Discussing the divorce with your children: What not to do

How you handle the discussion may well cost you your custody case.

A direct quote from a judge this morning:  “If I hear that either party has discussed these proceedings with the child, it will not go well for that parent.”

In a hotly contested custody case, it is tempting to try to get the kids to take sides.  The temptation sometimes moves parents to even threaten or punish a child who speaks out about what is going on at home.  One of the easiest ways to lose custody of your children is to try and manipulate the child’s affection for the other parent.

Children often feel they are caught in the middle when parents split up.  While loving, mature parents should know that the child still loves the other parent and has a right to a meaningful relationship and frequent contact with both parents, greed, fear and a need for revenge against the other spouse many times lead parents to say things they should not to the children.  The best course of action is to say as little as possible about the divorce and make sure the children know that both parents love them and the divorce is NOT their fault or about them.

Things not to do:

Never make derogatory statements about the other parent in front of the child.  Do not allow others to do so.

Asking the child to take sides between you and your spouse puts the child in the middle of a dispute that really has nothing to do with them.

Do not attempt to change the child’s love for the other parent.  Whether you like your soon to be ex spouse or not, that person is still the child’s parent.

Never bring the child to court unless you were court ordered to do so.  Court is not a field trip or a civics lesson for kids whose parents are divorcing.

Refrain from discussing the legal proceedings with the child or within the child’s hearing.  Do not tell the child what happened in court.  They do not need to even know there was court.  They do not need to hear about the paperwork a visit to the attorneys office.

Do not secret the child away or interfere with the other parent’s custodial rights.  If you believe the child is in danger from the other parent, seek court intervention. Do not take the matter into your own hands.