How an Amicable Divorce is the First Step to Effective Co-Parenting
I have seen the same thing over and over again. As a divorce and custody attorney I am part of many different types of parenting situations. One particular type of divorce case has a very distinctive flavor. Those are the cases where the parenting’s fight over every inch of parenting rights, fight to the end of the case, and then periodically go back to court for the next decade. These types of cases are not rare, have predictable causes, and are always sad to see.
Children almost always become aware of the hostilities. Most divorce and custody courts go to great lengths to keep children out of the controversy. That principle is written into the law in many jurisdictions. One jurisdiction, Florida, requires a specific court order before minor children can be brought into the building for a divorce proceeding. But those protections are not fully effective. Because children become aware of legal hostilities no matter how many safeguards are put into place. Children are smart about what goes on around them. And parents are usually pretty bad at keeping things a secret. An awareness of hostilities between parents usually translates into lifelong, challenging (bad) behavior in children. In the average high-conflict case the children become unmanageable, making already difficult parenting into impossible parenting.
Money that can benefit children instead goes to attorneys and court costs. Kids start doing without nice trips, clothing, toys, and other goodies. Most people would agree that sounds “wrong” and only a crazy person would do that. But the reality is that many parents would rather spend money on fighting and do without niceties for the kids. They fight at all costs and border on destroying themselves and their families. In life, sometimes you must stand up for your rights. But many people take that to the extreme and fight over trivial matters at all costs. In the end the people who lose are the children.
In a perfect world the adults would split up in a friendly or semi-friendly way and avoid fighting over minor things. Money would be preserved and could be later spent on the kids. Family ties would be preserved. Everyone would continue to recognize the children have a mother, father, and extended family on both sides. And the kids would heal sooner. They would eventually deal with the “split” but would be spared the theatre of watching a decade of hostility.
Fast forward to the future. Eliminate a decade of hostility, dirty tricks, and going to court. Eliminate a lifetime of spending money on attorneys. At the time the children are finally grown, both parents can look forward to spending quality time. And when the children are married, both sides of the family can attend the ceremony while being able to look each other in the eyes.
Parents must compare one present and future with the alternative present and future. In an amicable divorce the kids are relatively untouched, grow up normally, and do not become unmanageable. Money goes where it should – to support your family. And no one must look forward to a lifetime of retaining attorneys. Raising children will never be easy. Being a child will never be easy. But an amicable divorce makes it easier to work on the important things. For many people, an amicable divorce is the first step to a lifetime of effective co-parenting.
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