As stressful as it is for you to move out of the marital home, that stress is often even worse on the children. Children often are left out of the loop and then these children wake up one morning and are told to pack up their things to move to a new house they have never seen. To say that they may be troubled by this eventuality is probably an understatement. Both parents, and especially the leaving parent, need to comfort the children and reassure them while at the same time the parents need to prepare themselves for possible custody litigation ahead.
Help the Children First
There is no single right way to help your children cope with the stress of divorce and relocating. It will greatly depend on the age and maturity level of the children, their temperament, their coping skills and their relationship with the other parent. If the transition is particularly difficult, you should consider enrolling the children in counseling. Your attorney should be able to make a referral for you to a qualified therapist who can assist you.
Keep a Parenting Journal
Document, document, document. Those are three great words of advice anytime you are thinking that you may wind up in court. The unfortunate fact is that the legal system is often less concerned about what is the truth over what you can prove. Custody litigation involves a number of facts that are difficult to prove and often devolves down to a "he said/she said" situation. Therefore, the sooner you begin to keep a journal documenting important facts and your interactions with the opposing party, the more documentation you will have of the events that take place while your case is pending. You need to make your journal entries as soon after the events as they occur. In the law, this is called a "present sense impression" and can be used at trial to essentially bolster your testimony. A calendar and journal will provide details that might otherwise be forgotten and will present an accurate, real-time depiction of how the custody situation has been handled. This can be very useful information in negotiating custody arrangements or, if necessary, making a case before a judge.
Set a Custody Schedule as Soon as Possible
Once a divorce petition is filed in Kentucky, the other party has twenty days to respond and most judges will not schedule any hearings until after the response is filed. All of this can add up to a month or two of time where the family is in limbo and both sides are afraid to do anything. The sooner you can reach an amicable (or at least civil) agreement where both parents get to spend some time with the children, usually, the better the children will be able to transition to the new family dynamic. Many times once an agreement is reached, the parties and/or the judge is hesitant to alter it if the children are adjusting and doing well.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open (if possible)
Some attorneys advise clients during a divorce to not speak with their spouse at all. This tactic tends to just increase your legal fees and you should probably be somewhat suspicious if that is the advice you are getting. Unless there is a situation where the other spouse is violent or harassing, it is much better if the parties can sit down and discuss issues calmly and civilly and then bring their agreement to the attorneys to be memorialized. Remember after the custody case is over, your lawyer will go back to his/her office, but you still have to deal with the other parent at least until the youngest child turns eighteen.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Lobo
Labels: child custody, counseling, custody, evidence, time sharing, visitation