How Can A Divorce Be Child Centered?
When parents decide to split, practical questions come up about how to take care of children throughout the process. A professional in divorce trains to recognize matters in their areas of expertise that affect their clients, but there’s so much more involved. One of those key considerations is how the needs of children should impact the process. As a family moves forward with a divorce, it can help to keep the principles of a child-centered divorce in mind.
So what does that mean?
Fair Is Fair
Or is it? The question of fairness is tantamount during a divorce, but it’s a murky concept that the parties may view differently. And fairness can be a position that becomes easily conflated with an individual’s financial future. A spouse distracted by perceived “fairness” of how much the law or a software program tells them they are entitled to in the settlement when they feel as though they’d sacrificed a career to raise children, can quickly become sidetracked by fear or helplessness or overwhelm.
Before divorcing parents become occupied by financial decisions, it helps to establish the children as the priority.
One of the most effective ways to counter the feelings of panic over money is to redirect the conversation. As each parent addresses which decisions do the least damage, it’s easier to see how to prioritize decisions. Divorce professionals ultimately want to keep the family intact despite the divorce.
Consider trading in the idea of fairness for an agreement to respect the child or children as a priority, and use that lens as a primary filter for making decisions.
The older the child is, the more dependent they are on their routine. Parents have to consider how to reduce disturbances. Maybe this means rearranging schedules to ensure the child can still participate in particular pursuits or researching similar opportunities in a different location. Frequently it involves accounting for the financial aspects of the child’s activities. If the child attends a private school, soccer camp, and ice-skating lessons, parents need to have enough funds to keep everything going. Also, it might require a creative distribution of parenting responsibilities if the child needs transportation to participate, which had formerly been provided by one parent.
Especially early in divorce, parental dedication to keeping children involved with their friends and their day-to-day lifestyle while the rest of their world shifts can contribute to a much better longterm outcome for the family.
Take off the gloves
You loved each other once, possibly you still do, but you’ve decided it’s better to move on in life individually.
You love your kids always. For their sake work towards peaceful coparenting. Try not to argue in front of your kids, encourage your children’s love and support of the other parent, honor the rules you decide upon for things like expenses and parenting time, responsibilities and schedules.
Consider participating in a co-parenting program so you’ve got the skill set to tackle disagreement and miscommunication as they arise after the divorce.
Child Support in a Child-Centered Divorce
The state of Illinois requires child support to cover the costs of shelter, food, and clothing. All other activities and expenses work out between the parents. Instead of using the standard formulas that the state dictates, parents can use the goal-oriented Collaborative Divorce approach during these conversations to establish the context of how they want to care for their children. Rather than merely feeding numbers into a computer, the divorce professionals on a Collaborative Divorce team (most frequently attorneys, a divorce coach, a financial neutral, and perhaps a child specialist) guide these conversations, to stay on track with the couples’ stated goals.
During collaborative conversations, parents to decide which parts of a child’s life will do the most damage if they change, which will benefit the most from stability. When parents sit down with the appropriate group of trained professionals, it can help everyone remain rational. Which activities need to be funded after the divorce goes through, which might need to discontinue? How can financial settlements and ongoing payments be rearranged to fit the new priorities, especially as those priorities shift as children grow? The collaborative divorce process also supports broader and constant familial communication, for example, support in developing agreement on how to keep the child informed, now and after the divorce.
Paying for the Future
The college expenses divorced parents in Illinois pay for their children post-decree is determined by the amount that the University of Illinois charges that school year. Whether the student attends the University of Illinois or not, this is the financial guideline for parental support. When parents can be on the same page regarding funding early in the process, everyone benefits. Say a child wishes to attend a school that is double the cost of the University of Illinois, such as Northwestern. Parents need to have a plan for either where the additional funds come from or foster realization with their child that a more expensive institution is not viable. They may either co-fund equally; one spouse pay a disproportionate amount based on ability or desire, or have the child apply for additional funding (e.g., grants, scholarships, etc.).
It’s impossible to touch on every event that may occur during the divorce process, but a Collaborative Divorce team can help you think through the divorce in a child-centered way. Litigation can tend to position parents against one another. Even with the best of intentions to stay focused on the children that approach can make productive co-parenting and decision making even more difficult. Using a goal oriented process like Collaborative can improve communication, engagement, and trust between all parties — because everyone aligns. The transition is unlikely to be easy for anyone. Still, the additional planning and forethought can move kids and adults alike into a new phase of their lives while minimizing disruption.
And the potential money you save bypassing the court process can be redirected to something that’s more productive, like college tuition!