The thought of divorcing with kids is overwhelming for any parent who has been through it. A divorce touches every single aspect of your life; financial, emotional, physical, and spiritual. If children are involved, it can feel damn near impossible. It is important to keep in mind, whether you are the party initiating the divorce or you are the party who desperately wants the nightmare to end and to wake up happily married again, the thought of not being with your kids every day is devastating from either perspective. Here are some issues to consider when you are divorcing with kids.
Where will the Children Live?
This is one of the hardest realities for parents to process when divorcing with kids. Keeping their best interests at the forefront of your mind is important. If you happen to have children who struggle more with change and inconsistency than other kids, it may be important to consider more creative options than the typical schedule you often hear about. Simply because there are some schedules that tend to be followed more than others does not mean you must squeeze your family into a box that you don’t fit in. At West Coast Family Mediation, we’re happy to explore many options and ideas to make co-parenting as comfortable as we can for your specific family and your unique needs.
How will Legal Decisions be Made?
In California, there are two types of custody: legal and physical. Physical custody details where the children physically are. Legal custody refers to the important legal decisions that need to be made over the course of your children’s lives before they become adults. Unless there are safety or serious logistical issues, most parents divorcing with kids will share joint legal custody.
When it comes to child support, it’s important that you have an idea of what the average costs are for your kids. This is not referring to things like rent, food, and utilities. This is looking at things like extra-curricular activities, school costs, tuition, cars, insurance, gas, cell phones, etc.
Think about how you and your co-parent handle financial decisions now and how you have historically handled them. Have you generally been on the same page? Is it always a big fight when a large purchase needs to be made? Talking about the larger purchases now and discussing how they will be handled when they come up will help avoid confrontation and anxiety. Many couples are very successful in using a joint child support account. If this is something that you are interested in exploring, let your mediator know.
How will we Share Time Around the Holidays?
When divorcing with kids, there are creative ways to share the holidays. It is important to come into the parenting session with an idea as to which holidays are most important to you and which maybe are more important to your co-parent. Think of any holiday traditions you spend with each side of the family. Is there a way to continue both traditions with each parent’s side of the family? Are there holidays you and your co-parent are willing to spend together?
Who will cover the Children for Health Insurance?
In the event of a split between parents and going from one option of health insurance to two (one with each parent), it is smart to review each plan and see which is a better plan for the cost. Figure out which one makes more sense to keep the kids with.
How will the Kids Communicate with me When They Aren’t with Me?
Do your kids have their own cell phones or devices where they can reach you when they are not with you? If not, are you open to considering getting them a device for them to have unlimited access to either parent when they are outside of their care? Anything that can be done to provide as many safety nets as possible and provide your children with as much stability as possible is a good idea. This doesn’t mean getting your 8-year-old a smartphone. There are other options. There are kids’ watches that offer the ability to the child to call up to 4 phone numbers and they can text pre-typed messages. It can be helpful to give your children this direct access to you. Even if you and your co-parent are good at giving them a phone when they ask – it may be something as simple as them wanting to send you a message that they love you and good night. Perhaps they won’t go and ask mom or dad for their phone to do that. This allows them to make those decisions at the moment.
What is most important to me in terms of our co-parenting relationship?
A question that is asked far too little is how you want your relationship to look with your co-parent. Do you want to have a family-type relationship where there are family dinners and maybe even family vacations? Do you prefer to keep things very separate, or feel you have no choice but to do so considering how broken the current relationship is with your co-parent? Do you like how things are? Do you wish for more and are you willing to put in the work to get there? How important is it for your kids to see you and their other parent together, getting along, laughing? Consider how you want your future to look and then work backward. This is your family. You can do this your way.
When it comes to approaching the situation of divorcing with kids, West Coast Family Mediation is here to share the experience and resources to guide you through to a positive next chapter. We offer a Free 45-minute consultation for you to get to know us and to give you an opportunity to see if we are the right fit to guide you on this journey ahead.
by: Jennifer Segura