Splitting up and Coming Together: Determining the Best Interests of Your Children

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Your spouse files for divorce. A million thoughts run through your head. Can we resolve our issues through mediation? How will the children feel? Who will get custody? How much will child support cost? To help you better balance your interests with those of your children, it’s important to keep in mind what you want for your children.

                Imagine what your children would want from you. Below is a list of some ideas to get started. As you read through the list, think about how you can balance your children’s interests with those of you and your spouse’s.  

I want our children to be well-adjusted. If you and your spouse are divorcing, it’s likely that you will not remain the same household. Determine where you and your spouse are going to live. Will you stay in the home? Will you both move? Will you live close to each other? Will you move to a different stay? Will your children stay at the same school? All of these decisions will impact child support and custody. Speak with your spouse, family members, friends, and attorney to figure out what’s best for you and your children.

I want our children to be happy. To best help your children, you and your spouse must put aside your differences. Your children should not suffer, should not be forced to take sides, and should not be forced to be unhappy. Going through a divorce is challenging, but making your children happy should not be.

I want our children to feel good about themselves. If your children want both parents to attend their sporting events, school plays, and other activities, try to figure out a way to work with your spouse to ensure that both of you can attend. That doesn’t mean that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse need to sit next to each other, but it’s important to show your children that you both support them. 

I want my spouse and me to have consistent care for our children. Determine how your children will split their time between you and spouse possibly during and after your divorce. Although schedules may be subject to change, try to keep the schedule as consistent as possible.

I want my spouse and me to have consistent expectations. What time will your children go to bed when they’re at your house versus your spouse’s house? What chores will they be responsible for? While your marriage may be over, your relationship with your spouse will not end because of your divorce. You’ll still need to communicate and set similar expectations for your children. Consistency is key.

I want my spouse and me to support each other in our parenting decisions. If you want support, you must give support. Speak with your spouse about his or her parenting goals so you can both work together to create stability for your children.

I want to develop better parenting skills. Figure out what kind of parent you want to be. Do you want to set curfews for your children? If so, speak with your spouse about how you both can work to improve your skills independently in order to better work together.

I want our children to have meaningful contact with both parents. Let your children call or text your spouse when they’re with you. Let your children have meaningful relationships with both you and your spouse, unless extreme circumstances prevent such relationships. In most cases, do not prevent your children from seeing or communicating with your spouse. How you teach them to develop relationships with both parents is essential to how they will develop their own relationships with their friends and significant others.

I want to participate in major decisions that affect the lives of our children. Whether it’s where your children will attend school, where their doctors will be, or what kind of activities they will partake in, communicate with your spouse and children about what will best suit them. If you want to be involved in these decisions, show your children and your spouse that you care by asking questions about what the children are interested in. Then, come up with a plan about how to execute these ideas.

I want our children to be free from the conflict in the divorce. If you and your spouse can’t get along during the divorce process or after the divorce process, do not involve your children. Don’t force your children to take sides. Don’t force your children to hate the other spouse. Just because you and your spouse couldn’t get along doesn’t mean that your children will not want a relationship with both of their parents.

I want our children to have appropriate relationships with new partners or stepparents. Figure out when it’s best to introduce your children to your new partner. This can be extremely challenging. You don’t want to introduce them to a new partner too soon or too late. Introducing them to a new partner on the first date is probably too soon and introducing them to your new partner on the day of the wedding is probably too late. While this will likely be a difficult conversation to have with your ex-spouse and children, it’s important to communicate efficiently and effectively.

I want both parents involved in the religious activities of our children. You and your spouse should have a conversation regarding religion. Whether you want your children to attend church is a decision you and your spouse should make together. Even if your spouse is not religious, if you choose to raise your children under a certain religion, you should communicate that with your spouse.

                I want my spouse and me to make decisions about our children’s medical and dental care. Whose insurance will the children be placed under? Where will their primary physician be located? What will happen in case of an emergency? Talk with your spouse about these important dilemmas to better provide your children with adequate medical care.

                I want our children to attend college. Even if your children are young, speak with your spouse about helping your child attend college in the future. Whether you and your spouse choose to financially support your children through none, some, or all of college is a decision both you and your spouse will have to discuss. Just because one spouse does not want to financially support your children, doesn’t mean that you can’t. However, have this conversation early so that you can begin saving accordingly.

                I want both parents to be able to take vacations with our children. Determine when your children will have breaks from school. If you choose to take the children on vacation, communicate with your spouse. Even if your spouse gets parenting time every weekend, talk with your spouse about scheduling a vacation. If you and your spouse agree that you can take the children on vacation one weekend, adjust your parenting time schedule so that the children can spend adequate time with each parent. Make sure to abide by all court custody orders. If a problem arises, contact your attorney.

                Communicate, communicate, communicate. Each of these goals have one thing in common. Despite your divorce, if you and your spouse have children, it’s likely that you both will be in communication long after the divorce. The better you and your spouse can communicate, the more beneficial it will be for your children. You and your spouse do not have to be best friends, but it’s important that you both learn how to be the best co-parents you can be.