As a parent, helping your children cope with your divorce can be one of the most difficult parts of the process. Regardless of how old your kids are, they are not likely to fully understand the reasons for – or implications of – your divorce, and they will almost certainly have lots of questions about what they can expect both during your divorce and after the process is over.
Answering your children’s questions isn’t easy, but it is important. Parents should make a concerted effort to listen to their children during the divorce process and be prepared to answer their questions as they arise. When answering your children’s questions, however, it is important to keep your emotions in check and to avoid saying anything that could negatively impact your children or the outcome of your divorce.
Helping Your Children Understand Your Divorce
In addition to being prepared to answer their children’s questions, parents may want to consider affirmatively addressing certain issues with their children. Whether you bring them up yourself or wait for your children to ask the question, the following are 10 issues that will likely be on your children’s minds during your divorce:
1. Is the Divorce My Fault?
One of the most important things that it is important to help your children understand is that your divorce is not their fault. As your children think about your divorce, they will naturally wonder what role they played in the decision for their parents to split up. While it may or may not make sense to explain the real reasons behind your divorce, it will be important to quickly dispel any misconceptions that your children are to blame.
2. Do Other Kids’ Parents Get Divorced?
About half of all marriages end in divorce. While knowing that other kids’ parents get divorced too won’t necessarily make the process itself any easier, your children may benefit from knowing that they are not alone in watching their parents’ marriage come to an end.
3. Will I Still Be able to Spend Time with Both of My Parents?
Indiana law strongly favors ensuring that children have the opportunity to spend meaningful time with both of their parents after a divorce. During the divorce process, you and your spouse will need to develop a parenting plan, and this plan will include a schedule for when your children will spend time at each of their parents’ homes.
4. Will I have to Decide Where I Want to Live?
No. Under Indiana law, it is the parents’ responsibility to develop a parenting plan. If you and your spouse are unable to come to terms, a judge will decide on a parenting plan for you. While your children may want to provide input, they should not be forced to choose between spending the majority of their time with one parent or the other.
5. What is it Okay to Talk About with My Friends?
Your children’s friends are some of the most important people in their lives, so they will naturally want to talk with them about your divorce. While your children should generally be free to discuss their feelings, your children may learn more than you expect during your divorce. As a result, you may choose to set parameters on what is (and isn’t) okay for them to discuss with their friends.
6. Where Will I Keep My Clothes, Games and Toys?
“Where will I keep my stuff?” This is a common question and one that can generally be answered by telling your children that they will have a “home base” where they will keep their clothes, games, toys and other personal items. If one parent has primary custody, the custodial parent’s house will typically be the home base, and your children will bring their chosen belongings with them when they spend time with their non-custodial parent.
7. What if I Want to Spend Time with My Friends Instead of My Parent During Parenting Time?
During parenting time, you and your former spouse will need to decide how much time your children get to spend with their friends. While you will understandably want to spend as much time with your children as possible, it may be important to strike a balance with the understanding that your children place a high value on time they spend with their friends.
8. Who Will Drive Me to School or Practice?
Transportation is an important issue for many children, and it will be important for them to know that arranging transportation is not their responsibility. As part of your parenting plan, you and your spouse will need to ensure that you have adequate coverage for all school days, practices and other special events.
9. Will My Parents Still Talk to Each Other?
The answer to this question depends on the status of your relationship with your spouse. Post-divorce relations run the gamut from parallel parenting (where interaction is minimal), to co-parenting (where both parents continue to jointly play a role in their children’s lives). Most divorced parents’ relationships fall somewhere in the middle, where they are on speaking terms but do not necessarily spend time together.
10. What Will Happen on My Birthday and During the Holidays?
When developing your parenting schedule, you and your spouse should specifically address the issue of birthdays, holidays and vacations. While you may choose to maintain a strict weekly schedule, more likely than not you will want to consider options such as alternating birthdays and holidays or splitting time with your children on each individual day.
Schedule a Confidential Divorce Consultation with Carmel Family Lawyer Joshua R. Hains
Joshua R. Hains is an experienced family law attorney in Carmel, Indiana who represents parents in divorce. If you are preparing to go through a divorce with children and would like to speak with an attorney, you can contact Hains Law, LLC for a free, no-obligation consultation. To schedule an appointment at your convenience, please call (317) 588-2883, or tell us how to reach you and we will respond promptly.