The divorce is finalized. Now what?
If you don’t have any kids, you may rarely, if ever, see your ex. But if children are part of the picture, your former spouse will likely a continuing and vital role to play in the upbringing of your children. Navigating that new relationship can be difficult. This article gives some tricky but commonsense advice to the new territory: parenting after divorce.
First of all, if you have shared parental responsibilities, the kids will go from your house to your ex’s house and back. In Florida and many other states, the goal is to have the parents draft a schedule together that divides time between households based on the best interests of your children.
You can do your part by making sure that you follow that timesharing schedule like a contract. Be reliable in the details, like picking up and dropping off your kids when you say you will and allowing your ex to do the same. Keep the lines of communication open as much as possible. When you hold up your end of the timesharing agreement, you can ensure that you are in a good position if you need to return to court later on down the line.
Keeping your focus on the best interest of the children, and ensuring that timesharing is as positive as possible, also benefits your kids. Sticking to the schedule gives them a routine and much-needed stability. If they know what to expect, kids can feel much more self-assured and in control in a time of difficult transition.
Establish Some Ground Rules
You may not have agreed with your spouse when you were married, so it’s natural that your parenting styles may not be in line either. That’s understandable and maybe even unavoidable.
But that makes it all the more important to establish ground rules. Think about your personal values and what lessons you want to instill in your kids. Think about your kids’ needs, wants, and comfort levels and set house rules to match. This process can be liberating or overwhelming, or both, to do alone for the first time. Understand that htis is a fluid process, so adjustments will probably be necessary. Remember that you, and only you, are in charge when the kids are home. When the ground rules are clear in your home, the kids are less likely to manipulate you. When they say, “But Mom lets me stay up until 11,” or, “Dad says I can play video games before homework,” you can simply say, “Those are their rules. This house has its own rules.”
Because you are sharing parental responsibility, you’ll obviously need to also be sure that you’re on the same page on some key topics. Things like homework, discipline, and belongings they bring from house to house might merit discussion. But remember that just like you’re in charge when the kids are with you, your ex is in charge when they’re not. Draw some firm boundaries around your house and your ex’s house and then stay outside each other’s boxes unless there’s mutual agreement.
Don’t Weaponize the Kids
While it might be tempting, but don’t try to turn the kids against your ex. When caught in the middle or forced to choose between parents, kids shut down, feel hurt, lash out, or turn on one or both parents. If at all possible, don’t speak negatively about the other parent in front of your kids. If the kids make comparisons, don’t indulge them. That can be especially difficult if your child is saying the other parent is better in some way or reports nasty comments said about you. Your natural response might be to go on the defensive, but you can defuse it by thinking about strategies ahead of time. Saying something like “I’m sorry you/he/she feels that way” and moving on can be a powerful way to avoid battling for affection or favoritism.
In general, remember that as hard as divorce has been for you, your children are equally affected. At Pazos Law Group, our goal is always to minimize the trauma during the divorce and custody process, but you and your former spouse should work hard to continue that process after the divorce is complete. There’s no perfect guide to helping your children weather divorce and its aftermath. But remember that patience and empathy for your children and your former spouse can be an amazing tool as you move forward toward a new life.