By: Sarah T. McCain
Divorcing with a young child or children can be difficult for all involved, both parents and children. During the divorce or custody process, and after, it’s important for the parents to remember that children need to be allowed to be children. This means that while children may be the entire focus of the disagreement and the arguments, that they should be shielded from those arguments. This is easier said than done; and many parents believe that it is the other parent who is at fault. Many parents unknowingly involve their children in their Denver custody or divorce cases merely by saying things in ear shot of the kids. The impact of divorce or custody battles on your children should be considered with every statement you make to them or near them.
It’s always important to recognize the age of the child(ren) involved in your custody proceedings. As the saying goes, “little ears, big pitchers.” Even children of the younger set are able to pick up the smallest of statements. Making negative comments about the other parent to, or in front of, the kids can have a devastating impact on the case you present to the court. One of the factors the judge is reviewing when hearing your case is the ability of each parent to encourage a relationship between the children and the other parent. Many parents believe that making these negative statements helps their cause in that they believe the minor child will turn against one parent and favor them. However, this is generally not the case and it more often than not creates confusion for the child. It’s important to keep in mind that the minor child loves both of parents, which is what should be encouraged.
Should the court discover negative or inappropriate statements are taking place, it will likely find an inability to encourage a relationship. Every time one parent decides to speak negatively about the other, that parent risks impacting his or her parenting time or ability to make decisions on behalf of the child. As an Arapahoe County custody attorney, I often tell clients that it’s better to follow the age old rule of “if you have nothing nice to say, it is best to not say anything at all.” While this may be difficult, it’s best for the mental health of the minor child and for your overall case.
When children are older, it can be more difficult to keep them from knowing what is going on with the divorce or custody case. Older kids often do figure these things out. However, while it is best to try to limit direct communications with them as to the process, it can be the indirect actions that have the potential to cause problems. For example, parents often will pass information or child support checks through the other parent. While this may seem like an effective outlet to pass such information, even involving the children like this (as messengers) can be problematic. It can also be troublesome to clear parenting time through a child. Colorado custody courts feel very strongly that parenting time should be figured out between the parents. While having a child’s input regarding visitation may seem like a good idea, it can be done without directly involving. You should never be the one to tell the child that they should tell the other parent when visitation will be taken, or can occur.
These are just some examples of communications issues involving the children that should be avoided if possible. It’s often impossible to keep children completely separate from the process and questions will surely arise. In those instances in which children bring up the custody or divorce case, tell them that those are subjects or issues that you and the other parent will work out. Children have enough to think about without having to bear the burden of mom and dad separation or not getting along. If you need further direction on ways to keep children from being too involved in your dissolution or custody case, please contact an experienced family law attorney.