Over the years, many parents who are nearing a decision to divorce have asked me these kinds of questions. Bear in my that my input was sought from my perspective a youth advocate or within the realm of pastoral care as a Friends minister and not as a legal authority. Answering Your Questions About Divorce, as a resource on Rise This Day, is perhaps the largest single topic I have been asked about over the last thirty years.
Do you think holding off on getting divorced until the kids graduate from school is a good idea?
Usually, no. If you and your husband have exhausted all avenues to salvage your marriage via couples and individual therapy, and if one or both of you are living miserably day in and day out, then it’s likely taking a toll on the kids, too, in ways that you may not be noticing. If the marriage exists in name only at this point, it’s better to face that reality now and begin the process of formal separation. The kids will be impacted greatly, yes, but they’ll also recover sooner down the road.
My wife and I have separated and have recently filed for divorce. We plan to keep the lawyers out of it, too. Have you heard if other divorcing couples have done this successfully?
I am not qualified to respond as a legal authority, but I’ll share what I know on this. Is it possible to keep the lawyers out of it? I’d say yes, to a large degree at least, but only if you use a certified mediator. And remember, some very good divorce mediators, who are certified, are also attorneys. Be aware, however, that some practicing attorneys also take a dim view of mediation, so choose counsel wisely. I’ve known several divorcing couples who have gone this route with very good success. But it only seems to work if you can communicate openly and honestly with your spouse throughout the process while working with the mediator, and not everyone can do that. Here’s a good resource to help you learn more about divorce mediation. Another good resource that answers common questions regarding divorce mediation is here.
I’ve had it! I’m this close to loading the car, grabbing the kids and getting the hell out of the house. He can have it! Tell me why I shouldn’t do this?
As long as you’re not being victimized by domestic abuse, as in getting hurt or threatened in any way, then you really should speak with an attorney before making any move whatsoever. Your name is on the deed to your house too and you need to protect your part of the investment. If you leave the way you’re thinking it may just make things a lot harder for you later. Get legal help first! Perhaps you have a friend who’s been through divorce and who has had a good experience with an attorney. If so, get the name and make a call. (It’s at this point, if the person I’m speaking with is local, that I frequently say, “here’s the name of three attorneys that I know who have done good work for their clients in similar situations.” And I make it clear that I don’t have any relationship with these lawyers, other than being aware that they’ve worked out well for others.)
My husband and I are divorcing. Should I get the kids into counseling right away?
That depends, actually. There’s a natural tendency to take care of the kids in these situations, but it might be more important to get yourself into therapy first. Many children benefit greatly by having support while their parents are divorcing, and for a good length of time afterwards, too. But not all children and teens need therapy. It depends on the level of disruption and added stress that the divorcing process brings. If you and your husband are able to keep animosity levels in check and can have open and honest discussions with your children then that might be enough.
I divorced my son’s mom three months ago. Things have been going okay since, but the school called and said my son’s grades have dropped over the last marking term. What do we need to do to keep his grades up where they belong?
It’s fairly common, if not expected actually, for this to happen. As long as you’re not suspecting other causes for the drop in grades then I’d give it some time to see if things improve on their own. Talk with you son and get a sense of how he’s really feeling inside about the change. If everything else is in check, make sure that the school is aware of the change to the family structure and that you’re monitoring things on your end. It’s very common for this to happen with kids when their parents split up. Your son may just need some time…like everyone else, before things smooth out again. Consider having the school social worker reach out to him, or arrange for him to see a therapist for a short period of time. The main thing is to not mettle out consequences or make too much of a big deal out it at this stage of things. He just may need time to adjust, like mom and dad.
Resources for Parents to Consider
- Divorce Info: A great source of balanced info to learn about the ins and outs of divorce.
- Divorce Source: A state by state list of divorce laws.
- KidsHealth.org A terrific site overall. Info to help teens understand divorce.
- KidsHealth.org A guide for children dealing with divorce in their family.
- KidsHealth.org: Info on understanding blended families.
- Divorce Central: Good tips on parenting through a divorce.
Answering Young People’s Questions About Their Parents Divorce
I hate this! What am I supposed to do? I feel caught in the middle between my mom and dad and I don’t know what to do!
Dear heart, listen. You’re not supposed to do anything here. It sucks. It really does. But your mom and dad were in a marriage before you were even born. The marriage, and their changed relationship, is about them, and not you specifically. Their love for you continues like before the split up, it’s just gonna feel different and weird for a while, but it will start to feel okay and eventually maybe even better. They are still and will always be your parents who love you…that, the love part, does not change. In fact, over time, it may even start to feel better than before the split up.
Do you think that there’s a chance that my mom and dad might get back together even though they’re divorced now? I sure hope that they do!
It’s natural for kids to hope that their parents will patch things up and get back together again, even if they’re divorced. But to be honest with you here, that’s extremely rare and very unlikely to happen. Even if you’ve been noticing that your mom and dad have been getting along better and better, it doesn’t mean that they are reconnecting as a couple. It just means that they’re being nicer to each other, period.
My dad keeps asking me questions about mom when I’m at his place, and mom does the same thing when I get home from dads. It makes me feel like a spy. What can I do?
If you’re up to it and want to address it yourself, consider doing this: Write a “dear mom and dad note,” and in your note speak to them both about not wanting to be asked about the other parent, because it makes you feel caught in the middle, etc. Leave the note for each parent to find after you have left the house for the other parent. Then maybe, hopefully, your mom and dad will talk with you and give you some assurance that the fishing questions about the other parent will stop. If you want me to speak with mom and dad about this, I can do that also with your permission, okay?
I think that my dad has a girlfriend. Why does he have to have a girlfriend? He says he doesn’t but I still think he does.
When parents get separated, or when they get divorced, it’s normal and natural for dad and mom to eventually develop new relationships. I know that it can seem really weird at first, even wrong, but actually, dad will more likely be happier for having another special adult in his life. And the same applies to mom, too, so you know. If you are right and your dad does have a girlfriend, hopefully he’ll decide to talk about this with you when he feels ready.
Text and photo by Kevin Lee