When they know that their parents are divorcing, or that they already have, children oftentimes feel vulnerable and powerless. They might fear being abandoned, the reasoning being that if one parent is leaving then maybe the other one will, too. They may wonder where they will be staying. Oftentimes, their performance in school, their relationships with peers, and their behavior at home all take a turn for the worst as a result.
The best thing that divorced parents can do for their children under these circumstances is to speak and act like they are of one mind – at least insofar as the kids are concerned. Children are apt to blame themselves for the divorce; they can be most effectively reassured that it was not their fault if they hear this from both of their parents. Also, they should be told about it in a way that doesn’t demonize either parent. If mom says that “dad is leaving us”, or dad says the same thing about mom, then this will only add to their suffering and confusion.
For these reasons, it’s preferable that the details of a divorce be ironed out without the children being involved. If both parents can agree on custodial arrangements, visitation rights, and child-support issues without resorting to court action (or at least without dragging the children into court) so much the better. Knowing how the laws typically apply to their situation can help parents to understand how to go about doing this.
In most U.S. states, the current laws grant mothers and father equal right to custody. Some courts, however, consider the age or sex of a child when deciding. In sole custody arrangements, one parent undertakes care of a child the majority of the time and makes most of the decisions affecting that child. The non-custodial parent will still almost always have visitation rights, which can include overnight visits and vacation time.
In joint custody arrangements, both parents share in decision-making and may divide time spent with the children fairly evenly. Oftentimes, though, one parent may still have the child a greater amount of time, be handling most of the day-to-day expenses involved, and thus be eligible to receive child support from the other. Guidelines for child support are set by the state and based upon income. The amount paid might go over this guideline amount if children have special educational or medical needs, or if the non-custodial parent has a new spouse bringing in added income. Support payments less than those indicated by the guidelines might be applied if the non-custodial parent spends significant time with the children, or if the custodial parent receives income from a new spouse.
Custody and support payments are sensitive issues that should be talked over by the adults on their own time. In this way, their children can be given a simple and honest explanation for the divorce without feeling any animosity directed from one parent to the other. They can be shown where the departing parent will be living and be reassured that soon things will settle down again. Best of all, they can, hopefully, enjoy a close and ongoing relationship with both mom and dad.