A recent thread on Reddit highlighted the question:
Many of the responses are both heartbreaking and insightful:
|Excerpt from AskReddit|
Split, a recent film, also explored this issue from the perspective of children ages 6-12:
Fortunately, divorce doesn't have to be this way. With the availability of films like Split and the recent release of Sesame Street's: Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce Toolkit, there are many resources available to help parents minimize the impact of divorce on their children.
While the divorce process necessarily involves the division of a financial and emotional partnership, the most important impact divorce will have on both the day-to-day family life and the long-term family legacy begins with how the children perceive and react to the divorce. Parents who want to put their children first should know that divorce all begins with how they choose to divorce.
How do the different divorce options treat children?
Divorce in Court: If parents choose to litigate their divorce case by filing a Complaint in court, the first information the court asks them to exchange is financial information. Either parent can ask the court for temporary orders that define a parenting plan and, if they cannot agree, the court will tell them both when they spend time with their children and sometimes even how to communicate about their children.
While the court's mandate requires consideration of the "best interest of the children", the court orders are directed at the parents, not the children. In most of these hearings, there is no person in the courtroom specifically advocating for the children. While one might presume the parents are advocates for their children, their interests may not always align with the children's best interest. In addition, court is confusing and stressful, and most people have trouble focusing on their own needs, nevermind fully understanding the needs of their children.
The most glaringly obvious example of this disconnect, is the complete lack of one major component from any court order. I have been practicing in the divorce field in Massachusetts for almost 10 years and I have never seen a court order address how the parents should tell their children about their divorce. Practically it make sense that the court would not get involved in this level of detail. But consider the importance of that conversation to the child, especially now that a temporary order exists telling that child that on certain nights they can't see one of their parents. Take a moment and try to imagine how that feels to a child. What if I told you right now that you can't call or visit your Mother on Tuesdays? Even as an adult, how hurtful and confusing would that be?
Divorcing outside of Court: There are options for reaching agreements to divorce outside of court and many of these options offer the opportunity to put your children first.
Mediation involves two people hiring a neutral trained mediator to help them reach an agreement. Many people choose co-mediation with both an attorney and practitioner with some other skill set, such as a child specialist or divorce coach. While the attorney mediator helps focus on the legal issues that divorcing couples face, the mediator who has training in child development and communication skills assists parties in finding the best ways to co-parent their children.
Because divorce is primarily seen as a legal division, the needs of the children can get lost in the legal requirements. Having a mediator who helps parents focus on their children's needs, can create the opportunity to discuss issues such as how the parents will tell their children about the divorce.
Collaborative Divorce is another out-of-court settlement option that provides parents with the expert assistance needed to address the needs of their children and themselves in a healthy way. Collaborative Law is a form of alternative dispute resolution where both parties in a dispute have their own attorney, but those attorneys agree not to go to court and instead work on settlement in meetings with a Divorce Coach. The Divorce Coach is someone who likely has training in child development and communication skills to help address the co-parenting relationship now and in the future.
I often tell clients and potential clients that divorce with children should not be about breaking up a family, but simply restructuring it. Collaborative Divorce is a team approach to that restructuring using the skills of everyone in the room to build a new family dynamic.
Ultimately if a parent wants to divorce in a way that minimizes the damage to their children this is the take-away message:
Split: A Film for Kids of Divorce (and their Parents)
Approved Parent Education Program Providers in Massachusetts