Divorce can be a painful and stressful time for everyone involved, including your children.
Often during the divorce process, parents are overwhelmed with the situation they are facing. It is vital to remember that children are facing the same situation without the coping skills of an adult.
It is especially important at this time that parents reassure them of their love and that they will protect them throughout the divorce process. When filing for divorce in Wisconsin, some counties will require you and your spouse to complete what the court refers to as a parent education class to help you better assist your children in coping with divorce. You may also want to consider some counseling for your child, either through their school guidance counselor, your church, or another qualified professional. Here are some suggestions for you to help your children cope with the coming changes in their lives.
When Children Are In Danger
In some cases, children are put in dangerous situations as a result of a parent’s poor judgment, addictions, or the new people a parent may choose to expose the children to, as well as other bad choices. For example, what if one parent has a drug or alcohol addiction? It is your job to protect your child, and an experienced divorce and custody attorney can fight for supervised placement while the child is in the care of the spouse with the addiction. This is accomplished by either a third party family member, or an outside service in your area that can accommodate supervised placement when appropriate.
A Guardian ad Litem can also be a voice for your child, perhaps by recommending to the court that the problem parent has only supervised visitation, if any at all. If your ex-spouse is introducing someone new to your children, it is very important that you have some background on that person. In some situations, the new boyfriend or girlfriend has drug or alcohol addictions, a criminal history, or a history of abuse, even abuse of children. It is your responsibility to protect your child. Don’t leave it up to someone else to protect your child. If the children’s best interests were what they had in mind, they wouldn’t have gotten involved with this dangerous person in the first place.
Putting Your Child In The Middle
Some parents feel that in a custody battle, their child is their best witness. They may try to influence what the child says to the Guardian ad Litem. They may suggest to the child that they testify against the other parent in court. This is typically not allowed in family court in Wisconsin. Children are not usually allowed in the courtroom at all during a divorce hearing. Discussing the proceedings with your child, no matter how mature you perceive them to be, is not healthy for your child, and will work against you in long run.
If a Guardian ad Litem senses from your child that you have coached them at all, it will destroy your credibility. As you deal with your own sense of betrayal, your hurt feelings, and your concern for your future, it can be tempting for parents to sometimes talk with their children about their problems, even seeking advice from their children. This can put the children in a difficult position because they should never be made aware of the other parent’s shortcomings through your eyes. So whether your spouse has gambled away your life savings or committed adultery with your cousin, your children should not be made aware of what the other person did or did not do to contribute to the breakdown of your marriage. Your children should feel free to love and trust both parents equally and develop individual relationships with both parties.
Introducing Your Children To Your Significant Other
It is not uncommon for parents to begin dating before their divorce is final, especially if your case has been pending for some time. Caution should be exercised though, when introducing this new person into your child’s life. Co-habitation with your new boyfriend or girlfriend will make it extremely difficult to come to an agreement on custody and placement. Tensions may arise if the other parent feels threatened by this potential step parent being active in their child’s life. The threatened parent may try to defend their territory by attempting to minimize your placement with your child.
Most Guardians ad Litem will see this as too sudden of a change for your children. As a result, you may end up with no overnight placement at all in an effort to minimize the impact of your divorce on your children.
If you have children and are going through a divorce, please contact an experienced divorce lawyer right away. Whatever your circumstances, at John T. Fields & Associates, we can help you understand your options and the best way for you to help and protect your children through this difficult time. Contact us for a free consultation. John T. Fields & Associates serves Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding area.