Going through a separation or divorce is a life changing event, and it can be traumatic for everyone involved. Established family roles and traditions get upended, and there is often a great deal of uncertainty as to what the future will hold. Children in particular are susceptible to the tension surrounding the breakup of their parents’ marriage, and many children experience anxiety and fears which can be difficult to talk about or express. At the law office of Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, our experienced North Carolina family law attorneys understand the sensitive issues surrounding separation and divorce, and offer child custody help when it comes to handling arrangements concerning child support and custody.
Despite the unpleasantness that often surrounds a divorce, children as well as their parents can get through this difficult process and come out of it without suffering any negative aftereffects. The key is for parents to be aware of the potential conflicts that can arise concerning children and divorce, and to be aware of how to shield them from being involved in these conflicts, as well as how to help them adjust to a new set of circumstances.
Importance Of Cooperation, Communication And Mediation
According to a North Carolina State University study on children and divorce, there are more than 1.25 million divorces that occur each year in the United States, and over one million of these divorces involve children. Two out of every five children will experience the divorce of their parents, and roughly one quarter of all children will eventually become a part of a stepfamily. The study states that experts agree divorce affects all children to some degree or another, and that parental conflict is the most powerful factor in terms of having a direct negative effect on your child’s feelings and level of functioning.
For parents, a lack of communication, cooperation, or being unable to fairly mediate issues surrounding divorce negotiations, such as financial issues as well as issues relating to joint custody and overnight visitations, have the potential to adversely impact children. The potential negative impacts associated with children and divorce include the following:
- Emotional issues with the child, such as increased anxiety or symptoms of depression;
- Problems with acting out and aggression towards others, either at home or at school;
- Doing poorly in school, and having lower academic achievements than prior to the divorce;
- Withdrawal from social and recreational activities; and
- Getting into trouble more frequently, either at school or with law enforcement in their neighborhood.
How To Keep Conflict From Affecting The Child
According to the NCSU study, the short term negative impacts of a divorce can end up having long term consequences for children and affecting their overall development, particularly if these impacts are allowed to build up over time. Problems with school or with local authorities can impact future prospects, and emotional issues can continue and worsen as they get older.
In order to keep conflict from divorce negotiations from affecting your child, it is important to reestablish order in the family and provide a feeling a predictability in terms of the events taking place. Children often have fears regarding who will take care of them in the aftermath of a divorce, and if both parents will continue to love them. A Psychology Today report on children and divorce recommends working with your child to restore their feelings of security and trust by paying particular attention to what are termed the three Rs:
- Routines: Establishing household and visitation routines helps give children a sense of security and lets them know what to expect, both with their custodial parent and at overnight visitations.
- Rituals: Creating rituals with your child or children, such as bedtime stories, having a certain meal on a certain night, or doing a certain activity together, will help make your child’s life feel less out of control.
- Reassurance: Providing reassurance in terms of loving support and a continued parent/child relationship through joint custody arrangements can help your child adjust better to this new situation.
Remember: You’re Divorcing Your Spouse – Not Your Children
When going through a divorce, it can be important to keep in the forefront that while the parents will no longer be married, both will continue to provide a loving presence in their child’s life. One way to assure this is by seeking child custody help. According to facts on child custody and support from the North Carolina Bar Association, it is important to emphasize to children that they are not responsible for their parent’s problems or for their divorce. As adults, it can also be important to remind yourself of this at times, and to take the appropriate steps to ensure your children do not suffer as the result of problems in the marriage or in divorce proceedings. If you are going through a separation or are planning on getting divorced, remember that you are divorcing your spouse, not your children, and factor your child into the new equation. There are several legal alternatives when it comes to child custody in North Carolina, which can help to ensure you remain a part of your child’s life. Under North Carolina child custody law, these include the following:
- Sole custody: Under NC law, this means that one parent in particular has sole custody and the sole responsibility for making decisions in regards to the child’s health and welfare;
- Joint custody: This means that both parents have equal say when it comes to making decisions in their child’s life, but it does not necessarily mean that both parents will have custody of the child for equal periods of time.
- Visitation rights: When one parent has primary custody of a child, the noncustodial parent generally has the right to visitation. These may include hourly or overnight visitations, as well as the rights to visit with the child on holidays or at special times throughout the year.
During child custody proceedings, the court will determine who gets custody and set a visitation schedule based on feedback from both parents, but the most important consideration for the court is what is in the best interests for the child. It is always in the best interests of a child to maintain loving bonds with both parents, and divorcing couples should make every effort to work with one another in determining custody and visitation, as well as holding up their part of whatever arrangements are made.
Five Real Must Dos You Can Do Today
Based on the NCSU study on children and divorce, the following are five things you can do today to help your child adjust to your divorce:
- Keep your children out of the middle of any conflicts that arise.
- Remind children that they are loved, and that they are not responsible for the divorce or conflicts in the marriage.
- Plan a social activity that you and your children can enjoy together.
- Keep a predictable schedule that your children are aware of.
- Be sure not to make disparaging comments about your spouse or their lifestyle in front of your children.
Let Us Assist You with Your Case
If you or someone you care about is considering a divorce or separation, contact Teddy, Meekins & Talbert, Attorneys At Law. Our experienced North Carolina family law attorneys understand the often sensitive issues surrounding these types of case. We offer professional, aggressive legal representation to ensure your rights are protected, while providing the kind of client centered legal service you deserve. Located in Shelby, North Carolina, our office serves cities and counties throughout out the western part of the state, including Gaston, Lincoln, and Rutherford Counties. Call or contact us online today for a free and confidential consultation.