Do you have a list of essential points for parents dealing with divorce to follow? My husband and I are both really sad that our marriage is ending, and we want to make things as easy as we can for our children, aged nine, 11 and 13, when we break the news to them next weekend. If possible we’d like to involve them in planning our new lives. If they want me to be the parent who stays in the family home, that’s fine, and if they want my husband to stay, that’s okay too. I’m conscious that our good intentions might be tested if the kids are really hurt by what’s happening, but I think they’ve all known for a while that this has been on the cards.
Michele, by email
While it’s great that you and your husband are able to part amicably, you can’t leave decision-making up to your children. While their input and opinions should be respected, the votes in this case aren’t being cast by a committee of five equals. Children do better with a structure clear enough to be written down and simple enough that even the nine-yearold can tell someone else what the arrangements are. They also need to have a stake in each household – at the very least, a bed of their own and a place to keep their belongings. One of the best things that you could do for them is to have two households near to their school(s) so that their activities and friendships don’t need to be disrupted.
While current family-law thinking favours 50:50 time in each household, I far favour parents being equally concerned about their welfare without the children having to live like nomads and change beds several times a fortnight. Let them know that you’ll live with your initial arrangement for 12 weeks
and then review it, so that they’ll be able to have input into what’s working for them and what needs to change. Be sure to insist that their schools and the organisers of their extra-curricular activities send out double notices and reports so that regardless of where the children are, each parent knows about and can talk with them about what they’re up to.
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