The keys to a less stressful and painful divorce are:
1) be cordial and respectful with your former partner;
2) Remember that when it comes to the children, knowledge is power. Share with the other parent as much information about the children’s school, medical, sports or other areas that they would like to know about without making them demand that information from you;
3) When you and your ex do disagree, especially on issues that pertain to raising the children, focus on making decisions that center on the best interest of your children, not yourself.
The way to avoid disaster and best provide for your children is to start asking the right questions:
• What does winning really mean in these cases?
• How can I avoid a custody battle?
• What is fair?
• In general, what is the best schedule for children of divorced or separated parents?
• What would work best for our children?
• How can we avoid damaging our children?
• How can we reduce the costs of divorce?
• How can we reduce the anger and hostility?
• How can we learn to get along better, at least when it comes to our children?
• How can we learn to be flexible, so that things adjust as our children’s needs change?
Here are some of the right answers:
• You “win” a custody battle by avoiding one.
• You avoid a child custody battle by being fair and reasonable.
• Being fair means being respectful of your children’s relationship with the other parent.
• The best schedule for children is one that optimizes the amount of time and involvement that both parents have. The best schedule considers the needs of their children as well as the practicalities of everyone’s schedules.
• Avoid damaging your children by showing that each parent loves them unconditionally.
• Encourage your children to spend time with, and love, both parents.
• Reduce the cost by reducing the anger and hostility and by being fair and reasonable.
• Reduce the anger and hostility by being fair, reasonable, and cordial.
• Seek counseling if you are having difficulty coping.
• Take advantage of the many resources, books, tapes, and educational materials that can help you learn to communicate more effectively.
• Become a student of positive parenting.
• Work on self-improvement and be the best parent that you can be.
If you can’t avoid a custody battle and cannot reach any agreement with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you’ll likely to find yourself in the following situation:
The judge comes on the bench and says that he has read the information in the case file and it looks like the same old nonsense that he sees every day. He then goes into a stern lecture along the lines that he does not know your children, has never met them, and out of all the people in the courtroom, he likely knows the least about them. Furthermore, even at the end of the case he will still know very little about your children. Yet, you two, the parents, are willing to let him, a complete stranger, tell you how you will raise your children.
“Make no mistake about it,” the judge will likely say, “I do have the complete and sole authority to order when each of you will see your child and when you will not. I can make the schedule for you. I can decide who makes all the decisions, some of the decisions, or none of the decisions. I can order you to all kinds of classes, treatment, and counseling if I find there is a need and that it would be in your children’s best interest. I will tell you when your vacation is and who will wake up the children on Christmas morning. And when I’m done, you are out of my thoughts and you will live with these rulings until your children reach the age of 18, or until you come back. When you come into my courtroom, your children belong to me. I will hold onto this file. I’m in charge of your children here.”
“If you cannot reach a decision by yourself on things like a holiday schedule, you surely are going to leave here very unhappy. If we have to have a trial and I have to make these decisions for you, I will have no qualms about any decisions I make. You may, but that is not my problem, it will be your problem. “
Mediation is a way of resolving disputes between two or more parties with the assistance of a neutral third-party meditator, who facilitates discussion between the two parties. The parties have the final, and only, say in the outcome of the dispute and the agreement is legally binding to both parties.