Children are often the casualties of divorce. Here are a few helpful hints to help your children get through the process.
10 TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD THROUGH DIVORCE
Helping your child through your divorce may be one of the most difficult tasks you will ever face as a parent. The following is a brief list of practical tips that can help as you walk through this difficult time with your child.
1. Be honest. Don’t lead your child to believe “dads away on business” or “everything is going to be wonderful”. Children are very perceptive. They know if a parent is trying to hide something, even if the purpose is to spare their feelings. Children need simple straightforward answers they can understand, without blame or making anyone wrong or bad.
2. Let your child (ren) know it is not their fault. All children assume they may be responsible for their parents’ breakup. Children need to be gently reassured repeatedly over the first couple of years that the divorce is an adult decision having nothing to do with them or their behavior.
3. Listen quietly. Children have many questions, feelings, assumptions and concerns. About divorce. Many parents find it difficult to sit quietly and listen to their children talk without trying to interrupt with a “fix-it” statement. Children need to feel heard with quiet patience and undivided attention.
4. Let your child know however they respond to the divorce is o.k. Many children hide their feelings of sadness, grief, anger and confusion because they are afraid expressing these feelings will upset their parents. Children need to know all their feelings are acceptable.
5. Let your child know it is normal for them to want their parents to get back together again. Children can feel ashamed about this very normal wish. You can explain to your child that once divorced, it is very unlikely that people ever get back together, but their wish for reconciliation is very normal.
6. Reassure your child of personal safety. Many children are concerned that if their parents divorce there will not be enough food or shelter or clothing for them. Children living with single mothers may also need reassurance that she has a plan to protect them in case of fire, “burglars” or “ghosts”.
7. Ask your child about friends of theirs whose parents are divorced. This is a good way to learn of your child’s fears and assumptions about divorced parents, and gives you the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions and remind them that other children have gone through what they are now going through.
8. Don’t put your child in the middle or try to make them take sides. Don’t say anything about your ex in earshot of your child (ren). Don’t have your child (ren) carry messages to your ex. Children need to be able to love both parents. If one parent is disapproving of affection a child expresses toward the other parent, the child will begin to withdraw, become dishonest or depressed.
9. Spend time with caring friends. Having a supportive network can protect your child from becoming your confidant and feeling responsible for your emotional well-being. It can also give you a higher frustration-tolerance for the normal everyday things kids do.
10. Read together and talk about a book on divorce for children. This will help you explain important facts to your child (ren) and help your c
CUSTODY AND VISITATION
1. Are there guidelines for child custody in Louisiana?
Most parents realize that it is in their best interest and the best interest of their children if they can decide on custody and visitation without the help of the court. Leaving these issues up to the court creates an element of surprise that most people can live without. Louisiana does have Child Custody Guidelines that the court must consider if the parents are incapable of being rational with one another in making these very important decisions.
2. Does there need to be a custody agreement?
Yes. This is not only for the benefit/protection of the parents, but it is in the best interest of the children as well.
3. When is custody decided?
Normally unless there is a history of physical abuse the Court will order the parties to go to mediation to discuss custody arrangements. If the parties can not agree to anything the court will often enter a temporary order regarding custody giving one party domicillary custody and providing visitation for the other until a trial can be held.
4. What is Joint Custody?
Joint custody means that both parents share the legal custody of their child and should try to work together to make decisions that affect the child’s life.
5. What is Domicilary Custody?
Domiciliary custody is the parent that the child resides with the majority of the time. If there is a disagreement in a joint custody situation, it is the domiciliary parent whom the ultimate authority to make decisions rests with.
6. Can a visitation schedule be modified?
Sure. Neither you, nor your former spouse, can tell what the future will hold. Things obviously change. Typically visitation schedules do change and can be done without the help of the court system. However, should it become necessary, the court will get involved and make a decision if a parent is being deprived of their visitation rights.
7. What do I do if my former spouse doesn’t follow the court order?
Your former spouse can be ruled back into court and be found in contempt of court by the Judge. The penalties for contempt can range from having to pay a small fine to, in some cases, jail time.
8. What if my former spouse or I move out of state?
Obviously this may drastically change any custody/visitation plan that is already in place, but there are provisions for this kind of thing. However, be aware that the Court’s foremost concern is not the convenience of the parents, but what is in the best interest of the child (ren).
9. Should I ask my child with whom he/she would want to live?
This would put the child in a horrible situation. The worst thing a child must do is make a statement choosing the parent he or she would want to live with. In a lot of cases this must eventually be done, but if the child has not come forward, then a parent should probably not ask.
10. At what age can the child decide where they want to live?
There is no set age in Louisiana. And although a child’s wishes are one of the factors that the Court can look at they are not the deciding factor. We all know 11 year olds that are going on 20 as well as 14 year olds that seem to be stuck at 10. Therefore how much weight is
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