Divorce is tough on everyone, and if you are facing the break-up of your family, you are obviously concerned about the effect it will have on your children.
No matter how you and the other parent will feel about each other after the divorce, your focus must be on helping your children adjust to the inevitable changes in their lives.
Child custody basics
In the state of New Jersey, there are two kinds of child custody. The children reside on a day-to-day basis with the parent who has primary residential custody; the other, known as the parent of alternate residence, will enjoy parenting time with the children as agreed upon by the parties or as determined by the court. Holidays are also often divided between the parents pursuant to a court-created holiday schedule. Both parents usually share legal custody, which refers to making important decisions for the children, such as education, medical care and religious upbringing.
The problems children face
Among the first problems for kids is trying to accept the fact that the family unit is breaking up. Depending on their ages, they may feel frightened or angry. They might rebel or withdraw, and as parents, you must be prepared to handle a wide range of emotions.
The next issue for the children is having to adjust to life between two homes. Depending on the visitation schedule, they might spend every other weekend with the parent who lives at the new house, or even one night each week.
What you can do
Remember that the children must come to grips with the sudden imbalance in their lives from losing daily contact with one parent. Maintaining their usual routine in as many ways as possible will be a great help. Both you and the other parent should keep normal rules and disciplinary actions in place. Children thrive on routine and appreciate the limits that parents set, although they will often test the boundaries. Ensuring that they keep up with their usual activities–sports, piano lessons, slumber parties with friends, visits with grandparents–will go a long way in helping them adjust to the reality of your divorce.
It is also critical that each parent not bring the children into the middle of the divorce, and that each parent should speak of the other only in positive terms. Case law and relevant statutes stress that the custodial parent must foster the relationship between the children and the non-primary custodial parent. Obviously, the reverse is also true.
Resolving child custody issues
A family law attorney will tell you that it is not uncommon for issues to arise with respect to child custody arrangements. Circumstances change, and problems crop up, but the best interests of your children should always be at the forefront of any resolution. Helping them adjust well to a post-divorce world should be top priority.