involves children, it can make this process infinitely harder.
Divorce is painful for any children in the relationship. Writing for Psychology Today, Texas-based therapist Carl Pickhardt describes the different way young and older children react to divorce. “For the young child, divorce shakes trust in dependency on parents who now behave in an extremely undependable way. They surgically divide the family unit into two different households between which the child must learn to transit back and forth, for a while creating unfamiliarity, instability and insecurity, never being able to be with one parent without having to be apart from the other,” Pickhardt writes.
That’s bad enough. But children in the relationship are often catalysts for one of the nastiest, most vindictive situations that can come from a divorce: the custody battle. If someone wants to retain custody of their children, there are five things he or she needs to do first.
Five steps toward custody
Step one: If the parent who wants custody is dealing with addiction or substance abuse, forget it: drug problems don’t merely harm the person, they harm the persons around them. A child already scarred by their family separating doesn’t need the laundry list of problems drug use brings with it. Courts always look at what’s best for the child when determining custody. In addition to a parent’s habits, courts can also examine:
- The medical history of the parent
- Ability to provide essentials like food, clothing and medical care
- Emotional bonds
- The wishes of both parents as well as those of the child, if they’re old enough
- The child’s adjustment level to a new school, city or state
Step two: Find a good lawyer. This sounds like a cliché but a parent who seeks to retain custody needs to have the best family lawyer they can afford working for them. A custody battle can be a fight for a child’s future.
Step three: Both parents need to come up with a written agreement called a parenting plan. Doing this allows children to know what to expect and maintain a semblance of a normal schedule. Having a plan will also help minimize any conflicts that come up with scheduling.
Step four: Consider keeping a journal. A parent who keeps track of the time they spend with their children, the activities they engage in and unfortunately, any threats, remarks or any other negative behavior coming from the other parent can bring that information to their attorney, which can be a great help in a court hearing.
Step five: Stay calm. Judges can be very quick in dismissing legitimate arguments from parents who seem irrational or angry. Angry parents also tend to make poor decisions and are unfocused when preparing for court.
Children struggle with change. No matter how dire a relationship may seem, it’s important to remember that your children must come first. The stress and anxiety of divorce can create lasting problems for your child, which often need professional intervention to treat.
White River Academy offers a focused environment for boys aged 12 to 17. In addition to our educational programs, we will instill character values and promote personal growth in your son. Our parent weekends help repair – and maintain – family bonds and teach techniques to continue positive growth after treatment. We can help your son achieve a positive future. For more information about our programs and registration, please call our 24/7 helpline.
Written by Brian Moore.