What you need to know

About Divorce

I provide this booklet to you in order to help you know what your legal rights are, so you can protect those rights and assert them if necessary. Obviously, you should not expect this booklet to replace an in-office conference with me at which you will obtain specific advice for your unique situation. So you should use this booklet to alert you to the important issues you may need to discuss at a conference with me about your will or estate or the estate of someone of interest to you.

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Helping Children Cope with the Divorce of their Parents

We’ve all seen the statistics that nearly 50% of marriages in America end in divorce. There are three other statistics more rarely reported. First, about 60% of remarriages end in divorce. Secondly, approximately 43% of marriages are a remarriage for at least one of the parties. Thirdly, and a most concerning reality is, approximately one million children are subjected to newly separated or divorced parents each year. These are serious issues for all of us in this country. Especially critical is what effect divorce and parental separation has on children and what should we be doing to assist this staggering number of children to survive the consequences of their parent’s separation and divorce?  

While studies have shown that children of divorced parents are on average “somewhat” worse off than children of intact families, the differences are still concerning even if not drastic. The children of divorced parents have more difficulty in school, more behavioral problems, more negative self-esteem, more adverse issues with peers, and difficulties getting along with their parents.

These “difficulties” have been identified as falling into six categories:

  • The loss of contact with one parent along with the knowledge, skills and economic resources that parent once offered.
  • Living in a single parent home generally results in a lower standard of living for the children.
  • The changes in divorced children’s living situations with new schools, child care, loss of old friends, lack of contact with extended families, new “significant others” in a parent’s life increases the stress on children.
  • The failure of one or both parents to themselves adjust to the divorce often affects the recovery of the children.
  • The parental skills of each of the parent’s to assist in the sound development of the child are critical. Poor parental skills of one or both parents will adversely affect the child.
  • Perhaps the most troublesome for children following a divorce is to observe the ongoing conflicts of their parents’ which affects the child’s sense of well-being.   

In addition to the above issues, findings show that some children of divorce have a general sense of helplessness. Most need professional help to cope with that feeling along with understanding parents who learn from the child’s counselor how to assist in this effort.

If I may, let me speak personally having represented many, many parents in divorces. A question I occasionally get from a prospective client, and interestingly enough, often from the parent of a potential client. The question is: “How many divorce cases have you won?” My response is not an attempt to be cute but to make a point. I respond: “I’ve never won a divorce case. No one wins a divorce case. It’s like asking a fire fighter, ‘Did you win the fire?’ You might help put out the flames, divide the property and the debts and the time with the children, but there are no winners, only losers.  But let’s focus now on what we can do to lessen the stress on the children of divorce. 

  • Tell the children of an impending divorce.  Let’s recognize up front that doing this isn’t easy. But let’s plan to act like grownups.  It is best in my view for the divorcing parents to speak to the children together. Of course what you say depends in large part on how old the children are. Young children might be told simply that mommy and daddy may not be living together soon, but the child will be with one or the other parent at all times. Make certain that the children know that this separation is not their fault. Kids sometimes think, “If I’d only been good, this wouldn’t be happening.”
  • Children need to understand that the divorce will cause changes. Again how much you say depends on the age of the child. Encourage the children to ask questions. Allow them to own their own emotions. Do not encourage them to take sides. Be honest with them.
  • Take the children’s concerns and desires into account. Often children will be concerned about activities that they love and want to make certain these will continue no matter which home they are in at the time. Give their wishes serious concern. Also, the parents need to realize that the children’s activities will need to be supported when with each parent. Allow older children a say in the visitation schedule. Be flexible for older children.
  • Don’t share the issues of the marriage or problems with the divorce proceedings with the children. If you do talk with the children about these issues and proof of that gets to the Judge, there can be adverse consequences. Also, do not talk badly or allow friends or family members to run down the other parent to the children. These discussions will increase the stress on the children.

Divorcing parents need more than anything to consider how their actions might adversely affect the children of the marriage.  Seek counseling for children who appear to be having difficulties in coping. Sometimes the children simply need to have someone outside the family whom they can trust to be able to share their feelings.

 

By: Shelburne Ferguson, Jr.