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Avoid treating children as pawns

Children are usually caught in the middle of a divorce, even if the parents try their best to avoid it. At some point -- either during or after the divorce -- the children end up seeing or at least sensing anger, fear, contempt or a whole host of emotions between parents.

Mediation is one way to limit what your children may be exposed to during the divorce. One mediator said that when children see their parents at least attempting to be civil for benefit of the children, they will learn coping skills, too. Unfortunately, if children are played as pawns during the divorce chess game, they may learn more about the divorce chess game, including the following negative behaviors:

-- Anxiety: Children need to know what to expect, such as in terms of the visitation schedule, whether a relocation is upcoming or how Mom and Dad are going to try to "outdo" one another. Anxiety in children can be expressed in many ways, including with excessive anger, sadness, worry, poor school performance or more.

-- Estrangement: Often called parental alienation, this is a very damaging behavior for children to experience. They may be told by one parent how horrible the other parent is, how he or she doesn't want to see them or even how a lack of on-time child support payments has once again forced a financial problem.

-- Loyalty issues: Having a relationship with both parents is important to a child and will help define how a child handles relationships in the future. When a child is forced to choose between parents or defend one parent to the other, the child may learn that lying will let him or her give the answer the court or the parents wants.

As you can see, a divorce can be very difficult for children to accept. Mediation may be the right choice for couples with children who want to separate in a positive way. Therapy may be the right choice for children who are having a hard time dealing with the range of emotions and issues they haven't experienced yet. If you feel as though your children don't have the right tools to accept the divorce, your divorce attorney may be able to recommend the right professional to help.

Source: Huffington Post, "Don’t Pawn The Children," Elizabeth Esrey, Dec. 02, 2016

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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