Many parties going through a divorce have minor children, and they often ask their attorney what can be done to protect the children from being caught in the middle of a battle between their parents. The answer is that parents ought to take great care not to have their children suffer as a result of the divorce. Children are extremely sensitive and understand much more than adults usually give them credit for. They know things aren’t right between their parents, and may have quite specific knowledge about topics they shouldn’t be exposed to. Divorce lawyers Rockville MD trusts can tell you that, unfortunately, if the parents are not careful their children can be hurt.
One of the most deleterious things parents can do is to demean the other parent to the children. It is very common for divorcing parents to provide an encyclopedic list of the other parent’s faults to the minor children. Sometimes this is done using the most vulgar vocabulary. Children who hear this often don’t know how to understand their role in these complaints. They know they have two parents, they know they love both of their parents, but here one of their parents is painting their other parent as evil. Since they know they are a part of that family, they can lose self-esteem and incur a host of psychological problems by being exposed to unnecessary inter-parental criticism. Parents who don’t protect their children from this are placing their own interests ahead of their children’s interests.
Failure to show up on time for scheduled visitation, or failure to show up at all, sends a very negative message to the children. Kids may be told days in advance to expect a visit with the non-custodial parent. Their hopes are up and have expectations of a good time. When the parent fails to show, as happens sometimes, the children may internalize feelings of not being worthy of the parent’s time. It also puts the other parent in the awkward position of defending and making excuses for the parent who fails to show.
Interfering with access to telephone and Skype calls prevents the normal development of healthy relationships between the non-custodial parent and the children. Children benefit from a relationship with both of their parents. They need to speak with the other parent not just on alternating weekends, but during the week as well. They have dramas in their lives every day, and benefit from sharing these dramas with both parents. Putting distance between children and their parents is rarely in the children’s best interests.
When children reach a certain age, perhaps around middle school, their activities become extremely important to them as they learn to interact with their peers. Activities such as soccer, baseball, karate, French lessons, dance and summer camp take on an important role in their lives. Many non-custodial parents look upon these activities as infringing on “their time” with the children. The truth is, however, that children need to be with their peers. The activities are important to their development. Almost all activities for children have a weekend component, and refusal to take children to these activities deprives them of a valuable experience.
Finally, it is worth noting that non-payment of child support has a direct impact on the quality of a child’s life, and the opportunities they may have. Money counts in America. Money opens doors. Education costs money, activities cost money, and food costs money. Parents who refuse to pay child support restrict the lives of their children. Some parents seem to equate child support with alimony, or feel they are being punished by having to pay child support. Supporting one’s children is a legal and moral imperative. Why would a parent not want their child to have opportunities other children have? What are the opportunities they want their child to forego, that other children can take part in?
Children are often the silent victims of divorce. Their voices are seldom heard, yet they are the most vulnerable. They usually have no lawyers and normally do not appear in the courts. They often are hurt by the dissolution of their parent’s marriage. Parents would be well advised to go to great lengths to protect their children from these harms.
Thanks to friends and contributors from the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight into divorce.