Divorce: What to tell the children?

Being a great parent during the separation and divorce process is not easy.  What to tell your children at the start, middle, and beyond the divorce is equally hard because you cannot predict what question a child will ask, what the child may have heard from someone else, etc.  But parents can do their best to be prepared, if they are willing to do the work. 

One step is to pick up literature – some of the best does not have to be expensive (follow the link below) and many good resources already are at your local library. 

“What Should We Tell The Children?”

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Mediator Mug

Sometimes, funny also is true.  Mediator Mug.

Virtual Visitation: It’s a Mobile Place

It’s a mobile world.  You can work, call, text, etc. from nearly anywhere.  But, can a parent can visit from “remote” rather than in person?  

Increasingly, the answer will be yes.   

Recently, as part of a court order, a mother’s move from New York to Florida prompted visitation modifications that included directives for virtual visits through Skype, an online video and audio phone service.  Technology has enabled people to communicate in more ways than ever before, and the courts are recognizing their usefulness in a world where people frequently move.

However, this order raises the issue of whether virtual visitation should be limited to instances where physical distance is the primary barrier.  Even parents who live nearby can have difficulty facilitating sufficient levels of contact between children and parents – work travel, odd shift hours, and even gridlock can be real barriers.

Parents should consider whether these ever-changing (and improving) communication technologies would serve their children’s needs well.   In fact, children increasingly interact socially through non-traditional media and maintain/nurture their own interpersonal relationships with others through texts, Skype, and other means.  Technology does not have to be reserved for the kids’ friends; the parents can benefit from it, too.

New York Case

Hooter Girls and Arbitration Clauses in Employment Contracts

Mandatory arbitration and mediation clauses in employment policies and contracts are increasingly coming under fire.  Some states have passed legislation that prevents employers from mandating that employees agree to arbitrate legal claims in order to be hired.   Connecticut is just one of many states that has taken such legislative steps.

So unpopular are these arbitration clauses that even judges are not permitting the mere existence of such arbitration agreements to result in a one-way ticket out of court and into arbitration.  This month, a Michigan judge did not dismiss two Hooter Girls’ lawsuit against their employer when Hooters attempted to compel the matter into arbitration.  The reason?  The judge was not convinced that the women knowingly entered the arbitration agreement to waive their right to relief in a court of law. 

The political landscape in Michigan is not ripe for employers to exercise an arbitration clause with an unwilling opponent, if this case is any indication.  However, the Hooter Girls may later wish that they’d have gone through arbitration.  If the court system is backlogged due to increased filings, overwhelming numbers of criminal matters that get priority over their claims, and on-going furloughs and other cost-saving measures that many governmental entities – including courts – are facing, their case could be heard years from now.  

There is no “speedy trial” in civil matters, at least nowadays.

Hooter Girls Sue Over Weight Issues

Divorce, Kids and Reliability

When parents divorce, they usually aren’t fully prepared for how they want or should parent through the storm.  However, most parents simply know that making their kids feel safe and secure is important.  What that really means is making sure that children know that even though mommy and daddy are separating, they both, where abandonment and other extreme issues are not at issue, can still be counted on to be there for them.

In the throes of separation, it may be difficult to assure a child that the other parent can be counted on.  Indeed, that may be the complete opposite of what a spouse may believe of their former partner – particularly if infidelity occurred.  However, being a “bad spouse” does not necessarily mean that the spouse is also a “bad parent.”  

For children, a parent’s ability not to put down or slight the other parent in front of the children (and ensuring that other adults and family members follow suit) can be critical to their ability to feel safe and supported in their willingness to rely on both parents during uncertain times.   Where a parent can effectively bite his or her tongue about negative opinions of the other parent, the child also avoids internal strife and confusion.

Children want to love both of their parents.  When one parent talks negatively of the other in front of the child(ren), it is confusing.  The comment may not align with what they think and feel about the other parent.  Processing such comments – which results in the child having to make unfair decisions about who is right (who to believe), whether to risk disagreement and rejection from the commenting parent, etc.  – hardly acting in the best interest of the child.  What a conflict for children to navigate! 

To be the reliable parent that every parent wants to be, skipping the name-calling in front of the children not only demonstrates to children how to act in a conflict, but also saves them from confusing emotions.   And, if those comments a parent was able to keep to himself or herself during the divorce are true statements about the other spouse, the children – when they are old enough – will figure it out themselves.

The Smart Divorce…thanks Ms. Moskovitch

There’s always good information to read out there.  I like the shorter stuff that is laden with nuggets that speak to you differently each time you read it.  “The Smart Divorce” by Deborah Moskovitch is just such a book.  At whatever stage of the grief cycle of divorce a person may be at (or recycling through), there is a word of wisdom for that person. 

In The Smart Divorce, much attention is paid to children in the divorce process.   One of the most potent facts about divorce and kids, for me, is included in this book – that is that the most significant, predictive factor regarding how well a child will adjust in a divorce is the amount of “conflict exposure” the child has experienced.  In other words, how much a child sees, hears, or experiences with respect to the divorce is incredibly detrimental – whether from the parents or from others.

This fact alone is one of the reasons that mediation for divorcing parents can be so powerfully positive to how “well” they separate.  Confidentiality within mediation is akin to skipping the tour on how sausage is made.  Where kids are a priority, separating parents should consider mediation as a primary means to protect and honor their kids’ needs.