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Parenting is a one-shot deal. And when it comes to divorce or separation, it is rarely going to be a super positive event for your children. There are always opportunities to make the best of things, though, and that will be your job throughout the process. You have one shot to make your son or daughter's growing up years a real childhood -- and that means shielding them from the more grown-up ugliness of your divorce.
As a ~12 year veteran of divorce, my former husband and I made it our goal to keep our children the focus, despite our own differences and troubles. When we negotiated our divorce settlement, we keyed-in on the fact that we only had one chance to get it right in raising our son (who was then 9 years old) and daughter (who was then 7 years old). We did it. Our kids are doing great!
The goal, in divorce, should always be to make the situation better – or at least reasonably comfortable -- for everyone in the family.
I can tell you from my own personal experience, and 15 years as a Virginia Supreme Court Certified Divorce Mediator, former divorce attorney, and family court hearing officer: Divorce does not have to be a tragedy for your children.
To successfully negotiate child custody in your divorce, you will need to ask yourself and ponder some very important questions.
Also Read: How to tell your children about divorce
9 Key Questions Divorcing Parents Need to Ask Before and During their Child Custody Negotiations:
- What unique traits, knowledge, values, and skills do I have to offer my children? What about my children’s other parent?
- What qualities do I believe are necessary to “be a good parent?” Do I have most of those qualities? What about my children’s other parent?
- Do I see myself as the better parent for children of certain ages and developmental stages? What about my children’s other parent?
- Do my children have special activities that they like to do with me, alone? Their other parent?
- Will I need help from my children’s other parent, in terms of child caretaking, once living separately? Will my children’s other parent also need help? (e.g., due to work demands, work travel, “juggling” children’s activities, etc.)
- What do I believe are the benefits, specifically, of my children having a rich and stable relationship with both Mom and Dad? What would be the harm, specifically, if they did not?
- Am I able to let go of control when my children go to stay with their other parent?
- When there is a parent who has only been minimally involved in his or her children’s lives, is there reasonable potential for that parent to become more involved?
- Is there potential for compromise in parenting decisions?
You will need to ask yourself what is really best for your children for both the immediate time frame and for your child’s future well-being. You need to start thinking in these terms before you begin your custody negotiations so you can think of terms of broad goals, albeit flexible goals, and a variety of options for reaching those goals. This is true whether you engage the services of a divorce lawyer or a mediator.
If two loving parents exist, why not make the most of it? Children get a stronger sense of security, love, expanded worldviews, skills, knowledge, extended family, role models and sense of self. And you get children to have and to hold--and to love.