Divorce is hard on kids—there’s simply no way around it. When parents split up, not only is it disruptive to the child’s world, but it can also violate their sense of security and safety. Because of this, some parents choose to stay together despite being in an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship. They think they can tough it out until the kids are older or even until they are out of the house and that doing so will protect them from the negative effects of divorce.
However, most experts agree that staying in a bad marriage just for the kids is a mistake. We believe that, with the help of an experienced Virginia divorce attorney, you can get divorced in a way that protects your children from the most harmful aspects of divorce.
Why Are You Getting Divorced?
Clearly, if you are in a marriage that is volatile and violent, your kids will be much better off not living with the two of you at the same time. However, throwing in the towel on a mediocre marriage without trying to fix it is not fair to the children either. As two people who chose to have children together, you do owe it to them to seek counseling, make compromises, listen to each other, and put them before yourselves when it comes to the big decisions.
If you have tried everything to save the marriage, and the home environment has become intolerable despite your efforts, it’s important to keep your children’s best interests in mind as you proceed with a divorce.
How to Lessen the Impact of Divorce on Your Kids
It can be very traumatic for children to witness their parents fighting. Once you have committed to getting divorced, avoid discussing the details in front of the kids and save the arguing for when they are not around. It will be very important for you and your spouse to be able to work together amicably—at least in front of the kids—throughout the process if you hope to spare your children the worst of it. Other suggestions we have based on our experiences with other families include the following:
Work With a Counselor
There are family counselors who specialize in divorce. Find one near you and start working with them right away. You might have sessions as a family, sessions just for the kids, and sessions just for the adults. Both parents must make the commitment to listen to the counselor and follow their advice.
Agree to the Least Disruptive Custody Arrangement Possible
The less your kids’ daily lives are disrupted, the easier a divorce will be for them. If one parent is staying in the family home or in the children’s school district, it’s usually best for that parent to have primary custody.
You love your kids, and you want as much time as possible with them, but demanding a parenting time agreement that disrupts their lives to an unreasonable degree is not fair to them. Never use time with your kids as a weapon against the other parent. As the kids get older, allow them to make decisions about who they want to be with and when they want to go.
Don’t Bad Mouth Each Other
Your children need to be able to trust each of you, and nothing undermines that faster than hearing you bad mouth each other. It is important to their sense of security that they believe you are both good people who have just chosen to live apart. You can foster that belief by taking an interest in your children’s time with their other parent and speaking well of your ex.
One key to protecting children from the negative effects of divorce is allowing them to live as normal a life as possible as you work out the details with your attorneys in the background. It will be a chaotic time for you—try not to allow the chaos to interrupt your children’s lives until absolutely necessary.
Do You Need to Speak to a Virginia Divorce Attorney?
If you are considering divorce, you need to speak with an experienced Virginia divorce attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia, law office at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation. We help clients throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and look forward to helping you.