How To Act With Your Children In A Divorce


There is no one “right way” to act toward your child when you get divorced. The process is hard on everyone in the family, and everyone will react to it differently. What works best with one person or child may not work with others. From a legal perspective, it is important to be cautious with how you act with your children when you divorce so as to avoid a court having to step in and make decisions for you. You should consult with a knowledgeable New Jersey child custody lawyer if you are facing a custody issue. 

The Best Interest Of The Child

Of course, the best case scenario for a child is one in which both parents can work together to make the child as comfortable and happy as they can be under the circumstances, but this is not always possible. Even the best parents who normally have the best interest of their child in mind can be overcome by the divorce process and unintentionally cause their child additional distress.

For that reason and others, New Jersey courts have a responsibility to children under the ‘parens patriae’ doctrine, which authorizes the court to intervene where it is necessary to prevent harm to a child. If a parents divorce causes the child undue harm, the court may need to step in and make decisions that protect the child from the divorce. Of course court intervention is by not ideal, so be cautious with how your treat your children while you go through this difficult process.

Parental Alienation

Parental Alienation happens when a child, without justification, turns against one of his or her parents. It is an extreme situation that usually occurs because a parent “brainwashes” the child to hate the other parent, and often occurs during or after a divorce. It is very damaging to the child on a psychological and familial level. New Jersey courts have dealt with this issue, but it can be difficult for the court to determine when a genuine case of parental alienation exists. In severe cases of parental alienation a court may change child custody if it determines that it is in the best interest of the child to do so.

Children in Divorce- Do’s and Don’ts

If it is possible for you to do so in a constructive manner, you may wish to explain to your child why you and your spouse are divorcing, because it is something they will wonder about and may make up their own reasons that could hurt them. It’s important to make sure that the child knows that both parents love the child regardless of the divorce process. Additionally, any changes to the child’s daily life and routine caused by the divorce should be communicated to the child in a manner appropriate for the child’s maturity level.

It is important to try not to discuss any problems you had with your spouse that led to or arose out of the divorce with your child, or disparage your former spouse in front of your child. Additionally try not to put your child in a position to have to choose between the parents. It is normal for a child to feel hurt or confused by the divorce process, and those feelings should be discussed in a way that validates the feelings without blaming the other spouse. Consider counseling if you feel your child is having a hard time dealing with the divorce and may benefit from talking to a professional.

Child custody and divorce cases are very difficult for the parents and children. If you are going through a divorce and have a child, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation with an experienced New Jersey custody lawyer. 

Sources

Fawzy v. Fawzy, 199 N.J. 456 (2009).

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