Give this question some deep thought. As you do, keep this in mind: apart from the science of DNA, children FEEL themselves as 50% of you and 50% of your spouse. So if you engage in a divorce war with your spouse, your children will feel that you are at war with them too in some ways. It can be a difficult emotion for your children to reconcile. In their sweet little minds, they cannot understand why the two people who chose to bring them into this world would be so angry or mean toward each other. And if you think you are hiding it from them, you’re not. They live with you. They see it and they know it.
A Collaborative Divorce is one way to avoid the war of a nasty courtroom divorce and the long-lasting negative impact that can have on your children (and you). With a Collaborative Divorce, a parenting coach will help the two of you put the negative emotions aside so that you can work out a schedule with your children that works best for all of you. A Financial Professional will help both of you understand your financial picture and how you can divide it in a way that supports both of you with the least amount of destruction to your overall financial estate. Together with your attorneys, they will help you to reach an agreement that will minimize the negative change for your children, keeping their world as constant as possible.
Finally, once your agreements have been reached and your divorce decree has been signed by the judge, consider what your children would say if they read that decree. The reality is that one day, they most likely will read it. Legal documents are public records and if they want to read it, one day they will. You might even keep a copy in a box that they uncover in the future. What do you want them to read, particularly about themselves in your divorce decree? In a decree from a courtroom divorce, they will read that they were part of a “Possession and Access Schedule” and maybe that one parent had a “Standard Possession Order.” Yes, that’s right – your children could be possessions to be accessed by their parents. But with a Collaborative Divorce, you and your spouse work out a Parenting Time Schedule for your children. Your children are not possessions or pawns, but rather the focus of your attention as parents. The language of your decree will reflect that you worked together as parents to provide a loving and stable life for them, not two people trading possessions back and forth on the weekends.
Every person I have met in the middle of a divorce says that their children are the most important thing in the world to them. They say they want their children to be happy and well-adjusted coming out of the divorce. If that’s true for you – and I suspect it is – then I challenge you to truly put them first. They didn’t ask for this divorce and they would do anything to keep it from happening. But you can make it easier on them. You can choose to work with your soon to be ex-spouse so that your children see mutual respect and care. Or you can go the scorched earth route, but if you do, know that you just put your children at the bottom of your priority list.
Rhonda Cleaves is a divorce attorney in Plano, Texas (Collin County) who focuses her practice on Collaborative Divorce. You can go to this page to learn more about how the Collaborative Divorce process works.