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How to Protect Your Child During a Custody Dispute

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 20, 2022

Going through a divorce is difficult on everyone. But at least adults understand what’s going on. It may take time, but we can bounce back. Children, on the other hand, are especially vulnerable during this time.

Your child’s entire world is being altered. And even though they may not voice their fears or concerns, they may be confused, scared, and unsure of what’s going to happen to them. That’s why, as a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure your child is protected throughout the divorce proceedings.

New legislation headed to the governor may soon change the rules on alimony for divorcing couples, but the bill also has a provision regarding time-sharing agreements. The law clearly states that custody will be determined on the premise that children should spend equal amounts of time with both parents. This means that going into a divorce, each parent is starting with the same amount of time. If that’s not what you want, however, you may end up dealing with a dispute, a battle, or an all out war.

With this in mind, there are certain things you can do to help your child through the divorce proceedings and ensure that he or she will come out as unscathed as possible.

  1. Reassure your child.  As mentioned above, everything in your child’s life is going to change. Regardless of how old they are, you should do everything in your power to reassure your kid that both of you still love and care for them unconditionally, and that you’re trying to figure out what will work best for everyone. Make sure your child knows that the divorce is not their fault at all. And no matter what, everything will be okay in the end.

  2. Try to appear calm and balanced around your child. This may be difficult since you’re going through such a trying time, but it can be extremely beneficial. The less stressed and anxious you are, the less stressed and anxious your child will be. Remember, you’re a role model for your kids. So if you can maintain your composure, it will help them to be able to do the same.

  3. Keep the anger and negativity away from your child. If you’re angry, you may want to yell and scream or say something mean or derogatory about your spouse. Fight this urge, though, when you’re around your children. Even though you are divorcing this person, he or she is still your child’s parent. And despite your personal feelings about your spouse, they are going to be in your child’s life forever.

    If you need to talk to someone or vent, find a trusted family member, friend, or counselor instead of putting that burden onto your child. Remember, the divorce isn’t your child’s problem, so don’t drag them into it.

  4. Talk to a counselor if you’re unsure about a situation. A divorce can bring about a number of situations that we hadn’t anticipated. And you might not know how to properly handle these situations in the best interest of your child. This is when a family counselor could be especially helpful for you and your child.

    A counselor is trained to help you utilize tools and strategies that will minimize the impact of a divorce on children. Additionally, it might help to have your child talk to a counselor on his or her own to discuss and learn to cope with their feelings about the divorce.

  5. Reach an agreement with your spouse to make sure your child doesn’t use the divorce as a manipulation tactic. This might not have even occurred to you, but some kids try to take advantage of the divorce by playing one parent against the other. “Dad lets me stay up late,” “Mom lets me drink soda,” and a number of other similar statements are examples of how a child can use a divorce for their benefit.

    As parents, you have to present a united front and back each other up – in spite of your feelings – so your child knows that manipulation won’t work for them to get their way.

  6. If you can reach a time-sharing agreement without the court’s involvement, do it. Dealing with a divorce in court can be lengthy, expensive, and put an emotional toll on everyone involved. If possible, save your kids from having to go through a trial and try your best to agree on a time-sharing schedule with your spouse. If you can’t agree, attempt mediation and all other avenues before going to trial.