One of the most difficult aspects of going through a divorce is making decisions regarding physical and legal custody of any minor children. Some custody cases quickly turn contentious, dragging out the divorce and exposing the kids to high levels of stress. The situation is even more stressful if members of your extended family take sides and try to turn the children against one or both of their parents. You may not be able to completely eliminate the stress of going through a divorce, but you can shield your kids from some of the negative effects of a contentious custody case. Here are four ways to protect your kids.
1. Work with a family law attorney.
If your budget is tight, you may be tempted to represent yourself in your custody case. This is a mistake that can hurt your kids and cost you even more money in the long run. When you work with an experienced professional from one of the family law attorney services in your area, you have access to a legal expert who can take swift action if the other parent violates a judge's order or puts your children in harm's way. For example, if you believe that spending time with the other parent poses an immediate danger to your child, your attorney may be able to ask the judge to issue an ex parte order, which is an order that is issued without waiting for both parents to appear in court. Ex parte orders are usually temporary, but they can help you protect your children until your next scheduled court date.
2. Take a parenting class. Even if you have several children and have been parenting them for years, it's helpful to get some insight from people who are not directly involved in your case. Taking a parenting class can help you learn coping techniques that help you relieve stress in an appropriate way. These classes also give you an opportunity to share your concerns with other adults rather than increasing your children's stress by discussing the custody case in front of them. If you have to prove to the judge that you are a fit parent, having a completed parenting class under your belt can help you make a stronger case.
3. Refrain from talking badly about the other parent in front of your children. Unfortunately, some parents use their children as pawns instead of taking steps to protect their kids from the stress of a custody battle. Dr. Amy J. L. Baker, a social-work professional, claims that this creates "bad blood" between parents and children. Furthermore, if the judge in your custody case finds out that you have been trying to hurt your children's relationship with their other parent, you could find yourself with fewer visits or less overall visitation time than you expected. When you are with your children, talk about the other parent in a neutral way. Save your complaints for a close friend or a therapist.
4. Stick as close to the children's normal routine as possible. When you are involved in a custody case, you may not be able to preserve your children's exact routine. After all, you may have to drop your kids off at their other parent's house or spend time attending family therapy sessions, which can affect how much time is left for other activities. Despite these changes, you should try to preserve as much of your children's normal routine as possible. Instead of asking your kids to give up after-school activities or weekend visits with their grandparents, make every effort to make sure they can maintain their relationships with friends and members of your extended family.
Going through a divorce causes great upheaval for many people, but it is often hardest on children. If your divorce includes a contentious custody battle, taking these steps can help you become a better parent and ensure that your kids have the tools they need to cope with stressful changes. Working with an experienced attorney can also help you protect your children from physical and psychological harm.