Helping Children Cope and Deal with Divorce

Helping Children Cope and Deal with Divorce

divorce childA divorce, while stressful for adults, can be even more traumatic, sad and confusing for children. Regardless of their age, children may feel uncertain, angry or even guilty at the prospect of mom and dad splitting up. It is possible for parents to make the process and its effects less painful for their children. Helping your children deal with divorce means providing much-needed stability at home and attending to your children’s needs in a reassuring and positive manner. This may not always be smooth or easy. But there are several ways in which you can help your children cope.

Understand that the Divorce Will Have an Impact

The reaction of your children to your divorce often depends on their age, maturity and personality. Their sense of loss and conflicting emotions may manifest in a number of ways that even they may not understand. Expect behavioral changes. Young children who are struggling to deal with the situation often have issues with sleep or tantrums. School-age children may experience depression. It is common for teenagers involved in a divorce to act out or to rebel against their parents or teachers. Kindness, compassion and understanding are essential coping strategies when it comes to children and divorce.

How to Say it Right

It is important to strike an empathetic tone and be honest. Do not talk down to your children. Be straightforward, yet kid-friendly. Your children are entitled to the truth. They should know why you are getting a divorce. Come up with a simple, yet truthful answer. Never stop showing affection. Tell your children that you love them. It is very important that they hear it from you. Letting your children know that your love for them has not changed sends a powerful and positive message to them. You can help alleviate your children’s fear and uncertainty about the future by telling them what you know. Talk to them about where they will go to school and what their schedule will look like. The more information they have, the more comfortable and reassured they are likely to feel.

To Share or Not to Share

One of the difficult parts of communicating with your children during a divorce is deciding what to say and what to withhold. Establishing open communication channels is key during this time, but venting to your children could be a mistake. You do not have to hide the fact that you are going through a difficult time, but going into specific details with your children may put an unnecessary burden on them. While it is healthy for them to talk about their feelings, it is important that you do not express bitterness or anger toward your ex. As difficult as it may be, attempt to foster their relationship with your former spouse. This will reduce the amount of guilt or sadness they may feel over the separation. Let your children know it is natural to feel sad. Encourage your children to share their feelings about the divorce.

Fighting in Front of the Kids

Do not fight in front of the children. If you must have heated conversations, have them when your children are not around. Research shows that the most poorly adjusted children of divorce are those who are exposed to their parents fighting all the time. You do not have to be your ex’s best friend. But it is important that you take your battles away from your children. Stop fighting in front of them. Do not badmouth your ex in front of the children. Do not imply that your ex is not a good parent or that your children should not want to have a relationship with their other parent. Support and foster their relationship so that the children don’t feel guilty or uncertain about what to do or how to act.

Creating Your New Life

After the divorce, you may have to move and your children may even have to change schools. While change is often positive, it can also be very stressful. Many of their routines and habits will have to change. Make sure you help your children establish new routines and traditions. It is especially important during occasions such as birthdays and the holidays to establish traditions that help them cope with their sense of loss. There is nothing wrong in creating a cheerful atmosphere at home just as there is nothing wrong with showing your pain or grief in front of the children.

Post-Divorce Parenting

As difficult as it may be, post-separation parenting requires cooperation between you and your ex. The more guidelines and rules you lay down in the beginning will help you in the future. Discuss, negotiate and agree on who is responsible for the children’s health care, when and where the children will stay, how the holidays will be spent, where they will go to school and how their extra curricular activities and classes may continue. It is also important that they get to keep some of their old connections. Scheduling play dates with their friends would be a good idea and help them feel that their world has not shattered. When you and your ex have these types of details ironed out, it will establish a new normal for your children. They will know where they are supposed to be and who is responsible for them at all times. The unknown can be very stressful. Eliminating doubt and confusion is an important part of post-separation parenting. Security and stability are critical to help your child cope and move on.

Getting Help

There is no one right way to raise your child and even the most concerned parent can make mistakes. If your child is not coping well with the divorce, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. There are programs and professionals available for children of divorce as well as for parents who need support. You are not alone and it is your responsibility to ensure that your children don’t feel alone either. If you need legal advice with regard to issues concerning your divorce, please get in touch with an experienced San Diego family law attorney who will help protect your rights and your family’s best interests.

Mike's Top FAQs About Child Custody

How is a military pension divided in a divorce?

How is a military pension divided in a divorce?

Divorce proceedings are conducted by state courts and they can divide military pensions. The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (USFSPA) allows (but does not mandate) state courts divide military retirement pensions upon divorce, legal separation or annulment.

How much of the pension gets divided?

The share of a pension to the non-military spouse could be as low as nothing or as high as half.

  • The non-military spouse might get 50 percent of the pension only if the marriage lasted the service member’s entire military career.
  • If the marriage lasted for part of the military career, the pension division will probably be prorated to reflect the time the spouse served in the military.

How an ex-spouse gets paid?

The USFSPA has a 10/10 Rule which states that if the couple was married for ten or more years while a spouse performed at least ten years of service, the government will make payments directly to the ex-spouse.

If this rule doesn’t apply, but the non-military spouse is awarded a portion of the pension payments, the service member gets paid the entire amount but will be obligated to the correct portion to the ex-spouse.

Another way to get paid is to have an actuary evaluate the military spouse’s pension to determine its current cash value. The military spouse would then give the other spouse an equivalent value in cash or non-marital property, leaving the military spouse with exclusive rights to the pension.

Posted in: Divorce, Family Law, Military Divorce, Property Division

How are disability payments to a military veteran handled in a divorce proceeding?

How are disability payments to a military veteran handled in a divorce proceeding?

The federal Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act (the “USFSPA”) permits divorce courts to award ex-spouses of service members part of “disposable retired pay” (the retired pay available (after necessary deductions) based on salary and years of service). How that’s divided is decided by an agreement between the parties or by the judge.

  • Under the USFSPA, military disability pay is not “disposable retired pay” and is not subject to division in divorce.
  • If a service member waives retired pay in order to get disability pay, an ex-spouse can lose out on hundreds or thousands of dollars which they might have received.

There are two kinds of military disability pay and both are excluded from the USFSPA definition of disposable retired pay:

  1. Military Disability Retired Pay: This is for those are disabled such that they can’t perform their military duties.
  2. VA Disability Compensation: This type of compensation from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) covers injuries or disabilities that occurred while on active duty, or which were made worse by active service, including service related (not necessarily combat related) mental or physical injuries.

To get these VA benefits, a service member must waive a certain amount of retired pay. If this is done, the amount waived is subtracted from the amount available to the former spouse.

Spouses can have some protections or take steps to get the maximum payments:

  1. If there is a separation or property agreement, it should include a provision stating if the service member waives any retired pay for disability pay, the service member would make a monthly payment to the non-military spouse in an amount that makes up for the lost retired pay.
  2. If there is no such agreement and the divorce issues are being litigated, the judge can be asked to retain jurisdiction to order the military member to pay spousal support in the future, or to modify an existing alimony order based on any change in the parties’ circumstances. If retired pay is reduced because of disability pay, the non-military ex-spouse could request the judge to order the military member to pay spousal support (or increase it) to make up for the retired pay that’s been lost.


Posted in: Divorce, Family Law, Military Divorce

What is the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in a Military Divorce?

What is the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in a Military Divorce?

The SCRA was enacted in order to help protect service member’s rights if and when they are called to active duty. It protects regular service branch members, in conjunction with members of the Coast Guard serving on active duty in support of the armed forces, members of the National Guard when serving in an active duty status under federal orders, and Reserve members who are called to active duty.

The SCRA affords the right for any court proceedings to be put on hold, or provided a “stay” to postpone any administrative activity if a member’s active duty has an effect on their ability to proceed in the case.  This specifically applies to child custody issues as well and a stay of court and administrative proceedings would be afforded in order to protect the non-present spouse’s parental rights. The SCRA would be incredibly helpful if a spouse were to attempt to change the status of child custody while the service member is deployed.

A ninety-day stay is automatically granted when a service member requests this protection in writing. However, any further delay is decided at the discretion of the judge, hearing officer or magistrate that is assigned to the matter. This protection is not afforded nor does it protect a member’s invocation right for any criminal court proceedings.

There are also many individual state laws related to military child custody. Through the USA4 Military Families initiative, the DoD is partnering with states in order to further support military families. Specifically USA4 Military Families is striving to educate policymakers and ensure deployment separation does not determine child custody decisions.

Posted in: Divorce, Family Law, Military Divorce

What is a Family Care Plan for Child Custody in a Military Divorce?

What is a Family Care Plan for Child Custody in a Military Divorce?

As with normal civilians, military couples are presented with child custody issues if they are seeking dissolution of marriage. Members of the military are aware that active duty often requires time away from home due to deployments, training or frequent relocations. These factors may present custody issues, however there are ways to prevent or relieve some of the stresses that can evolve in a military divorce regarding child custody matters.

A Family Care Plan is highly recommended and sometimes required in order to clarify necessary details about the care of your child if a service member is called to active duty or deployed at no notice. Although most couples aren’t required to establish a family care plan, if you are or become a single parent due to death of spouse, separation/divorce, a service member can remain active but must meet the family care requirements of DOD – essentially requiring such members to have a “family care plan.”

A Family Care Plan is a set of documents describing who will care of your child during specific instances or if a military member is away on deployment or training. When it comes to a Family Care Plan there are some slight differences depending on the service, however most have three basic requirements: short-term care providers, long-term care providers, and care provision details. These support details include naming who will care for the child, financial details, medical specifications, and logistical considerations pertaining to food, housing, transportation, etc. These named care providers must be a non-military person, who agrees, in writing to accept the care of the member’s child or children. This person will also sign the Family Care Plan, indicating they consent and understand the responsibilities they are being entrusted with.

Posted in: Divorce, Family Law, Military Divorce

Can parents create their own agreement for child support?

Can parents create their own agreement for child support?

Yes, parents can stipulate their own agreement regarding child support, but it must be approved by the court. In order for the court to consider reviewing the agreement, it must meet the following guidelines:

  1. There must already be an open court case between the parents.
  2. The agreement must contain the following information:
    1. Each parent is fully aware of his/her child support rights.
    2. Each parent is aware of what the guideline child support amount would be.
    3. Neither parent is feeling pressured or forced to agree on the stated amount.
    4. Neither parent is receiving public assistance or has applied for public assistance.
    5. Both parents think that the agreed upon amount is in the best interest of the child.

After you have reached an agreement with the other parent and have created a stipulation consistent with these guidelines, you will both need to sign the document. If you do not have attorneys, your signatures will need to be notarized. You can then submit the stipulation for the court’s review. If you have a court date scheduled, you can bring the stipulation with you to the hearing for the judge’s review and signature, or you can go to the courthouse and ask to speak with a family law clerk to get it approved and signed.

After you have received the judge’s signature, you’ll need to file the original with the court clerk, and serve a file-stamped copy of the order on the other parent (or their attorney, if they have one.)

Posted in: Child Support, Family Law