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By Val Hemminger; Family Law Lawyer, Divorce Coach and creator of The Better Divorce Project
Divorcing with children creates additional complexity when you are getting divorced and separated. Because you have kids and love them, it is not good enough for you to look after your interests when you divorce with children. You've got to look after the interests of your kids too. The fact that you are here says that you want to do what is right and in the best interests of your children. Well done.
Kids will get over the separation and divorce when you and the other parent can co-parent peacefully. The effect of your divorce on your children wildly depends upon you.
Learning how to communicate effectively with your ex-spouse will assist your kids in the transition and will highly impact their likelihood of future success if done right. This is the case even if your ex-spouse is highly combative and hostile.
Children whose parents are getting divorced should not have to grow up with toxic stress. Toxic stress causes profound damage to children and the development of their brains.
That is why having a guideline for your children’s rights can benefit them very powerfully. You want to give your kids the chance in life that they deserve.
Parents who care for themselves teach their kids that part of being a grown-up is nurturing ourselves. Whether through health, a spiritual practice, fitness, or other guidance, children fare better when they see their parents taking steps to rebuild their life after divorce. Model self-care not only for you, but for your kids.
I probably don’t have to tell you about the extremely emotional and financial cost of court. We have all heard horror stories. And while nobody wants a messy divorce, you want to do everything you can to avoid one. Even if your ex is a high-conflict-type person, it does not mean you are headed straight to the courtroom.
There are many alternatives to divorce court where you can resolve your family law matter and get a legally binding separation agreement. Discover the available methods so you can get on with the job of living your best future life for you and your kids.
Make sure you do have an initial consultation with a lawyer so you will have an early understanding of your rights and responsibilities. Even if you do not hire a lawyer on retainer, meeting with a lawyer for an hour or two will set you up for success.
When you meet with a lawyer, ask them to outline and describe the legal processes available in your jurisdiction that will resolve your matter. For example, in my jurisdiction (British Columbia), there are many alternatives to court, such as:
Once you and your ex-spouse have decided upon which process to use to resolve your matter, your goal is to get a legally binding and final separation agreement. The best negotiations occur when you are well-prepared and well-informed.
If you are attending a legal process such as mediation, it is best to have a lawyer attend with you, or alternatively, available to consult throughout the process. That way you can get the necessary legal advice and make sure all of your bases are covered.
Speaking of lawyers, all lawyers are not created equally. Make sure you choose the right lawyer for your unique situation and know what questions to ask them. Ask yourself and them the right questions when interviewing them. You want to make sure that they are a good fit for you, specialize in family law, have dispute resolution training, and that you “click” with them.
Some people want to start rebuilding their life immediately. Perhaps you are that kind of person. While you want to prioritize getting through the legal process to the goal of a legally binding and final separation agreement, you also want to focus on your future well-being. For some people, they don’t wait until the final agreement before they start rebuilding their life after divorce.
However, other times, you need extra support. Here are just some of the processes, resources, and supports I have seen my clients use:
The biggest thing to remember is that if you divorce with children, it is a big transition. It is a transition for them too. The more prepared, balanced, and solid you are as you go through the process and beyond, the better your children will do.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is only intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic and is not legal advice. It is information-based only.
All of the information is prefaced by assuming you live in a “ community property ” and “ no fault ” state, province, country, or territory. This article is written by a Canadian lawyer and has a Canadian perspective. The separation and divorce laws in the United States, Europe, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other countries are all different.
For legal advice as it pertains to your legal situation, please consult with a family law lawyer in your specific jurisdiction.