Divorce is a difficult topic to discuss, but in a society where 40%-50% of married couples in the United States, according to the American Psychological Association, end up in divorce, it is inevitable not to discuss it.
Children of divorced families have their own experience compared to the those getting divorced. Often times because the adults are so focused on dissolving the marriage, separating property, finances and determining custody arrangements if children are involved, the emotional impact that it has on children can be overlooked. Did you know that during a divorce, children can experience a range of emotions/behaviors from anger and aggression to sadness and withdrawal, along with a number of other emotional and behavioral responses.
During the emotional turmoil of a divorce, some children go into protective mode and try to protect their parents which can mimic them being stable or well-adjusted to the chaos that is happening around them, when in reality the child may be suffering internally and putting on a brave face for their parents. Below are a few warning signs to be on the lookout for when your family is going through a divorce and tips to help your child through this difficult time.
-Increase in mood swings
-Decrease/Increase in eating
-Increase/Decrease in sleeping
Tips for helping your child
-Allowing children to express their thoughts/feelings
-Avoid having detailed conversations about the divorce in front the them
-Avoid talking negatively about the other parent
-Remember that even though the marriage is dissolving, your child’s relationship with their parent will continue
When children are finally brought to me, I’ve noticed that they finally feel that someone is listening to them, and how the divorce is impacting them. They often feel more at ease with expressing these feelings to their parents. Below is a list of responses throughout my years of experience in working with children and how they felt about their families’ divorce.
“I felt like I couldn’t talk about my dad in front of my mom” …. Anonymous
“I felt like my family life before the divorce was a lie” …. Anonymous
“I felt like I had to choose a side” …. Anonymous
If you’re a parent going through a divorce and you recognize any of the warnings signs, and/or you’re just concerned and want to be proactive in your child’s emotional wellbeing, feel free to contact me for a free 15 min phone consultation to discuss how you can help your child remain emotionally healthy throughout the process.
Gretchen Campbell MA, LPC Licensed Professional Counselor
When North Carolina parents have ended their marriage, they will likely still share custody of their children. At some point, they must physically exchange custody. The actual exchange of the children can be dangerous, especially if one or both parents are not able to resolve their differences.
Usually, the parenting agreement outlines the exact place and time that the children are exchanged. Child exchanges are protected under a parent’s visitation rights, so both parents have the right to spend time with their children regardless of child custody or support issues. In some cases, this can cause a parent to potentially hold a grudge against the other. Disagreements about the child’s schooling, extracurricular activities, and even discipline can also cause disputes to arise. While most parents are able to remain civil long enough to actually exchange the children, there have been cases where the exchanges have turned deadly.
In one case, a 49-year-old Texas man was shot and killed by the other parent’s new romantic interest during a routine child exchange. Another 20-year-old Texas man was accidentally killed by a friend after he devised a plan to be shot. This was done in the hopes that he would obtain custody of his child.
When parents have joint custody, they will be required to interact with each other at least until the child turns 18. If the parents have trouble working together to provide a stable home life for their child, a family law attorney may assist with preventing disputes. This may include scheduling a child exchange in a neutral place and with other individuals present. If a modification needs to be made to the parenting plan due to a parent’s new job or financial situation, the attorney may facilitate an open dialogue that allows both parents to come to an agreement about a new plan.
North Carolina parents who get a divorce may initially focus on living near one another so that their children’s lives are less disrupted, but that might change if one parent begins a relationship with someone who does not live nearby. That parent might eventually decide to move to live closer or with their new partner. When this occurs, it may change the custody and visitation schedule, and the stress of longer commutes may fall primarily on one parent.
The problem here is that if the parent who feels overburdened refuses to drive the children the added distance, it is ultimately the children who lose out. Anger at a former spouse is not unusual, and one study found that a third of men and half of women are still angry at a spouse a decade after the divorce. It can be difficult for parents to keep a child’s best interests in mind when they are dealing with anger and frustration toward their former spouse. Mediation might be one way parents can start to communicate constructively about this difficult situation.
Compromises after a move may include reducing or increasing child support or one parent getting more time with the child than they had before. The child might even choose to go with the parent who is making the move.
Relocation and other major modifications in child custody or support may involve returning to court and another legal agreement. In some cases, a parent may have additional concerns such as abuse or the possibility of an international abduction. If this is the case, the parent might want to discuss those concerns with their attorney and find out what steps they can take to protect their child. However, outside of these mitigating circumstances, experts generally agree that contact with both parents is better for children.
In North Carolina and throughout the U.S., grandparents play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren. While relationships vary from family to family, in many cases, grandparents provide emotional assistance, child rearing help and even provide financial support.
Due to the complexities of modern family life, there are situations in which an existing connection between grandparent and grandchild might be disrupted or even severed. This is often due to divorce, particularly when the parent who has primary physical custody is estranged from the ex-spouse’s parents. Other situations in which contact between children and their grandparents might be disrupted include the death of a child’s parent or the adoption of the child by a stepparent or other relatives.
In situations where a grandparent is concerned about losing contact with a grandchild, it may be possible for the grandparent to seek visitation rights. While grandparents do not have the same rights to a child as the legal parents, the courts generally do recognize the importance of the bond that often exists between grandparents and their children. Judges tend to consider such issues as whether a child has a healthy relationship with the grandparents as well as whether it is in the best interests of the child to maintain that relationship.
Grandparents who would like to obtain visitation rights to their grandchildren might benefit from speaking with a family law attorney. The lawyer may be able to review their case and make recommendations regarding a legal strategy that can reestablish and continue this important relationship.
When North Carolina parents are going through a divorce, disagreements over custody and visitation are not uncommon. However, knowing what to expect might help both parents make the transition more smoothly.
In some cases, courts will order fixed visitation for the noncustodial parent. This might be weekends, weekday evenings or merely holidays. This might be more apt to be ordered if the parents are in conflict or uncooperative. In addition, it may be ordered to provide children with more stability in their routine.
Reasonable visitation might be ordered if parents are cooperative with each other and are capable of working out their own visitation schedule. This may be helpful to some couples, since it allows more flexibility for scheduling. However, if the parent with custody refuses to cooperate or becomes uncooperative afterward, the other parent may want to go to court to ask that the visitation be changed to fixed times and dates.
Grandparent visitation rights depends on state law and may vary. However, the court may give greater weight to the parents if they are refusing to allow the grandparents to see their children. In some states, laws are more restrictive and may only order visitation for grandparents if a child’s parent is deceased.
Some custodial parents may have problems with the other parent failing to perform their visitation rights. Laws governing this vary from state to state. In some cases the amount that the noncustodial parent has been ordered to pay may be increased by the court.
One thing that both parents should know is that a custodial parent cannot deny the other parent visitation rights if there is a child support delinquency. The way to deal with this problem is to seek enforcement of the order with the assistance of an attorney.
North Carolina fans of actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt may be following their divorce and dispute over child custody. On Sept. 14, there was allegedly an altercation on a private jet involving Pitt. Less than a week later, Jolie filed for divorce. Pitt has denied that such an incident took place. In the meantime, Jolie has sole custody physical of the couple’s six children. Pitt is permitted to have monitored visits and has agreed to periodic drug and alcohol testing.
Local law enforcement notified the FBI of the alleged incident, and it is also under investigation by the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services. Investigators interviewed Jolie and other family members at her rented home on Oct. 18.
The DCFS has extended the existing custody agreement for several more weeks as the investigation continues. There are a number of reasons that the extension may have occurred. For example, the agency may have a concern that it believes might stabilize within the family given a little more time.
Negotiating child custody may be one of the most difficult aspects of a divorce for many people. Parents may have legitimate concerns over issues such as abuse. On the other hand, a parent may try to manipulate the situation so that the other parent’s access to the child is limited. A judge will attempt to make a decision based on the best interests of the child, but parents may want to consider negotiating an agreement between themselves. However, a parent who has serious concerns about the fitness of the other parent to care for their children may want to discuss the matter with an attorney.
Source: Buzzfeed, “Child Custody Agreement Between Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt Is Extended,” Claudia Rosenbaum, Oct. 25, 2016
North Carolina parents who are getting a divorce and who are also dealing with domestic violence might want to consider some myths that surround abuse and child custody. For example, a separation does not always result in a child being safe from domestic violence.
One expert says she has often seen a parent try to use the child as a pawn to manipulate the other parent. She also feels that very young children should not have overnight visits with the noncustodial parent because it disturbs their sense of stability and security.
One myth about child custody is that the parent who is not abusive will automatically get full custody. This is not the case with all victims. One problem is that the victim may suffer from psychological problems or may be unable to obtain steady, well-paying employment. The courts, siding with the best interests of the child, might award custody to the other parent on the grounds that the abused parent appears to be unfit to care for the child.
Parents who are concerned about issues such as abuse, another parent with alcohol or drug problems or similar scenarios might want to discuss these issues with their attorney. Since these are probably not issues that can be worked out through negotiation or mediation, it might be necessary to go straight to litigation and present a judge with the reasons the other parent should not have custody. Some courts believe that in most cases, a child benefits from time with both parents, so the parent seeking custody might want to work out a strategy to use in court in hopes of getting a satisfying outcome.
It is not unusual for divorced parents in North Carolina to have divergent ideas about the best way to raise their children. In this modern era of constant electronic stimulation, that can mean the two parents have different conceptions of how much internet time is appropriate and how many video games a child should be allowed play. There is an absence of compelling scientific evidence proving that this new media is either harmful or helpful, so one parent has very little ability to compel the other parent to comply with their ideas about appropriate electronic entertainment usage.
The recent craze for Pokemon Go can be an instructive example. Many children spend hours a day playing the new game, and there is as yet no clear consensus as to whether this is positive or negative for child development.
The main standards that the court should use to evaluate the behavior of the parent are the safety and the best interests of the child. Unless the child’s use of video games is so overwhelmingly negative that it represents a clear and present danger to their well-being, the law is unlikely to get involved in regulating their use.
Although there may be wide latitude for discussion and negotiation, after the parenting plan has been set down by the court, it will have the force of law. Both parents must comply with it and the court must be consulted before changing any part of it. An attorney can be helpful to those who wish to revisit or modify a parenting plan. They may be able to advocate for a preferred outcome for their client and to represent them in any negotiations with other parties or the court.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Pokémon Go…ne! Can Divorced Co-Parents Protect Kids from Excessive Screen Time?”, Bari Weinberger, Aug. 24, 2016
If North Carolina parents who are going through a divorce cannot reach an agreement about child custody outside of court, a family court judge must rule on the matter. When a judge makes a ruling about primary physical custody, the judge typically favors the parent that is the child’s primary caretaker. To determine who has served as the primary caretaker, a judge will look at a number of different factors.
In family law, the primary caretaker is the parent who has taken care of a child’s most basic needs. Feeding, bathing, grooming and clothing of a child are all considered responsibilities of a primary caretaker. A primary caretaker may also make healthcare arrangements for the child, schedule extracurricular activities, attend conferences at the child’s school and teach the child reading and writing skills.
The primary caretaker is usually preferred in child custody decisions so that the child’s bond won’t be interrupted. Psychological research has found that this emotional bond is vital for a child’s successful development. The primary caretaker could be a mother or father, and in some cases, the mother and father share primary caretaking responsibilities equally.
When it is not absolutely clear which parent is a child’s primary caretaker, a divorcing parent may want to make sure that the court has all of the information that it will need to make a sound child custody decision. An attorney can often assist a client in putting together as much evidence as possible to support a request for joint physical custody. This could include testimony from healthcare providers and teachers, for example.