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WHAT DO I TELL THE KIDS?
January 17, 2019
Getting a divorce in New York? What do I tell the kids?
It is important that you keep your children in the loop about all life changing circumstances such as a change in school, a change in residence or a change in teachers. So, it is not surprising that parents should inform their children about their change in marital status.
Depending upon their age, children are smarter and more attuned to their environment then you might guess. Children may even know that you and your spouse are headed toward a divorce.
Even so, you should prepare the children well in advance of the move. Sit down with the children at an appropriate time and do so as a couple if at all possible. The children need to see you are united in your decision.
Spend a sufficient amount of time talking to them and listening to their concerns. It is important to stress that you love them at that nothing will change that. However, it is also important to listen to them. They will most likely have a lot of questions for you and you might expect them to ask about where they will live and who will be taking care of them. Expect that the children will have questions of worry or concern. Address them with assurances. Also expect the unexpected questions because children have their own ideas about what a divorce will look like because often times, they have had talks with their friends who have had very different experiences with divorce.
Also set aside other quiet times to go over with the children what a divorce means. If one or the other parent is relocating it is important to let the children know how that relocation will affect their lives and their access to each parent.
You should also be talking to other critical persons in the lives of the children such as their doctors, their school teachers and their summer camp counselors or therapists. Everyone should work as a team to explain how scheduling will work so that the children will know well in advance as to who will be expected to drive the children to their various appointments and who will attend what activity recital or event. Garnering the support of those people in their lives will help the children in their post-divorce transition.
In my experience it is best if the parents can co-parent the children. Not only is this favored by the New York Courts, it is also very healthy for the children to know that both parents will remain active in their lives.
Before you and your spouse sit down to talk with the children is important that you and your spouse talk to their respective New York divorce lawyers about scheduling access and visitation time. Children like structure and need to know what to expect once the household composition changes.
Once the household becomes two households, things get very expensive. You should talk to your divorce lawyer about how child custody issues will affect your pocket book and budget, and who will be expected to pay for extracurricular activities. If you can, do not disrupt the activities the children are already involved in as this will tend to put stress upon the children. In my experience, children are children and should not be involved in the problems of financing their lives. In New York extracurricular activities are nonmandatory add-ons to child support so you and your spouse should decide in advance as to what activities are affordable and wo will be paying for them. Do not unilaterally schedule an activity and then expect your spouse to approve and pay for it.
By co-parenting that means discussing what is in the best interests of the children and making decisions form them together as it concerns religion, medical attention and education.
Even if the child is residing primarily with one parent the law favors liberal contact with the noncustodial spouse for a reason-the child need both parents, absent a showing of unfitness to parent.
The end result is that if you work together as parents and try not to fight in front of the children the children will not feel like they have to take sides which is known to be detrimental to the children’s best interests. It is generally easier said then done but it is the best possible course if you wish your children to adjust to their post-divorce life.
I hope this has been helpful. Your Bronx Child Custody Attorney, Lisa Beth Older.