Children experience anxiety and anger during the divorce process. They are angry that their world is being turned upside down and anxious through feelings of abandonment, changes in living conditions, guilt, fear of the unknown. Often they worry that the divorce was in some way their fault. These feelings are normal but need to be recognized and dealt with.
Don’t expect your child to testify in Court
Courts do not want to have children testify in divorce or custody trials as to which parent they want to live with. It is unfair to put children in the middle and give them the role of deciding who they “love” more or have them take sides. Children typically want to make both parents happy. They will feel guilt afterwards for choosing one parent over the other. Courts recognize that children should have both parents in their lives, and if Custody is an issue the Court will appoint a mental health professional to interview the children and make recommendations to the Court.
The way you handle the divorce process does impact your children’s mental health.
Don’t use your child as weapon or a messenger
Don’t ask your children to be the messenger e.g. “tell your Dad he’s late with his child support.” It’s unfair to put the child in the role of the messenger. Also don’t use your child as a weapon in the negotiations. One tactic often seen is to restrict access to the children in return for payment of more financial support. Children need parenting time with both parents, and no matter how willing a child may be just to spend time with you, time with both parents should be encouraged. Let the attorneys do the negotiating.
Children typically do not need a lawyer during a divorce or custody trial. However, if you are involved in a high conflict divorce, in which custody is a central issue, then it may be necessary for the Court to appoint a Guardian ad Litem.
A Guardian ad Litem can be appointed to represent a Child
A Guardian ad Litem is a neutral third party, often an experienced attorney or mental health professional, whose role is to represent to the Court what is in the child’s best interests. The need for this can occur where parents have physical, mental, or health problems that impact their parenting ability or where the parties use the child as a pawn in the divorce, and have a lot of conflict over custody and parenting time. The Guardian ad Litem will make independent recommendations to the Court on what is in the child’s best interests concerning parenting time, vacations, custody and interactions with each parent. The parties will typically share the costs of the Guardian ad Litem.
Parents should strive not to have children play a role in divorce, but instead make sure they receive extra love, guidance, support, understanding and security during the divorce process. It’s important to recognize that divorce has a major impact on children and where necessary, a mental health professional should be consulted for therapy and counseling to help the children deal with their anger and anxiety.
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