Divorce and Separation in the USA

A global perspective of the human effects of separation and divorce

Month: November 2018

Valuing Our Children Through Divorce

A couple of years ago, “Lucy” contacted me for financial assistance with her divorce. She was questioning her attorney and seeking a second opinion. When Lucy came into my office, she brought the spreadsheet her attorney had created that outlined a proposed settlement scenario, and I could fairly easily tell that her legal and financial interests were well represented.

I answered her questions pertaining to spousal maintenance and property division, as well as questions about general financial concepts. But as the hour unfolded, it became evident that she was less interested in listening to me and more interested in having me help her find ways to achieve her notion of justice.

Lucy’s husband had cheated on her several times during the course of their marriage, and she was understandably angry and in a great deal of pain. Her desire was to make him feel pain by engaging in an adversarial process that would cost him a great deal of time, money and embarrassment. She wanted to use the court system as a public forum to air his marital indiscretions. I emphasized that it would cost her a great deal of time and money, probably thousands of dollars, for something that, in the end, would do little to solve her problems.

I told Lucy I thought her attorney was on the right track, and that I wouldn’t be able to help her. As we said goodbye, I suggested she settle amicably and use some of the money she would have spent on an adversarial process to take a trip around the world and start her life anew. I was grateful that this couple did not have minor children.

My interaction with Lucy got me thinking about the concepts of value (as in worth) and values (as in principles). Causing her husband embarrassment had a greater value to Lucy than the thousands of dollars she would potentially spend in achieving her goal. To me, the money I could earn helping Lucy achieve her goals could not compare to the cost to my conscience of doing so. Value and values, however, are personal to each of us.

My own divorce was non-adversarial. My ex-husband and I worked everything out ourselves with the help of a two-hour mediation session. Our co-parenting relationship has been amicable and our 18-year-old son, Liam, is thriving. One afternoon, when Liam was 13, we were driving home when he told me he had forgotten something at his father’s house and asked, somewhat apologetically, if we could go pick it up. I said, “No problem,” to which he responded, “You know, Mom, I don’t feel like I have two separate households.”

That heart-swelling moment clarified for me that nothing in this world holds a greater value than making it possible for my son to identify and achieve his goals and dreams in life. Not being “right,” not achieving a sense of “justice,” and certainly not whether I got my fair share of equity from the sale of the marital home. My ex and I have both had to, and continue to have to, do a lot of letting go of what we each want or what we think is right, in order for Liam to feel like he’s not pulled between two separate households. But, oh what a reward!

Of course, there will always be cases where the adversarial process is important, even necessary. After all, an amicable divorce requires two willing adults. It is, however, my fervent hope that, in divorce cases, particularly those involving children, people are provided with the tools, the roadmap, the opportunity and the encouragement to work through their issues as amicably as possible. Our kids deserve nothing less.

What happens as parents…stays with parents

The phrase, “What happens in… stays in…” has become well known. It’s used in many situations to express the idea some things should be private.

The phrase applies really well for divorcing parents and their children. Conversations about some subjects should stay with parents and not be shared with the children.

Children need information about the changes in their lives and what will happen in the future. In divorce, the familiar is gone, replaced by uncertainty and anxiety. Children, just like their parents, need to get their bearings. They need information about things that directly affect their lives.

They need to know:
Is this for real? Are you seriously getting divorced?
When will this happen?
Where will I be living?
Can we stay in our home?
Where will the other parent be living?
Is there a schedule for being with the other parent?
Can I go to the same school?
Can I still take music lessons? Can I still be on the soccer team?
Are you going to make me see a counselor?
If we move, how will I see my friends?
Do Grandma and Grandpa know about this?
Can we still visit our cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives?

Honest answers help them adapt to the changes in their lives. They need to know you are looking out for them. They will be better able to adjust to the changes if they know what to expect.

However, there are some things children do NOT need to know, such as:
Why are you divorcing?
Whose fault is the divorce?
Did one of you have an affair?
Is this because you drink too much?
How much is child support and alimony?
Are you seeing a counselor?
What did your attorney tell you?
Do you plan to remarry?
Are you going to be OK?

Talking with your children about these things doesn’t help them. It does the opposite. It leaves them anxious. They can end up feeling responsible, as though they should be doing something. Your children have no responsibility for making or changing your choices.

But we all know, they have no influence or control over these decisions. They can’t change your mind or affect your choices. They may be too young or too scared to understand what is happening. They are children, not adults.

As parents live by this rule: “what happens between adults, stays between adults.”

Purchase Divorce and Separation: A Practical Guide to Making Smart Decisions (an ebook) on www.Amazon.com

Currently, we have published editions for Florida, Vermont and Oregon.

Versions for California and Massachusetts will be available later this year.

New editions will be published in 2019 for:
Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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