If you and your spouse have decided it’s best for the two of you to go your separate ways, there are many boxes to check and emotions to be processed. At the heart of the situation, your children may be confused, angry and depressed about the changes. As a parent, you can calm their anxiety by having a solid plan in place and answers to common questions before presenting your offspring with the divorce. Statistics show that less than half of children under the age of 18 live in a traditional family, highlighting the fact that the issue must be addressed and dealt with to protect millions of lives.
Do we choose divorce or mediation?
If you and your spouse are in control of your emotions and can come to an amicable agreement, you may benefit from the less expensive option of mediation rather than a divorce settlement. Mediation gives you more control over the outcome and guarantees that you both agree with what goes in the settlement. Parents are more likely to abide by a document that they helped design than one that is court-mandated.
Who gets the kids?
Although you may not want to live with each other anymore, you’re probably not ready to give up your access to your children. They are likely confused and are adapting to not seeing both parents every day, and they may not be old enough to make their own choices. If the parents can come to an agreement on their own, they can work out their child custody agreement with help from counselors, mediators and attorneys. If the parents don’t agree or can’t come together, the case may go to family court, where a judge makes the decision.
Who pays child support?
The family court will issue child support orders based on the state guidelines. Support is determined by the number of children and the noncustodial parent’s income. If your children split their time equally between two homes, then you may not have to deal with child support at all. The court can revisit the agreement in the future if significant changes are made.
How should we start the process?
If you are confident that ending your marriage is the right thing to do, your first step should be to consult an attorney or mediator who can walk you through the process. You should also work with your spouse to create a solid parenting plan and an agreement on the best way to tell the children. Most important, remind them that they are loved and their lives will remain as stable as possible.