“For most people who go through divorce, it’s not easy to get along for the sake of the children, because if it were easy, they might not have gotten a divorce in the first place. Yet, I’m convinced that the couples who divorce who make a conscious decision to be amicable partners in co-parenting have happier kids as a result.” Amy Arndt from The Best Gift Divorced Parents Can Give Their Children.
Divorce is the end of the commitment made when two people say, “I do.” It takes two people to commit to marriage, but only one person is required to obtain a divorce. Whatever your circumstances are, when children are involved, the divorce is never complete. Parents will always be connected through their children.
When it comes to divorce and children, it really does not matter what went wrong with you and your spouse/ex-spouse. There is one thing that is right, one thing that deserves your care and protection, and that is your children. Making your children the number one priority is the best thing you can do for them in the middle of divorce and the post divorce fall out.
It is a difficult thing, in the midst of the strong emotions that accompany a failed relationship and a divorce, to be focused on any other than yourself, but that is what your children need. They need to know that it is not their fault. (That is a common emotion that children feel.) They need to know that everything will be alright. They need to know that they do not need to choose between their parents. Your children are not divorcing you or your spouse.
You should consider seeking counseling as you go through the process for yourself, but also for your children. Sorting through the whirl of emotions (grief, anger, hatred, pain, guilt, jealousy and more) is difficult alone. Keeping a focus on your children and their best interests is even more difficult. Regardless of how you feel about your spouse/ex-spouse, he/she is still the father or mother of your child(ren). That will never change.
There are some things that you can do to minimize the impact of divorce on your children. These guidelines are taken from the 16th Judicial Circuit Kane County, Illinois Rules with Respect to Custody and Visitation.
RULES WITH RESPECT TO CUSTODY AND VISITATION
Each parent shall:
1. Refrain from discussing the conduct of the other parent with or in the presence of the children except in a laudatory or complimentary way. Do not poison the child’s mind with negative comment about the other spouse or their extended family or friends. Refrain from trying to buy the child’s love through gifts or special favors.
2. Refrain from discussions of finance, as it relates to the other spouse, with or in the presence of the children, particularly with regard to amount, manner of transmission of payment.
3. Pay all sums ordered, whether for child support or other reasons, IN FULL and ON TIME. The payor will not receive credit for presents, clothes, etc. unless based on a valid Court Order. Pay as ordered, that is weekly, by-weekly, monthly, etc. since a variation may create arrearages.
4. Refrain from interfering with visitation, regardless of whether support payments are current. Interference is at the risk of the custodian and may be subject to punishment as contempt of Court unless good cause can be shown. Continued unwarranted interference could result in a change in custody.
5. Prepare the children for visitation and for return to the custodial parent, both physically and mentally. Pick-up and return should be on time unless special arrangements have been made. Rules of common courtesy should prevail. Appropriate clothing and personal needs as well as favorite toys, medications, together with instructions, and information for emergencies should be sent with the children. Request special clothing in advance.
6. Refrain from consumption of alcohol or controlled substances, other than prescription medications taken pursuant to medical direction, during visitation and within 24 hours prior to visitation.
7. Refrain from exposing the children to immoral behavior. Even the appearance of impropriety should be avoided. The presence of an unrelated member of the opposite sex raises particular concerns as to inappropriate dress or displays of affection. There shall be no overnight visitation in the presence of any unrelated member of the opposite sex. Custodial parents are subject to the same constraints.
8. Exercise his or her visitation privileges each and every time and make the time spent meaningful. Shared, or worse, unshared, television viewing for extended periods of time is not in the best interest of the child/parent relationship. It is neither necessary nor suggested that excessive sums of money be spent on the children. Time spent talking, reading, attending community events and cultural activities as well as sporting events and the like all contribute immensely to the memories and strong bond sought by your children. Many such activities are free.
9. Notify each other promptly of any delays or changes in plans that will affect the other parent or their plans. Reasonable efforts should be made to have telephone contact available so that changes can be communicated. It is not necessary however to account for every moment of time or every place visited. Repeated late arrivals or repeated failure of the custodial parent to be available to receive the children back on time could result in court action to change visitation arrangements.
10. Refrain from questioning your children about the activities of your former spouse or from making extravagant promises to them, whether or not you can or will keep those promises. Keep in mind their daily standard of living and don’t create confusion for them as to why one standard applies with one parent and a vastly different one with the other. A Court might consider making adjustments in support levels to equalize those standards.
11. Cooperate with the other parent in an adult, non-aggressive, reasonable and courteous way. There will be need for changes in visitation schedules due to illnesses or special events in your respective families. Flexibility is in the best interest of the children and unfortunately, unreasonableness on a given day may well receive the same response when the positions are reversed. Notice is the key word. Last minute changes are rude and disruptive to the family and the children. If changes cannot be made, don’t blame the other parent to the children.
12. Not argue with a former spouse, particularly in the presence of the children. Pick-up and return of the children should be a pleasant experience, looked forward to by all. It can be a time for the parents to exchange information about the children’s health, school or church activities, extra-curricular activities or other important matters.
13. Refrain from removing the children from the State of Illinois or from failing to advise your spouse of their location. Violation of this rule could result in prosecution for a Class IV Felony.
Failure to obey these rules may result in court action leading to the imposition of fines and/or confinement in the Kane County jail together with related attorney’s fees and costs.
There are good reasons for these local rules of the court. They were created by professionals with the best interests of children in mind. They are designed to protect children from the damage that can be caused in the divorce process. Judges will enforce these rules when things get out of hand, and repeated violations of these rules could lead to a change in visitation or custody.
In sum, these rules are designed to insulate the children from the impact of the divorce. They are designed to keep the issues between the parents and to avoid a situation in which the children feel like they are caught in the middle. Keeping your children’s best interests in focus and following these rules will protect them in the divorce process.
For another take on children in divorce from a non-expert who “has been through it” see this Huffington Post Article, the Best Gift Divorced Parents Can Give Their Kids, by Amy Arndt.The Drendel & Jansons Law Group 111 Flinn Street Batavia, IL 60510 (630) 406-5440 www.batavialaw.com www.ilfamilylaw.com