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How Should Children Be Protected During Divorce?

Divorce can involve many difficult issues as spouses work to disentangle their lives.  It can get much more difficult when spouses are parents— as their lives will likely never be fully disentangled because they will have to continue to work together while co-parenting.

There are many ways to protect children during and after divorce proceedings.

Children should never see the inside of a divorce courtroom unless it is a on a class trip.   Parents might wonder whether bringing children to divorce proceedings, whether in the courtroom or at the mediation table, might help ensure that their best interests are considered.  However, judges stress that children should be shielded and not brought to court.  Bringing children to attorneys’ offices or mediation can be similarly harmful to children, who will likely lack the capacity to understand the proceedings, or might hear negative statements by one parent about the other. 

During or post-divorce, one parent might be tempted to subtly or overtly influence their children’s feelings about the other parent (or that parent’s new significant other), or affect their children’s communication with the other parent.  This can be harmful to children struggling to please both parents and avoid being used as a pawn in their parents’ ongoing co-parenting relationship.  Parents should avoid expressing negativity about one another, or make their children feel guilty about their relationships with the other parent.  Perhaps most difficult, a parent should not question their children about the other parent’s life following the divorce.

It is often very hard to accept that while someone may be a terrible spouse, it does not necessarily make him or her a terrible parent.   Children should be protected from antagonism and confusion related to the divorce.  Although it might be difficult, parents should avoid including children in the logistics, proceedings, and unconstructive feelings of divorce.

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