If your family is in the midst of a divorce, determining custody might be a large part of your battle.
You need to provide children with the best care possible. Custody rights will lay down the future of their care. Often, custody has the potential to affect the happiness and development of your children and, in some cases, even their safety.
Custody disputes are stressful and emotionally extreme. It’s easy to look too far ahead, to what life will look like after the custody dispute or to focus exclusively on the family court proceedings.
Remember, the most important part of your dispute is your children. They need your support during these proceedings, perhaps even more than they will afterward.
Here are five things your children need while custody is being sorted out.
When the structure of a family changes as a result of a divorce or separation, many children feel they are to blame. This may be d if your children hear you and your ex arguing, especially if the argument involves them, such as transportation arrangements, household rules or financial disputes.
Don’t involve your children in such arguments, use them as bargaining chips or blackmail against your ex or place any blame on them. If you meet with your ex and suspect the conversation may turn into an argument, be sure to meet where your children will not see or hear you.
Your children need to hear they are not at fault, as often and as clearly as you are able to tell them. They need to hear things will work out and be all right.
You should endeavor to keep things as “normal” as possible for you children. This means not letting the proceedings drastically alter the way your household runs.
Encourage your children to continue participating in any sports or extracurricular activities they already do. Make an effort to keep the daily schedule regular and predictable.
Consistency will help your children feel safe and comfortable. Stability will enable your children to properly confront the emotional complexity of the situation.
It’s all right for you to move on with your life, whether in relationships or your occupation, but you should only gradually introduce new elements into your children’s lives. Don’t start living with a new partner right away, or while the dispute is still going on.
When, and if, you begin dating again in this time period, do not present your new partner as a replacement parent for your children. Regardless of your feelings about your ex, your children likely still love him or her, and will probably not take kindly to new authority figures.
According to Divorce Support, children may become “quiet, withdrawn, upset, [or] disinterested” or may act out during a custody dispute. If your children reside with you, you are responsible for making sure they are equipped with all the tools they need to deal with the changing structure of their family. If your child’s behavior changes drastically, you should consider scheduling them an appointment with a mental health professional.
Whether or not your children currently reside with you, they need your attention. This may be as simple as attending a soccer game, making a call or writing your child a letter.
Without these little gestures, children may fear that they will lose you after the dispute is settled. Show your interest in what they are doing, and how they are doing.
Ask them questions. Engage with them. Assure children you will not stop being their parent, even if they no longer live with you.
It may seem strange to think your children could forget how much you love them, but now, more than ever, is when they need to hear you say, “I love you” and see your love in your actions. No matter how stressful or emotionally draining the process gets, your children need to see and hear how important they are to you.
Confine your strategizing and planning to meetings with your lawyer. Many, like those at the Blumenauer Hackworth group, have decades of experience and will be able to navigate you through the court proceedings. When you are with your children, however, show them they are your primary concern.