Divorce is one of the most stressful life events, but your kids still need you to be a stable, supportive presence. As you and your spouse split, all members of the family will have to adjust to a new structure and routine. This transition can be difficult for everyone, and it's especially challenging for children.
Unfortunately, fathers are often at a disadvantage with custody battles. You might not see your kids as often as you want, so it's easy for the relationship to become distant or strained. This is particularly tough during a high-conflict divorce with an ex who doesn't want you to see the kids at all.
You don't have to sacrifice your bond with your children during your divorce, though. Maintaining your relationship with your kids will require effort, but it is possible. By being proactive and cautious, you can make it through your divorce with your fatherly status intact. Here are six tips for surviving divorce:
1. Don't speak about your divorce with your kids.
Depending on the age of your children, they may have a lot of questions about the reasons behind your divorce. No matter what your ex tells them about you or the situation, don't involve your kids in the details. Make sure your children know that both parents love them and want what's best for everyone, and avoid saying anything more about your ex. Venting about your ex to your children makes them feel like they have to choose between you and your ex, and it can be devastating for the parent-child relationship.
Instead, find another source of support during your divorce. You could vent to close, trusted friends about the situation, or you could speak with a mental health counselor about your frustrations. Support groups can also be a good resource to connect with people who are going through something similar.
2. Always prioritize your children.
In a high-conflict or contentious divorce, it can be easy to focus on competing with your spouse. Remember to keep your children as your top priority during these difficult moments. Even if you feel tempted to retaliate if your ex wrongs you, try to make the choices that will provide the most stability and comfort for your kids. You don't need to "win" every disagreement with your ex if it means that your children will bear the burden of the conflict.
3. Stay involved and informed.
Even if you don't see your children often, you should always be up-to-date on everything going on in their lives. Don't trust your ex to pass along all the important information. Instead, be proactive in reaching out to your kids' teachers, doctors, coaches, and anyone else who regularly interacts with them.
By staying informed on what's going on with your children, you can avoid falling into the role of a distant or uninvolved father. Taking an active role in your kids' lives also strengthens your position if you try to renegotiate the custody agreement.
4. Keep records.
As soon as divorce is on the table, you should start keeping a record of everything related to the process. Make copies of your bank statements and other financial records. If you give money to your ex or cover any of your kids' expenses, have proof of these payments. Divorce is a legal proceeding, so having a detailed record of objective, factual information will make a big difference in the outcome of the case.
If you and your ex fight during the divorce, record what she says and when. Any insults, threats, or other harmful statements should be written verbatim in a journal. The "he said, she said" situation happens far too often in divorce proceedings, and it doesn't usually favor the father.
5. Embrace the opportunity for growth.
Divorce is hard, but it's not an entirely negative experience. Many fathers find that they're happier after a divorce than they were during their marriage. This can be a valuable opportunity to expand your role in your kids' lives and discover your strengths and abilities that you weren't previously aware of.
Gender roles in families are still very prevalent, and in a traditional nuclear family, fathers may be judged for being the primary caregiver. As a single father, though, you have to be both the provider and the caretaker when your kids are with you. Treat this as an opportunity to discover how capable you truly are at all of the facets of parenting.
6. Hire a good lawyer.
Most divorced people only go through one divorce, but family lawyers handle divorce almost every day. The legal proceedings of a divorce case are complicated, especially if you and your ex aren't in agreement about custody or assets. To survive your divorce, you need to work with a reputable, trustworthy attorney.
Divorce is an emotional, personal experience. Your lawyer isn't personally involved in the family relationships, so they can look at the situation more calmly and objectively. It's critical to have this unbiased source of support and advice during your divorce.
Going through a divorce is incredibly challenging, but you'll make it through. Keep your kids at the forefront of your mind with every decision, and trust your lawyer's advice. Your children need you during this life transition, and you can be there for them no matter what.
If you're going through a divorce and have any questions or concerns, our attorneys are happy to help. Reach out to Peterson White today to connect with an experienced divorce attorney.
The Knoxville attorneys at Peterson White, LLP are here to help you navigate complex family law challenges. Call us at (855) 919-4124 to schedule a complimentary consultation.