By Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney
Separation or divorce gets more complicated when children are involved, which also brings more stress. Even if things are amicable between the parents, emotional strain is inevitable as families figure out how to split a child’s time between two homes. As a result, both parents and children can experience resentment and distress. But, while some tension is unavoidable, there are strategies families can use to minimize anxiety.
When properly structured, a good custody arrangement can reduce the trauma of transitions for children. However, creating a custody arrangement that genuinely protects children from the stress of a divorce can be challenging. It requires the commitment of both parents and their family law attorneys.
Pennsylvania’s divorce and child custody laws are complex. That’s why it’s helpful to have an experienced custody lawyer on hand to help create an agreement that not only works for the parents but also contributes to a stable and happy future for the child. Here are some ways many parents help their children experience less stressful transitions.
Focus on Co-Parenting
While some exceptions exist, most children thrive when they have a strong relationship with both parents. Teachers, counselors, therapists, and the Pennsylvania legal system all encourage active parenting from both mothers and fathers. So, unless the caregiver is violent or otherwise unfit, co-parenting is one of the best ways to ensure a child’s emotional well-being.
Parental teamwork is critical, even for divorced and separated couples. Cooperation starts with regular and respectful communication. In addition, providing consistent approaches to rules, discipline, routines, school matters, and extracurricular activities significantly reduces confusion and stress.
In contentious relationships, consistent co-parenting can be challenging at first. In these cases, it helps to have a go-between, especially right after a breakup. An experienced Lancaster custody lawyer can smooth the way to make the process of custody hearings and arrangements less trying for parents and less stressful for offspring.
Don’t Complain on Social Media
Social media posts can be used in custody cases to demonstrate poor judgment, irresponsible behavior, or even bad parenting. Before posting anything on Facebook, Instagram, or other digital platforms, think about how a judge would view the post. Posts about parties, vacations, or even new romantic partners might seem harmless, but they can have unintended consequences in court. As a result, many custody attorneys advise parents to stay off social media, at least during the custody hearing timeframe.
Kids, or their friends, often have access to social media and can also see a parent’s posts. Even parents’ “private” accounts often end up on their children’s radar. Assume that a child can see any social media posts and filter content through their eyes. Don’t complain about a partner, post photos of a newly single life, or show vacation photos taken without kids.
Present a Calm Front
Divorces and separations are one of the most stressful life events. Anger and accusations are natural responses. However, even casual arguments in front of a child can contribute to serious emotional issues. Parental fighting, however justified, can make a child feel anxious, depressed, guilty, and even responsible for the fight.
Heated arguments can also have legal ramifications. For example, shouting at a former spouse with a child present can be used to support accusations of abusive or overly aggressive behavior in a custody hearing.
Although it can be difficult, taking a matter-of-fact approach is the best way to reduce stress. Keep a level head when talking to a partner, especially if children are around. Find other ways to vent your anger, such as confiding in a trusted family member, talking to a good friend, or even finding a therapist. Using a lawyer as a go-between is another way to avoid situations that feed anger or trigger arguments.
Avoid Altering the Custody Agreement
As many parents know, consistency is integral to any child’s emotional development. So, while divorce or separation is a big disruption in a child’s life, sticking to the custody agreement is a way to re-establish consistency.
Honoring the custody agreement down to the letter is one of the best ways to reduce a child’s stress. Missing planned visits, showing up late, or rescheduling time with children can make them feel unwanted. Sticking to a schedule, even when it’s genuinely inconvenient, will help children rebound from the stress of parental separation.
Notably, during custody hearings, if a parent bends the rules of the interim agreement, it could impact the final custody arrangements. Custody rule violations–even seemingly minor violations–can be viewed as disrespectful, uncaring, or hurtful to the child. The parent who doesn’t stick to the schedule regularly may end up with less visitation time.
Alter Arrangements When It Benefits the Child
As children grow older, their needs evolve, too. Encourage extracurricular participation, playdates, and time with friends. These activities are essential to a child’s emotional and social development. The custody arrangement for a toddler should look different than the schedule for an active teen. Alter arrangements when it makes the child’s life easier, even if one parent ends up with less time.
Sometimes, changes in a parent’s life can significantly affect their ability to spend time with their children. In these cases, a Pennsylvania family law attorney can help adjust custody agreements to suit all parties’ needs and help ensure children can live their lives to the fullest.
Have a Custody Expert on Your Side
Parents can protect their children by having custody experts help ensure a fair hearing. Going and Plank’s custody lawyer can explain the law, share customary agreements, prepare clients for hearings, and help create or adjust custody agreements. Contact us today for guidance on custody arrangements, family law, divorce, and more.
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