The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes

The D-Word
The D-Word: Divorce Through a Child’s Eyes

Armed with her belief that ‘families can evolve, not dissolve’ and her personal experience of her parents’ and her own collaborative divorce, Tara Eisenhard ventures out to give children a voice in her book, The D-Word: Divorce through a Child’s Eyes.

What’s “The D-Word” About?

The D-Word centers around a 12-year-old girl, named Gina and her experience with her parents’ divorce. The story begins with Gina finding out that her parents are getting a divorce and then follows her throughout the upcoming year. 

Although the book is mainly told through Gina’s perspective, her 6-year-old brother, Danny, and college-bound brother, Kevin, are present throughout the story. In addition, you get snippets of her mother’s perspective through the ease-dropping Gina does when her mom is on the phone, and a glimpse of her father’s perspective during their therapy sessions at end of the book.

The book powerfully demonstrates how a child’s feelings, thoughts and responses to his/her parents’ divorce can be influenced by the cues s/he picks up on from his/her parents (regardless of whether these cues are intentional or not).

On the one hand, it means that a parent can end up alienating the child from the other parent. However, on the other hand, it means that parents have more control over the impact their divorce has on their child than they may have originally thought. 

In addition, the contrasts seen among Gina and her brothers demonstrate how a child’s age and his/her personality factor into their experience of the divorce, along with additional factors such as social support, involvement of extended family members, and current life events and circumstances, like having to move to a different house or leaving the house for college. 

In the D-Word, Tara tactfully strikes a balance between informing parents of how easily parental alienation can happen, while at the same time providing insight and hope for parents and families who find themselves in a similar situation. 

Who would find “The D-Word” most helpful?

This book is ideal for:

  • Parents who are thinking about getting a divorce;
  • who want a book that they can relate to and is easy to understand;
  • and provides them with an introduction to parental alienation and what divorce can be like for a child. 

More About the Author

The D-Word
Tara Eisenhard, Author of “The D-Word”

Tara Eisenhard lives in Central Pennsylvania. Besides being the author of The D-Word: Divorce through a Child’s Eyes, she has a blog called, Relative Evolutions and has written articles for FamilyAffaires.com, DivorcedMoms.com, SinceMyDivorce, Divorced Women Online, MariaShriver.com, The Huffington Post, DivorceForce, and Stepmom Magazine. Tara is also a speaker, coach and mediator for individuals looking to move forward after a separation. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter, or at her office in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

To get your hands on her book, you can order it through her store on her website, or it’s also available in hardcover and eBook online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and iBooks.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

What Happens At Intake With A Divorce Attorney

Most people are a little uncomfortable during an intake with a divorce attorney. However, a lot of that can be avoided when you know what to expect.  Keep in mind, not all divorce and family law firms are the same.  But we’ll give you a general idea of what happens so you can feel prepared.  

Intake with a Divorce Attorney
Preparation for Intake

Agenda at Intake with a Divorce Attorney

Ideally, you can expect these five things to occur during an intake with a divorce attorney:

1. Establishing a Relationship

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the intake appointment, is that it’s your first opportunity to establish your relationship with your divorce attorney. It’s essential that you feel comfortable talking to your divorce attorney and that you can confide in him/her. We’ll go into more detail next week about the client-attorney relationship.

In addition, if possible, take a moment to introduce yourself to any other additional staff you’ll be working with, such as a paralegal, before leaving the intake appointment. Although paralegals can’t provide any legal advice or guidance, you save money by working directly with the paralegal on case matters such as scheduled court appearances, correspondences, and filings. 

2. Completing the Engagement Letter & Fee Agreement (Contract)

The divorce attorney you meet with might refer to this as the client retention contract, the engagement letter, the representation and fee agreement, etc. Regardless of what the contract is called, it’s important that you’re able to review it with your divorce attorney, ask any questions you may have, and receive a personal copy for your records.  

The contract sets forth the parameters of the client-attorney relationship, legal fees and service payments, client and attorney responsibilities, and other additional information regarding representation and firm policies.

Although the contract can be intimidating at first due to it’s length, it’s reassuring to have everything in writing and clear expectations from the start. If the divorce attorney doesn’t have a contract, his or her contract is extremely vague and short, or he or she is unwilling to sign a contract with you, this is a BIG red flag and consider looking for a different divorce attorney. 

It’s important that you understand the contract before signing it. If there is anything you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask the divorce attorney.

He or she should be more than willing to explain and answer any and all questions. In addition, if a concern or question regarding representation and/or legal services isn’t addressed in the contract, bring it up and consider adding it to the contract before signing. 

3. Depositing the Retainer

Work on your case will start and you’ll officially have representation when you and your divorce attorney have both signed and dated the contract, and you’ve provided the retainer.

Since we’ve discussed the retainer throughout this series (see links in the first paragraphs of this article for past posts), we won’t go into more detail here.

intake with a divorce attorney
Always know what you’re signing
4. Discussing Divorce & giving Legal Guidance

Most divorce attorneys will collect information about you, your family and your spouse at the intake appointment. It’s not uncommon for the divorce attorney to ask you a wide-range of questions during the intake appointment. 

Although it can feel invasive, it gives the divorce attorney an overview and helps him/her spot possible issues that may arise in your case. We’ll talk more about this in our post next week. 

At this time, you can also bring up any other issues not yet discussed and seek legal advice on any pressing concerns or family matters. In addition, if you’ve been served with divorce papers or have any other previous court orders, your divorce attorney will review such documents with you at this time.

If you’re unable to bring these documents to the intake appointment for whatever reason, it’s essential that you and your divorce attorney still discuss such matters and that a plan is set in motion to get these documents as soon as possible.

5. Developing a Plan & Next Steps in Case 

At the end of the intake with a divorce attorney, the client and divorce attorney should develop a plan for moving forward the case, based on the client’s specific situation, goals and preferences. Before leaving the intake appointment, the divorce attorney should clearly explain what s/he will be doing and what s/he will be needing from you.  

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Preparing for an Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney

Preparing for an intake appointment with a divorce attorney is difficult when you’ve never met with an attorney before, you don’t know what to expect, and/or you don’t know what happens at an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

appointment with a divorce attorney
Sometimes your divorce attorney will want documents at intake.

 Intake Appointment with a Divorce Attorney: What to Bring

1. Current Court Documents

This refers to any and all court documents you’ve received before your intake appointment with a divorce attorney. For example, if you’ve been served by your spouse or s/he has filed for a divorce in Minnesota, you should have received two documents known as, the Petition and Summons.

It’s essential that you bring these documents (such as, the Petition and Summons) to avoid missing the deadline to contest your divorce and thus, forfeit your right to express your opinion regarding significant aspects of your divorce (such as, property division, child custody and child support).

To illustrate, in Minnesota you only have 30 days to respond after you’ve been served and your reply must be properly formatted into a legal document called, the Answer, which typically also includes one’s Counter-Petition

2. Previous Court Documents

It’s also helpful for you to bring any other court documents from previous divorce and/or family law cases that you were involved in (if any) before this divorce.

For example, if applicable, you’ll want to bring the following documents listed below:

Court documents from any/all previous divorces, such as the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order for Judgement and Judgement and Decree.

The judgement and decree is the final Court document that is signed by the Judge, establishes the divorce between the couple, and spells out the duties and responsibilities of each party regarding such matters as, property and asset division, child custody and child support.  

Other family law related court documents, such as Orders For Protection, Recognition of Parentage (ROP’s), Child Support and/or Child Custody Modification Arrangements, etc.

3. Financial and Other Important Documents 

If you have any original financial documents such as, you and/or your spouse’s paystubs, 401k statements, pension plans, tax returns, etc… it’s in your best interest to start collecting these immediately so that you can give them to your divorce attorney.

appointment with a divorce attorney
Pay Stubs are often a key financial document

Although we don’t require original financial documents right away, some law offices like to collect these documents immediately. It’s best if you find out exactly what documents your divorce attorney will require from you at the intake appointment by asking during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment.

Also, although most divorce attorneys will ask for such financial documents, if you don’t have access to any of these financials, your divorce attorney can help you get access. In Minnesota, both parties are required to disclose any and all information to one another.

4. Retainer Payment

Most divorce and family law firms require some form of an initial retainer before working on your case. You can think of the retainer as an initial, good-faith deposit that demonstrates you’re ability to hire a divorce attorney and that you’ll use to pay for his/her legal services.

It’s expected that you’ll bring the retainer to the intake appointment when you meet with your divorce attorney. As mentioned in our previous post, you should use the consultation to request information about retainer amounts, payment methods, and fee agreements.

appointment with a divorce attorney
Credit cards are typically accepted for retainers

One last thing about the retainer payment, if someone other than yourself will be paying on your behalf, it’s best that you inform your divorce attorney of this ahead of time (such as, during the consultation or when you’re scheduling the intake appointment).

Some divorce and family law firms will only take checks from a third party. Some divorce and family law firms require the third party to appear in person to confirm identity and to obtain permission; while other divorce and family law firms will take a third party’s credit card number over the phone.

The point is, if a third party will be paying the retainer, you’ll want to know if there are any additional procedures that are required ahead of time to ensure you’re prepared for the intake appointment.    

5. Driver’s License and/or State Id Card

Your driver’s license and/or state identification card will be used by the divorce attorney to confirm your identity at the intake appointment. Identity confirmation is a very important practice because it ensures your safety and confidentiality by preventing someone from obtaining private information about you and your case by pretending to be you.

In addition, if you’re paying the initial retainer with your credit card, your driver’s license or state identification card will prove that you own the account. Lastly, if you’re working with a small law firm or solo practitioner for your divorce, you most likely won’t need to show your I.D. card again to the divorce attorney after the initial intake appointment. 

6. A Guest, such as a Friend or Family Member
appointment with a divorce attorney with family member
You can bring someone with you, but often it’s not a good idea.

We’ve added a guest to the list of things to bring to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney not because you necessarily should or shouldn’t bring someone with you, but because it’s something that you should decide before the  intake appointment with the divorce attorney.

In addition, it’s something that you should discuss with the divorce attorney either during the consultation or when you’re scheduling an intake appointment. Before you decide, know the pros and cons of bringing someone with you to an intake appointment with a divorce attorney.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Divorce Recall: Unveiling New Families

New families are developing today- families that involve separate households, step-children, coparenting, second marriages, and so on. So, what about society’s current views of divorce? Have they changed too? For families who are trying to move forward and the children stuck in the middle, the stigma of divorce can be very detrimental.

David Dickerman, author of Mom, Dad, and Everyone Else, a children’s book that uses clay illustrations to reframe the concept of divorce in a new light, challenges current notions of divorce in his featured article below. 

New Families in Today's Divorce

* Find information about the author, David Dickerman, read reviews for his children’s book about divorce, and where you can buy it at the end of this article. 

New Families in Divorce

Brave New Families

Every relationship is different. Some people gravitate towards a partner more similar to themselves in order to connect through common interests and backgrounds, while others prefer to be with their polar opposites in order to be challenged and exposed to new things. Since people are all different, no relationships can be identical. Therefore, it would stand to reason that every marriage would be different as well. If this logic is sound, would it not make sense that every divorce would be different too? 

Although the traditional view of marriage (with the woman staying home and caring for the house and kids while the husband works) has changed, our ideas about divorce remain the same. When the D-word is uttered, scenes of confrontational custody battles and alimony wars come to mind. However, generalities cannot be made about any relationships – whether it’s a marriage, family, divorce, etc…

Do some divorcing couples argue over custody and disagree about alimony? Yes, just like there are families where the wife stays at home while the husband works. However, there are also families where both parents work, same – sex couples, the father stays home, grandma moves in, sons and daughters play with step-siblings, etc…

As the nature of families change it is our responsibility, as a society, to acknowledge these changes and adapt. Just like we know more about medicine than we did a hundred years ago, we also know more about families and divorce. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to pass these evolving views down to our children.

Statistics show that people are now marrying later in life for reasons such as wanting time to establish a career and waiting to marry for love. This does not make the institution of marriage flawless. Nor does it change the fact that where there is marriage, there is also divorce.

Fortunately, changes have started to arise as the term “co-parenting” strutted onto the scene. Slowly, people are coming to accept that if children are involved, getting a divorce severs the marriage relationship, but gives rise to a new relationship with parenting.

As I mentioned before, families come in all shapes and sizes, and this also applies to divorced families. Some parents end contact with one another after the divorce and communicate with one another mainly through others, while some divorced families get together for sporting events and celebrate the holidays together.

Families are not the same because marriage is not the same. As a society we are trying to make a new type of family exist in an archaic construct. It is a losing battle that does not have to be lost if we reframe the idea of family and divorce to our children. 

People change and grow, sometimes in the same direction and sometimes not. If a couple produces children they both love, built something strong together, and end because they have become different people while still remaining friends, why is this considered a failure? Can a successful marriage end? It depends on how you handle the divorce…

By David Dickerman

New Families after Divorce

About the Author:

David Dickerman was born in Dallas, Texas. He has a BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and pursued a Master’s in general childhood education and literacy from Bank Street College in New York City.

David began working with children at a young age as a camp counselor, and in after school programs. These experiences, coupled with his post-secondary education, prepared David for his multi-faceted career as a teacher, program director, literacy specialist, and educational consultant. David also shared that he identifies as an adult child of divorce (ACOD). 

David currently works as an assessment specialist in New Jersey and lives in the area with his wife, Laura; son, Spencer; and dog, Norman.

For reviews or to buy his children’s book about divorce, click: Mom, Dad and Everyone Else 

Hiring a Small Law Firm: Advantages

Advtanges of Hiring a Small Law Firm
Hiring a small firm for a divorce should be personal

Advantages of Hiring a Small Law Firm for your Divorce

  1. Less Expensive

Perhaps the most significant advantage of hiring a small law firm for your Minnesota divorce is cost.

Small law firms have less staff to pay. They also have less organizational overhead, lower advertising costs, and less expensive office space rentals. In any law office, these expenses will inevitably be pushed off onto the client, usually in the form of higher fees.

For example, big law firms in downtown Minneapolis charge a minimum of $400 an hour with paralegal fees of $300 an hour for divorce and family law cases, and be prepared for a significant initial retainer.

  1. Focus on Divorce and Family Law

Small firms often, although not necessarily, are more likely to specialize in the practice area they work in.

Usually you can tell, through the firm’s advertising, website, or after calling, what areas they practice in and deal with on a regular basis.

It’s also easier to figure out how much experience and practice the lawyer that will be representing you has had with divorce when you go with a small firm.

  1. Personal Connection

When you work with a small firm, you meet all the staff.

Along these lines, you always know who is working on your case. Unfortunately, just because you meet with the partner of a big law firm, doesn’t mean that s/he will actually be the divorce attorney working on your case.

Do you really want to take the risk of your divorce case getting passed off to a less-experienced associate or bouncing from one attorney to another throughout your case?

Instead, with a small firm, what you see, is what you get! Staff at a small firm get the opportunity to know you and your case on a personal level. That’s exactly what you want from your divorce attorney considering the fact that your divorce case is a personal matter!

  1. Staff Availability

Because there are less people to get through and because staff will not be working on a high volume of different kinds of cases that they may not be as familiar with, staff are easier to get a hold of and more quickly available when you need them. This includes being able to directly communicate with the lawyer working on your divorce.

Please keep in mind that these are the common differences between small law firms and big law firms.  There are additional factors you should take into consideration as well when choosing your divorce lawyer.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Divorce Retainer in Minnesota

Minnesota Divorce Retainers
Retainers can be a large up front cost

When you’re thinking about divorce expenses or looking to hire a divorce attorney, it’s important that you take into consideration a divorce retainer and understand retainer fee agreements. If you’ve never hired a lawyer before, you may be wondering, “What’s a Retainer?” This article explains what a retainer is, how a retainer works in divorce and family law cases, and what you need to know before signing one.

Legal Retainer Definition

A retainer (also sometimes referred to as a, retainer fee) is a good-faith, advance payment made to a lawyer for legal services. The retainer can be a single advance payment or reoccurring, depending on your situation. (We’ll talk more about single vs. reoccurring payments later in the article).

Retainer Purpose

In addition to signing an engagement letter (or representation contract), the retainer establishes a client-attorney relationship between the individual and the lawyer. Without the retainer, an attorney will not work on your divorce or family law case, provide legal advice or representation. Thus, the retainer provides the individual with legal services and ensures that the attorney will be paid for such services. 

How Does a Retainer Work?

First, the retainer is typically collected during the intake appointment with the attorney. There are a number of different payment methods available to you. Learn about the different retainer payment options by reading: How to Pay for a Divorce Lawyer. Additionally, in some cases, your spouse can be ordered to pay your attorney fees. To learn more about when you can don’t have to pay attorney fees, read: Attorney Fees

After intake, the lawyer puts the retainer into a separate trust account for the client. The retainer belongs to the client. No money from the retainer can be collected by the attorney unless it has been earned.

Then, as the lawyer works on the divorce or family law case, s/he charges the client for legal services provided. The client pays for such legal services with the retainer (the money in the trust account). As services are rendered, the lawyer withdraws money from the retainer for payment. Once earned, money from the retainer is deposited into the firm’s account and no longer belongs to the client. Any unearned portion of the retainer is returned back to the client. (We’ll talk more about retainer refunds later in the article).

Divorce Retainer: How it Works

Typically, divorce and family law attorneys in Minnesota require an initial retainer somewhere between $3,000 – $5,000 and charge on an hourly rate basis. Minnesota laws, specifically Minnesota’s Rules of Professional Conduct Regarding Fees, guide what attorneys can charge, when they can charge, how they can charge and their responsibilities to the client-attorney relationship.

For example, in Minnesota, it’s illegal for an attorney to charge contingency fees in family law matters. However, Minnesota divorce and family law attorneys can legally seek reimbursement from the client for in-house costs and materials, like: paper; printing; coping; telephone charges; postage; etc…

TIP: In-house costs quickly add up and can exceed people’s expectations. Therefore, it’s important that you ask the attorney how additional case costs and expenses are handled. For example, at Majeski Law, we do not charge the client separately for such in-house expenses listed above.

Initial Retainer vs. Replenishing Retainer Fees

The initial retainer is the amount your divorce or family law attorney believes is reasonably necessary to start working on your case. As your case proceeds, you may need to replenish your initial retainer to continue working with the attorney.

Thus, the initial retainer may cover all legal services during your divorce or family law case or you may have reoccurring retainer fees. Whether you’ll have a single retainer fee or reoccurring retainer fees will depend mostly on you, your attorney and the specifics of your case. (We’ll talk more about replenishing the retainer later in this article).

TIP: Don’t be afraid to bring up money concerns with your divorce or family law attorney. In fact, it’s best to address any financial issues right away with your attorney. Generally, the more you, as the client, do yourself, the more money you can save. Therefore, it can be helpful to identify tasks that you can do yourself, and tasks that you will need an attorney to complete for you.

Retainer versus Additional Expenses

Typically, the retainer is only used to pay attorney fees. However, you’ll have additional case expenses, such as court filing fees. Court fees are set by the court, collected by the court, and paid to the court. You pay court fees regardless of whether you have an attorney or not as they are mandatory in the state of Minnesota. For example, it costs about $400 to file for divorce in Minnesota.

In addition, during your divorce or family law case, you may acquire additional services from a third party, such as a mediator, custody evaluator or a property appraiser. Like court fees, your attorney has nothing to do with third party fees, and retainer funds are not used to pay such third party fees. Instead, payment for services from a third party should be arranged between the third party and the client, directly.

An attorney may be willing to use money from the retainer to pay a court filing or process server fee on your behalf, but those tend to be the only (and rare) exceptions. If retainer money is used to pay a court or process server fee, the firm can provide you with a court and/or process server receipt. In addition, best practice would also be to have such items and services clearly accounted for on the firm’s invoice.

Thus, the retainer does not cover your divorce or family law case expenses. Instead, the retainer is only for attorney fees. We stress this point, because some individuals mistakenly take the initial retainer fee to be the total cost of their divorce or family law case.

Although attorney fees (and thus, the retainer) impact the total cost, they’re not the only expenses in a divorce or family law case. Instead, how much your divorce or family law case will cost, will depend upon your specific situation and several different factors. Therefore, it’s best if you can budget accordingly.

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

Retainer and Retainer Fee Agreement

The terms of your engagement letter or representation contract with your attorney should include a section regarding the retainer fee agreement. The retainer fee agreement or retainer agreement you make with your lawyer should not only be in writing, but should clearly state the firm’s procedures and policies regarding the following: Retainer amount; Hourly rates; Services provided; Scope of representation; etc…

Divorce Retainer and Accounting Practices

In addition, your lawyer should provide you with a regular invoice. A good invoice shows you what services were provided, who completed the work (such as, an attorney or a paralegal), and the amount withdrawn from the retainer.

Best practice would be that you receive a monthly invoice, unless no services were provided that month. In that case, depending on the firm, you may or may not receive an invoice that month. The firm’s accounting and invoice practices should also be explained and stated in writing in the retainer agreement.

Retainer Fee, Replenishing the Retainer and Legal Representation

As mentioned earlier, you may need to replenish the retainer. Some divorce and family law attorneys require the retainer to be replenished to the initial amount, while others require a larger or smaller amount. Inability to replenish the retainer usually results in the divorce or family law attorney withdrawing from the case. In that instance, the client would either need to represent him/herself in the divorce or family law matter or seek services from a free legal clinic. Again, the firm’s policy regarding representation and retainer replenishment should be clearly explained and stated in writing in the retainer agreement.

Divorce Retainer Refund

Once your case is completed and closed with the firm, you should receive your last invoice. At this time, you may still have money left in your retainer. As previously mentioned, the retainer money belongs to the client, until it’s earned. Therefore, any unearned portion of the retainer belongs to the client and must be returned.

In addition, you, the client, may fire your divorce or family law attorney at any time. Similarly, whatever balance is left in your retainer after closing out your case, would be returned to you. Therefore, whether you end up receiving money back, depends on the remaining balance of your retainer when your case is closed (regardless of whether your case is finished or because you fired your attorney).

Minnesota Divorce Retainers

Because the retainer money belongs to the client until earned and the client is not receiving the entire retainer fee, it’s not truly a retainer refund. It’s actually more accurate to call it an unearned retainer return.

However, because “unearned retainer return” is not commonly used or searched for by the public, “retainer refund” is used, and refers to the remaining (unearned) portion of the retainer that gets returned back to the client. Again, we emphasize that the client only receives the unearned portion of the divorce retainer at the end of the case.

Divorce Retainer Summary

  • The retainer is money that you designate up front to your lawyer to be used to pay for services provided during your divorce or family law case.
  • The retainer is put into a trust account and belongs to you. No money is collected from the retainer until it’s earned by the attorney.
  • As services are rendered, money from the retainer is paid to the firm. Once collected by the firm, that money no longer belongs to the client.
  • Depending on your case, you may need to replenish the initial retainer. Inability to pay for services, by not replenishing the retainer, dissolves the client-attorney relationship, legal representation and all legal services.
  • At any time in your case, you can decide to represent yourself or fire your current attorney and hire another attorney. At this time, the remaining balance would be returned back to you. Otherwise, any remaining balance is returned back to you at the end of your divorce or family law case.
  • It’s very important that you read the retainer fee agreement carefully to make sure that the firm’s policies and procedures are stated in writing and that you have a complete understanding before signing the contract.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

Helping Children in a Divorce

Helping children in a divorce
Helping a child in a divorce is usually needed

A divorce is a significant loss to many spouse enduring it.  However, even more so divorces can affect the well-being, psychological health, and emotional development of the children involved. Helping children in a divorce can be critical.  The following are some ways in which parents can help minimize the negative effect divorce can have on their children.

Distinguish the Parent/Parent and Parent/Child Relationships

Remind the child that it’s not their fault.  Highlight the difference between the relationship between both parents and the relationship each parent has with the child. 

On a related note, continue to maintain an active and positive parent/child relationship after the divorce.  A child still needs this from both parents, even after a divorce. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and care for the child.

Helping Children in a Divorce: Keep Conflict to a Minimum 

This may be the most important predictor of eventual outcome for the children.  Yes in many cases there are bitter, unresolved feelings between the parents.  These feelings often make it easy to fall into the trap of lashing out at the other parent or speaking badly of the other parent.  This is particularly harmful if it’s done in front of the child.  Helping children in a divorce can sometimes mean knowing when to stay silent.

Often, a divorce resolved through alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, and coupled with a parenting plan agreement made by both parents can help reduce the sense of anger and “loss” associated with a full-blown divorce trial.  This can help the parents avoid much of the anger and resentment and make it easier to be at least civil with the other parent.   These alternative methods to trial are highly recommended in most cases.

Helping Children in a Divorce: Stand United

Remember, parenting doesn’t end with the divorce.  In many children’s eyes their mother and father are a cohesive unit who they refer to as “my parents”, not necessarily “my mom” and “my dad”. 

Imagine the difficult choices a child may face if placed in a situation in which the child is keenly aware of the anger between both parents.  The child may often be worried about showing preference for one parent by showing affection to one first or more often.  Children should never have to make those choices.  Helping children in a divorce involves working with the other parent.

Communicate Openly and Directly with the Other Parent

Parents should negotiate with each other regarding how they will resolve any parental disputes in the future.  This may involve some form of direct negotiation or alternative dispute resolution.  Generally, unless a child is endangered, going back to court should be a last resort of the parties.

In addition, communication should be direct between the parents whenever possible (situations with domestic abuse would be the notable exception).  Children should not be used as shuttle messengers between the parents.

Remember, you never stop being a parent.  A child deserves the best efforts of both parents to help them develop into an emotionally health and happy adult.

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.