Divorcing? Here are three ways to reduce stress on your children
Your pending divorce may be inevitable, but extensive stress on your children is not. A child’s best interests during a divorce are at the forefront of every parent’s mind. Each case is different, but there are three points to understand that may reduce the stress on your children and family.
Here’s what you need to know.
Expect to have a guardian ad litem appointed by a judge. In the majority of contested divorces, a guardian ad litem is appointed to represent the best interest of the child.
The guardian ad litem, usually a family law attorney, talks to the child, parents, family and friends; investigates the home environment; reviews financial documentation; assesses parental involvement and bonds between parents, child, and siblings; and reviews many other variables before a recommendation is given to the court.
“The guardian ad litem’s recommendation to the judge is a critical factor,” says Lisa Owen, an attorney at Cauthorn Nohr & Owen with more than 17 years’ experience in family law. “The court typically follows the guardian ad litem’s recommendation. That’s why it’s vitally important to gather all information before mediation and before a recommendation is given. ”
Give mediation a chance. The role of mediation and settlement conferences is significant. However, information is key — you must have everything needed to make informed decisions. Knowledge of the issues you will need to decide is also key.
Even those parties who believe there is no conflict will learn soon enough that they have not considered all of the issues. For example, deciding who has the final decision making on extracurricular activities for the children is significant. With that decision comes an effect on the child, and other party. By way of example, you want to be sure that a party does not choose numerous activities to interfere with the other party’s parenting time. Final decision making on education is also critical. It involves not only where the child will attend school, but other major decisions such as needs for services and tutoring. If a child is not in private school, they will go to public school in the primary parent’s school district. If the primary parent moves, the child may also change schools.
Parties often don’t think through how the holiday schedule will work because it is hard to think through all of the details. Who is responsible for the child during all of the school breaks? Was the cost of child care including in their calculations for child support? Who will pick up and drop off the child?
The bottom line is that the financial burden on the parties is less when they choose to mediate and resolve their case. Mediation also removes the uncertainty of what the parties may ultimately get from the Judge. There are simply no guarantees. Mediation allows everyone to move on and out of the stressful divorce phase.
Know when to stand your ground. No one comes out of mediation getting everything they want but the decisions made during mediation must be in the best interest of the child.
A trial isn’t necessarily good for a child but neither is giving in on an issue that isn’t the best situation for a child. Beware of thinking that you can always modify a bad situation later — that’s a costly thought.
“Be careful what you give up,” says Owen. “The question to ask is this: Is the concession really in the best interest of the child?”