How to succeed in divorce with child?
Most parents want the children to suffer as little as possible from the separation and divorce. How this can succeed and what you should pay attention to when divorcing with a child, you will learn in this article.
The advantages of an amicable divorce
Children suffer the least when their parents divorce amicably. To do this, you must resolve all issues regarding alimony and contact before having a lawyer file the divorce petition with the court.
Separation and divorce alone do not change custody. The parent who does not live with the child in the same household has the right to contact. Settle the issues of the child’s residence and contact together. You don’t need a lawyer or the court for that.
Legal proceedings mean stress for all parties involved. Learn in the article Children and Mediation why mediation is particularly suitable for topics such as custody and contact.
The Youth Welfare Office and other counseling centers have developed special services for parents and children in the separation and divorce phase, for example, Kinder im Blick.
Another great way to resolve conflicts as parents is through separation and divorce mediation. This is because, in contrast to court proceedings, in mediation parents look for ways together and do not fight each other.
The 5 golden rules of divorce with child
As experienced divorce attorneys and mediators, we’ve come up with five rules you can follow to protect your child during separation and divorce:
1. the most important rule: never speak badly about the other parent.
If you badmouth your ex-partner, you hurt your child. Children love their parents. And when children witness couple conflicts, they develop a sense of being torn between them. It is enough for them to overhear an argument.
Children would like to save their parents from quarrels, anger and sadness. When parents fight in front of their children, the children suffer. This can cause lasting damage to their development. In technical jargon, this is called a conflict of loyalties.
Example: You are newly separated and your ex-partner is late for the arranged contact date with the child. You get angry and it bubbles out loud from you: “He was never reliable and this selfish behavior is also to blame for the end of the relationship”.
Problem: Your child stands sadly and helplessly by. It also feels in a quandary: Is it still allowed to be happy about the visit when there was so much trouble before? It has the feeling: no matter how it behaves (joy or restrained greeting), a parent will feel bad with it.
Tip: Swallow your anger about tardiness (at first) and explain to your child calmly and matter-of-factly that being late has nothing to do with him. In the “adult world” sometimes there are just things that can get in the way, like a traffic jam or something.
Seek discussion with your ex-partner later, clarifying whether other contact times are appropriate. Signal to him that you are interested in the child looking forward to the contact and that the contacts are as stress-free as possible.
2. never give your child the choice of having to decide
Never ask your child where they would prefer to live or which parent they would like to spend more time with. Not even indirectly.
As parents, you should always resolve these issues among yourselves and then share the decision with your child. If you don’t, your child may have a conflict of loyalties. As a result, there is a risk that your child will no longer be able to perceive and articulate his or her own interests and needs. It loses the sense of itself.
Tip: Clarify the issues that concern the child among themselves first. Then tell your child what the new life will be like after the separation and divorce. Try out the agreed-upon visitation arrangements for about 3 to 6 months and observe how your child does. If an arrangement is not so suitable after all, you can look for another solution together.
During this transition period, it is important for your child to know that both parents love him and that he himself may love both parents. It should never have to choose between the two of you. Tell him this as often as possible.
3. do not tell your child details about the end of the couple relationship
Your child is not your therapist. Parents sometimes tend to justify or apologize to their children for the failure of the relationship. Some believe that the child will understand the separation when he knows the reasons. But even if the child is a little older and asks “why”, he is usually overwhelmed with the situation.
Anything that caused you to end the couple relationship should not be discussed with your child. As an abandoned parent, it is also better not to tell your child how much you are suffering from the separation.
Tip: You should not justify the fact that the separation is necessary for you or justify it to your child. Explain to your already somewhat older child, preferably together with your partner, that relationships between adults do not always remain the same and last forever. They can also change. One such change in the couple relationship between adults is separation and divorce.
Make it clear that the parent-child relationship continues and that the feelings, that is, the love and affection for your child, have not changed. What changes are the external circumstances: living in separate apartments and contact times. Your child will understand this and later apply the experience to their own couple relationships.
4. do not ask your child about the other parent
If your child is with your ex-partner, you want to make sure everything is okay there. Perhaps there is already a new partner. You want to know what the new guy or gal is like and how he or she interacts with your child.
Example: You know there is a new partner, but you haven’t met her yet. Therefore, after the weekend of contact, ask your child how he/she finds the new girl.
Problem: The child may tell you what you want to hear. This is especially the case if there is tension in the relationship between you and your ex-partner. For example, your child may report that the new partner is very strict. It thus emphasizes the negative impressions because it believes that it cannot love both parents equally.
Tip: Encourage a personal meeting and get a picture of the new partner yourself. That you are worried or curious is normal. However, do not put your child in a stressful situation by doing so.
Just trust your child. Important things it will tell you on its own. And also trust your ex-partner. I’m sure he wants the best for your child, too.
5. tell your child that he is loved by both of you
Children of divorce often feel responsible for their parents’ separation. They feel helpless and alone in the new situation. Support your child by telling them over and over again:
- You are loved by both parents
- We are still here for you
- You may love us both
If you take these rules to heart and do well yourself after the divorce, your child will also not suffer so much from the separation.
Tip: As further reading we recommend: “Glückliche Scheidungskinder, Was Kinder nach der Trennung brauchen”, by Remo H. Largo and Monika Czernin, Piper Verlag, 2015.