Category : Child Custody

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Divorce from a Young Child’s Perspective

The dramatic event of filing for divorce is a manifestation of problems within the spousal relationship, which children are innocently caught in between. What’s even more emotionally troubling to contemplate is the common tendency for children, especially young ones, to somehow feel responsible for their parents’ separation. While that responsibility is always far from the case, they internalize the divorce and struggle to understand its complex reality.

What children need to always understand, no matter what is happening in any aspect of their life, is their unfaltering, complete innocence. Parents and other family members can help them remember this universal fact by paying attention, talking through the emotional difficulties, and showering their children with consistent support and reassurance.

Center of the World

What if you were able to read the diary of a small child going through their parents’ divorce? According to Stephanie Duckworth, licensed clinical manager at a behavioral health agency, it would sound something like this:

“If only I had been better, maybe they wouldn’t have broken up. Maybe, if I’m really good, they will stop fighting and get back together. Mom said she hates him, but I don’t. I really miss him, even if he does dumb stuff sometimes. What if one day Mom decides I do too many dumb things and doesn’t love me anymore? I feel so sad and my tummy hurts. I don’t tell Mom. I don’t want to make her more sad or mad or both. I don’t think she would understand. My family is broken. I feel broken.”

An important thing to remember about young children is the way they understand their place in the world. It’s hard for them to see that certain family problems have nothing to do with what they have or haven’t done, and they are in no way to blame. The world they can comprehend is small and they themselves are at the center of it, with parents in tightly intertwined proximity.

It’s evident from the excerpt that the vulnerability of young children creates a tendency to be confused and blame themselves. This affects their behavior in certain ways, like shutting down, becoming moody, and not talking about their feelings to their mom or dad, fearing that this would make things worse, and that they are the cause.

Effective Communication and Support

Talking about feelings is key. Even if the child prefers to speaking out to another trusted adult besides the parent, it is incredibly helpful. Like adults who keep things bottled in, children who do so run the risk of developing physical symptoms of the stress, such as head or tummy aches. Releasing emotions in mutual, simple discussion will help remedy this as well as their feelings of being to blame.

Without overwhelming them with too much information about the details of the divorce process, parents should work to state the facts and reassure their child of their unconditional love. It’s also important to avoid saying hurtful things about the other parent in front of the child; children love both their parents. In return, they need to know that they will always be loved, and reassurance of their innocence.

Love at Any (St)Age

Let’s just acknowledge this right off that bat: Just because you’re divorced does not mean you’re dead. Although at times during the divorce process you might feel like a fine specimen of the living dead, you are not. Just repeat that to yourself in the mirror a few times a day and maybe you’ll actually start to believe it.

But this blog is about the post-divorce stage when trips to the grocery store becoming a grazing ground, in more than one way (if you catch our drift). For some, this stage approaches faster and with more ease than for other divorcees. But we have a sneaking suspicion one of the contributing factors to the time and ease at which a divorcee re-enters the dating scene is whether they come in a multi-pack.

The More the Merrier?

It’s difficult for a divorcee to re-enter the dating world, let alone for a divorcee who also holds the title of parent to re-enter the dating world. The statistics overwhelmingly shout that children of divorce are scarred for life, do poorly in school, might be suicidal, don’t seek healthy relationships, and for some reason are not math whizzes. So it’s no wonder a newly divorced parent’s head explodes at the thought of what dating would do to their children.

We are all for independent thinking, and let us emphasize no one knows what’s best for your family other than you and your family. But in case you were wondering, popular opinions on this topic range the entire spectrum. On one end of the spectrum, we have people who believe dating and children should be in totally separate spheres; at on the other end of the spectrum, we have people who believe they can be mixed healthily.

Finding Your Comfort Zone

In a HuffPost Live segment, host Marc Lamont Hill invites divorced parents/ HuffPost bloggers Ed Housewright, Emma Johnson, Jena Kingsley, Jessica Solloway, and Robin Amos Kahn to discuss the topic of single parents dating. The diverse group shares ideas about how to approach dating after divorce, and shed light on all the beautiful points of the spectrum.

Here are the arguments behind the two opposing sides of the issue, as brought up by the HuffPost bloggers:

  • Slow and Steady: The first concern dating parents under this philosophy have is their children’s emotional and mental state. Divorce presents a horrible upheaval for children and their families, which can cause confusion and emotional instability. Dating parents fear introducing romantic possibilities to their children will open the gateway to further feelings of abandonment and pain, should the relationship not work out. Parents operating under this belief promote only introducing a romantic partner after about 6 solid months of being in an exclusive relationship.

  • C’est La Vie: The opposing camp believes dating parents can approach dating with their children in a positive, balanced manner. As stated by one of the HuffPost bloggers, teaching your children about the ebbs and flows of life can prepare and strengthen a child to handle all of life’s curveballs. Age-appropriate communication about dating is the key to going this route, especially explaining the role (or lack of a role) dates have in the child’s life.

Wherever you may fall in the spectrum, don’t forget the players in the relationship. As Housewright said in the HuffPost discussion: “It just depends on your child. You need to know your child, and know their make-up. I don’t think you can make across the board rules. I wouldn’t give any advice to anybody else.”

Where do you fall on the spectrum and why? Sound off, Readers.

Happy (Single) Father’s Day!

Celebrating Single FathersTake a stroll down any store’s card aisle, and you will notice the sudden increase of cards with fishing poles, athletic equipment, and La-Z Boy chairs splattered on the covers; you know, manly things. In case you’re really bad with dates, we will tell you why: Sunday, June 16th, is Father’s Day!

Much like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day now seems like a holiday controlled by the stationery stores, but that doesn’t mean its beginnings were money-grubbing. So for all the fathers, especially the single fathers (as you will find), here is a brief history of Father’s Day.

The History of Father’s Day

While Father’s Day doesn’t have as long or rich a history as Mother’s Day, that doesn’t mean the same spirit of love and recognition wasn’t behind it’s creation. In fact, Father’s Day was created to do nothing but give fathers the special recognition they sorely lacked, especially single fathers, according to the Library of Congress article.

In 1910, a little girl from Spokane Washington, named Sonora Dodd, came up with the bright idea of creating a holiday dedicated to fathers while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. Sonora Dodd is said to have reflected on the care her single father gave her and her siblings since her mother’s untimely death during childbirth. Since Sonora’s father’s birthday was in June, she encouraged neighboring churches to celebrate this new holiday in June.

The Fathering of Father’s Day

By 1910, the idea of Mother’s Day had been in America for 40 years, although it was not recognized as a national holiday until 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. Although Father’s Day had been gaining popularity, President Wilson was not presented with a Father’s Day holiday proclamation to sign.

President Calvin Coolidge, however, was presented with and signed a Father’s Day proclamation in 1924. Coolidge is quoted as saying (ironically) he wanted Father’s Day  to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”

Father’s Day for the Modern Man

The world is constantly changing (evolving or devolving, you decide), but holidays and the traditions observed during each holiday have a way of bringing us back to familiar, almost cozy, paradigms. Case in point, the horrific-looking, stereotype-ridden Father’s Day cards.

What father is known only by his love of fish tackle, lounging, and sports? Yes, one or more of these might harken warm thoughts of your own father, but the point is this: Do father’s want to be known solely for these pursuits and pleasures? I’m pretty positive fathers would like to be equally known for the bedtime story telling, hugs, and comforting words.

If this baffles you, chalk it up to the changing times; but there is nothing more telling of changing times than the increasing rate of single fathers. According to the 2002 U.S. Census, about 2.2 million American households were headed by single fathers, which marks an 62% increase of single fatherhood within a decade. These fathers, like Sonora Dodd’s father, are everything to their children, and they probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

So instead of playing into Hallmark’s stereotype-perpetuating hands, choose to celebrate all types of fathers for all their roles, influences, and complexities this Sunday.

Amicable Splits Can Cause Less Church Attendance In Children Of Divorce [Study]

children of divorceA new study, reported this week in the Chicago Tribune, revealed that divorce — even amicable divorces that are often part of the do-it-yourself divorce process — can result in lower church attendance among the children in a dissolved marriage.

Researchers from Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church analyzed existing data sets from the General Social Survey, National Survey on the Moral and Spiritual Lives of Children of Divorce, National Study of Youth and Religion and National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, to reveal that children from amicable divorces were twice as likely as children from intact homes to cease church attendance later in life.

According to the study’s lead author, Lake Forest College American studies professor Elizabeth Marquardt, “Mainline (Protestant Christianity) has done very little and has largely trusted that as long as everybody gets along and keeps their conflicts down, things will be okay. … We’re really trying to upend that view.”

Marquardt continued: “Children of divorce are on the leading edge of the well-documented spiritual-but-not-religious movement … These are potential leaders. As we grapple with more and more people growing up without a married mom and dad, the church can make more sense of that.”

The Difficulties Divorce Can Affect On Religion

We’ve talked in the past on this blog about religion and divorce, and the subject continues to be a controversial one. (Just Google “faith and divorce” if you don’t believe us.) While it’s been well-documented that devout followers of a particular faith have more successful marriages than people who identify with a faith but do not attend services regularly, this is the first study we’ve seen that highlights a growing problem for religious parents, who have decided to file for divorce.

(And if this analysis is to be believed, DIY divorce participants are not immune.)

Parents have a right to bring their children up with a beliefs system of their choosing. But often when a marriage breaks down, it does so because the spouses want different things. Inevitably divorce changes a person, for better or worse, and it usually happens because the unified principles of the marriage have broken down.

The question many religious parents are left with: how do you continue to bring a child up in your faith when the other parent may be, at-minimum, instilling a different set of principles in the child’s upbringing?

The Only Thing Either Parent Can Do

Realize that the divorce will have a permanent effect on the child’s life. It will, for a time, upset the stability that the child feels until he or she can come to know a new norm.

Inevitably, they will go through a metamorphosis in which their own core beliefs will form. They will be colored by it. Nothing is stopping you from continuing to nurture a child in the beliefs system you feel is best for him. But at day’s end, the child will emerge into adulthood, and the best thing both parents can do is respect the adult that child becomes.

Do-It-Yourself Custody Arrangements: How It Works

DIY Custody arrangementsYou’ve heard of do-it-yourself divorce, but have you ever thought about handling custody management on your own? There are currently online services that allow you to do just this sort of thing. As with DIY divorce, it will take a commitment from both of you to pull off, but it can also hold off conflicts before they happen.

Usually, this is how it works:

Create An Account. 

Decide what you want your username and password to be. Set your privacy settings and permissions. Have your ex do the same.

Schedule Events. 

Few services place limitations on the types of events that are allowed for scheduling into the system. The most important items are usually child exchanges, holidays, parenting, vacations, phone time, special events, and support payments.

Track Events. 

Once the events occur, you can mark their status to create an online documentation of how well your custody arrangement is working. What this does is create a record of cooperation (or conflict) that can then be used to facilitate a smoother co-parenting experience after you have decided to file for divorce.

Generate Reports. 

This is where a custody management system can really come in handy. This is where it becomes more than just a series of events on your computer and it becomes something that you can show to an attorney or judge. Reports can typically be run for benchmarks such as:

  • No. of hours in custody and percentage
  • Accumulated expenses (i.e. gas, medical, phone, and travel)
  • Forfeited parenting hours
  • Grandparent visitation (and other relatives)
  • Support payment amounts
  • Delinquent payments
  • Denied parenting time
  • School attendance

One of the most popular sites in this arena is if you’re interested in pursuing this option. By taking a more professional approach to custody arrangements, you and your spouse can hold each other accountable in the best interests of the child. You can also take a lot of the bitterness and emotion out of co-parenting by viewing it as a professional relationship between the two of you, thus neutralizing the negativity.