You and your partner have decided to split. You have kids at home. What should you be thinking about in terms of their short run, medium run, and long-term needs? I raise this long question because I hear all sorts of stories as I counsel couples. I also see children, both kids and adults, who are products of divorce. And I follow the research as well. I grant that the economy makes many choices difficult. Still, here are some tentative thoughts and suggestions. This is the first in a series of posts about this process.
The most important consideration is that the kids always come first. You can’t and shouldn’t subject them to your difficulties with your partner. Let me give you some examples. The first is the fighting and/or the cold hostility. If you’re thinking about splitting, each of you should see a therapist and go to a counselor together. Find out all the dimensions of your issues and how you are dealing with them, with each other and in front of the kids. Have her/him help you reduce the bitterness and plan for the future as to what you’re going to do next.
If you’re going to split, try going to mediation first, along with your therapy. It is cheaper and can be less contentious than going to a lawyer. What you need to think about in this process is who’s going to do what with the children, who’s going to sacrifice what (more, shortly!), and who’s going to pay for what. The more you are able to talk directly and straightforwardly with each other, the easier it will be on the children and the less costly and contentious it will be for both of you. Meanwhile, you should plan to have your kids see their own therapist and both of you should pick out who that should be. You should always ask to be included in the therapy and informed about its progress. Meanwhile, always tell the kids’ caregivers—teachers, child care workers, doctors, and so on—about what’s happening. You want them to be alert to any signs of acting out, physical symptoms, and psychological reactions.
My next post will review some of the short-range issues about the kids.