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Info for legal professionals

Here are some ways that you can make a difference in the lives of children whose parents are divorcing:

  1. Reduce conflict. Individuals who are ending their marriage are often angry, hurt, bitter, and ready to lash out at their former partner. While it is important to address the needs of the adults in this situation, it is most important to protect children. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that on-going, unresolved conflict takes a terrible and lasting toll on children. You are in a wonderful position to help defuse conflict and help divorcing partners address their differences in a more rational, dispassionate manner, and most of all, to focus on managing their conflict for the sake of their children.
  2. Promote a new professional parenting partnership. While marriage ends, the responsibilities for parenting do not. It is in children’s best interests to have both parents actively engaged in parenting them, and to the extent possible, to have alignment and cooperation between parents in establishing expectations for their behavior and in ensuring that children have quality time with both parents and other siblings. You can help parents to see how their children will benefit from having a healthy relationship with both parents. They may need your help in renegotiating their relationship from that of former spouses to a new parenting partnership that functions in a businesslike way with the goal of raising healthy children.
  3. Develop parenting plans that focus on children’s best interests. Sometimes in the throes of divorce, parents see their time with their children as an entitlement— “my time”—or worse, as a bargaining chip. You can help children enormously by helping parents to focus on the children’s best interests and to remember that quality parenting and containing conflict are more important than the exact number of hours in a schedule. You can help them to arrive at creative win-win-win creative decisions, with both parents’ wins coming from doing what’s best for their children.
  4. Help them plan for and work through multiple transitions. There are always transitions in life as children grow, parents change jobs, move to new communities, or experience losses through illness or death. Divorce creates an even longer list of major changes for many children that often includes: losing the presence of one parent in a household; shifting back and forth between households; losing the presence of a parent in their lives altogether; changing schools; losing contact with friends, extended family, and beloved pets; living with new stepparents and siblings in re-married families; losses of opportunity associated with poorer economic circumstances, and more. Each of these represents a major transition for children, and one in which you may have an opportunity to protect their best interests.
  5. Provide an array of court-connected services for separating parents, including research-based parent education programs to guide them in handling family changes in ways that are best for their children. Many such programs are built on factors that have been shown to relate to better long-term outcomes for children. In addition to educational programs, give parents information about collaborative law and mediation as effective alternatives to litigation.
  6. Convey a message of hope and healing to parents. Help them to understand that they can foster their children’s resilience by focusing on factors over which they have control: protecting their children from conflict, providing quality parenting, and creating an environment of peace, and stability in their post-divorce family.

NAPPA Gold Award, 2010, National Parenting Publications Awards

2010 Mom's Choice Awards® Gold Recipient

Putting Children First:
Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce




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2010 JoAnne Pedro-Carroll