Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases
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Staying Child Focused During Your Divorce

By:  Sarah T. McCain

During the end of a marriage, there can often be a significant amount of fighting. It’s hoped that these verbal arguments couples might engage in can be kept from the children.  As a marriage ends through the process of divorce, children often comment that it is better that they not be caught in the middle of the fighting. This is a goal I recommend all clients strive for and something the court will certainly expect tied into one facet of the C.R.S. 14-10-124 “best interest of the child” standard: the ability of the parents to put the needs of the child over their own.  However, what happens when the conflict continues and what can you do to make sure that this continued hostility does not impact your parenting relationship or the emotional health of your children? 

Now, in my experience most couples are able to put the conflict aside in order to focus on what is in the best interests of the children, at least in front of the kids.  Generally, it’s the high conflict couples that struggle with this on a day to day basis.  The struggles can range from the more serious incidents of physically assaulting the other parent in front of the minor child(ren) or verbally assaulting the other parent with name calling and obscenities. Obviously, these types of altercations can have a major impact on the minor child’s wellbeing. When something of this nature takes place, it is important to speak with your Denver child custody attorney right away to assess whether the court should become involved. It may be necessary to file a restriction of parenting time for the parent who perpetrated the damaging behavior. 

However, the more subtle interactions can also have an impact. Simply speaking negatively about the other parent not to, but around the minor child(ren), complaining about money to the child(ren) in the context of the other parent not paying enough, or overly involving the children in adult matters can have serious repercussions. Those parents in high conflict cases often cannot see that their actions are damaging to their children. Those parents can be so caught up in proving a point or winning their case that they cannot see their actions are harmful. Less frequently, a parent may believe it important to share such information with the children, believing it to be necessary. From an attorney’s perspective, it is often said that a parent is cutting off their nose to spite their face.  As a parent going through a divorce action, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate your actions and the potential impact they could have on your child(ren) with each interaction with or regarding the other parent. 

One way to take the step of evaluating your own actions and behaviors when it comes to the children is to engage in therapy. The most common step is to engage in individual therapy, which can be incredibly helpful in terms of providing you the necessary tools for both coping and behaving appropriately. However, it can also be helpful to engage in sessions of family therapy. This does not necessarily need to include the children, though depending on their ages, it could be helpful in terms of them having a neutral and safe place to speak their minds as to the behavior of their parents. A qualified family therapist can help the parents see where their actions and behaviors could be having a negative impact on their relationships with their children and their ability to effectively co-parent these child(ren). In many cases, parents don’t take this step until after their initial divorce proceeding is final. By that point, the damage could already be done.  Pursuing counseling at the first sign of real parental conflict starting may be the advisable way to go.  As anyone who goes through a divorce with children is aware, there is a required parenting class. It is a level one class that is often reported in varying lights. If the conflict continues, a level two parenting course will most certainly be ordered by the court. A level two class varies in intensity from the basic, one time class, will be more thorough, and may even take as long as ten week. While spending the money to pursue a ten week course may seem unnecessary, the time and money commitment may well be necessary to help avoid a conflict trap which could impact not only your child’s life at that time, but their ability to have healthy adult relationships in the future.  It is possible to proceed with a divorce in a healthy manner, but falling into and remaining in a conflict trap will not only burden your child’s life, but may also impede your own as well.