When you go through a divorce, it’s easy to get caught up in your own feelings of hurt and devastation. But if you have kids, you’re not the only one who’s suffering. As trying as this time can be for you and your ex as adults, it’s often completely overwhelming for your children when you are deciding custody.
They may feel a complicated mix of emotions that range from grief to anger to relief, depending on the circumstances.
It’s you and your ex’s job as the parents to look beyond how the divorce is affecting you, and instead look out for your children’s best interests. How the two of you handle custody issues is one of the keys to making the divorce as easy as possible on your children.
Here are some rules the two of you should agree upon that will make the custody decisions go as smoothly as possible when deciding custody.
Holidays With the Children
Before the divorce, your kids may have built some special memories with each parent that center around the holidays. Rather than use the holiday times as a custody battleground, it is best in most situations if you and your spouse reach a compromise that allows the kids to continue celebrating them with both parents.
You can agree to switch off from year to year who will get to have the children with them on the actual date of the holiday. If it’s not your year to get the kids for a certain holiday, choose to celebrate it whenever you get to see them that’s near that date. The less of a fuss both you and your ex make about holiday visitation, the more relaxed and happy your children can be when it comes to adjusting to their new normal. The same goes for other special occasions and the regular custody routine as well.
Be Honest About Each Other’s Parental Fitness
Some ex-husbands or ex-wives who feel anger toward their ex-spouse make up horrible falsehoods about them in an attempt to “punish them.” They may try to use those falsehoods to try and tarnish the ex-spouse’s reputation with family and especially with the children. However, many people go even further and try to also give their ex a bad name with the court system.
In fact, many vindictive exes try to get back at former partners by seeking to have the courts declare them to be unfit parents so they won’t get the amount of child custody that they deserve. This type of cruel behavior doesn’t just embitter the ex-spouse, it also hurts the children terribly. Rather than risk causing extreme psychological damage to your kids, agree with your ex that both of you will be honest and above board when it comes to establishing a custody plan.
Address Legitimate Safety Concerns in a Legal Way
Sometimes, sadly, an ex-spouse does pose a legitimate threat to the safety of the children. If this is the case, deal with these issues in a legal manner. Report any suspected case of abuse or neglect to your state’s appropriate authorities. You may also want to hire a forensic psychiatrist from a group such as fpamed that adheres to psychiatric ethical standards set forth by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
A professional who works in the field of psychiatry and family law can conduct a psychiatric evaluation that will help to determine if your child’s safety is at risk. These types of evaluations are considered strong evidence in family courts.
Do Not Criticize Your Ex to Your Kids
Though it’s very hard sometimes to hold in your frustrations at your ex around your children, it’s usually for the best. Agree in advance that no matter how the custody issues are decided in the courts, you won’t bad-mouth your ex to the kids. Of course, if there are safety concerns, you need to communicate them carefully to your children.
Try to avoid projecting negative emotions about your ex-spouse to your kids because they may internalize those emotions. They may also have a difficult time maintaining a healthy relationship with both parents if the parents vent their anger at their ex around the children.
Divorce is extremely challenging for everyone involved. As hard as it is, you and your ex must remember to act like mature grown-ups in this difficult situation. The two of you can greatly lessen the pain for your kids and yourselves if you agree to follow this list of rules before the custody process begins.