By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Larry Sarezky is a Family Law attorney with a strong, child-centered focus, which is why I so value and respect his work. He tells me his biggest fear, as a divorce lawyer, is that thousands of children are growing up wondering why the “grown-ups” didn’t protect them from their parents’ high conflict divorces.
As Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network for parents, I totally concur. When parents don’t take responsibility for their divorce actions and decisions, the outcomes can be pretty nasty, especially for their children. Sure, they try to justify and rationalize their behavior – but we know better. Parents have CHOICES every step of the way. The consequences of those choices can be damaging or supportive to your children. It depends where you put your attention.
Crucial Questions To Answer Before you Battle …
Larry created a list of ten questions to ask clients who were considering custody battles. He tells them, “If it’s your co-parent who wants to fight over the kids, see if he or she can answer the following.”
DO YOU WANT …
- your children to endure months of anxiety and uncertainty as to where they will be living? And wonder whether they will have the relationship they want with their parents and siblings?
- to have your children subjected to interviews by attorneys, mental health professionals and court personnel during which they may feel frightened, humiliated, and pressured to be loyal to both parents?
- court ordered professionals subjecting your children to questioning about their most personal fears and frailties?
- your children exposed to high conflict between parents? Clinical studies show those kids are at risk for psychological damage. Do you want to risk your children developing emotional disorders as a result of your high-conflict custody battle?
- your inability to resolve your differences to serve as a model of parenting for your children?
- intimate details of your life to become a matter of public record?
- a stranger deciding how often you will see your children, and how you will make decisions concerning them?
- a substantial portion of your assets used as fees for attorneys and expert witnesses? Especially since there is no guarantee that you will be happy with the result?
- to give up attention to detail that negotiated agreements typically contain but that judges’ decisions do not?
- to engage in costly, time-consuming and rancorous litigation that can make future cooperation between you and your co-parent extremely difficult at best? And then, resumption of effective joint parenting nearly impossible?
These are great and insightful questions that take the luster off of custody battles and put a spotlight on the damaging and often devastating outcomes that result.
Questions for Caring Co-Parents Looking Ahead …
I’d like to add a few of my own list of questions. I share these during mentoring sessions with parents not only before, but long after the divorce as well. Sit together and discuss these questions, or review them during mediation. It can help you avoid serious mistakes and unnecessary strife now and well into the future.
BOTH PARENTS ASK YOURSELF …
- How can we make life better for our children after the divorce than it was before?
- What can we do to boost their sense of security, self-esteem and well-being during the transitions ahead?
- Will our children respect us when they’re adults for the way we handled the divorce?
- How can we best support our children – and minimize the physical, emotional and spiritual damage inflicted upon them as a result of our divorce?
- Who can provide the least traumatic home environment for the children? For what percent of each day, week, month and year? Can we be flexible as the kids age and change stages in life?
- Am I burdening my children with responsibilities only an adult should have to bear?
- Would I make this same parenting decision if we were still married? Or am I allowing my anger/hatred/resentment/pain to affect my judgment and clarity?
- How can we show our love and compassion for our children as they move through challenges they did not ask for – or create?
- Do I want to rob my children of their childhood because of my divorce?
- How can each of us best contribute our assets – physical, emotional and spiritual? Can we work together to create harmony, good will and a sense of peace within the family structure?
And last, but most important of all …
Do I love my kids more than I may dislike or hate my Ex?
With these questions as guidelines, you are on a straight path to creating a child-centered divorce. That’s a divorce that respects your children’s rights through cooperative, respectful joint-parenting.
It may not be the easiest path, but it will generate the best outcome for everyone in the family. And, one day, when your kids are grown adults, they will THANK YOU for doing your divorce right!
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To learn more about Larry Sarezky, how to protect children during divorce, and to preview the Telly Award-winning film, Talk to Strangers, visit www.ChildCustodyFilm.com.
To access Rosalind Sedacca’s divorce and co-parenting coaching services or her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting: Success Strategies For Getting It Right! as well as other helpful resources, visit www.ChildCenteredDivorce.com.